From impromptu live music to opera al fresco, the one thing Romans do effortlessly is embrace life with gusto. So on our return month-long trip to the Italian capital, we skipped queueing to the grand museums and instead took in the city Roman style.
There’s an ambiance in Rome that doesn’t equate to most capitals. The hard, steely glances are washed away by a lustful, playful vibe that resonates through the streets and its happy-go-lucky locals. As I wandered through quiet lanes in a bid to leave the tourist traps behind, passers-by and vendors greeted me with smiles and buongiorno. I couldn’t say for sure if it was because I looked sincerely lost (just where was this gelateria?) or they felt a bit sorry for me, after all I was looking rather hot and flushed with the midday heat beating down on me. But either way, I was grateful for the cheery welcome and even more for the ice cream when I found it.
Fringed by a queue, Gelateria Frigidarium, near the Palazzo Attolico, lived up to its reputation. The assortment of ice creams was impressive with biscuit toppings, syrup berries, toffee and so much more. With generous portions and not the usual blow-your-budget prices that central Rome is renowned for, I used the 32-degree temperatures as my perfect excuse to devour as much as my wallet allowed. I also hit up Giolitti near Palazzo Montecitorio which has a reputation as one of Rome’s best ice cream parlours, but if its service and decor are anything to go by, it falls short of the mark.
Of course, the Italians pride themselves on their cuisine, so it was only right that I sample as much of it as possible. La Buca Di Ripetta, on via di Ripetta, takes Rome to its heart. Not only are the flavours intense and moreish, the dishes look like food art and are fitting for a place in one of the city’s museums, or at least Instagram. Next door we found Trattoria al Gran Sasso and was tempted inside by its display of wild strawberries, truffle mushrooms and the large number of locals dining. It’s a definite must-feast place while other favourites of mine were La Tavernetta in Trastevere, serving classic Italian dishes, and La Cucaracha Mexican restaurant near the Vatican.
No trip to Rome would be complete without a stroll down the banks of the Tiber River, especially on summer evenings when its streets are lined with vendors and table football enthusiasts. With shimmering lights shining on the water, a street quartet playing cello, and street opera that was good enough for an auditorium, it has its own special ambiance.
I also fell in love with Villa Borghese whose sculptured garden and shaded lawns were a welcome relief to the intense daytime sun. Its gallery houses some of the most famous sculptures by Bernini, Canova and other great artists.
Bedding DownIf you’re hoping to get away from the jostling tourists but still be central, I’d recommend a stay in Trastevere. While you’ll want to ensure your room isn’t on the main street for all the revelry, it’s a neighbourhood with so much to explore, places to eat and bars within staggering distance. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to be closer to main tourist attractions, you might want to check out accommodation near Piazza del Popolo, Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps. If you are staying for a couple of weeks, there are myriad swanky apartments in Rome for a comfortable holiday.
Colorful CapriFurther out, I ventured to the stunning island of Capri for a week. It sits 265km south of the capital and has striking views of the Faraglioni rock formations jutting from the azure water plus adorable streets to be explored, a harbour with plush yachts and a plethora of divine seafood restaurants. Getting around is best on foot or for those wanting more comfort, a roofless taxi, Capri’s version of an island Uber. with sunshades that protected me from the melting heat and a breeze I desperately needed, plus a filmstar atmosphere, I felt like Grace Kelly albeit in Italy rather than Monaco. I could have pulled off the rich and famous look even better if I’d been able to hop in one of the hundred cars at this year’s Ferrari Cavalcade, a four-day drive through Italy that ended on the island. The main town was heaving with tourists and day trippers which is the downside to a peak summer visit to Capri.
Eat (Pizza), Pray, LoveGetting from Rome to Capri is simple via train to Naples and then a ferry. Locals claim the best pizza in Italy is to be found in the port town of Naples and Pizzeria Da Michele, as featured in Eat, Pray, Love, was a hit and cost only €5 per pizza. There isn’t much choice to be had mind you, it’s either margherita or marinara, and don’t be expecting wine (it’s beer and soft drinks), but do expect a queue and fantastic flavours.