The locals’ guide to Rome

Renowned for its iconic monuments, impeccable style and delicious eats, we discover the secrets of the Eternal City from those in the know

 

STYLE AND THE CITY

Stylist Janita Helova opens up her style files 

What’s your go-to shopping destination?

You can find the biggest Italian fashion haute-couture stores – like Fendi, Valentino, Prada, Armani and many others – in Via Condotti shopping street near the Spanish steps. Via del Corso and Via Cola di Rienzo are also very good shopping streets.

What’s the street style like?

The Italian way is to buy quality over quantity. For Italian men, shoes are very important – always high-quality leather shoes. Almost all Italians own some type of scarf, no matter whether you’re young, old, male or female.

What would you recommend buying as a memento of a visit to your city?

A silk scarf or pashmina wool wrap would be a good idea and it’s light and easy to transport. Roman-style jewellery is another elegant choice, and leather goods are extremely good quality in Italy so go for a pair of gloves, a wallet, belt or small purse. Piazza Navona is full of talented artists; here you might find an original line drawing or oil painting to take home. A small bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, an espresso coffee-maker or Parmesan cheese and chocolate are other good choices.

What’s the city’s most stylish restaurant?

Michelin-starred restaurants like La Pergola, Imago, Il Pagliaccio, Aroma and Glass Hostaria are favourites with the international jet set. Antica Pesa serves Roman classics in the trastevere area and A-list celebrities love this place.

Tell us one thing about Rome that only the locals know…

The secret keyhole of the Knights of Malta during night-time on Mount Aventine is a must-visit. Find the large door in the Piazza dei Cavalieri and look inside the keyhole there – you’ll find an unexpected surprise. Afterwards, take a walk along the Appian Way – Via Appia is officially the first paved road in history.

Wander through Campo di Fiorri
Wander through Campo di Fiorri

 

CULTURAL HOTSPOTS

Photographer Sofia Aquino Gomez on where best to wander 

What’s the most exciting cultural aspect of the city?

It’s literally steeped in culture, history and art – wherever you go there’s something cultural waiting to astound.

Is there anything visitors are surprised by when it comes to culture in Rome?

People always seem impressed by how important family life is for Italians, and that means extended families – grans, aunts, cousins, second cousins. No matter what day you visit, you’ll see big families enjoying meals or evenings together.

The best area in Rome for exploring?

Most people head to Centro Storico as that’s where lots of the big sights like the Pantheon and Piazza Navona are. It’s also typical Rome with cobbled streets and narrow alleys.

What about hidden gems?

Technically still part of Centro Storico, Campo di Fiorri is a quieter region as there aren’t many big sightseeing sites here. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and a great place to simply wander – it’s made up of street cafés, independent boutiques, local art stores and cosy trattorias. Also, head to Palatine Hill, where the House of Augustus and the House of Livia – the most intact of the hill’s ruins – were opened to the public last year.

Restaurants and trattorias spill onto Rome's cobbled streets
Restaurants and trattorias spill onto Rome’s cobbled streets

 

ROME EATS

Food expert and blogger Katie Parla on her favourite places to grab a bite

What’s your go-to restaurant in Rome?

Cesare al Casaletto is my go-to; whether I’m entertaining visiting chefs, hungry friends or family, I know Cesare will impress with its flawless fried starters and Roman classics like rigatoni con la pajata and simmered tripe.

What’s the city’s best-kept foodie secret?

The restaurants and trattorias here often have lots of seasonal veggies that aren’t on the menu, so ask to hear the contorno specials.

What’s trending food-wise in the city?

Fast food and street food are hot right now. Trapizzino is a popular local chain that serves pizza pockets stuffed with classic Roman combinations including braised oxtail and chicken cacciatore.

The hottest area in town at the moment?

Rome’s trend cycles move way slower than London or Paris so we don’t have a super-hot neighbourhood. Pigneto has been going strong for years, as have Ostiense and Testaccio.

What’s the city’s most stylish restaurant?

Romeo in Testaccio is probably the restaurant with the most attention to modern design. It’s experienced some serious growing pains since moving from its original location near the Vatican, but the interior design and the way the space makes use of an old car dealership is really quite impressive.

And the must-try local food?

Rome’s cuisine is unique and there are so many dishes here that you can’t find in other Italian cities. Visitors should never leave without trying pizza by the slice (Pizzarium is my top spot), carbonara (Roscioli does a beautiful version), cacio e pepe (Cesare al Casaletto makes one of my favourites) and offal (literally every Roman place I recommend on my site serves innards).

Tell us one thing about Rome that only the locals know…

You have to earn the respect of the restaurant, bar and market-stall owner with habitual visits before they really open up. This is true whether you’re a tourist or a local. The good news is, it doesn’t take long to become a regular – just consistency!