By Isabel March
Rome is a many-sided city. Beyond monuments and museums stretches a maze of quiet alleys, small cafés, and street corner fountains. Locals chat on sidewalks, work in stores, and hold events in small piazzas for the real Rome, the side of Rome that makes you fall in love with the place. Deep in the veins of the city, you find young and old romans alike, living daily life and supporting the city in a way no tourist ever could. Plunge head and heart first into a search for that true, authentic side of Rome. You have thirty-six hours to be a part of something eternal—don’t let it go to waste.
Friday 4 PM
1. Enzo’s Bar–A Taste of the Authentic
Since 1968, Enzo has been behind the bar making drinks and cracking jokes. Crowding the shelves, right next to the liquor bottles, you’ll find photos of Pope Benedict, pictures of Enzo’s children from thirty years before (his son, Bruno, now works with him), and in a place of honor at the front, a picture of Enzo laughing with Federico Fellini as the famous director enjoys a cappuccino. While the drinks are good, Enzo’s warm smiles and stories (which he tells freely even to those who don’t understand him) will give you your first taste of sincere, old-fashioned Italian hospitality.
Friday 7:00 PM
2. Look for the Red Door
Though unconventional, one of the greatest meals you may have in Rome is at Ci-Lin, a small Chinese restaurant in the heart of Trastevere. Get a table outside—just off of the Piazza of Santa Maria, the sounds of music in the square float down the alley to your seat, providing a pleasant backdrop for your meal. Not only is the location charming, but the prices and service are fantastic—a delicious platter of warm duck with pineapples and peppers costs about 5 euros. Though not Italian, this food is a tasty bite of Rome that will satisfy you completely.
Friday 9:15 PM
3. A Night at the Movies
Stay in Trastevere for a night of cinematic classics under the stars. With movies ranging from beloved Disney films to Italian dramas, nightly screenings are part of a cultural program by the Committee on Foreign Capital of Rome dedicated to bringing good cinema to everyone from children to the elderly. Grab a folding chair and join the crowd of Italians in Piazza san Cosimato, bring snacks if you’d like (try a Kinder bar), and enjoy the show. While there are no English subtitles, sharing an experience with an authentic, roman community makes it feel like home.
Saturday 9 AM
4. Up High in the Holy City
St. Peter’s Basilica is surely one of the most dazzling sights in Rome, and a must see for any traveler. While its interior is astounding, the most glorious sight awaits you in the cupola of the dome—a trek you can make for the price of 5 euros. After squeezing through poorly lit, claustrophobic passage ways and clambering up almost vertical staircases, you will burst into the light of a roman sun 138 meters in the air, the entirety of the city at your feet. If you want to see Rome, this is the way to do it.
Saturday 12 PM
5. Street Art in the Nitty and Gritty
Next, hop on bus number 280 and head to Testaccio. Though once the slaughterhouse district of Rome, this neighborhood has become a gritty, vibrant home to contemporary arts and delicious roman cuisine. Make your way down Via della Conce to see the impressive exterior of Porto Fluviale, a refugee housing center, painted by Italian street artist Blu. Incorporating almost 50 windows of the building’s façade, Blu’s series of painted faces serves to promote acceptance of the refugees through art and will impress any viewer with its detail and creativity.
Saturday 3:00 PM
6. Sweet, Cold Refreshment
A trip to Rome would not be complete without a sample of the quintessential Roman refreshment, gratachecca. Standing on a quiet street corner, the kiosk Chiosco Testaccio has been serving Italians refreshing and inexpensive cups of gratachecca for over 80 years. Recharge from a day of exploring with a limoncoco, a cool cup of shaved ice, lemon and coconut syrup, and chewy coconut. Watch as the ice is shaved by hand fresh upon your order and enjoy your gratachecca while lounging on the street corner—this is a great place to watch locals as they chat or sip icy drinks.
Saturday 5:00 PM
7. Flea Market Hunting
Next, head to the Vintage Market of Ecosolidale. Situated in two hangars, this flea market is only open for a few hours each weekend when volunteers can work—the market not only donates items to charity, but all proceeds go to the DREAM project, a program helping those infected by the AIDS virus in Africa. Go back in time as you pick through piles of Italian costume jewelry or racks of vintage clothing. But you won’t be the alone in your appreciation of the unique merchandise—set managers from film and theater often come here in search of props.
Saturday 8:00 PM
8. Sun Sets on a Living City
After seeing the Piazza del Campidoglio on the Capitoline Hill, take a left and make your way to a quiet overlook of the city. Only a short walk away from crowds of tourists, this section of the hill is refreshingly empty and peaceful, and offers you a chance to be alone with the beautiful city. As the setting sun softly illuminates the sea of domes and tile roofs that stretch before you, take a moment to remember what you’re seeing. Let the history, art, and life of this eternal place catch you breathless for a moment—you are in Rome.
9. Food and the Flowers
Down a quiet alley and hidden under a thick overhang of flowers, you may miss Meridionale in the daylight. At nighttime, however, the cheery light from inside illuminates the blossoms that frame the doorway, and the sounds of laughter and conversation draw you through the vines into a small room filled with Italian diners. You’ll be presented with a glass of Prosecco and a plate of crostini, but don’t stop there—hearty and homemade, the pasta is Meridionale’s true masterpiece. Try a warm plate of eggy carbonara and leave after several hours of good food, wine, and conversation feeling satisfied.
10. Crepe Cravings
Got late night food cravings? There’s no better city for midnight snacks than Rome. As you wander through the charming alleys of Trastevere, head to Eat Street Food, a restaurant and café open till 5am every day. Do not miss the Nutella crepes—made fresh in front of you, the sweet Nutella, tender crepe, and sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar will set your mouth awater for this warm and gooey treat. Get your crepe to go and savor it as you take in the night life of Trastevere.
Sunday 11 AM
11. The Nameless Bakery, the Unforgettable Pastry
Start a late morning at Pasticceria Boccione Limentani in the Jewish ghetto, one of Rome’s most historic neighborhoods. You’ll find no name on the store, but the bakery is well-known among the residents—ask a local, and chances are they’ll be able to direct you there. Behind the counter, several women are at work who will serve you up one of the few pastries they make with, if not a smile, at least a grunt of acknowledgement. If it’s not sold out, order the crostata with ricotta e cioccolato for a heavenly bite of melt-in-your-mouth texture and flavor.
Sunday 2 PM
12. Selling the Arts
Wander from the center of the Jewish Ghetto toward The Louvre Museum—though more of a shop selling photography, antique books, and paintings, the store is a museum in its aesthetic. Dedicated to modern art of the 20th century, black and white photographs of art instillations crowd the walls, books lie open on table, ready for you to page through, and in the window, an enormous sign aggressively announces “I AM A REAL ARTIST”. Lovers of surrealist photography can spend hours in this unique shop, and most likely leave with a new print to add to their collection.
If You Go:
Via dei Funari, 23 Roma
6 AM – 6 PM
Via fonte D’olio, 6 Roma
11 AM – 3 PM, 6 PM – 12 AM
Festivale Trastevere Rione del Cinema
Piazza San Cosimato
June 2nd – July 30th
St. Peter’s Basilica
Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City, Italy
7am – 6pm
5 euros to climb the stairs, 7 euros for elevator.
Testaccio Street Art
Via della Conce
Via G Branca, corner of via Beniamino Franklin
2:30 PM – 1 AM
Mercato Vintage Ecosolidale
Via del porto Fluviale 2
Saturday 5-7pm, Sunday 4:30-8pm
Capitoline Hill Lookout
Piazza di Campitelli, 7, 00186 Roma, Italy
Via dei Fienaroli 30a, Roma
6:30 pm – 12:00 am
Eat Street Food
Piazza Trilussa, 40
10:00 am – 5:00 am
Pasticceria Boccione Limentani
Via Portico D’Ottavia, 1
Sunday-Thursday 8 am – 7:30 pm, Friday 8 am – 3:30 pm, closed Saturday
Libreria-Galleria il Museo del Louvre
Via della Reginalla, 25-28 – 00186 Roma
11 am – 7 pm