36 Hours In Rome
As one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, it’s easy to visit the eternal city and get trapped in long lines and crowds that are bound to make for a tiring and less memorable trip. Instead of following the lengthy list of popular stops, enjoy the city as the natives do.
Although Rome has quintessential spots, they are likely to be swarmed with tourists during the hot summer months. Instead of visiting the most popular destinations, follow the paths a local would take to find underrated nooks and crannies that are exquisitely beautiful and just as historic.
From delicious food, hopping bars, eclectic shops, and to the city center, hidden side streets that deviate from the tourists will help you navigate the city and make for a delightfully authentic Roman weekend.
1. For Scribblers to Scholars | 3 p.m.
Although Rome is no Florence when it comes to leather, this shop gets pretty close. Stop into Cartoleria Pantheon dal 1910 after admiring Piazza Navona, arguably one of the most beautiful squares in Rome. The wafting smell of leather as the front door creeps open will make it hard to miss.
Déjà vu of Harry Potter’s wand store is inevitable as books and pen cases are stacked to the ceiling. The high quality of the leather-bound journals and stationaries are the perfect gifts or personal items to set any college student ahead. Made in Italy, and started near the Pantheon, this is the perfect spot for scholars, writers and artists.
2. Not All Who Wander Are Lost | 4 p.m.
Willingly wander around the corner of Piazza Navona to avoid crowds of tourists and you’ll find a picturesque and quaint cobblestone alley. A peaceful atmosphere exists as the afternoon sun moves across the beige stone buildings turning them to a deep orange hue.
A local vibe will have you in a trance as you stroll past women gathering for drinks and Italian men smoking cigarettes. Peer into the small boutiques selling clothing, jewelry and antiques as you relish in the local’s exquisitely relaxed lives. Be sure to keep and eye open for Spazioif for a unique clothing store meets modern art experience.
3. Artsy Aperitivo | 6 p.m.
While in the Navona area, head into Circus for an afternoon aperitivo in a cozy lounge bar. Off the beaten path and with a quirky, laid-back vibe, you’ll find trendy customers unwinding on the orange couches sipping on anything from cocktails to loose-leaf tea.
Enjoy a vast collection of international magazines that are strewn across tables or the live sports on TV. A full beer, wine, and cocktail list are available for all types of afternoon drinkers and a café-bistro menu offers small snacks like cheese and salami to hold you over before the late European dinner.
4. Hilltop Hiking | 10 a.m.
Begin the day by venturing to the center of the city by climbing one of the seven hills of Rome. There are several important building worth noticing. In particular, Palazzo Senatorio was built in the 13th century and designed by Michaelangelo himself and is still in use today as the city hall.
Admire the equestrian statue replica of Marcus Aurelius, or enter the Musei Capitolini to see the overpoweringly elegant original. The collection in the museum includes ancient Roman statues, artifacts, and medieval and Renaissance paintings, among many more. Continue further up the hill and you’ll find the ruins to one of the first Roman cities.
5. A Collector’s Artistic Masterpiece | 12:30 p.m.
Down a side street of Rome’s historic Jewish Ghetto, the curious explorer will discover an eclectic art gallery meets bookstore meets museum. Although Il Museo Del Louvre misleadingly has no affiliation with the Louvre in Paris, the white space is full of vintage photographs, books, drawings, and sculptures.
Search through over 30,000 prints organized by themes such as: ‘Cinema,’ ‘Youth Revolts,’ Summertime,’ or ‘Hollywood by the Tiber River,’ and you’re bound to come across Marilyn or Audrey Hepburn amongst unfamiliar faces. Contemporary art and culture combined with classic looks give the space a magical feeling that makes it worth checking out.
6. Where the Locals Linger | 2 p.m.
Whether you want to hang out or stop to grab a nice bottle of Italian wine, visit Il Vinaietto, one of the oldest wine bars in Rome. The green paneled windows, tall stools, and black and white checkered floors will catch your attention from the outside.
Smiling staff warmly greets customers with an endearing friendliness and within minutes of entering share insight about some of their favorite wines to help you choose. After hearing about how the Roman’s drank together, have a local or shop worker help you pick the perfect wine. Stocked with over 500 different types, even the pickiest wine connoisseurs are bound to walk out satisfied.
7. Gelato Getaway | 4 p.m.
Be sure to get a daily sugar fix from one of Rome’s oldest gelaterias, just steps away from the Pantheon. Sit inside the mirrored walls for an ice-cream parlor feel or outside to take in the Roman streets.
After three generations, Giolitti has mastered an authentic taste for simple sorbet and gelato flavors by using fresh and natural ingredients. The dark chocolate is a rich, mouthwatering sensation that alone makes the trip to Rome worth it. While indulging in a generously scooped cup or cone use the free Wi-Fi to refresh emails but don’t stare down for too long, as anyone from politicians to American movie stars are likely to walk in.
8. The Golden Artichoke | 8 p.m.
Be sure to save an appetite for a deliciously memorable Jewish meal. Tucked behind the main attractions in the Jewish Ghetto, do not be fooled by Ristorante Piperno’s lack of crowds. Although outdoor seating is available, for a traditional Italian atmosphere ask for a table inside to admire the Italian artwork and old-time feel.
A definite must-try is the traditional fried artichoke. Lightly salted and quickly flipped in bubbling oil, the artichoke leafs are the perfect mix of succulent and crunchy that will have you hurrying to the soft heart and leave you licking your lips for days.
9. SoHo in Italy? | 11 p.m.
Located in the heart of Trastevere, a trendy neighborhood with good food, plenty of bars, and hip crowds, Freni e Frizioni is the perfect place to see how Italians spend their evenings with friends. Constantly buzzing with the youngest and trendiest groups, this place attracts crowds that pack the bar from opening to closing.
The young bartenders thoughtfully mix unique cocktails with obscure ingredients like lavender or egg white for a one of a kind experience. The black and white interior, vintage chandeliers and recycled furniture give the bar an alternatively clean yet edgy feel. When it begins to feel too busy conveniently slip outside to the steps or stonewalls of Piazza Trilussa.
10. Test That Nose | 1 a.m.
When you’ve had enough of the bar life and have talked to your fair share of locals, follow the scent of fresh crepes as you make your way down the piazza steps from Freni e Frizioni to EAT Street Food. Fresh cut ‘chips’ or a slice of pizza with stringy mozzarella is the perfect late night snack before heading to bed.
The friendly Italian behind the cash register will strike up conversation until he delivers the food, all of which is made with quality Italian ingredients, making you wonder how your meal could have been so cheap. The clean-cut farmhouse style décor with Lucite hanging lights make for a charming environment that will end your night on a high note.
11. Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover | 10 a.m.
While waiting in lines for the Vatican or Sistine Chapel may be less than ideal, it would be an injustice to miss Michelangelo’s art in the Eternal City. Get your morning workout by climbing a lengthy flight of stairs to the modest San Pietro in Vincoli to see both St. Peter’s chains and Michelangelo’s magnificent Moses statue.
Built in the middle of the 5th century and not far from the Coliseum, the basilica is free and is also always relatively empty. Get feet away from one of the most praised pieces of artwork but don’t forget to gaze upwards at the mesmerizing ceiling frescos.
12. Bring a Piece of Italy Home | 12:00
Although it’s not the only store in Rome, Taba is a worthwhile stop when passing then Spanish Steps. The boho style store has boutiques scattered across the city, each with its own little twist. The shop on Via di Propaganda has less clothing options than others, and is catered more towards jewelry and leather goods. This affordable and easy stop is the perfect place to pick up last minute gifts for family and friends.
13. Hip and Healthy | 1 p.m.
For a vegetarian or a meat lover, be sure to save up for Ginger- Sapori e Salute before catching your flight home. The dried meats hanging from the ceiling and walls stacked with vegetables give the restaurant a fresh and unique atmosphere. Pay as little or as much as you want by splitting or splurging on the large portioned, mouthwatering dishes.
Located steps away from Piazza di Spagna, Ginger’s food is made fresh and with an eye on organic produce. Good-looking Italian waiters in straw fedoras serve anything from traditional Italian pastas, to quick baguette sandwiches. If you’ve had enough carbs for one weekend, make your own juice or smoothie, and try one of the many unique salads served in large ceramic bowls to satisfy any craving.