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An Insiders Guide to Rome

This is the first of a series of blog posts dedicated to some of the most beautiful cities in Italy, seen through the eyes of the designers who live there.

I’ll start us off with my hometown, Rome. Whether you’re visiting for a mere 48 hrs, or a week long vacation, here are my tips on what to do and see in the Eternal City.

As soon as people find out I’m from Rome, the question that usually follows is: ‘What should I see in Rome?’ And my answer always is: ‘How long do you have?’

Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world (yes I know, I’m totally biased as I grew up here and live here now), but there is definitely truth to it. After all, it’s one of the cities with the most ruins, monuments and churches all within a 1,285 km radius. But most importantly, it has the power to literally bring history to life.

My friend & East Coast based decorator, Stacie Flinner, came to Rome for 48 hours and asked me to show her my favourite spots. If you want an insider’s view of Rome, follow along and I’ll show you my favourite, and not so favourite spots. The best way to visit the city is on foot, so pack some comfortable shoes as we’ll be doing a lot of walking!

Stacie was staying in a beautiful OneFineStay apartment just off the Pantheon which was surprisingly quiet despite the flocks of tourists that swarm through the piazza at all hours of the day and night. I like to take the backroads to avoid the crowds and because you’re more likely to come across some hidden gems. So, for our first outing we took a stroll towards Piazza Navona via the Salita dei Crescenzi and Via degli Straderari where you will find one of the quirkiest fountains in Rome. It’s called Fontana dei Libri (Fountain of Books) and it’s on a side wall of Palazzo Madama, the seat of the senate.

Piazza Navona is usually seething with tourists but if you’re up early enough to beat the crowds, it’s a wonderful time to soak in all the sights; starting from the Bernini fountain in the centre of the piazza and the two fountains by della Porta, to the colourful palazzi that surround the piazza and its two churches. As a teenager, oblivious to the wonderful sights I was surrounded by, I used to cut through Piazza Navona to get to Campo de’ Fiori where the nightlife was happening, and still is, to meet my friends in the bars, restaurants and gelato shops that are open till late.

“Every building, doorway, church and street corner in Rome has a story to tell and will take your breath away.” - Alexandra

Another favourite spot of mine is Via Veneto, an elegant tree-lined street flanked by some of the city’s most beautiful hotels and boutiques. This is where Federico Fellini filmed La Dolce Vita.

The restaurants and cafè’s on this tree-lined street are beautiful, but don’t be fooled by their pretty tables and chairs, the prices are exorbitant and the food mediocre to put it nicely, so I would only recommend a pit stop if you need a rest from walking up the hill on your way to Villa Borghese and don’t mind drinking an overpriced coffee!

Directly across the park from Villa Borghese is the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art) and one of my favourite cafès, the elegant Caffè delle Arti. Their terrace doesn’t have a view but it’s the perfect place to go on a sunny day, either before or after a visit to the museum. I take all my in-town meetings here because it’s a good half way point between the centre of town and where I live, and it has a relaxed atmosphere. If I’m not there for a meeting, I’m meeting up with family for a late breakfast or lunch. We love to sit outside under their large umbrellas and do the typical Roman activity: people-watching!

Another favourite spot of mine is the Spanish Steps. My mum used to be a showroom model for Valentino in the 80s and his headquarters are based behind the Spanish Steps, so we used to spend a lot of time in the area while I was growing up. My favourite Japanese restaurant, Hamasei is also nearby, and at least once a month on a Sunday, my family and I like to drive into town and feast on our favourite sushi dishes and take a stroll around the area pretending we’re tourists.

At the top of the Spanish Steps is the beautiful church Trinita’ dei Monti and one of my favourite streets, Via Sistina which houses some of the most beautiful hotels and rooftop bars in the city. My favourite is the Cielo Bar on the rooftop of the newly remodelled Hotel de la Ville. Their red and white striped umbrellas perfectly match the colours of the Roman sunset and you can witness the most magnificent views of St. Peter’s Basilica and Rome’s prettiest rooftops from here. It’s a must-see destination whether you’re staying at the hotel or not.

On Stacie’s last day, I took her to the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, on the other side of the River Tiber, on the Gianicolo hill, just above Trastevere. If she had stayed longer I would have taken her to Trastevere too, but there just wasn’t enough time. There are a number of spots in Rome where you can see the best views of the city and this is one of them. I like to take people here because it’s never crowded so you can really take your time and enjoy the view.

Our last stop was lunch at my favourite restaurant, Caminetto. It’s in the Parioli area so not in the historic part of town but it’s the most authentic Italian food in Rome, so definitely worth the taxi ride. Their menu is vast; from appetizers to pasta, veggie dishes to meat specialties, and delicious desserts.

I usually start with the fried zucchini, they are cut really thin then deep fried, but they’re vegetables so they’re healthy, right?! Their pasta is great too, but my favourite dish is the meatballs with mashed potato. They’re cooked in a mouth-watering white wine sauce and nothing like you’ve ever tasted before. This is the way we eat meatballs in Italy!


We did a lot in just 48 hours, but this is just scratching the surface of things to do in Rome. If you’d like me to write another feature about Rome, email me and let me know which places or topics you’d like me to cover next! In the meantime, you can read my Insider's Guide to Venice or Turin.

Ciao for now,

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