Rome is a masterpiece packed with wonders, from some of the world’s finest art to exquisite cappuccino.
l Treasure hunting
Rome has numerous great sights – St Peter’s, Piazza Navona, the Forum and Colosseum, Trajan’s Column, Castel Sant Angelo, the Trevi Fountain, the epic golden statue of Marcus Aurelius, the Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo – and they are so close you can see them all easily in a weekend’s strolling.
And, best of all, most of them are free. But there is always something new to discover, and during my latest visit I concentrated on treasures in Galleria Borghese, set in the Villa Borghese’s rarefied grounds.
It’s worth visiting just for the astonishing Bernini sculpture, Daphne and Apollo, and Venus wearing only a rakishly angled hat in Cranach’s Venus And Cupid With A Honeycomb. This is an admirable alternative if the Vatican is full. Book before your trip at galleriaborghese.it.
l Perfect pizza
One of the joys of visiting Rome is finding that my favourite restaurants from way back haven’t changed. La Montecarlo, on Vicolo Savelli, has a few more photographs of boss Carlo with famous customers, but his prices are still stuck in the past. How about two pizzas and a half-litre of smooth house red for n25 (R275)? Check it out at lamontecarlo.it.
At Trattoria da Giggetto on Via del Portico d Ottavia, the chefs make wonderful fried artichokes and filetti di baccala (cod fritters).
You’re unlikely to be disappointed in any small family place in Rome. My cafe choices are Tazza d’Oro, near the Pantheon, and Cafe Pace (Via della Pace), where they served TV detective Aurelio Zen his favourite grappa. I can vouch for its restorative effect.
l Location, location
If a stray meteorite ever took out Rome, they’d be able to rebuild it, from the biggest monuments to the most intimate avenue, thanks to the many films shot there. Think Bicycle Thieves through to the BBC’s Zen series, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and many other homages to Rome. But the one they would study most closely is Roman Holiday. On our visit, I couldn’t help but picture Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on a scooter. There is a walk at gpsmycity. com that links up many locations in the film, and takes you down fashionable streets. Most elegant of all is Via Margutta, full of high-end galleries and where Joe Bradley (Peck) and the real Fellini lived.
l Poets’ corner
One of the most poignant places in Rome has nothing to do with imperial grandeur or centuries of great art and architecture. It’s where a doomed 25-year-old spent his last six months.
For me it was intensely moving to stand in the room where poet John Keats died of TB in 1821 while everyday life continued just outside on the Spanish Steps. Externally, Keats-Shelley House is unchanged from when Keats moved here in the vain hope of recovering. Everything in this small museum is in English, and there’s an excellent shop.
The Landmark Trust rents out the apartment above. Visit keats-shelley-house.org.
l Head for the hills
The glory of Rome was spread below us from the eighth floor of the five-star Rome Cavalieri, a tranquil hilltop retreat just west of the Tiber. After planning our day in this luxury bolthole, we travelled into the city on the hotel’s free shuttle bus that runs every hour. We returned in the evening for some luxury pampering in the spa, a refreshing dip in the choice of pools, a stroll in the hotel’s lush gardens and then dinner in the excellent L’Uliveto restaurant. But what marks the Cavalieri out from many other top hotels is its fine art collection and original Rudolf Nureyev costumes. For more details, go to romecavalieri.com.
l Renaissance marvel
We had a spare few minutes before leaving for the airport and there was just time for a hectic dash to the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The church is home to The Ecstasy Of Saint Teresa, Bernini’s serene and passionate sculpture in white marble – one of many masterpieces scattered liberally among the city centre churches. I also recommend Santa Maria del Popolo for the Conversion Of St Paul, by Caravaggio. His powerful paintings, startlingly lit against dark shadow, were the movie posters of the 1600s. - Daily Mail