Closing our eyes in the dried out grass of Villa Borghese park is not something we had ever imagined ourselves doing. We are the type of travellers that continue to walk even when blisters have started to appear on our feet and often comes back more exhausted than renewed from a city trip. This time is different though for the both of us. We’re visiting Rome for the second time and have already had the privilege some years ago to take a close look at the top tourist attractions the biggest outdoor museum in the world has on offer.
The views in Rome are famous; the city is often compared to a large open air museum, because at the corner of each and every street there is something cultural and ancient for the traveller to feast their eyes on. And let Rome not only be a city where you can feast your eyes (whether on Renaissance architecture or on Italian men who manually move cars out of the way) but where you can also feast your appetite. We spent a weekend in this city eating some of the most spectacular Italian food and combined it with a number of walking tours that offered breath-taking views of the city. In this blog we’ll tell you where to go for good views and good food when in Rome.
During the weekend, we wandered around the city without a clear goal in mind. We had both visited Rome before and had seen the Colosseum, the St Peter Cathedral, and all the other famous landmarks of the city. We had decided that we would use the weekend to unwind from the busy week before and to really savour the city, in both a literal and figural sense. Eating your way around a city is not bad at all, and especially not when you are able to combine it with walks along panoramic viewpoints overlooking one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen. We ended up on Gianicolo hill because we had taken a wrong turn somewhere and our misguided sense of direction was rewarded in twofold: with brilliant views and brilliant food. The views from Gianicolo across the city are of the kind that make your heart skip a beat. There is a breezy park on top of the hill which offers views across all of northern Rome. From there, you can see the large white pillars of Piazza Venezia among hundreds of church spines, domes and cupola. You can see a sea of terracotta coloured buildings, each more ancient than the next, and it will seem like time has stood still in this city because there are no high rise office buildings or residential flats in sight.
You will likely be able to stay here for hours overlooking the city, if it wasn’t for the fact that at one point you will grow an appetite and want to start looking for somewhere to eat. And this is the perfect thing about Gianicolo hill: it houses a restaurant where they cook food that is so amazing that we went there twice during our stay in Rome. Antico Arco is located at Piazzale Aurelio and from the outside it does not look very exceptional; but the dishes they serve surely are. As an appetizer we were served a complimentary gazpacho paired with sensational home-made bread. We don’t often rave about bread, but here it was certainly deserved. It was so fresh and soft, just slightly oily, and full of taste that we almost ate too much of it while the dishes we had ordered were still to be served. We both enjoyed fresh ravioli filled with asparagus crème and topped with soft goat cheese and pistachios, and when we returned on a different day Sanne had a carbonara with fresh truffles while Evelien savoured a spaghetti with creamy pecorino cheese sauce.
Close to Gianicolo hill, in the quaint neighbourhood of Trastevere, you will find a large collection of small restaurants, tavernas and osterie, many of them with charming outdoor seating from which you can observe the quintessential Roman life. Sit down at Enoteca Trastevere like we did and watch old grandpas in tailor made suites shuffle by, followed by fat ladies with small dogs and thin ladies on high heels, most unsuitable for the cobble stone streets of this area. Enjoy one of the house’s delicious wines and take our recommendations: a fresh burrata on a bed of sundried tomatoes and lettuce, pasta linguine with parmigiana and red peppers and spaghetti with duck. This is truly a feast.
Cross the river and take in the hipster vibes coming from the pop-up bars on it’s banks, lined with colourful light bulbs.
Treat yourself to an essential Italian dessert: ice cream. At Gunther Gelato in Via dei Pettinari you will not be short of choice: there are dozens of tastes to choose from; ranging from fruity sorbet to rich chocolate and lemon-ricotta-mint ice cream.
Rome reduces your life toIt basically comes down to two main challenges: solving dilemma’s in the gelato store prior to savouring each and every flavour of your ice cream on the stairs of one of the many churches in town.
Time to start walking off the calories. Well, admittedly first we slept a little bit, in Villa Borghese, a large park on the north-western side of historic Rome. During the heat of the day it is fairly quiet, although you will see some romantic souls rowing in circles on the park’s artificial lake, but at the end of the afternoon, when the heat of the day starts to give way a little bit and the sun spreads beautiful shades of gold through the park’s leafy trees, the Romans come out to play. They bring their kids and their dogs and their inline skates, and they bring their lovers and their passionate hearts.
After we awoke from our doze on a grassy hill we wandered to the edge of the park from where we had views on the city, the river, and in the distance the large dome of the St Peter. The sun bathed the streets and roofs in a golden hue. “What a city!” we exclaimed once more, as we had done numerous times before during our trip, because the city just kept on amazing us.
On our final evening in town we happened to somehow have wandered back to the same street where we had started our weekend and where the cheerful group of friends had taken it on them to manually get rid of the car that had been standing in the way. We sat down at a different street side terrace this time, picking our dinner location based on our gut feeling as we had done on all previous occasions, and again we were lucky. At Il Cippico, just around the corner from Piazza Navona with its awe-inspiring fountains, we enjoyed ravioli in sage butter with a nice bottle of red wine, and it was the perfect way to end a weekend that had us walking and eating our way around Rome. Rome is a city that must be tasted, and its treasure-filed streets are also best explored on foot – prevents you from finding your car dumped somewhere completely different then where you parked it, too.
Create your own adventure!
Rome is really best explored on foot. It is a big city, but if you put your comfortable sneakers or sandals on you will be able to reach all famous sites on foot and we guarantee you that you will see something special or ancient on every street corner along the way.
Rome’s best views – how to get to the viewpoints described in this article?
Gianicolo hill: you can climb this hill either from the Vatican or from Trastevere. It is a climb of about 20 to 25 minutes. The easiest way is to walk from St Peter Square towards the river; turn right and then left again just before the bridge. From Via del Gianicolo, take the first left turn onto Salita di Sant’Onofrio and keep walking up until you make it to the park and terrace with panoramic views over the city.
Villa Borghese: is on the other side on the river and hard to miss as it is a giant city park. Easiest way to access the terrace it sweeping views over the city is to start at Piazza del Popolo and walk up the stairs to the park that lies above. Try to time your visit around sunset for beautiful light and great photo-ops.
Piazza Venezia: climb the monument to Victor Emanuele I which towers above the square for brilliant views of the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum. Note that the monument is only accessible between 09:30 and 17:30. It houses free public restrooms.
Want to eat the same delicious food we ate? These are our restaurant recommendations mentioned in this blog!
Antico Arco – seriously the best food we’ve had in all of Rome. Great informal service, too. Perfect to combine a meal here with a walk up Gianicolo hill. Piazzale Aurelio 7, open from noon to midnight daily.
Enoteca Trastevere – cute little wine bar that also serves delicious food, with a terrace on a shielded street in the charming neighbourhood of Trastevere. Can also be combined with a visit to Gianicolo hill. Via della Lungaretta 86/87, open from noon to 1 AM and on Fridays and Saturdays until 2 AM.
Cul de Sac, Piazza di Pasquino 73 – we tried the lasagne, the burrata and the ravioli and rated each of these dishes high. We had good expectations of their the desserts which turned out to be not as great as the mains; best to just grab a gelato somewhere else.
Il Cippico, Piazza di Pasquino 77 – enjoy fresh home made pasta; we recommend the ravioli in sage butter because it is delicious. Close to the Pantheon and to Piazza Navona.
Gunther Gelato – huge choice of ice cream flavours just across the river from St Peter and Castel Sant’Angelo. Our favourite was the ricotta-mint-strawberry. Via dei Pettinari 43, open from 10 AM to 2 AM on most days.
Atlante Star Hotel – we had a business dinner her in the week preceding our leisurely weekend in the city. The hotel looks nothing fancy from the outside, and admittedly neither from the inside, but it has a roof top bar with a spectacular 360 degrees view of the city and the food that they serve is also worth visiting this place for. Via Giovanni Vitelleschi 34.
Hotel – where to sleep a very deep sleep after stuffing yourself with some of the best food in the world
We stayed in two hotels during our time in Rome. It started as a business trip during which we stayed at Starhotels Michelangelo which is right next to St Peter Square. Very central location and all the good service you’d expect from a 4-star hotel, although we’ve seen nicer breakfast buffets and the wifi connection also wasn’t so great. This hotel is a good choice if your budget allows. Our private weekend we spent at Guesthouse Monti First, which we very much enjoyed thanks to its great location (within walking distance to most important sights) and its clean, refurbished and large room. If you don’t have the budget for a 4-star hotel, we think this is really a great alternative choice. You may be a bit hard-pressed to find its entrance as it is not signposted, but just enter at Via della Consulta 1B and make your way to the third floor where you will find the reception (the actual hotel is situated on the first floor).