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March 23, 2009

24 Hours in Rome (Mostly Spent Eating)

A pause between meals: Ondine with the sun and St. Peter's Basilica at her back.

by Ondine Cohane

Just back from a quick getaway to Rome and am happy to report that the city, unsurprisingly of course, continues to be one of my favorite European capitals. The weather helped frame it in the very best light--it was one of those March days in the high 60s with sparkling sunshine--and despite being there for only about 24 hours, I made it to a couple of wonderful restaurants.

The first, in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Prati, was Settembrini, recommended by a friend who has just rented an apartment nearby. It was wonderful--intimate and well designed with a great small menu. I particularly liked the dentice, a type of white fish with buffalo mozzarella and stewed tomatoes--having fish in a caprese-like concoction was unexpected and delicious. And the wine list was as good as my friend had promised with a large range of excellent vintages under 100 euros; we sampled the cult wine Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from 1980 for just 80 euros (the producer gives artisanal new meaning).

Then the next day, after a long walk up along Passeggiata del Gianicolo with its views over the whole city, I headed down into Trastevere to Da Lucia for lunch (Vicolo del Mattonato 2, 06 580 36 01). My dear friend and fellow travel writer, Danielle Pergament, has turned the quest for a great cacio e pepe pasta (with pecorino and cracked black pepper) into a quasi religion, and although she rates Taverna Romana the very best, Da Lucia is also high on her list. Me too! And the marinated alici (anchovies) here are also exemplary. After a carafe of wine and a quick siesta, it was back on the train home to Tuscany. Perfect!

If you are heading to Rome anytime soon, read after the jump for some more of my favorite things to do.

* Have a cocktail at Freni e Frizioni (turn off the volume on your computer beforehand to avoid the annoying music on the site) on a balmy late spring night. The buffet of bar snacks makes a great dinner alternative if you are on a recession-sensitive itinerary.

* Wander the racks of TAD (again, turn your volume down) opposite the Hotel de Russie. Most of the designer clothing and beautiful housewares are too expensive for my budget, but I still love fantasizing about what I would buy if I could. At the very least, I try to pick up a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from the little boutique in the front.

* Take a walk along Via Giulia with its wonderful architecture; it feels a world away from the chaos of nearby Campo dei Fiori.

* Duck into the Santa Maria del Popolo church on the Piazza del Popolo. Hidden in the far left chapel are two canvases that show Caravaggio at the height of his dramatic genius.

* Eat ice cream from San Crispino. It's a tourist trap but, hell, it's good.

* Have a foodie meal at San Lorenzo's Uno e Bino (Via degli Equi 58, +39-06-446-0702); the wine list is great, too.


Rome is a fantastic city that is worth visiting. The Romans are very friendly and helpful, the food is excellent and there are opportunities to have fun and places to visit. Rome is a city a bit expensive, especially for tourists. My advice is to try to save a little on in Rome hotels. There are plenty of cheap hotels with great features and it is not difficult to find on the internet.

san crispino is almost only for tourists: it's good but really expensive (and the ice cream size is ridicule!).
I'd rather suggest Quinto (near Piazza Navona), Fiocco di Neve (famous for its fresh zabajone- near Piazza del Pantheon) and Fassi (near Piazza Vittorio).
for many other tips you can visit:

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