Fox Guide: Rome
Culturally rich, geographically stunning, gastronomically enchanting (and home to our very own Pale Fox) we believe Italy has it all! This week we are focusing on the capital city, Rome - the history of this ‘eternal’ city spans over 2,500 years from its legendary founding by Romulus. As a result, there is an abundance of monuments, palaces and buildings that serve as reminders of this fine city’s glorious past.
Things to Do
One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the Colosseum is iconic and unmissable. The structure, erected between 70-80 AD could at its pinnacle allow 50,000 people to enjoy spectacles of gladiator battles, executions, and exotic animals. Adjacent is the Forum, where you can retrace the footsteps of some of the most famous political figures. From the temples they visited (e.g. Tempio di Saturno) to the hub of their political activities (e.g. the Curia) to arches in their commemoration (e.g. Arco di Tito).
Equally renowned, the Pantheon is one of the only preserved ancient temples, clad in marble and royal tombs it is immense. Built by Hadrian over Marcus Agrippa’s earlier 27 BC temple, the building has stood since around AD 125. There is a columned portico behind bronze doors and inside the dome that soars above your head is augmented by shafts of light streaming in from a central oculus.
However, head away from the crowds to the Basilica di San Clemente. This church is archaeologically fascinating as you can explore its three layers: the present Medieval church, a 4th-century church, and a 2nd-century pagan temple to Mithras. If you don’t mind being underground some more, the rather macabre but important Capuchin Crypt contains the remains of over 3,700 friars. It is decorated with skeletons, so it’s not one for the fainthearted. Have you heard the saying ‘all roads lead to Rome’? Well one of them is the Appian Way. A relaxing alternative activity if it is a scorching day in Rome, as many are in the height of summer, is a stroll and a picnic along this ancient cobbled path.
Additionally, magnificent squares are scattered throughout the city where you will encounter street performers and markets, namely Piazza Navona and the bustling Piazza di Spagna with its famed steps. A tribute to the god Oceanus, the beautiful Fontana di Trevi is lavishly decorated with sculptures. Ensure you stop by as throwing a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain is supposed to guarantee your return to Rome!
Apart from the abundance of attractions outlined above, there are plenty of museums and galleries in Rome. Hailed to be the world’s first museum, the Capitoline Museums’ collection holds artefacts from ancient to medieval periods. Important to note are the original bronze of the Capitoline Wolf and the Hall of the Philosophers.
The Galleria Borghese, within stunning gardens, is a prestigious art gallery housed in a villa. There are sculptures by Bernini and Canovas displayed in each hall surrounded by renowned artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael and Botticelli. However, our favourite stop is Villa Farnesina, remaining from the Renaissance, it is lesser-known but deserves a visit. The interiors richly decorated with frescoes are a manifestation of the opulence of the time.
Remarkably remaining somewhat clandestine among art enthusiasts is an understated work of Michelangelo, the Tomb of Pope Julius II in San Pietro in Vincoli. Forget his David, it is all about his sculpture of Moses who amusingly is adorned with horns rather than ‘radiating light’ due to a mistranslation of Hebrew.
All this exploring should whet your appetite. Italy is famous for its coffee, make sure you stop for a midmorning espresso at the historic Caffè Sant ’Eustachio. Later, if you are looking for a quick lunchtime bite, suppli are balls of risotto rice covered in mozzarella and ragù sauce, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Our favourite place to devour these delights is Testaccio Market.
Having walked up Gianicolo (a hill in Trastevere) to admire the view of the city at sunset, wander around this bohemian neighbourhood before enjoying an aperitivo. We recommend locals’ choice Freni e Frizoni near Ponto Sisto. This popular bar serves up an innovative range of cocktails and its location is perfect for experiencing the slow pace of Roman life.
In terms of dishes for your evening meal, we have some suggestions for you. On every menu you are sure to find carciofi alla Romana, or artichokes. In the traditional Roman method, they are stuffed with a fresh mixture of parsley, calamint and garlic; stood upright in a pan they are then doused in water and white wine and braised in the oven. As always, we cannot talk about Italy without mentioning pasta. Cacio e pepe is probably Rome’s iconic pasta dish: ‘cacio’ is the word for Pecorino Romano, a sheep’s milk cheese, while ‘pepe’ means black pepper. We couldn’t settle on the best restaurant in Rome to try cacio e pepe, so head to either the traditional Da Danilo or the busy Da Cesare al Casaletto. Then for entrées saltimbocca alla Romana, aptly meaning ‘jump into the mouth’, is deliciously succulent slices of veal marinated with white wine and topped with prosciutto crudo and fresh sage. Essentially, you are spoilt for choice.