To enter the Eternal City, visitors must meet one crucial prerequisite: all must be in love. Atop every empty stretch of the River Tiber’s embankment walls, on every unoccupied park bench, at every sidewalk’s edge where a neon-red man blinks, pairs of twos are intertwined, legs draped over legs, arms over arms, kissing, cuddling, leaning, gazing, blissfully unaware of any extras on set of their own epic love stories (or acutely aware, and relishing in the audience). With its maze of meandering alleyways, rows of apartments the color of sunset, and vines of deliciously purple blossoms spilling out from window boxes or hugging its buildings’ curves, Rome, by nature, demands romance.
1) Go Forth, Foot Soldier
To feel the beat of the city right away, pound its pavement. Grab your camera phone and a pair of headphones, then wind your way to the jogging path along the river Tiber. There, you’ll find a flat surface, plenty of opportunities to people watch as you go, and a unique view of the city from below.
Heavy as your breath may be, be sure to make it as far as Piazza Tevere, a stretch of the embankment wall between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini, where the figures in William Kentridge’s vanishing mural “Triumphs and Laments” march in a larger-than-life parade.
2) Fren-dly Beginnings
You are in Italy: the only logical way to prepare for a meal is to… eat. Experience the classic Italian “aperativo” at the vintage riverside joint “Freni e Frizioni.” For £12, you can sample one of the bar’s craft cocktails (try the Amor do Olinda, a syrupy concoction of cachaça, raspberry, blackberry, orange and cinnamon syrup), and help yourself to the spread of aperativos at the buffet in the next room. Plastic plate in hand, join the crowd of leisurely sippers spilling out onto the piazza outside.
3) Come for the Bir, stay for the Fud
A three-minute walk from Freni e Frizioni, down the cozy alleyway of Via Benedetta, sits Bir and Fud– the warm, modern eatery that elevates its basic staples (beer and pizza) to heavenly heights. Sip on a summer ale until you eye your pie moving towards you on the horizon, a perfect planet of pillowy crust with islands of chewy mozzarella. If you seek to explore terrain more exotic than Margharitaville, try one of the menu’s specialty pizzas, like the Carminuccio with bacon and cured pork.
*If there’s a wait, put your name down, grab a bottle of wine from the shop across the street and sit on the steps of nearby Piazza Trilussa until your table is ready.
4) The Grand Finale
Close the curtain on your first night’s culinary escapade with a stop at “Gelateria Teatro,” an enchanting gelato shop along the Tiber just before Ponte Garibaldi that offers a chilly-sweet experience so magical it will make you want to sing. Choose from exquisite combinations like lavender and white peach; rosemary, honey and lemon; pear and caramel; or garden sage and raspberry. Then return for an encore as many times as you wish before Sunday.
5) Break the Night’s Fast
Before a day of hearty traversing, you’ll want a full breakfast. Try Baylon Café in Rome’s Trastevere district, with its hipster-pad-meets-library interior and rows of lofted outdoor tables. For your meal, enjoy an omelet stuffed with grilled zucchini and mozzarella, or a bowl of “bioyoghurt” with fresh berries and a pond of golden honey in the middle. Trying one of the café’s signature fresh pressed juices (employees recommend the #1, with orange, carrot, and ginger) is also a must.
6) Laughing All the Way to the Bank
Next, experience the giddily sardonic guise of one of London’s most notorious street artists—the illusive “Banksy”—at the newly opened exhibition of his work entitled “War Capitalism & Liberty.” Divided into three separate sections in accordance with its themes, the exhibition captures the presence of an artist who, while remaining anonymous despite his growing notoriety, uses public spaces as a canvas for conspicuous societal critiques. See just how many places, from Disneyland to the MoMA to the refugee camps of France, Banksy has stood and whispered “joke’s on you.”
7) Frigin’ Good
Seek sweet relief from the throbbing symptoms of gelato withdrawal at La Gelateria Frigidarium on Via del Governo Vecchio. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the line of eager-eyers craning their necks at the two display cases inside the door, most waiting to try the signature “Frigidarium” flavor—a tightly-guarded combination whose ingredients are left entirely up to the speculation of those who have sampled it. For the skeptical, blueberry, cinnamon and cherry are all delightfully unmasked choices.
8) Park Perk-Up
A sweetly serene alternative to the heavily-trodden grounds of Villa Borghese, the park at Villa Doria Pamphili offers the idyllic landscape for an early evening to unfold. Stroll the park’s sprawling acres beneath the umbrella pines, peer through the gates at the white goddess Villa Doria Pamphili herself, watch as turtles and swans mingle on the banks of the pond, and embrace, if only for a few hours, “Il bel far niente”– the art of doing nothing.
“Antica Pesa” (meaning “Ancient Weigh House”), with its yellow-washed front and iconic iron letters, still sits where it has since the year 600, on Trastevere’s Via Garibaldi. First opened to feed farmers that flocked to the area to pay wheat taxes at a nearby customs post for the Papal State, the restaurant remains a beautifully evolving hideout in the same lot today. Celebrities and ordinary peasant-diners alike flock to this dimly lit labyrinth of private rooms, wine cellars and intimate garden tables. “Taking a Trip to the Roman Countryside,” a starter plate of select local meats and cheeses, is the best way to begin. And be sure to pay your dues to dessert—the tiramisu with raspberries and roses is well worth a month’s harvest.
10) Morning Macaroons
Abandon even the sweetest of dreams for the sweeter realities that lie inside Le Levain bakery on Via Luigi Santini. For breakfast, pair a plump croissant or mini-muffin with a fresh fruit smoothie (in the refrigerator to the left). Though your appetite may not yet be wetted for dessert, it will be impossible to leave without taking a few of the agonizingly gorgeous macaroons to go. For long travels ahead, grab one of the bakery’s specialty sandwiches—salmon, goat cheese and arugula is a good one– or quinoa salad bowls for the road too.
11) Exit Through the Gift Shop
Tie your weekend up with a bow at Estremi, a treasure chest full of Bohemian trinkets two blocks from Le Levain. Its printed scarves, delicate tasseled bracelets and embroidered tunics make the perfect gifts to show those waiting outside the Eternal City some love.
If you go, here are some of my favorite spots:
1) “Triumphs and Laments” by William Kentridge
Piazza Tevere, Rome
Open to the public all hours of the day
2) Freni e Frizioni
Via del Politeama, 4/6, 00153 Rome
6:30 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
Cocktails from £8
3) Bir and Fud
Via Benedetta, 23, 00153 Rome
12:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m.
Pizza from £6-£15, most beers £6
4) Gelateria del Teatro
Lungotevere dei Vallati, 25, 00186 Rome
10:30 a.m.- 12:00 a.m.
£2 for the smallest- £10 for the largest
5) Café Baylon
Via di S. Francesco a Ripa, 151, 00153 Rome
7:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.
Breakfast plates ≈ £10, juices £6.50
6) “War Capitalism & Liberty”
(May 24th– September 4th)
Fundazione Roma Museo, Palazzo Cipolla (Via del Corso, 320 – 00186),
9:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.
£8 with valid student ID
7) La Gelateria Frigidarium
Via del Governo Vecchio 112, 00186, Rome
10:30 a.m.- 1:30 a.m.
8) Villa Doria Pamphili
Via di S. Pancrazio, 00164 Rome
7:00 a.m.- 9:00 p.m (April to August)
9) Antica Pesa
Via Garibaldi 18, Rome
1:30 p.m.- 11:00 p.m.
Dinner for two without wine, ≈£65
10) Le Levain
00153, Via Luigi Santini, 22, 00153 Rome
9:00 a.m.- 6:30 p.m
Breakfast for 1 ≈£6
Via di San Francesco a Ripa 149
(also locations in Rione Monti and Centro Campo de Fiori
10:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m.