While the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain are undoubtedly on every avid tourist’s must-do list in Rome, nothing can quite capture the essence of the city like setting the guidebook down, straying from the hustle and bustle of Via Vittorio Emanuelle, and getting lost among tiny cobblestoned alleyways lined in bougainvillea and wrought iron balconies. Below are ten ways to escape the chaotic city and truly eat, live, and indulge in the Italian ideal: il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing).
1. Gelateria Del Teatro
Il dolce far niente is about reveling in the bliss of a cup of ricotta almond fig gelato on a mosaic bench outside this tiny gelateria. Tucked into a quaint alleyway near Piazza Navona, the gelato is handmade daily from fresh seasonal ingredients. The flavors range from Sicilian orange and crunchy sesame, to garden sage raspberry and a buttery chocolate fondante made with 80% pure chocolate.
2. Bar Amore
Just around the corner on Via dei Banchi Nuovi is a family run bar that serves steaming cups of foamy cappuccinos, and grilled paninis made fresh with your choice of ingredients. From mounds of buffalo mozzarella to smoky prosciutto and heaps of ripe Roma tomatoes, it’s ideal for enjoying a quick lunch at the bar or around the corner on a street bench in Piazza dell’Orologio.
3. Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto surrounded by via del Portico d’Ottavia is a charming historical neighborhood wedged between the Tiber River and the Theater of Marcellus. Famous for it’s culinary delicacies, waiters happily serve steaming plates of deep fried artichoke on outdoor patios. The true gem of the neighborhood is the Pasticceria Ebraica “Il Boccone,” a tiny unmarked bakery nestled under an unassuming white awning. The all-female staff has churned out trays of mouthwatering ricotta cakes and crunchy almond biscotti for over two centuries. Their specialty is the pizza Ebraica, a sweet buttery dough studded with candied fruit and nuts, and drizzled in sweet Marsala wine before being baked to perfection.
4. Keyhole to the priory of the knights of Malta: On top of the Aventine hill just up the street from Circus Maximus, lies the Villa Malta. Surrounded by orange groves and a breathtaking view of the city, you can look through the keyhole to the villa for a glimpse of a true icon framed by Cyprus trees. Resist the urge to find out what lies behind this mysterious keyhole for a delightful Roman surprise!
5. Villa Doria Pamphili
The largest public park in Rome is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, a destination for avid runners and picnickers alike. Take a blanket, a crusty baguette and some mortadella, and enjoy the landscaped gardens and fresh mineral water flowing from the public fountains.
A colorful medieval neighborhood nestled against the Tiber, it’s a quiet part of the city during the day as laundry sways in the wind between houses and children play in the narrow cobblestoned streets. As the sun sets, the neighborhood comes alive with both locals and tourists flocking to the many restaurants, bars, and pubs that offer everything from five course meals to rustic pizzas and typical Roman pasta all’Amatriciana.
7. Dar Poeta
From the secret blend of flours to craft their dough, to the mouthwatering Nutella and ricotta calzone dessert, Dar Poeta is a pizzeria in Trastevere hidden among its many winding narrow streets. Whether you enjoy your meal outside under the awning and twinkling street lamps, or are seated next to the cavernous wood fired oven spitting out steaming pizzas topped with everything from thinly sliced garlic potatoes to salty anchovies, the quality and service is unbeatable.
8. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
There’s no better place to people-watch than from the footsteps of Bramante’s fountain in this vast piazza flanked by one of the oldest and most ornate churches in the city. It’s the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon with a gelato and good book in hand.
9. Porta Portese
On Sundays, a quiet street in Trastevere is transformed into the largest flea market in the city, Porta Portese. Tents pop up along the street at the break of dawn as trucks cram into tiny alleyways and vendors set up their booths. Items on sale range from antique furniture to odd wares, clothes, shoes, and every trinket imaginable.
A historical Roman town outside of the city and nestled in the quaint Alban Hills, it has become famous for its slow roasted herbed porchetta pork and delicious wines. Ariccia, like the other Castelli Romani towns, is known for its local tavern-like restaurants that offer heaps of appetizers and piles of porchetta on long, cafeteria-style tables at very low prices.
Whether you’re planning a future trip or have just arrived in the overwhelming hub of Roma Termini station, take the time to indulge in il bel far niente by savoring every smell, relishing in every flavor, and taking in every sight this beautiful chaotic city has to offer.