Considering what the Local Hideaways concept is all about, visiting Rome is not the obvious thing to do….for if there is any city that is flooded with tourists it’s Rome. But what can I say, I have a soft spot for this city…. maybe slightly romanticised, after all, I have only been here once before, on my secondary school trip when I was sixteen years old. However, I vividly remember this trip, for we had great fun and felt very cool to be wandering around this metropolis with a group of teenage friends (while making fun of the handsome Italian men ;-)). But what I remember most is the overwhelming beauty of the century old buildings, unsurpassed!
So it was a bit of a challenge for me to visit this city again after so many years, while seeing it through my Local Hideaways spectacles: I didn’t intend to visit only the popular highlights, but rather wished to go a bit off the beaten track. Thankfully, I was in for a pleasant surprise, for a contemporary wind is blowing on the classical Roman streets.
For instance, Pino, owner of CasaCau, really stuck out his neck by realizing his dream against all the traditional tides and currents: he started a beautiful and contemporary Local Hideaway right around the corner from one of Rome’s most important classics: the Trevi Fountain. And he didn’t stop here, for on the other side of Rome, in the Testaccio area, which actually feels more like Berlin than Rome, he opened a Michelin star restaurant in a former slaughterhouse. In Stazione di Posta, modern art by young artists fills the enormous space and integrates effortlessly with the cobblestones on the old floor and the industrial elements. Chef Marco Martini reigns in the kitchen and turns classic Italian recipes into daring modern organic varieties that are both lovely to eat and to look at. This Testaccio district, a raw industrial area, is considered to be Rome’s newest creative hotspot but is a thorn in every Roman purist’s side.
And be sure to cross the river Tiber as well and visit the Trastevere district. True, it is rather busy with tourists….but there’s a reason. Trastevere is like a scene from one of the great Italian classics. During the day, it is a quaint and sleepy little district, with tiny alleyways, balconies full of red geraniums and some lovely little shops (don’t forget to visit Marta Ray…..they sell the most gorgeous bags and shoes you won’t be able to resist…..ok, that Mrs. Local Hideaways couldn’t resist!). At night, it is a heady place, especially during the weekends, when (young) Romans and tourists flock to the many terraces, bars and restaurants in this neighbourhood for a good time. And of course I have found you a perfect base in this district: Buonanotte Garibaldi.
The area that I loved most was Rome’s oldest district: Rione Monti. It is even said that Julius Caesar was born here. For centuries, this lower part of the city – the suburra- was home to the ‘plebs’ – the lower-class and the poor. Emperors and other high officials lived in the surrounding higher parts. Consequently, rents were relatively low in Rione Monti, which, as in many large cities, had a magnetic appeal to all kinds of creative souls and other innovators. And now, Monti is one of the most attractive and hip neighbourhoods of Rome. This is where you will find many lovely shops and restaurants. For instance, you should definitely try the trendy Urbana47, but you can also enjoy traditional Italian cuisine in this area… I had the best ‘tonnarelli cacio e pepe con tartufo’ in La Taverna dei Fori Imperali. And tucked away in the middle of this fantastic district is a true Local Hideaway…. only three rooms and a wonderful host, Giuseppe: Cibele B&B.
Well, and we mustn’t forget the beautiful ancient treasures of Rome…. the Colloseum, for instance, is right around the corner from Rione Monti (especially excellent at night) and the Pantheon is a definite must see! But I would also encourage you to let yourself be amazed by the brilliant way in which the light falls on Caravaggio’s paintings in the San Luigi dei Francesi church!
“Something old, something new”……Rome is a wonderfully complete city. An absolute must for your next city trip!
Esther van Onna – Founder Local Hideaways. September 2015
Local Hideaways Rome: www.localhideaways.com