Since moving to Rome, I’ve become quite popular with visitors. I mean, in Milan I think I had 17 guests in 12 years. In Rome, I have something like 17 visitors a month. For some reason, though, I don’t think they’re just coming to visit me, but, heck, I’ll play along for the fun of it. As a result, and because I actually work with the crème de la crème of Italy’s museums, people are always asking me for some extra ‘insider’s scoop’ about what to do in Italy that’s good.*
- Even if you’re not new to Rome, I'd suggest the bus tour around Rome just to sort of take it all in (Citysightseeing gets my vote, just for the graphics on the side of the bus) although the audioguide absolutely stinks on all of them. Better just to sit back & relax and enjoy the sites from this vantage point. Be sure to hop off to check out the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and other locales not reached by the bus.
- NEAR PIAZZA VENEZIA: visit the fabulous Doria Pamphilj Gallery (right off of Piazza Venezia in piazza Collegio Romano). It’s the only collection of its kind in the world, all rehung just like in the 1700s. Even more incredible: the family still lives on the premises! Open on Mondays, which is nice when most museums are closed. The free Audioguide is exceptional, where Jonathan Doria Pamphilj tells you the history of the family and about the works. (confession: I produced it).
- While near Piazza Venezia, go up to the top of the huge white monument to Italy's first king, Vittorio Emanuele (that's him on the horse). It also holds the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. If you take the steps (and save 7 euros on the ride), you’ll find artifacts from Italy’s becoming a united country. There’s an (expensive) cafè up there, but the views are worth it.
- VILLA BORGHESE: Have a picnic in Villa Borghese. With young kids, check out the LETTER BOXES which people (including my niece&nephews) have hidden around Rome. Leave your mark. To get around, rent a peddle car thingamajig or bike and go exploring! There's a small pond to row in, sculptures, museums, cafès, a zoo, and even a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Italian only).
- Still in Villa Borghese, there’s a wonderful cafè just atop near Piazza del Popolo. At the bottom, the unassuming church holds two amazing Caravaggios.
Or, have a fabulous lunch on the terrace of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna. Or, better yet, try their amazing Sunday brunch (also available during the week) – Check out the spread before seating yourself down -- the food’s Italian but the setup is American-style: you can actually go back for seconds!!! The Gallery has a rich collection of exceptional Italian modern art (to be differentiated from contemporary art).
- OSTIENSE AREA: For those a bit more daring to go out of the city center, not far from the Pyramid (Piramide) – there’s even a metro stop there – is the Testaccio neighborhood. Although now in for the clubs and bars, you can still find typical Italian trattorias and an amazing pizzeria (just look for the crowds).
- Up the road on the Viale Ostiense, is my favorite museum in all of Rome: the ACEA Electric Co. museum. You’re in for a surprise when you see the 1st and 2nd century sculptures juxtaposed with the huge power plant. Kids love it.
Go there in the evening, and you’re very close to an outrageous Happy Hour place, Doppio Zero (OO). They have a buffet the likes of which you can only find in Milano. Too bad, it’s all indoors.
- Trains leave from the pyramid to my favorite ruins in Italy, Ostia Antica. I produced an amazing Artineraries Audio Tour of it (see below). It's only 1 euro each way, it beats driving, and, in the park is an excellent self-serve dining area, but bring water. The museum, worth the visit, is only open in the a.m. There are also boat trips to Ostia, but, I've never quite figured out how and if that works.
- VATICAN: Obviously, no visit to Rome should be without this (I also offer an Audio Tour narrated by none other than Art Historian, Sister Wendy Beckett from PBS/BBC fame). But, go up to the top of the dome for a magnificent view (not for the faint of heart). Keep all kids on a leash, up to age 18.
Visit nearby Castel Sant'Angelo, the round Hadrian's mausoleum cum prison cum fortress and take a view from the top. All summer long, it's open in the evenings with comedians, magicians, musicians, food, and, the passetto walkway to St. Peter's along the wall is open, too.
- Near Bocca della Verità: In the eves, catch an outdoor jazz concert at Villa Celimontana, one of the best venues on earth for it's program, food, and, yes, you heard it here, Service. (There are also great summer concerts at Ostia Antica's ancient Theatre).
Just nearby, you can visit the Ancient Roman Domus which also offers a terrific guided tour with actors who show you how life once was.
Jazz not your thing? Every evening you can find classical music in the Teatro Marcello nearby.
Of course, you can always download my tours of St. Peter's (& Vatican Museums), Ostia Antica, Pantheon & Assisi (always worth a day trip or more) at : www.touringtracks.com
*And so, dear readers, you now know why I truly do love living in Italy!!!