The Rome Guide
For all its mythic history—about 2,800-years’ worth—the Eternal City has a way of making all who visit it feel like they’ve discovered something entirely their own, be it a local trattoria with out-of-this-world cacio e pepe or a famous Caravaggio in a seemingly average church (rule of thumb: walk into every church you come across, you never know what can be found inside). And while so many culture-rich European cities require rigorous touring, Rome’s distinct neighborhoods are best explored by simply strolling around (navigating the cramped cobblestone streets by car is more trouble than it’s worth), as so many of its key sites sneak up on you in easily accessible piazzas. For especially meaty landmarks—the Vatican and the Colosseum in particular—a private guide guarantees you get to see as much or as little as you wish: Your hotel will help with booking or you can DIY by using a touring outfit—we like this one, which employs many local art history students as guides.
Then there’s the food. From teeny mom-and-pops to trendy newcomers to slick hotel-backed cafés—arguably some of the best spots to stop for aperitivo with a view—a good meal is easy to come by in this part of the world, though there are some standouts, many of which are covered in this guide. Note: Though Naples gets all the pizza glory, Roman-style pies are crispier, more varied in terms of toppings, and just as exceptional, so feel free to sample with abandon.
Ai MarmiViale di Trastevere, 53, Trastevere | +39.065.800.919
Taking up a fairly large storefront in Trastevere, this traditional Roman-style pizza spot is an important stop if you’re eating your way through the city. Order off the lengthy menu (we suggest going purist with a Margherita), take a seat at one of the communal tables inside or street-side and enjoy your pie (you eat it with a knife and fork) while watching the pizzas go in and out of the massive oven in the open kitchen. Keep in mind that they keep to evening hours only and are big on take-out, so you’ll see a steady procession of locals picking up stacks of pizza boxes to take home for dinner.
Beppe e I Suoi FormaggiVia di S. Maria del Pianto, 9A/11, Jewish Ghetto | +39.066.819.2210
Named for Beppe Giovale, one of the shop’s partners who comes from a long line of Piedmont cheesemakers, this spot is a wonderful place to shop for cheese and wine, plus a selection of other, complementary specialty items like truffle salt and organic honey. If you’d prefer, you can also sit an enjoy a wine and cheese tasting, which is a pretty incredible way to spend a leisurely afternoon.
Dolce ManieraVia Barletta, 27, Prati | +39.063.700.570
Dubbed the “secret bakery” of Rome (it's located on the basement floor), this Italian pastry shop serves up some of the city's best sweet and savory goods. Choose from the countless filled croissants, arancinis, pizzas (go for the artichoke), cakes, cannolis, and more, all at surprisingly good prices. It's a short cry from the Vatican, so expect crowds.
DuecentogradiPiazza del Risorgimento 3, Prati | +39.063.975.4239
The perfect spot right near the Vatican to grab a panini and coffee or Italian soda. The space exudes a clean, modern feel, and the staff is super friendly and approachable. There's lots of meats and fish, but also plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. The paninis are a meal in themselves, fresh-made withs all the accoutrements atop incredible bread (light and crispy with the slightest chewiness). Given its location, this place is usually packed, but the staff will wrap your goods to go.
La Casa Del CremolatoVia di Priscilla, 18, Salario | +39.068.620.0724
With its fruity, slushy, gorgeous cremolato (a mashed fruit-ice-sugar delicacy topped with a dollop of thick whipped cream) this is one of those Rome institutions not to be missed. Founded nearly 50 years ago by Umberto De Angelis and his brother Ennio, it's run today by Umberto's son Mario, who makes you feel like you're family. The selections are made in-house, always fresh, and vibrant.
La Pasticceria RegoliVia dello Statuto, 60, Esquilino | +39.064.872.812
A presence in Rome for more than a century, this bakery in Esquilino offers traditional, next-level Sicilian pastries (think breakfast pasrties like maritozzo, a kind of panna-topped bun, plus other indulgences that involve fresh berries and cream). It’s often crowded, but the wait is never too long—plus, an expansion a few years back means the once-tiny orginal space now has an adjacent bar area with a few tables and chairs.
Mercato CentraleRoma Termini, Via Giovanni Giolitti, 36, Esquilino | +39.069.293.9569
Mirroring the original Mercato Centrale in Florence, the one at Stazione Termini (this is where you go to catch trains to the airport, Tuscany, Paris, Siena, etc.) is a welcome alternative to sad train-station food. Sprawled over two retail floors, the market is comprised of a restaurant and wine shop by Oliver Glowig, a café, and food stalls from local foodie standbys like Beppe e i suoi Formaggi cheese and street-food favorite Trapizzino. The set-up is a little ways away from the main terminals, but the promise of a good meal, plus the original Angiolo Mazzoni architecture, are worth the schlep.
Mercato TrionfaleVia la Goletta, 1, Prati
Close to the Vatican yet not super touristy (unlike say, Campo dei Fiori), this longstanding large indoor food market is the real deal: You’ll find fresh seafood, meat, produce, pizza, and the best selection of specialty cheese, bread, and wine in the city—all at reasonable prices, too. It’s definitely a local’s market; aim to go in the morning to get the best selection. Photo: @divoraroma
Mordi e VaiNuovo Mercato Comunale di Testaccio, Via Beniamino Franklin, 12/E, Testaccio | +39.339.134.3344
Serious serious Rome street food–at its absolute best. Sergio Esposito, a lively (you want what he's having) former butcher, creates epic, layered, Instagrammable sandwiches that as much an experience as they are a meal. And his approach is a mix of classic and inventive: Choose your favorite historic Roman dish, from buttery, tomato-y homemade meatballs to rich Picchiapò, and watch Sergio complement it between his homemade bread.
Sant’Eustachio Il CaffèPiazza di S. Eustachio, 82, Centro Storico | +39.066.880.2048
A coffee institution. You'll find a line of people here until its closing (which says it all, as it's open until 1:30am). Originally opened in 1938, brothers Raimondo and Roberto Ricco have been running this legendary café since the late 90s, roasting their beans in house and serving up the city's most notable espressos. Order your caffè then purchase one of the sealed cans of beans (they make for the perfect gift).
TrapizzinoVia Giovanni Branca, 88, Testaccio | +39.064.341.9624
For some really great street food, stop here to pick up modernized Roman sandwiches called Trapazzini. Trapizzino is the namesake take-out place that invented them, and there are a growing number of satellite outposts sprinkled throughout the city. The chicken cacciatore is a must; there are a variety of meat and veggie-centric options.