Everywhere you turn looks like a film set

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

City Slicker: Rome - Eternal it may be, but autumn is one of the best times to see this city. Rhiannon Batten has tips for new and returning visitors



Why visit?


The timeless pulling power of the Eternal City means there's little need for an excuse to visit but, for committed jet-setters, now is very much the time to go, as the autumn weather sets in and the tourist hordes subside.

Eat Pray Love mania is finally dying down (though you'll still find groups following in Julia Roberts's footsteps on themed walking tours and fans queueing for ice cream at San Crispino, a gelateria mentioned in the film), and a more discerning kind of movie fan is moving in, lured by the International Rome Film Festival (romacinemafest.it). Running from 28 October to 5 November, the festival promises a celebrity-strewn red carpet as well as screenings, talks and a wider programme of events and performances. And what better location for taking time out between screenings than a city where you can follow your own trail around the backdrop to such films as Roman Holiday, La Dolce Vita or The Talented Mr Ripley?

Don't miss...

The Colosseum, a vast amphitheatre built in AD72 by Emperor Vespasian and infamously the site of gruesome contests between gladiators, slaves, prisoners and animals. The Colosseum (rome.info/colosseum) is the best-known feature of Rome's landscape of ancient monuments. Even for regular visitors, it's worth scheduling an imminent trip as areas of the amphitheatre previously off-limits to the public, such as the hypogeum, were opened up earlier this month.

A stroll around the Forum. Just next door to the Colosseum, it was the political centre of ancient Rome (rome.info/roman-forum).

Taking in St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, where more contemporary pomp and ceremony are on offer (saintpetersbasilica.org). It has the largest interior of any Christian church (holding up to 60,000). The awe-inspiring papal basilica is believed to be the burial place of St Peter.

Gazing at the Sistine Chapel. The other great Vatican City attraction (vatican.va), whose famous frescos by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Perugino, Rosselli and Ghirlandaio are enjoyed by Pope Benedict XVI when he's saying his private prayers here.

Marvelling at the Pantheon. Originally built about 2,000 years ago as a temple to the gods of ancient Rome, the Pantheon (rome.info/pantheon) has undergone several reinventions over the centuries, most lately to become a Catholic church. What sets it apart is its ceiling, which is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome and, with its central opening, operates as a kind of sundial.

Climbing the Spanish Steps. Funded by a French diplomat in the early 18th century, the 138 Spanish Steps, or Scalinata (rome.info/squares/piazza-di-spagna) run gracefully from the Piazza di Spagna's Fontana della Barcaccia ("Fountain of the Old Boat") to the Piazza Trinita dei Monti. Also at their base is the Keats-Shelley Memorial House (keats-shelley-house.org) where the 25-year-old poet Keats died of tuberculosis in 1821.

Tarrying by the Trevi Fountain. The largest Baroque fountain in the city (rome.info/sights/trevi-fountain) is a gargantuan monument to Roman engineering. It marks the end point of one of the aqueducts that once supplied water to the city. Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the water you'll return to the city, but more legendary is the fountain's appearance in Fellini's La Dolce Vita as a smooching spot for Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni.

What's new

Pigneto

It may still be a little rough round the edges but this authentically Roman district, in the east of the city, is now full of artists, architects, film-makers and writers. Aim to visit at lunchtime if you want to catch its outdoor market (on Via del Pigneto), a hot spot of activity among the area's sleepy lanes and crumbling, colourful houses. Pigneto is home to some of Rome's most interesting restaurants, such as Necci (necci1924.com), a cosy space with white-painted chairs, bright wallpaper, old cabinets laden with wine, a long counter packed with delicious cakes, and chalkboards listing daily specials. Other modern rustic restaurants worth the detour are L'Infernotto (Via del Pigneto 31) and Primo (primoalpigneto.it). For clubbing and live music, go to Fanfulla (Via Fanfulla Da Lodi 101).

Details: pigneto.it

The Perfect Bun

It is unusual to find authentic American food in Italy, so it's little surprise that this recently opened restaurant, just by Piazza Navona, has quickly become the place to eat among the city's cool thirtysomething crowd. Its industrial styling is heavy on glass, wood and brick; a changing airport departure board takes pride of place on the wall. Food focuses on simple, freshly made burgers, steaks and salads and the friendly vibe is helped along by a big communal wooden table at its heart – and disco lights in the loo.

Details: theperfectbun.it

The Wonderfool

It originally opened a couple of years ago as an upmarket grooming salon offering tailoring services, a barbershop, clothes store, personal training and beauty treatments for men. This soothingly pared-down day spa has just started offering women's treatments too. This is the perfect retreat from Rome's chaotic streets. Book in advance to guarantee a slot in its steam room.

Details: wonderfool.it

Maxxi

Winner of this year's Sterling Prize for architecture, the new Zaha Hadid-designed Maxxi (Museum of the Art of the XXI century) is an attempt to create a series of spaces that "rather than prescribing routes, gives the visitor a sense of exploration". That might be true, but I found these meandering spaces made for a slightly frustrating visitor experience and left me unsure if I'd seen everything or not. Fortunately, the exhibitions make a trip worthwhile; current attractions incorporate a series of displays dedicated to the work of Italian artist Gino de Dominicis – including a ghoulish giant skeleton reclining outside the museum's entrance.

Details: fondazionemaxxi.it

Leon's Place

The latest member of the Design Hotel collective to arrive in Rome, Leon's Place is a 19th-century palazzo re-imagined as a shimmering 21st-century boutique hotel. It's a new kid on the block but Leon's theatrical lobby, sybaritic rooms, helpful staff and central location already make it one of the city's most popular hotel choices. Doubles from €200 (£175), room only.

Details: designhotels.com

Insider's secret

Where to find the best ice cream in the city

Vanessa Jones, writer

"The Antica Gelateria De Matteis has the best ice cream in the city. It's all made on site from natural ingredients and its interesting variety of flavours range from chilli and chocolate to fig or pine nut. It's right by the Colosseum but away from the main drag so you can get a bit of respite from the crowds while you enjoy your gelato."

Details: antica-gelateria-dematteis.it

Compact Facts

How to get there

EasyJet (0871-244 2366; easyjet.com), British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com), Alitalia (0844 815 3649; alitalia.com) and Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) fly to Rome's main airport, Fiumicino. EasyJet and Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) fly to Rome Ciampino.

Further information

Italian Tourist Board (020-7408 1254; italiantouristboard.co.uk).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003