The Hedonist: Rome
What to see and where to be seen
Saturday 30 October 2010
There's something thrilling about the slaking tartness of Campari when it's hot and torrid and you've just got off a budget-airline flight. It's even better when joined by its most lethal bedfellows, sweet vermouth and gin, to make a negroni and you are gazing over the rooftops of Rome on a romantic long weekend. My companion, who is struggling with a cold, discovers yet another merit of this classic aperitif: it acts as an effective decongestant. We are now ready to play.
For the impecunious hedonist with a commitment to style, there are few better places to stay than the Hotel Adriano (00 39 06 68 80 24 51; hoteladriano.com) whose centrality a few pulses from the Pantheon and pretty roof terrace are hard to beat. Interiors are chic and simple. There's always a buzz and a game of chess taking place in the lobby.
Fuelled by the added negroni buzz, we jump on some classic, one-gear bikes (provided by the hotel) and chance the cobbles and our orthopaedic futures. History, predictably, is all around in the Eternal City, and opposite our abode in a corner of the Piazza di Firenze is Obikà (00 39 06 683 2630; obika.it), which makes great claim to be "history's first mozzarella bar". We gorge ourselves on a selection of rotoli – sliced and rolled mozzarella stuffed with savoury fillings such as smoked salmon and artichokes.
Maybe I'm an ageing hedonist who likes predictable pleasures, but I adore the unbridled loveliness of knocking back a couple of glasses of prosecco in the Hotel de Russie courtyard (00 39 06 32 88 81; hotelderussie.it), between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. This is the perfect site for concocting lurid fantasies of how to make the tons of cash required in order to spend every day here. Then it's a stone's throw (or a wobbly bike ride) to the Hotel Locarno (00 39 06 361 0841; hotellocarno.com), a perennial Roman favourite which now has a reinvigorated fashion scene in the Art Deco lounge bar. I wear my favourite dress, a Marlene Dietrich-style floor-length gown, and, feeling like the glamorous protagonist of a 1930s whodunit, I throw back a textbook negroni. My companion's experienced eye tells him at this point that if I do not eat a proper meal, and pronto, I will start to become, hmmm, come si dice "a bit of a nightmare"?
And so we shimmy over to Testaccio, former meat-packing district and Rome's main hedonistic artery, which runs from Via Galvani to Via di Monte Testaccio.
We settle in at Angelina at Via Galvani 24 (00 39 06 57 28 38 40; ristoranteangelina.com), which manages to take ironic inspiration from Angelina Jolie (no, seriously, look at their flyers for the aperitivo parties) while still maintaining stylish integrity and pulling off something of an up tempo Shoreditch House feel. It's all stripped wood, ceramic-topped tables and elegant shades of white and grey in the airy vaulted interior, while butchers' placards adorn the tiled walls.
Maybe Ange's famed penchant for wearing vials of her lover's blood strikes a chord with the neighbourhood's gory history; until 1975 ,Testaccio was home to Europe's largest slaughterhouse, and has now become the bleeding heart of the city's contemporary art scene. Attractive crowds throng the new space at Macro Museo, ( en.macro.roma.museum) the macabre ex-abattoir turned modern art gallery across the road.
In a part of town once notorious for offal-oriented dishes such as pajata (veal intestines clinging together in their own imbibed milk), it's a relief that Angelina has some less visceral dishes on offer, such as cacio e pepe – an immensely satisfying and simple dish of pasta drenched in pecorino cheese and lots of black pepper. A modern presentation of a Roman classic. For the carnivorous at heart, there's also a fine array of high-quality Danish and Texan grilled meats to choose from. We make a pact to try to return for the chic Sunday brunch tomorrow on the terrace.
Engines stoked on red meat, negronis and wine, we scoot up past the traffic-stained antique pyramid monument that marks the beginning of Ostiense, an area that is ubiquitously gritty and industrial and therefore inimitably cool, with various projects by trendy architect Rem Koolhaas underway.
It must be said that for me, Italian clubs have always left a little to be desired, but the cream is probably Goa (00 39 06 574 8277, Via Libetta) which attracts a convincing clutch of international DJs and that unmistakable brand of electronic Euro with a touch of the Balearic. Nadal-chested men in singlets pump the air and more arty musos bob their heads in appreciation over punchy cocktails. Being teenagers of the rave-inspired 90s, we throw ourselves into enjoying the twisted electro churned out by a sound system which is as punishing as any you might find in the old super-clubs of the UK.
Perhaps I don't dance with gusto to all things electro so much these days. But whether my all-over aches can be put down to throwing shapes, cycling on cobbles, or – surely not – the negroni diet, by the following morning, I'm more than ready for a massage in the darkened cocoon-like rooms at new sybaritic spa Kami (00 39 06 42 01 00 39; kamispa.com) near Piazza Barberini. Then we enjoy a restorative long lunch of cheeses, cold meats, wine and miniature portions of lasagne at Cul De Sac, a little enoteca off the Piazza Navona that really can cure all ills (00 39 06 68 80 10 94; enotecaculdesac.com). We settle in next to a table of international jeunesse dorée who are having a boozy discussion in three languages, and watch the passeggiata pack amble by, just enough time for our stomachs to settle before gobbling down a gelato at dreamy spot Gelateria del Teatro on Via San Simone (00 39 06 45 47 48 80) just off Via dei Coronari. Here the intense, 75 per cent cocoa cioccolato puro and organic concoctions and gluten-free cones knock the socks off the standard tourist traps such as Giolitti.
Back on the bikes to burn off some of this calorific creaminess. But we don't get very far – seduced by the setting sun on the warm cobbles around the Pantheon, and because we are greedy hedonists in love, we ignore the tourist trash and share a plate of perfect tonnarelli alla carbonara at old favourite Maccheroni (00 39 06 68 30 78 95; ristorantemaccheroni.com) back in the centro storico at Piazza delle Coppelle 44.
A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com.
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