With its cascading panorama of hundreds of domes, towers and rooftops, Rome gives new meaning to the phrase “rising to the top.” The city is rife with prime perspectives for watching the sun coat the skyline in pomeridian gold. When the weather settles into the cherished Roman spring and summer, far better than a room with a view is a rooftop terrace. And with an aperitivo in hand, the Roman cityscape is the most enchanting elixir to help you celebrate your time in the Eternal City. Here’s what to see and where to see it:
St. Peter’s Dome
You don’t need to don a papal zucchetto to have an intimate view of the St. Peter’s dome. Hidden behind Bernini’s colonnade in St. Peter’s Square, the terrace at Residenza Paolo VI is almost as close to Michelangelo’s dome as the pope’s famous balcony. The cocktail service is open in the afternoons and services only a few tables so the view is all yours. There is nothing better than toasting a pope with a glass of bubbly — prosecco, spumante and champagne are favorites on the Residenza’s menu. Skip the French and go with Ferrari Brut.
First Hotel’s 0 – 300° may refer to its cooking temperatures — menu selections range from crudo, raw dishes, to alla griglia, on the grill — but its view is an all-encompassing 360 degrees. The terrace and its tiny crow’s nest are the perfect locations for watching the sun disappear behind St. Peter’s Dome or spying the double bell tower at Piazza Trinità dei Monti above Piazza di Spagna. With award-winning restaurant All’Oro behind the scenes of 0-300°, it’s no surprise that the cocktails are fantasies come true in both ingredients and looks. All’Oro chef Riccardo di Giacinto’s favorite cocktail is the croccante all’amarena, a rum mix of dark chocolate, cherry and creme de lait.
It is true that it is hard to find a hideaway in Rome’s historic center, especially when tourist season is at its peak. The only option for escape is to head to higher ground. Peace among the chaotic via del Corso and via dei Condotti areas can be found at the Grand Hotel Plaza’s Champagnerie ai Limoni Terrace, a tiny cocktail terrace with a front-row view of via del Corso and Piazza di Spagna. Cocktails and long drinks are popular at the Lemon Champagnerie, but champagne prevails. Best bubbly? Champagne Cristal Millesimato, of course. The terrace’s one caveat is that it is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 6 p.m. to midnight.
To be fully surrounded by Rome’s famous domes like Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, you’ll need to plan for cocktails, lunch or dinner at St. George Hotel’s Roof Top Bar & Restaurant. The boutique hotel is nestled in between the churches and houses of the very charming via Giulia, where houses are so close together that window watching is expected. St. George specializes in champagnes and franciacorta, the best complement to its restaurant’s lovely oysters menu, but the general manager has another recommendation: the classic margarita. The choice is yours.
The historic center’s most loved monument is the Pantheon and its gorgeous, open-air dome. Along with standing immediately under its oculus, the curve of the dome is best enjoyed with a glass of franciacorta and live lounge music (preferably some Sinatra) at the Grand Hotel’s Minerva roof garden. This is the best vantage point from which to see all the details of the dome’s construction, from intricate brickwork to secret stairs. The ever-classic Aperol spritz (Aperol, prosecco, soda water) is the perfect thing to order at Minerva, especially on a hot afternoon when watching the sun glaze the Pantheon’s dome.
A peek into Rome’s past is often best done from above. Rome’s coziest and most confidential spot, the American Bar at the Hotel Forum, also happens to be front-row to Ancient Rome’s Imperial Fora, a series of imperial-era temples in front of the well-known ancient forum. On a tiny tower, the lounge bar accommodates only a few guests — so Rome, in that moment, is only for you. The American Bar has an admirable selection of whiskeys, rums and grappa, but when in Rome, drink the Americano — Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda. The American Bar’s view is rivaled only by the full Colosseum vista seen from Aroma, the terrace restaurant at Palazzo Manfredi. The eponymous Manfredi is the cocktail du jour; it’s a vodka-based drink with fresh lime, blueberries and blackberries with a splash of cranberry juice.
Photos courtesy of Residenza Paolo VI, First Restaurant and Sala In Alta