Long ago, Dean Martin bewitched the world with “On An Evening In Roma,” a beautiful song about a late-night walk around the Eternal City. As he crooned, “como e’ bella ce’ la luna brille e’ strette,” (for non-Italian speakers, that’s “how beautiful the moon is”), listeners instantly felt how magical his evening in Rome was; all these years later, the city is still enchanting. There is just something about those inky blue skies, the warm orange glow of the Renaissance palaces and the layers of history all around to make an evening in Rome memorable, to say the least.
Any resident of Rome will say that by night, the city is the opposite of its daytime personality. When the sun sets, Rome relaxes into long and languid evenings in cobblestone piazzas (or “squares”), leisurely meals in candlelit restaurants and strolls along the Tiber River. Summer evenings are especially lovely, thanks to the lineup Estate Romana events hosts throughout the city, from music performances to late-night museum and monument openings.
The perfect evening in Rome begins at the top, with a handcrafted cocktail on a rooftop terrace. The view from 0 – 300° offers a spectacular panorama of the entire city; there is nothing quite like watching the sun melt behind St. Peter’s Basilica from several stories up in the air. For those wanting something more down-to-earth, the Gin Corner at Hotel Adriano is the latest entry into Rome’s cocktail scene, and the expert bartenders make quite delicious apéritifs of gin and other spirits. If you’ve considered experimenting with gin (say, by ordering a vesper martini instead of a gin and tonic), this is the place to do it — all drinks are priced according to the level of gin used (classic, premium or super premium), so you won’t pay more for a cocktail than a simple mixed drink.
In Rome, the piazza (“square”) is often the life of the party. Campo de’ Fiori, Rome’s “field of flowers,” is a notorious party spot, but it is the city’s hidden piazzas that host the best evenings. Behind Piazza Navona is the tiny Largo Febo, a quiet misshapen square hiding restaurant Santa Lucia. Santa Lucia is home to a beautiful private piazza, a tiny, tree-lined and raised terrace that is an oasis of seclusion amidst the busy city. Those in the know can be found spending hours here, enjoying the Amalfi-inspired menu (the freshly made pastas and fish are not to be missed) and the slight breeze from the surrounding trees.
The rest of the evening is obvious; head to the nearby Tiber River to be hypnotized by the light dancing on the water and the glow of the domes. In the summer months, Castel Sant’Angelo, a former imperial tomb and papal fortress that sits along the Tiber, is open through the late evening for visits. The fortress in its own right is spellbinding, but to truly capture the history of this place, take a free guided tour to the medieval Passetto di Borgo, an above-ground passageway once used by the popes as an escape route. These complimentary tours are offered from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tuesday through Sunday, till September 9. The Vatican Museums and the Colosseum also have their own special evening hours and ticketed events. The Vatican Museums have night openings on Fridays, from September 6 through October 25, and the Colosseum holds English-language evening tours as part of its special night openings, which start at 8:20 p.m. and end at 12 a.m. on Thursday and Saturday evenings through November 2. If you’ve already seen the requisite historical sites, you can always opt for a movie. In the center of the famous Roman river, the ancient Tiber Island regularly becomes Isola del Cinema (“island of film”), an alfresco cinema. Film options range from international hits like Skyfall to original short films, which will be shown through September 2013 as part of the “Mamma Roma e I suoi quartieri” (“Mama Rome and its districts”) contest.
An evening in Rome is whatever you want it to be, whether that means strolling the piazzas and the banks of the Tiber River or taking an after-hours tour of a centuries-old monument. As Martin croons, “The beginning has just begun when the sun goes down on an evening in Roma.”
Photos courtesy of Hotel Adrian, Santa Lucia and Erica Firpo