It may have taken about a million days to create the Rome of the 21st century, which means there are probably even more than a million ways to enjoy the empire’s favorite capital. Though it might be a little crazy to dedicate only 48 hours to all the Italian city has to offer, it can be done. Pack your prettiest walking shoes; catch up on some extra sleep; and after these two days, Rome will eternally be yours.
Ancient Rome was the center of the world. With that being said, there is nowhere else to stay but the historic center, or the centro storico. Drop your bags at the J.K. Place Roma, Rome’s most stylish and sexiest hotel and head out for the day — your very first true cappuccino is waiting for you. Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina’s Ciampini, one of Rome’s traditional cafés, is the spot for your first sip. The outdoor seating is coveted for its people watching, but the true connoisseur knows that Ciampini’s lovely selection of sweet and savory cornetti (croissants) is really what draws the crowd.
You’ve had your coffee and now you are ready to enjoy an empire. Feet forward and venture to via dei Fori Imperiali, where Roman ruins, including the Roman Forum, Trajan’s Market and the Colosseum, flank both sides of the long street. After literally walking through history, make your way up the hill to the Piazza del Campidoglio and the Capitoline Museums, for full immersion in every century of Roman history — from the city’s founding corner stones to 21st century street art by Alice Pasquini. Immediately adjacent to the Campidoglio is the Victor Emmanuel II monument, an early 20th century mega-altar celebrating the unification of Italy, with three gorgeous, panoramic terraces. Don’t stop there; go to the top: the Terrazza delle Quadrighe has an unparalleled 360-degree view of Rome that spans from ancient to contemporary.
Back down on the streets, it’s time to eat and there’s nothing more perfect than spaghetti carbonara. Roscioli can brag about having one of Rome’s very best. For something lighter, take a peek at the wine and cheese lists. Roscioli’s location is key to a postcard-inspiring walk back home — passing through the city’s most beautiful piazzas including Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona and Piazza della Rotonda (where the Pantheon sits). If in need of a bit of pampering, stop into Acanto Day Spa, an ancient Roman-inspired spa with luxury massage services (think deep muscle or aromatherapy), among other treatments. If you have history on the mind, remember that 2014 celebrates the 2,000th anniversary of the death of Augustus, Rome’s most-loved emperor. To catch up on everything you need to know about Augustus and the Julio-Claudian family, the Richard Meier-designed Ara Pacis Museum is your spot.
Now back to the J.K. for some rest before hopping in a cab to Testaccio for dinner at La Moderna. The neighborhood’s newest restaurant pays homage to local delights such as quinto quarto (offal delicacies including braised tongue), Roman pizza and, of course, Roman pastas. The eatery has a unique DIY cani caldi (hot dog) bar, great cocktails and a film series projected on a vintage screen in its lounge. Testaccio is Rome’s disco haven, so you can easily dance off those carbs at any of the clubs along via Galvani and via di Monte Testaccio, or you can get a culture crush at MACRO, a contemporary art museum and installation space in Testaccio’s original butcher house, which is open until 10 p.m.
With Day One now ancient history, look forward to the modern city. Begin with a morning walk around the Tridente shopping area. Make sure to visit museum-studio-coffee shop Caffè Canova-Tadolini on via del Babuino, which was once home to the studio of sculptor Antonio Canova who passed it on to his pupil Adamo Tadolini and his descendants. But more importantly, get your caffeine fix here — Caffè Canova-Tadolini serves the largest cappuccinos in Rome. Tridente — from Piazza del Popolo to Piazza di Spagna and surrounding streets — is saturated with fantastic shopping. Fashionistas will love ogling the eye candy at luxe boutiques such as Gucci, Gente and Fendi, while the more affordable, quirky stores are on via del Corso and side streets. Take a break at Ginger, a modern, organic bistro with a wonderful menu of pastas, creative salads, freshly pressed juices and smoothies. Make sure to peruse the prosciutto bar.
To truly learn about the modern rise of Rome, visit the recently renovated National Gallery of Ancient Art of Barberini Palace. Best known from Roman Holiday, when a fed-up princess snuck out of its grounds, the Bernini-Borromini-designed Palazzo Barberini has a beautiful collection of artwork from late medieval to 18th century. The galleries represent a who’s who of Italian painters including Fra Angelico, Pietro Perugino, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (known as Guercino), and more importantly, they hang under the amazing ceilings of Pietro da Cortona. For a complete about-face, head down via del Tritone to Gagosian Gallery, for a glimpse into the present. Gagosian exhibits the very top internationally recognized contemporary artists such as Cy Twombly, John Chamberlain and Urs Fischer.
Now that you’ve caught up on Rome’s past all the way to the present, it’s time to unwind for a bit. Back at the J.K., the library is the perfect place to relax with a negroni or French 75. (In the summer, the chic hotel will add a rooftop terrace, which is sure to up the ante on the cocktail setting.) Once sated, take your time and wander up via di Ripetta to Ristorante All’Oro, at The First Luxury Art Hotel di Roma. Chef Riccardo di Giacinto’s ground level restaurant is spectacular, from its modern design to his creative spin on Roman cuisine — carbonara in an egg? Braised beef cheek? A tiramisu sphere? Weather permitting, venture to the roof for a very intimate dinner. The tiny private rooftop terrace lets you have the city all to yourself.
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