Experience Italy: Authentic Rome

Paloma White of Paloma White Travel takes us across the Tiber for a jaunt you’re not soon to forget and offers up insider tips for other special, quiet moments.

A complete itinerary for Rome must include activities besides just seeing ancient monuments and incredible art. For me, that means getting out of the historic center by strolling through a local neighborhood, taking a day trip to a beautiful hill town in nearby Umbria, and resting my tired feet at a beautiful rooftop bar overlooking the city.

Just across the Tiber River is a former working-class neighborhood called Trastevere (literally translated as “across the Tiber”), which is considered to have a more “authentic” atmosphere than the historic center. 

While increasingly popular with tourists, Trastevere still maintains a charm unlike anywhere else in Rome. Its narrow cobblestone streets are lined with ivy-covered buildings, cafes, restaurants, and picturesque courtyards with laundry strewn above. 

Dinner on this side of town is a must, but I recommend you wander and eat wherever your heart takes you instead of having a set agenda. Time in Trastevere is to be savored, not rushed.

A trip to the hilltop town of Orvieto is a welcome reprieve after a few days of the frenetic energy in Rome. A quick 90 minutes by train, followed by a fun funicular ride up the volcanic stone hillside, Orvieto almost feels like you’ve traveled back through time. While so many tourists flock to Tuscany, I’m surprised at how often overlooked Umbria is. 

Although Orvieto’s beautiful cathedral is not to be missed, its allure lies in the speed of life here. Spend the day sipping Orvieto Classico, a local wine made since Etruscan times…and enjoy meandering the virtually traffic-free medieval streets, away from the hustle and bustle that characterizes most trips to Rome.

The Spanish Steps in Rome

The Spanish Steps in Rome. // Photo: Getty Images

My final recommendation for any trip to Rome is to find a quiet place to relax between seeing the sights. My favorite place to do this is the Minerva Roof Garden, the rooftop bar at the five-star Grand Hotel de La Minerve. Adjacent to the Pantheon in the middle of the historic center, the bar is open to anyone and is high-end without being stuffy. 

Take in 360-degree views of Rome while beating the heat and recharging with a Prosecco in hand…and if you’re lucky you just might be serenaded by musicians in the piazza below.

Advisor Insight

Kat Bride, a travel consultant with Travel Edge, recommends that while visiting Rome one must take a private tour of the Colosseum with an architect. “There’s no shortage of guides who will walk you around this UNESCO World Heritage site, but an architect makes it better,” says Bride, who uses DMC Italy’s Best Rome for this experience. “She can describe the design, construction, materials, historical context, purpose, events and politics involved in making a monument for the ages. This extra knowledge enhances the experience and places you right in the action 1900 years ago.”

Bride also suggests a Hidden Art Tour and uses Italianissima for her clients. “Among the many gems of Rome are its invisible masterpieces,” says Bride. “It’s easy to find Bernini, Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Caravaggio in Roman museums and public monuments, but a trained eye and an inquisitive spirit will lead you to further treasures. 

Bride recommends a private tour of the Colosseum with an architect.// Photo: Getty Images

“For instance, take the Cerasi Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. Standing opposite the twin churches at the end of the Via del Corso, this plain looking house of worship is home to some of the earliest commissions of Bramante (the apse), Bernini (sculpture), Raphael (tombs) and Caravaggio (paintings). They were all young and hungry when they were offered and accepted work here. Spaces like this give clients the opportunity to see how Italy’s great artists began their careers and when clients visit a museum, they can chart how the maestros grew in their subject matter and improved their techniques. A pleasure of walking through the Eternal City is bumping into the unexpected charms along the way.”

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