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The perfect day: enjoying ice cream and parks, coffee and fast food. Feel like a true local by avoiding gladiators and tourist traps.
Rome is huge and, more than other Italian cities, is based on “tribes”: each having its own territory and each jealously guarding its urban rituals. While it is true that the inhabitants of Northern Rome hardly go to the Southern part (and vice versa), there are communal interests and habits that are good to know to experience the Capital as a “local” rather than a tourist.
The people in Rome love to spend time in the open air, thankfully able to count on a long summer and the many green spaces: Villa Borghese, Villa Ada, Villa Pamphili and Villa Torlonia. These parks are the go-to spots to relax or run, especially on Sunday (when they don’t go to the beach, which is just a few kilometres away and always crowded). And they like to walk lazily through the streets and alleys of the centre, shopping in the Tridente ateliers, like the historical Gattinoni and the brand new laRinascente, marking the day with a variable number (likely a high number) of coffee breaks. But which coffee shops you ask? At Tazza d’Oro al Pantheon, for an iced coffee with cream alongside political figures, and at Café Perù, a radical-chic institution, which is as anachronistic as it is fascinating. Then there is Settembrini in the Prati area – a hangout of television journalists and Capitoline intelligentsia in general. Or at Mondi, at Ponte Milvio, to accompany the espresso with one of their famous small bites.
Without an ice cream cone in hand – no matter the season – and you will never be a true Roman local. Avoid the horrendous ice parlours with overflowing trays and fluorescent colours – the touristy ones – and go straight to Gelateria dei Gracchi (for the best pistachio and eggnog), Fatamorgana (basil, honey and nuts) or Gourmandise, the micro laboratory in Monteverde Vecchio (wild strawberries from Nemi and almond Mocha).
Be prepared – and don’t bother counting the calories – for other quintessential street rituals. At Supplì (the sign says exactly that) in Via San Francesco in Ripa, you can order fried rice supplì; At Dar Filettaro, you have cod fillets in the Santa Barbara district; and of course, the white pizza (always warm and fragrant) is on hand at the historical Antico Forno Roscioli. And then stop nearby in the Roscioli Deli – sit at the counter, before going to dinner, with a glass of Champagne and a taste of Culatello (salted pork).
Since the typical Roman aperitif has little to do with the one offered in Milan, local socialites meet and chat with a gin and tonic in hand at the Bar del Fico, with an Americano at the Hotel Locarno bar, or with a glass of red wine at the Goccetto in Via dei Banchi Vecchi, an iconic wine shop. Where do locals have dinner? If they are in the mood for oysters, shrimp from the Ponza Island and spaghetti with sea urchins, it’s il Sanlorenzo – without any doubt the best fish dishes in town and just a few steps from Campo de’ Fiori. Another place is Al Ceppo in Via Panama, a bourgeois lounge par excellence in the Parioli residential district, where you can count on excellent grilled meat (but also mushrooms and truffles during the right season) accompanied by one of the many fine red wines of a cellar that has few rivals.