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Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the Eternal City is its historical continuity. The Ponte Fabricio, which spans the Tiber to the Isola Tiberina, dates from 62 B.C. and remains in daily use. And 2,000 years after it was built, the Pantheon still ...

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the Eternal City is its historical continuity. The Ponte Fabricio, which spans the Tiber to the Isola Tiberina, dates from 62 B.C. and remains in daily use. And 2,000 years after it was built, the Pantheon still has the world’s largest unreinforced dome. Arguably the best introduction to the city is still “The Companion Guide to Rome” by Georgina Masson, first published in 1965. It is certainly a favorite of mine, and I have long enjoyed following its detailed walking itineraries. Rome is particularly beautiful during the so-called “ottobrate,” from mid- September to the end of October. High summer is hot and disagreeable, and the Romans themselves leave the city for the seaside. 

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in Rome

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.

Best Restaurants in Rome

Even among food-savvy Romans, this spot remains a bit of a secret. The interior looks like a classic trattoria, albeit a refined one, with ocher walls hung with old prints. The food is first-class, with dishes that might include fresh-made chitarra pasta with marinated anchovies and fried artichokes, and main courses like a variation on the classic Roman dish of steamed salt cod with a purée of broccoli and warm ricotta infused with cocoa beans. Ask for recommendations from the interesting wine list, which is full of selections from Italy’s smaller producers. Closed Sunday, dinner only Saturday.

Via Giuseppe Gioachino Belli 59 Rome US$65.

The three Troiani brothers temper their culinary imaginations with respect for Roman tradition. Several dining rooms (one frescoed, and another hung with classical oil paintings) provide memorable settings for the refined gastronomy. The ever-changing menu might include roast quail with black truffle, artichokes and a mixed salad; and Norwegian “morua” salt cod (aged for four years) with beet sauce and artichoke carpaccio. Dinner only. Closed Sunday.

Vicolo dei Soldati 31 Rome US$90.

Situated in the former Jewish ghetto, this charming and informal spot is famous for its carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes, “Jewish style”). Also try any of the wonderful dishes with fresh-made pasta, the fritto misto vegetariano, and the first-rate stuffed zucchini blossoms. Tables spill out into the quiet piazza, which provides a magical setting in summer. Closed Sunday evening and Monday.

Via Monte dè Cenci 9 Rome US$60.

Anthony Genovese, who formerly worked at the Tokyo branch of Florence’s Enoteca Pinchiorri, is one of the most innovative chefs in Rome. This stylish place offers an eclectic menu of Italian classics and fusion food, with dishes that might include scampi with rice cooked in coconut milk and rum; amaranth spaghetti, sea urchin and mantis shrimp; and beef with a brûlée of leek and marrow. Closed Sunday and Monday, lunch only Tuesday.

Via dei Banchi Vecchi 129a Rome US$100. Eight-course tasting menu, US$145.

Located just around the corner from the Campo de’ Fiori market, this is a favorite place for casual dining. The snug space is tucked away behind a gourmet grocery shop. Start with burrata, the creamy mozzarella-like cheese from Puglia, with anchovies, or delicious Sicilian caponata with dried fruit and nuts, then try the best spaghetti carbonara in town. If you don’t want pasta as a main course, the black cod with spring onions, carrot purée and Maldon salt, and meatballs with smoked ricotta and chestnut polenta are excellent. There is a superb assortment of cheeses and one of the city’s best wine lists. Closed Sunday.

Via dei Giubbonari 21 Rome US$60.

This family-run trattoria offers delicious regional food and outstanding service. The seasonal menu generally features dishes such as mixed antipasti of veal-stuffed olives, deep-fried zucchini and soft sausage. Another specialty is tortino (small flan-like cakes made with vegetables). Rabbit dishes are also a focus, and if it’s on the menu, try the luscious timballo di coniglio con patate, a casserole of rabbit with potatoes. The clientele is always well-turned-out, and reservations are essential. Closed Sunday evening and Monday.

Via di San Vito 13/A Rome US$50.

Finding a restaurant in Rome on Sunday night can be a challenge, which is how I discovered this delightful spot. Reputed to be the oldest trattoria in the city, it might not be the most elegant, but the food makes it a must-go. Pastas are excellent — nowhere does a better take on the simple cacio e pepe, with just tonnarelli pasta, ground pepper, butter and pecorino cheese — as are the lamb dishes. The service can be perfunctory, but come on Sunday for lunch to see happy Roman families enjoying every bite. Closed Monday.

Vicolo della Campana 18 Rome US$55.

Cristina Bowerman ran a catering company in Austin, Texas, before taking over the kitchen at this handsome restaurant in the Trastevere district. In a city that is notably conservative when it comes to food, Bowerman has won a reputation for inventive dishes such as her potato gnocchi with sea urchin, black-garlic bagna càuda and salted lemon. On the often-changing menu, watch for dishes such as sumac-scented lamb with Stilton cheese, carrots and fennel pollen. Excellent wine list. Closed Monday.

Vicolo del Cinque 58 Rome US$75. Nine-course tasting menu, US$150.

Set on the charming piazza in front of the rococo façade of the Santa Maria Maddalena church, this lovely small restaurant offers many pleasures. The cooking draws on the traditions of Rome, Emilia-Romagna and Puglia. Look for satisfying starters such as a cake of salt cod and potatoes with chickpea cream; pastas like the classic Roman homemade maccheroncini with tomato, bacon and sheep’s cheese; and main courses such as lamb chops with potatoes and rosemary.

Piazza della Maddalena 4 Rome US$70.
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