Today, I am going to follow my own advice because distracted as I am by home renovations, it would be a shame if I did not report on a trip to Rome last September which proved, once again, that it is possible to get off the beaten trail – even in one of the world’s most visited, arguably ove- visited cities.
June 2008 was our last trip to Rome. Not much has changed except that the city is even more crowded. Here’s what hasn’t changed:
1) The Hotel Locarno off the Piazza Popolo is still timeless and still our favorite
2) Frescatteria – a restaurant on via del Croce, two blocks in from the Corso still has no credit cards, no phone and no coffee but continues to serve up good food at a great price in one of the most touristy parts of town.
3) The Trattoria da Settimio all' Arancio (via dell Arancio 50 - Tel: 06 68 76 119) still offers a bistecca florentina so obscene that they have to hang a side extension off your table to fit it all in and if that does not appeal, everything there is good.
And what’s more
1) The Carravagios in S. Maria del Popolo and San Luigi dei Francesi still offer a thrill without waiting in line or paying a fee
2) The murals on the ceiling of St Ignacio provide a good proxy for the Sistine Chapel with none of the craziness of the Vatican.
3) The Church of St Maria in Tastevere with its dazzling Byzantine mosaics has loads of wow factor and no crowds
But here are some of the other places where we had a fabulous time with no crowds
1) The Keats-Shelley House on the Spanish Steps should be crowded, but it isn’t. While pandemonium reigns outside, you can enjoy the house and wonderful collections in relative peace and quiet. The most poignant bit is to stand in the tiny bedroom over looking the Steps where Keats spent his last days in a vain attempt to fight off consumption. Whether you are a fan of the romantic poets or not, the house is magic.
2) Villa Farnesina – The frescoes, by Rafael and others will knock your socks off and when we visited on a Thursday morning, no one was there
3) The National Etruscan Museum – Villa Giulia – a fabulous building and collection where we spent a perfect afternoon all by ourselves
4) A stroll down Via Margutta, a delightful street made famous by artists who can no longer afford to live there. Check out the apartment where Gregory Peck lived in Roman Holiday - no 51 (5) - pictured above.
And there you have it, some very rough ideas on how to have fun in a crowded place. So go on and send me yours – in any form you like.