Rome: Trastevere and the Gianicolo
Rome's village-like left bank is the centro storico's funky little sister. Its northern streets, around Regina Coeli prison, have become a cool bohemian enclave. Take it all in from the tree-lined Gianicolo hill.
SEE Il Gianicolo (Janiculum hill)
Passeggiata del Gianicolo (stairs from Via Garibaldi)
Dominating the northwestern boundary of Trastevere, Rome's lookout par excellence is a long ridge lined with stately trees and busts of famous Italians. At the southern end of the panoramic walk is the Fontanone, an oversized 17th-century fountain basin. At the northern end, the Janiculum cannon fires a blank shot every day at noon, scaring the bejesus out of unprepared bystanders.
SEE Villa Farnesina
Via della Lungara 230, 011-39/06-6802-7268
Just past the ancient city gate of Porta Settimiana, the former residence of the Chigi, a family of hard-partying Renaissance bankers, has lush, marine-themed frescoes by Raphael. The eye-popping Triumph of Galatea, with its undersea background of teal blue, is a visual treat when you've seen one too many earth-toned renditions of the Madonna and Child. Closed Sun. $6.25. Cash only.
EAT Hostaria da Corrado
Via della Pelliccia 39, 011-39/06-580-6004
Massimo Conti's humble kitchen functions mostly as a canteen for the motorcycle mechanics and furniture craftsmen whose shops are nearby, but anyone is welcome to have a sit-down meal here. The menu is small and changes daily, but count on hearty pastas, side dishes of spinach and cicoria (chicory), and roasted meats, accompanied by killer rosemary potatoes. Closed Sun.
EAT Sisini Venanzo
Via di S. Francesco a Ripa 137, 011-39/06-589-7110
It looks like just another Roman pizza-to-go joint from the outside, but discerning locals will walk several blocks (which is saying a lot in this Vespa-dependent town) to get a slice of the mushroom-and-potato pizza. Closed Sun. Cash only.
Via della Penitenza 7, 011-39/06-6830-7053, rivadestra.com
The "Right Bank" (a puzzling name, since it's in Trastevere) takes a stand against the minimalist aesthetic that has swept through Rome's culinary scene in recent years. The restaurant flouts fusion in favor of gourmet Italian cooking. The menu, which has included such items as creamed asparagus with oysters and turbot with espresso sauce and snap peas, changes every month. The intimate dining room looks like it came from an 18th-century papal palace, with iron candelabras and an ornate green front door. A trendy, buzzy spot for artists and jet-setters in the up-and-coming neighborhood around Regina Coeli prison. Dinner only. Closed Sun. $57 per person, excluding wine.
DRINK Ombre Rosse
Piazza Sant'Egidio 12, 011-39-06/588-4155
Little more than a glorified coffee bar, but as long as you've got good company and you can snag a table on the front porch, you've got one of the best watering holes in Trastevere. Every night, from sundown to the wee hours, characters from all walks of Roman life walk through the tiny piazza. Settle into a bright blue chair, order a vodka lemon, and watch the parade go by. Closed Sun. morning.
SHOP Fuori Orario
Via del Moro 29, 011-39/06-581-7181
Display tables in the tiny boutique are filled with colorful trousers, embellished tees, and funky skirts by smaller French and Italian labels, but the real deals here are the leather jackets for men and women. Most are under $200, and the wide range of styles and colors demonstrates Italian design sense: Jewel tones like teal and yellow are muted, not garish, and cuts are sexy and flattering.
Viale dei Romagnoli 717, Ostia Antica, 011-39/06-5635-8099
The easiest and perhaps most worthwhile day trip from the city is to ancient Rome's port town. The shady, sprawling archaeological site includes ruins of tombs, theaters, baths, apartment buildings, public latrines, laundries, bakeries, and the Roman equivalent of the neighborhood café, called thermopolium (hot place). As comprehensive an overview of ancient daily life as Pompeii, and far less crowded. From Porta San Paolo (Piramide metro station) take an Ostia-Lido train to Ostia Antica. Closed Mon. $5.
PLAY Big Mama
Vicolo di S. Francesco a Ripa 18, 011-39/06-581-2551, bigmama.it
Who knew Rome could sing the blues? Blocky wooden tables in the surprisingly sophisticated, often raucous, basement joint are coated with black paint, spilled beer, and the memory of cigarettes past. International blues, jazz, and soul acts regularly take to the faux-brick-backed stage. Also appearing here are talented local bands, like Più Bestial Che Blues, who will have you dancing to soulful, energetic covers of Prince, Ray Charles, and the Rolling Stones. It's a small place; for tables with the best view of the stage, you'll need to book in advance. Tables are held (without charge) until 10 p.m.; shows start at 10:30 p.m. Closed summer months.