Above the touristy meridian between the Vatican and Villa Borghese, the neighborhoods of Prati and leafy Parioli have trendy fusion restaurants and fascinating 20th- and 21st-century architecture.
SEE Auditorium Parco della Musica
Viale Pietro de Coubertin 30, 011-39/06-8024-1281, auditorium.com
After initial noise about the concert halls' resemblance to giant beetles (which is fair), Romans have heartily embraced the exciting new music and fine arts complex designed by Renzo Piano. Come during the day to tour the site, which includes an ancient Roman villa excavated during construction, and have a snack at the cafeteria. At night, attend a performance by the Accademia di Santa Cecilia symphony or Bob Dylan. Admission to the site is free. Prices for shows vary, from free to $126.
EAT Ai Villini
Via Marcantonio Colonna 48, 011-39/06-321-6766
The kind of perfectly Roman pasta that can inspire a trans-atlantic trip. Crowd in with the locals on their lunch break and order the rigatoni alla carbonara off the handwritten menu. The dish features salty, crisped guanciale, or pork cheeks, Rome's divine answer to thick-sliced bacon. The grilled radicchio and the espresso-soaked tiramisu are not to be missed. Unless you're lucky enough to score a personal invitation from a local, this may be the closest you can get to mama's home cooking. Closed Sun. dinner and Wed. In July closed Sun. lunch.
Viale Parioli 200, 011-39/06-8066-2455, dukes.it
Perhaps you didn't come to Rome to eat at a California-inspired restaurant, but Duke's is so well executed, from its breezy, beachy architecture to its strictly locals crowd of young professionals (and a few celebs) to its healthy, delicious food, that it's worth trekking up to posh Parioli for dinner. It's one of the few Roman restaurants with a decent bar scene.
DRINK Chioschetto di Ponte Milvio
East of the northern gate of Ponte Milvio
Just north of the ancient Milvian bridge, where Constantine vanquished Maxentius in a.d. 312, the casual drink shack with a neon Coca-Cola sign and plastic tables on the gravelly roadside is a powerful magnet for 20- to 40-somethings. No frills, no attitude. Open only in summer.
Enoteca wine bar
Gelateria ice cream/gelato parlor
Osteria simple tavern serving local wine and food
Paninoteca sandwich shop
Rosticceria deli selling roasted meats and prepared foods
Trattoria casual restaurant, usually family-run
Auditorium, Viale Pietro de Coubertin 12-16, 011-39/06-8069-1630, redrestaurant.roma.it
If you're lucky, you'll mix with international musicians at this sleek cocktail bar and restaurant in Rome's new center for fine arts. Even if the Brazilian jazz singers and Korean violinists are absent, it's still a hot place for an aperitivo with accompanying free snack buffet from 6:30 p.m.--9 p.m.
Via Cola di Rienzo 173, 011-39/06-3600-4298
Often ignored by tourists in search of flashier storefronts, the midrange department store has a fantastic assortment of affordable handbags, belts, socks, scarves, hats, and jewelry on the ground floor. Upstairs, there's fashionably sporty outerwear and upscale lingerie.
SHOP Del Frate
Via degli Scipioni 118, 011-39/06-323-6437
A classy, fully stocked enoteca near the Vatican for people who take their wine seriously. Let the expert staff pour you an under-the-radar vintage. The shop also functions as a wine store, and the genteel folk of Prati wouldn't dream of buying their cases of Barolo elsewhere.
For a quick and satisfying survey of the florid and frenzied Roman baroque, visit three 17th-century treasures. At Via del Quirinale 29, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Sant'Andrea al Quirinale looks like a Neapolitan-ice-cream sundae, with swirly pink and white marble and a statue of St. Andrew rising heavenward toward the dome. At Via del Quirinale 23, Francesco Borromini's San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane is a tiny, dizzying space with oppressive, fractured white surfaces that mirror the tortured soul of the architect. A few blocks east, at Via XX Settembre 17, Santa Maria della Vittoria is home to Bernini's famously sexual sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
PLAY A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio soccer games
Stadio Olimpico, Piazzale del Foro Italico, 011-39/06-3685-7762, lega-calcio.it
From September through May, Rome's two Serie A soccer teams (A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio) play at home against rivals such as Juventus (Turin) and Inter Milan. The atmosphere is loud and passionate. There are plenty of pyrotechnics, but rarely violence; no alcohol or glass allowed. For Roma games, buy tickets at any tabaccheria (tobacco store) that advertises centrally linked "Lottomatica" machines. For Lazio games, buy tickets at Orbis ticket agency (see listing in Essentials, p. 2). Or try your luck at the stadium box office a few hours before kickoff. From $32.