Updated: Oct 23
Rome is one of those places in the world where you get to fall in love a little more each time that you get to visit it. Here are some of my favorite places to eat, neighborhoods to stay in, and tips for your next visit to the eternal city.
My first encounters with Rome were in my early twenties. Armed with a prehistoric Blackberry cellphone with a nearly nonexistent travel plan, I was left to my own devices to find my way around. Nowadays, it is less probable that you will spend hours lost in this vast city, so you can focus your time doing what you love, or in my case, eating the dishes that I love.
Walking on the streets of Rome is like stepping into your childhood history books. The Colosseum, Pantheon, and the Vatican only scratch the surface of the historic monuments found. An important church around every corner housing famous artwork, and streets and buildings still in use dating back to BC. It is a feast for your eyes and your palate. Pasta, pizza, gelato. Need I say more?
Where to Eat
I've done guided food tours in Rome, but the true way to eat like a Roman is to discover spots for yourself and order things that are true to your own tastes. So what if a certain dish is popular at a certain restaurant, if you feel like your fifth spaghetti al carbonara of the week, go for it. There are no rules. That's Amore!
Pane e Salami Via Santa Maria in Via, 19, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
They offer delicious sandwiches stuffed in hard-shelled Italian artisan bread, like an upmarket sub stuffed with fresh and local meats and cheeses.
Piccolo Bucco Pizza Via del Lavatore, 91, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Since there are no reservations, it can be frustrating to snag a spot for a pizza here. But once you do, you will understand the hype and long lineups right before dinnertime. The crust is so fluffy and the Yellow 4 cheese pizza is to die for.
Grano, Frutta e Farina Bistrot Via della Croce, 70, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Though a bit overpriced, the pizza flavors here are unique and delicious and it is a great option for takeaway. The prices are by weight, so be sure to take their recommendations of square size to not end up with a surprise price for an American sized serving.
Roscioli Via dei Giubbonari, 21, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
This restaurant is recommended by the late Anthony Bourdain. Of course, I had to try it. Each ingredient is sourced internationally to bring out the flavors of each dish at this restaurant. Easily some of the best burrata I have ever tasted, where even the black pepper had a je ne sais quoi that stood out in each bite. They also have the best complimentary dessert with donut cookies and warm chocolate sauce to end your meal.
Saltimbocca Via di Tor Millina, 5, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
I highly recommend the seafood pasta here that arrives in a tin foil swan to keep the heat. The outdoor seating is located on a lively street near the Piazza Navona, for a fun youthful, and energetic atmosphere.
Il Chianti Via del Lavatore, 82, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
This spot is full of tourists and you may hear more English spoken than Italian, but don't let that deter you. The food is superb here. The Carbonera dish is simple, yet the flavors stand out topped with crispy pieces of pancetta giving just enough salt to the dish.
Osteria da Fortunata Via del Pellegrino, 11/12, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
This restaurant receives a lot of praise and reviews. I think part of this is because you can see the handmade pasta making while dining, however, handmade fresh pasta can be had in many establishments around Italy. I found the atmosphere too touristy and sterile, and the Strozzapreti Alla Gricia a bit too heavy and salty for my liking.
Capo de Fero Roma Via di S. Cosimato, 16, 00153 Roma RM, Italy
I would give this Trastevere restaurant a miss. The famous Rigatoni Democratici tastes very bland, without any real standout flavor. I went here hoping to go to a non-touristy spot but left disappointed.
Gelato and Dessert
Giolitti Gelato Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, 00186 Roma RM, Italy This is the most famous gelato in the city. They make fresh cream daily and you can as to have it on top free of charge. It is often filled to the brim with people, so make sure to take a quick look at the countless flavors before it is your turn in line. Often unlooked is their pastries in the front room. The cannolis, almond cookies, and fruit tarts are rich in flavor and a decadent treat.
Frigidarium Via del Governo Vecchio, 112, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
This gelato spot near the Piazza Navona always has a hearty line as there is no space inside. It is the perfect place to make a friend while waiting for a delicious treat. The flavors are unique (hello Rum & Raison) and the texture is super creamy.
Honorable mention to the chain Venchi, whose multiple locations always seem to lure me in when I am the most hungry for a treat. Their hazelnut and chocolate gelatos never cease to disappoint.
Pasticceria Bocionne Via del Portico d'Ottavia, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Google maps took me on quite the journey because it did not have the correct address when I was trying to find this place. It is located in the Jewish quarter and armed with that knowledge it is actually not that hard to find. The cherry ricotta pie here is out of this world delicious. It is made fresh daily in small batches and often sells out, but is it ever worth it.
ZUM Roma Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo, 20, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
ZUM has the most delicious tiramisù cups to go, and ice cream bars made instore with flavors like pistachio.
Where to Stay
Rome is a very large city with very distinct vibes to each neighborhood. Because my visits are often brief, I tend to focus on central locations. But, by no means are these the only areas of interest to stay.
This is my favorite area to base my stay in Rome. The Campo Marzio area is safe day and night, and lively because it is close to so many great restaurants and meeting spots like the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. From here, you can also walk to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and more. There is also lots of luxury (Via del Babuino) and high-street (Via Del Corso) shopping.
This area is perfect for drinking wine into the late hours, whilst still being centrally located. Piazza Navona comes alive at night and is a very lively and safe neighborhood. There are food options at every budget, and often street performers singing and dancing in the square. This would be my top pick for a trip with friends.
This is the central train station of Rome and where all of the train lines run. From here you can take trains to other parts of Italy and Europe. If you are planning to travel via train, I would recommend booking Frecciarossa trains as they are faster, with less frequent stops than the local trains, and generally more comfortable travel overall. There are lots of budget-friendly hotels and hostels in the area, however, it can also be a bit seedy at night if you are traveling solo. This wouldn't be my first pick now even though when I was younger I based myself there.
This area is often recommended to those that are looking for more of a hipster vibe. To me, it is a bit too far from local attractions (30 min+ walks), which is very important to me for short visits. It is safe, lively in the evenings, and provides a more authentic Roman experience.
Taxis- It is best to call for a taxi or get them from taxi stands. MyTaxi is an app that is available for calling cabs, but it was not reliable during busy times like the dinnertime rush.
Tips- Roundup for any bills if you are paying in cash so that you don't have to wait for change. If you are paying by card, there will not be an option to tip, so it is best to tip with cash on the table so that it can get to your server. Tips are not expected as in North America, but also small gestures are welcome especially in fine dining establishments.