American expat Erica Firpo has lived in Rome long enough — and shown enough people around — to know how to build the perfect day.
1. Wake up with a cappuccino, preferably with a view. Rome has a whole breed of hotels with amazing views. My latest favorite view can be found on the rooftop terrace at St. George Hotel on via Giulia: 360 degrees of Rome's 400+ domes.
2. Walk down via Giulia to via del Pellegrino, 82, to rent a beautiful Collalti bike. The vintage colors and leather saddle bags are my souvenir of choice, but 12 euros for the Saturday-to-Monday rent is even better.
3. Park the bikes at the market at Campo de' Fiori. It’s about the atmosphere, not the prices. Grab freshly squeezed blood orange juice or pomegranate juice and talk market.
4. Pedal across the street and through Piazza Navona in search of Caravaggio paintings. Madonna di Loreto in Church of Sant' Agostino (Piazza di Sant' Agostino) and the St. Matthew series (The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew) in the Contarelli Chapel at Church of San Luigi dei Francesi are just north of Piazza Navona. Now pump those piedi to Piazza del Popolo for (Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the Way to Damascus) at Church of Santa Maria del Popolo.
5. Walk the bike down Via del Babuino for window-shopping and grab a coffee at Caffè Canova Tadolini. Walk through the bar's "museum" to admire the gigantic Canova casts.
6. It's time for photo ops. Head to Piazza Augusto Imperatore to compare three eras of history: the 1st-century AD mausoleum to Augustus Caesar, the Fascist arcades on the perimeter of the piazza, and Richard Meier's 21st-century museum to the Ara Pacis. Then cut through the side streets to the Pantheon. Go inside and look up. There is nothing like it.
7. Need some energy? Stop behind the 2nd-century monument to Piazza San'Eustachio for a deservedly famous cappuccino at Caffè Sant’Eustachio. If you need something more substantial, pizza al taglio ("by the slice") at Pizza Zazà, an organic pizza shop across the street, will hit the spot.
8. After all the biking you've done, you'll need a massage. Dump the bikes at Collalti (or at a hotel) and walk over to the Jewish ghetto for down time at AcquaMadre, a hamman inspired by ancient Rome. Think: vaulted bricks and underground. I keep it simple: a soak, a scrub, some tea.
9. Relaxed and refreshed. Time for another view: cocktails on the rooftop of Grand Hotel de la Minerve, because only dome that is truly important is the Pantheon.
10. Tipsy? You're just about ready for Al Moro. Savor your walk from the Pantheon and Hadrian's Temple toward Trevi to the restaurant. Are you suddenly craving spaghetti alla carbonara, fried artichokes, and unforgettable zabaglione with melted dark chocolate? (Read my love letter to Al Moro on Fathom.)
11. If you still have energy, a few steps down the street is Trevi Fountain. The evening glow is my favorite nightcap.
See all the locations in this story. (Google Maps)
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Photos: Courtesy of Collalti Bici; Ara Pacis by Erica Firpo.