It’s really important to me that you love Rome.

Really important.

Colosseum Rome

 

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I often talk to people who have traveled to Italy and when I ask them if they just loved Rome, one of my 4 favorite cities in the world, (along with Sydney, Paris and Florence), they say no. And then they tell me it was expensive, overcrowded and dirty.

If I ask them where they went in Rome, where they stayed in Rome, what they did in Rome it’s normally the same things. They stayed in a high tourist area, went to just the main tourist sights (which are always crammed with cruise ship and tour bus travelers) and ate in those same areas.

 

Forum Rome

The Forum, Rome

 

Don’t get me wrong, you have to go to the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, while you’re in Rome. You have to climb the Spanish Steps and throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, but there is so much more to Rome that you need to experience!

I love Rome. I know that if I spent the rest of my life there and went exploring every day I would still never get to the end – there is just so much on offer. When I take ladies to Rome on my Glam Italia Tours they are always blown away by how incredibly cool Rome is, and how much truly fantastic stuff there is to see and do.

 

Piazza Navona Rome

 

Some of my traveler’s have been to Rome before and not liked it, but when I show them my Rome they end up loving it to pieces and can’t wait to get back.

That’s what I want for you. I want you to experience the magic of the city that created civilization as we know it. I want you to see the side of Rome that isn’t full of tour buses and tourists. I want you to enjoy amazing meals that cost less than €10, surrounded by locals.

I want you to love Rome.

 

 10 Things You Must Do In Rome

 

We’ve already established that you are going to see the main sights, but here are some other cool experiences to garner while you’re there.

Firstly while you are around the Colosseum:

 

Domitian’s Palace

You Colosseum ticket also gives you entry to the Forum and the Palantine Hill. If you are walking from the Colosseum, take the entrance beyond the triumphal arch and wander up into the Palantine Hill and up to Domitian’s palace. Domitian was emperor of Rome from AD 81 until AD 96

When I bring my tours here I have a local tour guide, Daniella, with us to explain everything (because it’s so amazing!) but if you are going alone I recommend you at least google it beforehand so that you can understand some of what you are seeing. 

The palace is enormous and quite brilliantly designed. The entry alone must have been overwhelming to Domitian’s guests.  The scope of his private “rec room” alone is just crazy. 

 

Statue at Domitian's Palace, Rome

All that remains of this giant statue is a piece of the foot and it’s little toe.

 

There is a chunk of statue of what is left of a foot, with only the little toe still intact. When you stand beside it you get a concept of how outrageously huge the entire statue must have been. 

I don’t even know how many times I have been to Domitian’s Palace at this point, but I will still keep going back! The views are astounding and the palace itself with it’s windows into Roman life is just sensational.

 

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Lunch In The Monti

Okay, so here are the rules of eating in Rome (or anywhere in Italy). Firstly never eat around the major tourist sights. The locals don’t eat there, and for a good reason – the food is expensive and low quality, churned out for tourists who don’t know any better. When you are hungry just turn your back to the tourists and walk 5 minutes and you will find fantastic places to eat, they will be full of locals, and they won’t be expensive.

Second rule is never eat anywhere with pictures on the menu! Again this is low quality and mass marketed to tourists, and that’s not what you traveled all the way to Rome to experience!

Once you are done with the Colosseum and Forum (and hopefully you’ve gone to Domitian’s Palace on the Palantine Hill) wander up to an area called Monti for lunch. If it’s a boiling hot day you can grab a taxi at the bottom of Via Cavour. The Monti is one of those fabulous old cobblestoned pockets of Rome. It’s a little boho but also super well heeled, which makes a nice mix. It’s beautiful, the shopping is great, and it also has fabulous places to eat, both for restaurant/bistro eating and also street food. You will love it!

I want to keep you in this part of town for one more thing, and that is a visit to one of my secret places in Rome:

 

Visit The Basilica San Clemente

This is one of my absolute favorite secret spot in Rome. I haven’t written about it on the blog before because I’m always scared I will go back and find tour buses parked outside and a million tourists lining up to go in. So you and I are keeping this a secret, okay?

After lunching in the Monti, wander back to the Colosseum. With the Colosseum on your right I want you to walk maybe 1/4 of a mile across the intersection and along a quiet street called Via Labicana. There will be thousands of people behind you back at the Colosseum, but pretty much nobody here, which will blow your mind!

The Basilica named for Saint Clement, is an unassuming building from the outside, but is just staggering inside. You enter at street level into a church that was built around 1100. The golden apse mosaic and the frescoes alone are worth the visit, but it keeps getting more amazing. Once you’ve explored the street level, head down the stairs to the middle level. This is a church built in the 4th Century, with art work dating into the 9th Century. There is so much art down here, in fact it houses the 2nd largest collection of medieval art in Rome! as well as sarcophogi, pieces of ruined plaques and statues, mosaic floors – all kinds of amazing treasures. The last time I was there I ran into a dude with a masters degree in Latin something (I can’t remember the last part of his degree). He wandered around with me and deciphered some of the Latin text we were seeing. He told me that Latin abbreviations are super hard to figure out, but he could explain enough of the words we were seeing to make it an even more brilliant experience. (I’ve written before about why you should travel alone at least once in your life, and this is one of the reasons why! Had I been with friends I wouldn’t have ended up talking to him, and would have missed out on something really fantastic).

But it doesn’t stop here, there’s even more! There is one more level below. It was a private home built in the 1st century with running water and a mithraeum. It is honestly just incredible.

Rome as we know it is 25 meters higher than it was during Julius Caesar’s time.  The Romans didn’t knock down good buildings, they would fill them up with dirt and sand and build on top of them. This city is full of treasures!

I don’t know what hours the basilica is open during the mornings, but I think it opens around 3pm so it’s a good spot to go after a long, Roman lunch.

The Jewish Ghetto

If you’re not out of steam yet you can take another lovely stroll back past the Colosseum, the Forum, past the Wedding Cake, and down to Teatro Marcello and into the Jewish Ghetto. If you are taking a cab, get it down by the Wedding Cake. If you get a taxi up by the Basilica San Clemente the driver has to go the long way and it will cost much more.

 

Jewish Ghetto Rome

Dinner in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome

 

Depending on the time of day you can wander through the Jewish Ghetto and have a glass of wine or a spritz and some of the world famous Jewish artichokes, or stop for dinner. Once again while there are thousands of tourists around the corner there are almost none here in the uber chic ghetto.

I’ve written about the Jewish Ghetto several times. You can read a more in depth post about the Jewish Ghetto here

 

 


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There are many more things to do when you are in the vicinity of the Colosseum, but moving on, here are some things to do that are not far from the Colosseum.

Visit The Caravaggios

I am a little bit (a lot) obsessed with Caravaggio. he is perhaps the most influential Italian painter since Michelangelo during the time from the Renaissance to the Baroque. In my opinion anyway.

Caravaggio’s work is so moving. He paints real life into his stories, taking religious themes from the purely ethereal and delivering them to the people in the street in an identifiable way. He pioneered the art of chiaroscuro, using shadow and light to create more mood.

I read a fantastic book on Caravaggio by one of my favorite art historians Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham Dixon. If you have watch the Italy Unpacked and Sicily Unpacked series you will know Andrew.

I definitely recommend going to the church of San Luigi dei  Francesi (near Piazza Navona) and see the St Matthew series.

 

Caravaggio St Matthew and the Angel, Rome

Caravaggio’s magnificent St Matthew and the Angel, at the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in rome

 

 

Here is a list of where to find Caravaggio in Rome. Just make sure you check the hours each place is open each day.nna of the Serpent; Young Bacchus, Ill; David with the Head of Goliath, others)

  Go See The Pyramid

cestius pyramid rome

Did you know there is a pyramid in Rome? It’s such a great spot to go visit, and once again you won’t find many, if any tourists there.

Back in 12 BC when all things Egypt were madly in vogue Gaius Cestius built himself a pyramid outside of Rome. It was his burial place. Rome grew and grew and before long the pyramid was inside the city. It takes about 30 minutes by foot from the Jewish Ghetto, 5 minutes by taxi, along the side of the Aventine Hill in a neighborhood called the Testaccio. If you are walking take Via Mamorata. You can’t miss it – it’s the only pyramid around! Read my post about the Pyramid of Cestius here

While you are in the area try out some restaurants. Testaccio is known to be one of the most fabulous dining areas in all of Rome. Private culinary tours always come through here because the restaurants are so wonderful and authentic (and inexpensive).

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Wander The Trastevere

This is my neighborhood in Rome. I love it so much I can barely breathe. This is the Rome of the narrow cobble-stone streets, darling little restaurants and shops. Sometimes you see tourists in the heart of the neighborhood in the area around Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, but not throngs of them. This is the Rome where locals go out to eat and drink. It is bustling and full of fun and excitement, but also just beautiful and timeless. Trastevere has it all.

trastevere at night

The Trastevere at night

While there make sure you go inside the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. It is truly remarkable and is one of the oldest churches in Rome. The sanctuary dates back to the 3rd century, the floor and structure was built in the 340’s with the rest of the structure being built in 1140-1143.

mosaic ceiling Santa Maria in Trastevere

The ceiling is breathtaking, and the 13th century gold mosaic apse is breathtaking. Interestingly it shows Mary sitting at the right hand of Jesus, something you don’t see too often! You can read the Wiki on Santa Maria in Trastevere here

There are so many restaurants with the best food you’ve ever eaten for next to nothing. On Via Dondoli we had a carbonara that was so incredible you wanted to weep. And it only cost 8 euros.

I always go eat at Carlo Mente, another restaurant that is packed with locals all night long. I often go alone and they find me a seat at the table of some family or group of fun young people. I get to make new friends while I eat my pizza with rocket (arugula) and drink my 1/2 liter of house red wine, each of which cost 4 euros!

Pizza at Carlo Mente, Trastevere, Rome

Read  more about the Trastevere here

Sunset At The Janiculum Hill

The Trastevere backs onto the Janiculum Hill, one of the very best places to take in the sunset. It is the second tallest hill in Rome, so the views are insane. Because it sits across the Tiber river (Trastevere!) it isn’t one of the proverbial 7 hills of Rome, and somehow tourists don’t seem to know about it. This past summer while in Rome I went up there every evening to watch the sunset. It was all locals walking their dogs and taking in the view, and it felt like another wonderful secret place in Rome!

You can find your way up there via any of the staircases along the hill. I took the big stairs at the end of via Glorioso. There are a couple of spots to take in the view, the best being a little further round, by the statue of Garibaldi on his horse.

Janiculum Hill, rome, sunset

looking out over Rome from the Janiculum Hill at the end of the day.

Walk The Monuments At Night

This is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in Rome. Some of my tour groups want to do it every night because it’s just so beautiful and feels a little surreal. Walking around the monuments at night is a wonderful way to get a different view of Rome. The tourists are gone, the madness of the city has calmed down, the monuments are lit up and you feel like you are in a different world.

St Peters at night from the Garibaldi bridge

St Peters at night from the Garibaldi bridge

We always stay in the Trastevere, so we walk across the Garibaldi bridge, stopping to look down the river to St Peters, then wander up through the Jewish Ghetto to Teatro Marcello, then up to the Forum and the Colosseum.

Colosseum at night

My travelers taking in the majesty of the Colosseum at night

We also go to St Peters Square/ Vatican at night. It’s just magical! You will see homeless and those on a pilgrimage sleeping on the sidewalks as you walk into the square, which is a little unsettling, but there always seems to be lots of people around , so I’ve never felt unsafe. St Peters is hauntingly beautiful at night – you will think back to it over and over when you return home.

St Peters at night

See more about the Monuments at night here.

The Palazzo Barberini Art Museum

This might just be my favorite art museum in Rome. They have an entire wing dedicated to recovered stolen art. Each piece has a plaque describing where and how the piece was stolen and recovered. There are paintings from all different eras, Renaissance paintings, impressionist and post impressionist, Baroque – you name it. There are statues and Etruscan sarcophagi and just so many fantastic pieces, each with a double story – one of its creation and one of its theft and rescue. 

 

Estruscan Sarcophagus

Etruscan sarcophagus from the 3rd century BC

 

Estruscan Sarcophagus

Etruscan sarcophagus from the 3rd century BC

 

Rupestrian fresco

12th Century rupestrian fresco, recovered in the USA in February 2015

Stolen Gauguin

Me telling the story of this stolen Gauguin. There is a fascinating story that goes with this painting. It is for sale, and I have been asked to help find the buyer.

The grounds are wonderful to walk around too.

Palazzo barberini

Inside the Palazzo Barberini

I hope you will go see at least some of these places while you are in Rome. I would love to hear from you about your Rome experience, the places you enjoyed and any extras you think we should add to this list.

Happy travels!

Related Post:

How To Order Coffee In Italy


Ah – the beautiful chaos of Napoli! I’m in love with this city.

Did you know that Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world?? Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the second millennium BC.

 

naples
lovers and families in Naples

 

Naples is gritty and raw, and a bit dirty. It is also fast, sexy and very exciting.

This beautiful city is the gateway to the more refined and subdued Amalfi Coast, the main access point to the incredibly chic Capri, the spa-like island of Ischia, and to one of the 10 most colorful places on earth, the gorgeous and quaint little island of Procida. Her suburbs include Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Naples is a heartbeat city. Alive, vibrant and fun, a city you absolutely need to experience.

On foot. Even with all the miles I have racked up driving the length and breadth of Italy and Sicily you couldn’t pay me to drive in the madness that is Naples. Even on a scooter.

A vacation on the Amalfi Coast needs at least a day devoted to Napoli. But once you’ve spent a day in Naples you will leave itching to get back for more. A week wouldn’t be enough time to see it all in Naples!

 

naples-presepi

 

Here are 8 Things You Must Do In Naples.

 

1. Drink Coffee.

coffee-naples

 

Italy has the best coffee in the world, and Naples has the best coffee in all of Italy. Start your day in Naples with a quick caffe or macchiato, and then stop throughout the day to get refueled.

Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy

Neopolitan coffee is very, very strong. It tastes like no other coffee on earth. In a way, it ruins you, because after coffee in Napoli every coffee you drink pales by comparison. Just don’t go past 9 in one day…

 News articles have told of unfortunates who drank ten espressi in one day and keeled over dead as a result. 

Related Post: 5 Palaces and Villas Near Naples That Will Wow You!

 

2. Walk Spaccanapoli

 

Spaccanapoli, literally split Naples, is a perfectly straight street that dates back 2000 years to Greek times. It runs right through the heart of Naples’ historic center.
Walking Spaccanapoli you experience a sensory overload of everything you’ve ever thought Naples to be. It is narrow and vertical, built up high with fantastic old buildings. At street level it is teeming with life, a visual explosion of shops and people and restaurants, and, well, life!
The sounds of Spaccanapoli are wonderful and loud. Neopolitans don’t talk, they shout. And gesture, and emote. They are wonderful!
Don’t forget to look up and see the laundry strung out across the street, drying in the coastal breeze.

Related Post: Discover The Greek Temples Of Paestum

3. Eat Baba.

This light as air cake is smothered in a rum syrup. Or maybe it’s pure rum? Who knows – I could swear I got a little buzz from it.

Naples-Baba

Either way Baba is a must.

4. Walk and walk and walk.

 

walking-naples

This is definitely not a city to view from a bus window. Hit the street and make a circuit from the train station down past the university, cut through to the Plaza Plebiscito, walk up through San Carlos,  the mall Galleria Umberto and see the exquisite Buildings being restored to their former elegance.

walk-naples

From there head up to Spaccanapoli, a lone, narrow road that literally splits Naples in half. There is so much to see here! Santa Chiara and it’s amazing  cloisters, the cathedral of San Gregorio Armeno and via San Gregorio Armeno where you can buy the world famous presepi.

Related Post: The Royal Apartments At Caserta Palace

presepi-naples

presepi-naples

These are nativity scenes and individual items from nativity scenes which are an integral part of the Italian Christmas. Every home has one.

naples-christmas

They are not just the 3 Wise Men and Jesus in the manger, the Neopolitan presepi include everyone who lives  in the village. They are so detailed and spectacular and special!You can buy entire nativity scenes to bring home, or individual Christmas decoration pieces.

Related Post: 18 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pompeii

One thing I found amazing about spending time in Campania in December was the presepi set up on random little streets by members of the community, replete with hundreds of individual pieces, some of them very very old.

presepi-campania
part of a presepi outside on the street in Salerno

No one stole any pieces, no one damaged any of it, stray cats didn’t knock anything over. They were just there for everyone to enjoy. I can’t imagine one lasting one night here in America.

5 Visit subterranean Napoli.

 

underground-naples

Beneath the heart of the espresso-fueled madness of the city is a geothermal zone called Campi Flegrei, full of fascinating tunnels, catacombs and caves, galleries, Roman roads, early Christian burial sites, frescoes and mosaics. Take a tour and see the galleries the Romans used for their engineering works, see ruins of a Roman theater and typical Neopolitan houses called basso.
After the volume life is lived at up above you will welcome the almost silence here below.

Discover the best hotels in Naples

6 Visit The Veiled Christ

 

Naples-Veiled-Christ

The Veiled Christ at Cappella Sansevero will take your breath away.
How on earth did Giuseppe Sammartino do that?
Sculpted in marble in 1753, the veiled Christ is considered to be one of the world’s sculptural masterpieces. The veil actually brings out the body even more than a regular sculpture (did that make sense?), the shroud or veil adhering perfectly to his form, somehow making Jesus’ suffering and the pain in his face palpable.
Don’t be surprised if this statue brings you to tears. And don’t miss it if you are in the Naples area. ( the Cappello Sansavero is closed on Tuesdays, so work your entire trip around being in Naples on any other of the 6 days of the week).

Related Post: 10 Things To Do On The Amalfi Coast

7 Visit The Caravaggios.

Caravaggio lived and painted for a little less than 4 years in Naples. After murdering a man in Malta he returned to Naples, where he in turn was murdered to avenge the Maltese.

 

Caravaggio-Naples

Of the three remaining Caravaggios in Napoli, perhaps the most spectacular is the Seven Acts Of Mercy, a life sized dark and chaotic piece housed in Pio Monte Della Misericordia.
This is art historian Andrew Graham Dixon’s favorite painting by his favorite painter. Hearing him speak about it, or reading his book on Caravaggio (A Life Sacred And Profane) will turn you too into a devotee. If you only see one Caravaggio while you are in Naples, make it this one.

8 Eat Pizza

Of course you know you have to eat pizza in Naples! This is the best pizza in the world.

Tablet Hotels

 

A couple of notes on Napoli

The best way to arrive and depart Napoli is by sea.
I have arrived by overnight ferry from Sicily at 6 in the morning, and I have sailed to Sicily from Naples as the sun was going down.
The Bay of Naples is really beautiful.
Arriving by car or by train you have to traverse endless awful suburbs crawling with run-down housing projects that bring to mind every mafia story you have ever heard. It can be unnerving.
First impressions stay with you forever, so make your first view of Naples be the staggeringly beautiful view from the bay as your boat arrives. You will see the city, the mountains, and Vesuvius lazing menacingly to the side.

 

naples-at-night
watching the sun set over Naples from the deck of our boat

Leave your jewels behind, or if you have to bring them with you, don’t wear them in Naples. Naples is known for having wily pickpockets and con artists who excel at separating tourists from their diamond rings and Rolex.
The police have cleaned things up massively, so crime is down, but don’t tempt fate.
I was always told to wear a cross-body bag in Naples so that boys racing past on scooters couldn’t grab it and be in the wind.
I haven’t had any problems there, and haven’t seen anything going on, but may err on the side of caution.

I met the most fantastic people in Naples. Loud, gregarious, warm, fun and friendly – I can’t wait to go back.


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What are you coveting right now? I always of have lists of things I want. Here are some of the goodies I’m lusting after now that fall is here. Most of them are available at my favorite store, Nordstrom, or on their website, which I have been scrolling around on all day!

fall-shopping-ideas

Hermes Collier de Chien Silver Bracelet $4300

Prada Platform Sport Oxfords $970. I want them in black but I’ve also seen them in pink. (I want the pink ones too!) Available at Nordstrom

Lisa Eldridge Face Paint. I can’t get enough coffee table books, and clearly I have a mad love of makeup!

Michael Kors Bradshaw Oversized Chronograph Watch in steel blue makes a nice alternative to black. I love his oversized, chunky watches. Available at Nordstrom

Lagos Stacking Rings $200 available at Nordstrom

Temptu Color True Lipstick in Jet Rouge. This season oxblood lips are huge. This isn’t necessarily oxblood, but it has that amazing depth and resonance, paired with the magnificent saturated color pay-off that comes with the Temptu Color True lipsticks. Wear it with a sculpted brow, glowy cheek and tons of mascara.

 Chloe medium Gala Calfskin Bucket Bag in Sienna Red $2150 available at Nordstrom. Chloe bags are timeless. I love this sienna red, and the bucket bag shape is super versatile.

Crate And Barrel Camille Wine Glasses, so that I can channel my girl-crush Olivia Pope. 

Caravaggio, A Life Sacred And Profane, by one of my absolute favorite art historians, Andrew Graham-Dixon. 

Diptyque Candle in Figuier ~ I love the woodsy fig perfume for fall, and there is always something a little luxe about Diptyque candles. Stock up on all the different flavors at Nordstrom – they’re great for your home and they make fabulous gifts too!