Rome Travel Guide: What To Stay, Eat, Drink, and Shop In Rome's Centro Storico

"Roma. Andiamo, andiamo, andiamo. Roma!" Watch Talented Mr. Ripley or every other Audrey Hepburn movie and we probably don't need to explain why to visit Rome so instead we'll tell you why we heart it. Rome has a population similar to Paris, but where Paris is hearts-in-eyes romantic, Rome is bolder-than-bold. And Rome's ancient history and massive ruins influence everything to be brazen from the food to the people. Walk around and there's the scent of espressos spilling out of cafes; the sound of traffic weaving about; and life down every last alleyway.

We also adore that there's pretty much everything we love—street food, high-end food, history, culture, cocktails, coffee—and lots of it. 

Why The Historic Center?

When it comes to the oldest of the old "historic city centers," Rome wins—it's been since 735BC(!) after all. And, yes, we are unapologetic about our inner history dork. But that's not the reason we're talking Rome's historic city center (aka centro storico aka the area from Villa Borghese to the Colosseum from the river to the train station). It's because this part of the city has so much going on that you could explore for days and never leave. There's landmarks like the Trevi Fountain, ruins like the Colosseum, to window shopping Via Del Corso. It's very doable on foot but there's also plenty of public transport and taxis, if that's more your speed. Here are our highlights of this hood:  

Before You Go

Where to Stay

Luxe: J.K. Place Roma 

Seriously, J.K. Place is one of our favorite Italian boutique hotel chains. Sure, the properties can be a little over-the-top but, hey, it's Italy so that's kinda standard. Via di Monte D'Oro, 30 (Spagna)

Chic: G. Rough Suites

There are a lot of realllly good AirBnb places in Rome, but sometimes we want the best of both, as in a place with service that's not a hotel. That's why an all-suite building like G. Rough is our pick. Piazza di Pasquino, 69 (Navona)

No Frills: Relais Monti

We're crushing on the Monti neighborhood—it's close to all the major sites but not too touristy—that we'd live there if we ever picked up and moved to Rome. Until that dream comes true, setting up at the no-frills, super affordable Relais Monti is the next best thing. Via Urbana, 20 (Monti)

What To Cook 

  • Cacio e Pepe pasta - Yes, it's just pepper and cheese, but it's a study in simplicity and one of the most classic pastas in Italy
  • Caffe Shakerato - our go-to iced coffee drink in the hot summer months
  • Pizza Bianca - a foccacia-like bread that should be crispy, light, and salty

What To Read

What To Watch

And, if you haven't seen it, watch this episode of Off Menu: Rome

Once You're There

Must-Eat Roman Food

There's a lot of local food in Rome that has serious history. Here are a few we insist you try in Rome:

  • Classic Pastas: There's all sorts of good pasta in Rome but there are four that are classically Roman—Carbonara, Gricia, Amatriciana, and Pajata (see below)—and you should totally try each one at least once.
  • Suppli: We could go on and on just about all the fried food in Rome but we're partial to fried zucchini blossoms and suppli (a fried risotto bite)—preferably from Supplizio and eaten hot while walking the streets
  • Pizza Bianca: From encouraging you to make it before you travel to eating it at Forno Roscioli, we clearly have a thing for the salty, crispy bread that is pizza bianca
  • Trappizzini: If a pizza and a panini crossed, you'd end up with a trappizzino (the name being a hybrid of the words trammezzino (a triangular sandwich) and pizza). This is a relatively recent creation by the folks over at the namesake Trappizzino but everyone insisted we try it last time we were in town.  
  • Quinto Quarto: More than a dish this is the term for all the offal cuts from the butcher. Yes, they're rich and filling but they're used in a ton of dishes from tripa alla Romana (tripe served in a rich tomato sauce) to coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stewed for hours) and la pajata (intestines of baby calves most often served in a tomato based sauce and served with rigatoni pasta).

Where to Dinner

Luxe: Pierluigi

There are way fancier places with many Michelin stars in Rome but, when it comes to high end, we'll stick to the classic service and exceptional seafood at Pierluigi. Piazza Dè Ricci, 144 (Campo de'Fiori)

Classic: Roscioli 

By no means a secret, Roscioli has been praised by everyone from Bourdain to the New York Times. The wine list is exceptional and the food great but it can be pricey so order wisely (we're a fan of the appetizers and primi). If you're in search of classic Roman pastas in the city center, it is one of the best places for quality Amatriciana and Carbonara. Via dei Giubbonari, 21 (Campo de’Fiori)

ChillEmma Pizzeria 

When you want to get fancy with your pizza (i.e. eat it with a fork and knife and sit down), Emma Pizzeria is a great option in the city center. Made with premium ingredients, the menu has excellent pizzas and a lot of other options if you’re not all feeling pizza. Via Monte della Farina, 28/29 (Campo de’Fiori) 

Where to Lunch

Chic: Caffe Propaganda 

Visiting the Colosseum is pretty overwhelming (the crowds, the lines, the massiveness of it all), so we like to head to the quieter streets to the south afterwards. Caffe Propaganda is a chic modern bistro setting that feels right out of  Manhattan but with excellent Italian food and some of the best cocktails in the city. Via Claudia 15 (Colosseum)

Classic: Osteria dell'Ignegno

If you’re on a mission to tour the city center, it can be easy to just eat at the closest trattoria. For rustic Italian food that’s reliable and quick enough you can get back out touring in a few hours time, check out Osteria dell’Igngeno. Piazza della Pietra 45 (Pantheon) 

Quick: Ciao Checca 

We found Ciao Checca on our last trip to Rome when we wanted something fresh, fast, and healthy. It’s all that and a dose of creativity and, if you go during the weekday, you’ll be surrounded by locals who are on their lunch break. Piazza di Firenze 25/26 (Corso) 

Where to Street Food

Rome knows how to do street food really well so it can be hard to narrow down what to eat (see below). Here are a few must try street foods:

Pizza Bianca: Forno Roscioli

People either love or hate the Roscioli family of restaurants and bakeries and we're firmly on the love side. There is a a lot of great pizza bianca in Rome but you have to try the version at Roscioli at least once. If you're in the neighborhood of Trastevere, be sure to try the version at Forno PrelibatoVia dei Chiavari, 34 (Campo de’Fiori)

Suppli: Supplizio

The suppli at a Supplizio are a must try. Don't believe us? Check this episode of Off Menu: Rome and we think you'll be more than convinced. Via dei Banchi Vecchi 143 (Via Giulia)

Pizza: Pizzarium

Word is more than out on this legendary pizza shop north of the Vatican so expect a line. It doubled in size a few years ago and went very organic and veggie focused (with an heirloom grain dough and vegetables from local farms) so this is a heaven for vegetarians.

Gelato: Fatamorgana

We've already told you how much we like the Monti neighborhood and one reason is because it's where we first tried Fatagmorgana gelato. There are now a handful of shops across the city so look out for it no matter where you head.

Gelato: Carapina

Look, there's a lot of good gelato in Rome but there's probably even more processed, mediocre stuff. You want a place that focuses on gelato, makes it fresh, and uses real ingredients. Gelateria Gelateria  and Carapina are both great example of that (but we won't judge if you get your fix elsewhere). Largo Arenula 27 (Campo de’Fiori)

Where to Coffee

When we’re in Italy, we’re all about espresso drinks all day. Here are a few solid places in city center for a coffee and a pastry for a break or breakfast:

Luxe: Antico Caffe Greco

This place is known for being one of the oldest cafes in Europe so it can be a bit pricey. But, going there you get to drink in a bit of history and it does have great coffee. If you find yourself near the Spanish steps and need a pick me up, this is a great option. Via dei Condotti, 86 (Spagna)

Classic: Tazzo D'Oro 

Along with nearby Sant’Eustachio, Tazzo D’Oro is one of the most classic cafes in Rome. But, whereas Sant’Eustachio has super dark roasted (too much so for us) beans, Tazzo D’Oro is a bit less aggressive. Via del Pastini 11 (Pantheon)

Coffee + Cocktails: Barnum Cafe 

The most casual of these cafes, Barnum is open pretty much all day and is a great stop to grab a coffee in the day time or some cocktails, if that's more your speed. Speaking of cocktails, Barnum Cafe is credited with helping bring modern mixology to Rome’s city center. Via del Pellegrino, 87 (Campo dei Fiori)

Sweets: Roscioli Caffe
Recently opened by the team behind all things Roscioli (and around the corner from their bakery), we can't wait to check this out next time we're in town. 

Where to Drink

Great Beer: Open Baladin

ICYMI, the Italian craft beer scene is in full swing and well worth exploring. For a well curated collection with lots of options, head to Open Baladin. Via degli Specchi, 6 (Pantheon)

Luxe: Fancy Apero: Bar Stravinskij 

We’ve got a bit of chichi in us, we’re not gonna lie. And the best place to bring it out in Rome is during aperitif (our favorite time of day in Italy) at Hotel de Russie’s Bar Stravinskij. There are classic drinks along with some beautifully executed sbites. Via del Babuino 9 (Spagna)

Chic: All The Drinks: Platz Grand Bistrot 

If you’re in city center and you want to rub elbows with Roman fashionistas (and still have respectable cocktails while doing so), this is your place. Piazza Sant'Eustachio, 55 (Sant’Eustachio)

Local Wine Bar: L’Angolo Divino

We discovered this local wine bar thanks to Katie Parla during filming of Off Menu and we like to go back because of the variety of local wines. Via dei Balestrari, 12 (Campo de’Fiori)

Speakeasy Style: The Jerry Thomas Project

Any other city, we might be annoyed by a bar with so many rules, secret passwords, and reservations required but hidden gems like this cocktail bar are what we love about Rome. 

Where to Shop

Luxe: Gente Roma

This local, high-end shop has a handful of locations around the city and we always hop in when we're in town. It's an expertly curated boutique with chic fashion labels (that we can't always afford but do love looking at). Via del Babuino, 185 (Spagna)

Charming: Moriondo e Gariglio 

You guys know that I don't joke around when it comes to cocktails, coffee, and chocolate so, when I say this is the best chocolate I've had in Rome, I mean it. Granted I don't live there and I will continue to "research" on my next trip, but everything from the chocolates to the hot chocolate here get my stamp of approval. Via del Pie' di Marmo, 21/22 (Trevi)

Quirky: Emporio Libreria Gusto

If you're as big a food nerd as we are, you are always in search of a great homewares and kitchen store. In Rome, you can't beat Emporio Libreria Gusto that's part cookbook store and part kitchen goods. Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 7 (Spagna)

Make Sure To...

  • Check the view of the Vatican from the Aventine keyhole
  • Enjoy the city's green space at Villa Borghese or Villa Pamphili (with views of the city)
  • Visit the non-touristy more local neighborhoods of Monti, Centocello, and Pignetti

Day Trips

Rome's central location on the Italian peninsual means you can get anywhere pretty quickly. Here are a few easy day trip that we highly reccomend:

Our Favorite Locals

Let the (light) stalking begin! These are the people we follow when we need some Rome in our lives (Katie’s app is also super FYI):

More Rome on Salt & Wind

For even more Rome, check out our other coverage: 


Opening Image by Lumina


Updated January 2017

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