For centuries ancient Romans worshiped Sol Invictus, the ‘unconquered sun’. Fast forward several thousand years and Rome’s monuments might be overrun by umbrella-yielding tour guides, panini guzzling tourists, and ferocious street vendors—but the Roman sun remains one thing even they can’t conquer. The moment you touch ground in Italy you can feel it, dancing on your cheekbones, welcoming you with a warmth your taxi driver might not. Its light fills the corners of side streets where cats lounge. It softly weathers shutters and doors, making hues of auburn, salmon, and sienna look still more sunbaked. 36 hours of finding the best spots to capture that legendary light and you’ll leave Rome expecting to turn an olive shade of tan yourself. Follow its rays through Trastevere side streets and shady Navona hideaways, lose track of time, and become swept up in the lingering light of the cult of Sol.
Saturday 4pm: Courtyard Cravings
Dive straight in to the flavors of Italy and ease your jetlag with gelato at Gelateria del Teatro. Unique flavors are crafted from Italian-sourced produce and served by the friendly owner Stephano and his staff. Don’t miss Ricotta Almond Fig (soft creamy heaven) or Lavender White Peach (hello refreshing!). Take your scoops out to the quiet side street courtyard, where sun filters through the crawling vines and Via dei Coronari meanders past. Mosaic patio tables filled with locals provide a sanctuary from which to people watch and rest your feet from the cobblestone.
Saturday 8pm: Sunset Saunter
Rome’s Tiber River is stitched together by bridges old and new, and walking them quickly acquaints you with the city and its history. Ponte Fabricio dates back to 62 BC and connects to Tiber Island, a quick stop for gelato or aperitvo. Ponte Sant’Angelo was completed by Emperor Hadrian in 136 AD and provides a glimpse of the Vatican. Lovers flock to Ponte Milvio to attach symbolic padlocks to the bridge. All offer a view of the watercolor panorama which is a Roman sunset.
Friday 10pm: Prosecco and Linering Conversations
Nothing captures the Italian spirit of togetherness like late night dinners turned into even later night conversations over tiramisu and one last glass of wine. The friendly, low-key neighborhood of Trastevere is the perfect place to while away such an evening. Hidden just off the Tiber is La Gattabuia, where locals fill the outdoor tables and the waiter will likely welcome you with a complementary flute of Prosecco. Their simple pizza Marinara is the perfect balance between the tomatoes’ acidity and sweetness, their truffle mushroom pasta decadent and comforting, and their gorgonzola speck gnocchi a must try dish.
Saturday 8am: Coffee please, and make it a Dopio
An early wake-up call is worth it to watch the sleepy streets of Rome come to life. Early morning light glistens on the wet pavements as shop owners roll out their awnings and women in heels click-clack to work. There is no start to a day in Rome like a cappuccino e cornetto. At Campagnia del Pane stop in for coffee, a cornetto cioccolato, or baguette still warm from the oven. Grab a table or hover at the bar and watch the Italian daily grind, as regular after regular stops in for their usual caffè.
Saturday 12pm: Produce Picnic
Visit one of Rome’s buzzing and fragrant farmers markets to pick up a locally sourced lunch. Fresh fruit, Italian cheeses, wine, bread, and more make the perfect supplies for a picnic to take up the Borghese gardens. Try Tallegio cheese atop Pizza Bianca. Campo dei Fiori Market has lots to offer, or stop at slow food, locavore grocery store La Capra Rampante. Take your local eats and a beach towel to Borghese’s serene gardens, chow down, and take a cat nap in the afternoon sun. The garden’s terrace boasts a view of Piazza del Popolo and the Roman skyline.
Saturday 4pm: Graffiti Hunting
While graffiti can so often mean marring beautiful buildings, Rome is home to a treasure trove of artful, thoughtful graffiti. Head to Testachio to scout out a building covered in Technicolor faces, or search the city for street artist Borondo’s easy to miss pieces. You can pass the white forms etched in to glass many times before finally noticing the wispy, feather-like figures. Wherever you find it, unexpectedly inspired graffiti adds a layer of modernity to a city which celebrates a centuries’ old history of innovation in the arts.
One of Borondo’s elusive works.
Saturday 11pm: Pick your Poison
At bar 8 Millimetro every drink is an adventure, from deciphering the menu via spotlights and candelabras to watching the cheeky bartender fill your concoction with secret ingredients. Watch carefully—not only is the production of each drink an elaborate dance, but egg whites, Tobasco, absinthe, and spritzes of orange blossom are all fair game ingredients. Cozy up amid vintage couches, pianos, and octopus paintings and soak up this hidden night habitat. ‘Elisir d’amore’ is a must try drink.
Rum Rhapsody at bar 8 Millimetro.
Sunday 1am: Late night bite
To visit the city without snagging a taste of its pizza would be a crime in itself, so head to Pizzeria ai Marmi for some of the best reviewed pizza in Rome. Pizza this good attracts quite a line, so skip the wait and instead return for a late night treat. Head to the pizzeria after an evening of fun at 8 Millimetro or Campo di Fiori. You’ll have the place practically to yourselves, pizzas will whiz out of the ultra-hot oven in minutes, and it is in a prime location to soak in Trastevere nightlife.
Sunday 10am: Booking it in Trastevere
Trastevere’s every empty cranny seems to be filled with a used bookstore or a café book bar. Wander the alleys and scout out a book to read on the plane home, stopping in the Open Door Bookshop for used books in many languages, Babylon Café for vintage books and fresh smoothie, or B Gallery for an espresso and a glance at their literary décor. The streets which snake behind Viale di Trastevere are a quiet neighborhood sanctuary, and if you get caught in one of Rome’s frequent rainstorms, their quaint shops make the perfect place to hide.
Saturday 12pm: Eyeing the Oculus
The Pantheon crowds are worth braving to see the sun shine through the building’s baffling oculus. An open hole in the ceiling’s center, it is one of the greatest spectacles of light in all of Rome. Sunlight floods through and bathes the massive, echoing interior below, shining like a spotlight as it moves across the room throughout the day. If you are lucky enough to visit in June, the Pentecost celebration drops rose petals through, which mingle with the sunlight as they fall. Add the graceful cello songs of street performers outside, and it’s a pleasant farewell to Roma.
Hours and Locations
1. Gelateria del Teatro
Via dei Coronari 65
Lungotevere dei Vallati 25
Open daily 11am-10pm, midnight in the summer
2. La Gattabuia
Via del Porto, 1, 00153 Roma
12pm-2:30pm, 7:30pm-11:30pm, closed on lunch Saturdays
3. Campagnia del Pane
Viale di Trastevere, 52, 00153 Roma
06 4566 5090
4. Campo dei Fiori Market
In the Piazza
Every morning except Sunday
5. La Capra Rampante
Via Donatello, 65, Roma
06 9435 9365
9am-8:30pm, every day except Sunday
6. Borondo works:
http://borondo.blogspot.it/ for more info
Colorful faces building:
Via delle Conce
7. 8 Millimetro
Via del Moro, 8, 00153 Roma
06 6456 2508
8. Pizzeria ai Marmi
Viale di Trastevere 53-59 00153 Roma
Te. 06 5800919
9. Almost Corner Bookshop
Via del Moro 45
06 583 6942
10. Babylon Café
Via di San Francesco a Ripa 152
Piazza di Santa Cecilia 16
Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Roma
8:30 am-7:30 pm, free admission