You're flying to Rome for a five-day adventure in the Eternal City. Your instinct is likely to book a hotel in the very popular and trendy area around the Spanish Steps, where you find beautiful people, hotels, shops, and fabulous restaurants. However, be open to discovering a new area, as we did on a recent trip, and you will be well rewarded.
Our decision to look for a change led us to the Prati area, near the Vatican. We found a great full-service hotel, Atlante Star, with two rooftop spaces to both dine and take in the incredible view of St. Peter's Basilica. La Terrazza Paradiso had both outdoor dining and drinking available. Spectacular! One floor below was Les Etoiles, where the service and dishes were matched only by the view overlooking rooftops and, of course, the Vatican. Heavenly might be the best way to describe the experience.
Les Etoiles was where a seemingly unending array of food awaited us for the breakfast buffet. Breads, interesting cheeses, meats, fruit, eggs, cereals... they had it all, and it was good. At night, the room transforms into an elegant space for dinner. Some of the dishes offered were tagliolini with grouper and cherry tomatoes, filet of sea bass crusted with pistachios, risotto with lemon cream, king prawns and wild saffron, and filet of Danish beef with 14 year old balsamic vinegar from Modena. The desserts, like chocolate cake with warm heart and crumbled millefeuille with chantilly cream and caramel, were too hard to resist, and reflect the international influence in cooking today. It's a good thing Rome is an excellent city for walking; even with its Seven Hills, as you will need it!
The Prati district is less hectic than the more established tourist zones, but by no means lacking alluring local restaurants and shops. There are fewer of the big name stores and more the sort of individual owners selling their own designs: coats, handbags, shoes, and clothing. Trastevere, with its lively nightlife and cobbled, narrow streets with piazzas appearing around bends, is only about a 15 minute walk away. Well worth the effort to take in this old and charming area.
We crossed the river one evening and strolled the streets winding up at Tre Scalini restaurant along the famous Piazza Navona. The elegant square dating from the 1st Century is filled with cafes and restaurants. Musicians and artists perform around the Bernini masterpiece, Fontana dei Fiumi. As the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do... sit down and enjoy a bowl of pasta with a glass of Chianti to enjoy the parade of people. We also walked to the Spanish Steps to dine at one of our favorite restaurants, Alla Rampa. It has the most impressive antipasto spread we've ever seen. As I finish typing this article, my mouth is watering. Time to book that next trip to Rome! Arriverderci!