Visiting a great city can sometimes feel like it comes with a lot of “shoulds.” Not the least is that you “should” actually find it a “great city” when maybe you won’t. When we work with guests on their plans for visiting Rome, we start by throwing away all the “shoulds” and concentrating on where the personal connection point might be for them. As we have been preparing to introduce Via degli Orti in the Trastevere section of Rome, such conversations have come to the fore. We have all been swapping anecdotes about favorite moments and why we love Rome.
A visit to Rome is best kept simple: walking, eating, observing, photographs for sure, maybe even drawing or painting. Rome can be like a movie going by and the creative urge to participate may be strong.
Rome by Foot
For many, the pull to Rome has to do with street-life– the smash-up of contemporary life over layer upon layer of history, the sensory overload, the sheer abundance and intensity of sensation. You can come to Rome and simply vanish into its rich folds, absorbing and reflecting according to your own instincts and desires.
Walking Rome is itself an experience even without stepping into a temple of art such as the Vatican, or tripping up the Spanish Steps. Our favorite walks have been in and around the ancient streets: Via Giulia and its surrounding narrow byways, ‘behind’ the Piazza Navona past Bar del Fico and walking up the ‘back’ of the Roman Forum to SanTeodoro.
Rome (like Naples) has a food-centered culture that appeals to my very nature and perhaps yours. Roman cuisine is based on street food or ‘cucina povera’– the bits thrown out of the windows of aristocratic kitchens or left behind at the slaughterhouse and repurposed. Ossobucco is a good example. Oxtail itself was not a desirable cut of meat but somehow stewed up with the right combination of vegetables and seasonings turns into an aromatic experience. Cacio e Pepe could not be simpler – olive oil, pecorino and pepper – a delicious dish prepared with humble staples found in every Roman kitchen.
You could exhaust yourselves around a Sunday lunch debating how to put the best dish of cacio e pepe on the table. Olive oil or not? Mix parmigiano in with the pecorino? Toss it on the heat or off? Spaghetti or tonnarelli? The simplest seeming dishes can sometimes be the most difficult to execute really well, and ultimately it must be to taste… yours.
Cacio e Pepe Pasta Recipe
Here is our friend Elizabeth Minchilli’s fun YouTube video for making this Roman dish. You can see it appears straightforward but as with all good cooking, sensitivity is key.
Cacio e Pepe can be a reason and a mission in and of itself when traveling to Rome. Our favorite and original Trastevere haunt, da Maria, seems to be no more, but here is a handy reference if you want to make this the focus of a Rome trip – and why not?
Rome as a Local
The best part of staying in a home within Rome is the opportunity it affords you to settle in. I am among those mourning the loss of many everyday food stores and neighborhood ‘mom and pop shops’ to the undeniable economic power of pizza sold to tourists in a hungry hurry. There is still great food in Rome and staying in Trastevere and shopping in Prato and Testaccio gets you closer. Hence a reason to live locally.
All this is possible from Via degli Orti. We recommend cruising into the nearby Botanic Gardens, strolling the Gianicolo on a Sunday afternoon and getting familiar with the gems at the Palazzo Corsini. The idea is that you are simply living within these rich folds of everyday Roman life.
Taking a short break in Rome this way is easy, all you need is a plane ticket, a centrally- located homebase such as Via degli Orti. The rest will come naturally…