Viva Roma!

Well, I'm finally back from my trip to Italy, and while I can't say I'm super-psyched about being done with vacation, I am excited about sharing a few finds with my readers who may be lucky enough to visit themselves. Italy is a place full of people who are passionate and take great pride in everything they do, as evidenced by the best-dressed taxi drivers in the world. They also take their craftsmanship seriously, which is why anything created in the last 200 years in Italy is considered new. I don't think I encountered a single piece of fiberboard, veneer, linoleum or plastic during my entire trip.
As both the geographical and historical center of Italy, I'm going to start with Rome. Everyone knows the obvious attractions (the Colosseum, Pantheon, Vatican, etc.) so I thought I'd give a few recommendations of some of the less obvious places of interest based on my personal experiences and the advice of some incredibly helpful and enthusiastic locals.

First up; where to stay. My wife and I were given two suggestions by a friend who grew up there, and we actually ended up staying both places on different occasions on our trip. Both of these establishments are fantastic, with incredibly helpful and available staff (and showers that I can fit in, which is rare in Italy!) and both are located within walking distance of most attractions you'll want to see while in Rome.

1. B+B Trevi Roma - A small, family-run B+B with a downstairs restaurant (which is fantastic as well). While located near the tourist-packed Trevi fountain, you can't get a more central location with more peaceful surroundings. By far the largest room we stayed in. Located on Via del Lavatore, 83.

2. Hotel Campo De Fiori - A midsized, modern hotel with all the extras. The room was a bit smaller, but the incredible rooftop terrace with views of all of Rome made it more than worth it. Honestly, I would've stayed in a tent if it came with that terrace. Also incredibly centrally located in the Campo De Fiori neighborhood. Located on Via del Biscione, 6.

When you're settled, you'll undoubtedly be hungry (if you're coming from the states, you'll have been on a plane for at least ten hours) and Rome is one of the best possible places to find yourself with a case of severe hunger. First, a few tips: 1. Never eat in a restaurant on one of the main piazzas of the city. These establishments are generally geared toward the tourist, offering less traditional and authentic fare at a higher price. Get lost on a back alley and find a place with a menu displayed only in Italian, full of dishes you've never heard of. You'll thank me later. 2. Particularly for Americans, service can seem slow, inattentive and downright frustrating. The constant checking in we're used to from our servers would be insulting and rude in Italy. Get used to flagging down servers for the check, because they'll assume you're enjoying your meal and present company, letting you sit hours on end with nothing but empty dishes at your table. Once you've acclimated yourself to the Italian pace of life, however, you'll wish that Americans viewed the process of cooking and eating the same way. Beyond that, I have a couple of recommendations, but truthfully I didn't have a single meal I wasn't thrilled with. Follow the above suggestions and you really can't go wrong. (Oh, and a bottle of good local wine is like 5 US Dollars...incredible).

1. Trattoria "Antonio" - A tiny space (so small that they store produce and meats literally anywhere they can find a spot, including in the entrance, and it's not just for show) with very traditional Roman fare. We had zucchini flowers stuffed with sardines and cheese, artichokes with oil and mint, Pasta e Fagioli (don't expect soup, it's literally pasta and beans in a simple tomato sauce), a filet covered in black truffles and the traditional Easter grilled lamb. All superb. Make a reservation or be prepared to wait, which is true of any good restaurant in Rome. Located on Via dei Pastini, 12.

2. Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè - It's not even up for debate, all Romans agree that this is simply the best espresso you can find anywhere in the world. Be ready for a line, but it's worth every second. My wife and I found ourselves stopping by for an after-dinner caffè fix every night at about midnight. Founded in 1938, it still has the original decor intact. Located on Piazza di Sant'Eustachio, 81.

Besides food, Italy is also known for its paper, stationery and general sense of design and craft. There are tons of little stationery, paper and antique print shops around town, but these two are really something special.

1. Fabriano Boutique - A stationery and gift shop with a more minimal, modern sensibility. Journals, notebooks, pens, paper and books, they have something for everyone. I purchased a notebook to use as a journal of our trip, and my wife bought the incredible ABC3D popup book from Marion Bataille. Located on Via del Babuino, 173.

2. Cav. Uff. N. Antonio Pacitti Stampe D'Arte, Antiche, Decorative Vedute Di Citta - A small antique print shop full of incredible printed treasures maintained by Antonio Pacitti, this place seems like it's been there since the dawn of time. I walked in to see literally thousands of prints from floor to ceiling, all impeccably arranged by size, category and time period. I can't stress enough how incredible this shop is, Antonio is clearly someone who has spent his life doing something he loves and appreciates greatly. I could've spent days in this place, but in the end I narrowed my selection down to a series of three antique botanical specimen prints, complete with the original artist's debossed marks and serial numbering. Located on Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 59.

So those are my (not so) brief recommendations to get you started, but I'm sure if you're lucky enough to visit The City of Seven Hills, you'll leave with incredible memories and recommendations of your own. Enjoy, and Viva Roma!

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