Once the power center of the world, the Eternal City shines and inspires anew if you take your time with it. (Just don’t order cappuccino afternoon.)
DAY TWO | Having awakened to the sound of bells pealing throughout the city, you get dressed and come downstairs, past the larger-than-life lion carved into the elegant marble balustrade leading to the strikingly ornate sitting room of the Grand Hotel Plaza. After a cappuccino and chocolate croissant (when in Rome…), you head out and walk up the posh Via dei Condo i to the Spanish Steps (1). Once you hike to the top, hop on the subway and take it south to Circus Maximus.
From the subway, you wend your leisurely way to Aventine Hill (2), one of the seven hills on which Rome was founded. A er a 20-minute walk past handsome houses, churches and schools, you find the gate to Villa del Priorato (3), headquarters of the Knights of Malta. Peer through the keyhole, and you’ll see St. Peter’s Basilica perfectly framed at the end of a garden path. It looks like a miniature. On the way back, you stop at the piazza adjacent to Sant’Alessio all’Aventino church for a panorama.
For lunch, you walk west on Via dei Cerchi back to the Ghetto and stop in at Al Pompiere (4), marked by the crates of fresh artichokes outside. It’s been open since 1928, which seems like a considerable run until you look to the right of the building at the Portico D’O avia, which has been standing since 143 B.C. You go for wine, artichokes, the house special, baked cannelloni—which comes out bubbling—and a dish of sliced pineapple.
Afterward, you walk toward the Pantheon, stopping at Sant’Eustachio Il Caff é (5) for a fine cup of espresso (cappuccino is strictly a morning drink) and some people watching. It costs a li le more to sit outside, which is why most Romans are seen taking their espresso standing up at the bar, but it’s worth it. Then you walk a few steps to the Pantheon (6). It’s an engineering marvel, a perfectly circular concrete dome that has lasted nearly 2,000 years. You walk in through the portico and find the sarcophagus of the artist Rafael. “Here lies Raphael,” reads the Latin inscription, “by whom nature feared to be outdone while he lived, and when he died, feared that she herself would die.”
For dinner, head back by the Largo di Torre Argentina to the boisterous brick-walled Renato e Luisa (7), known for its contemporary riffs on classic Roman cuisine. You settle in for a surprising and scrumptious appetizer of artichoke mousse with squash and rico a, followed by a terrific filet mignon in prune sauce. Then you stroll back up one of Rome’s few straight boulevards, Via del Corso, toward the palatial, celebrity-favored Hotel de Russie (8) to turn in (but not before communing with the steam room).
Pliny the Elder may have called them “nature’s monstrosities…which even the animals instinctively avoid” in A.D. 77 and infamous Baroque painter and criminal Caravaggio once got in trouble for hurling a plate of them at a waiter in a tavern on the Via Maddalena. But despite their unsightly appearance and unseemly associations, the artichoke is king in Rome, whether prepared Roman-style (pan-fried until tender) or Jewish-style (deep-fried twice until crispy). The best place to get them is in the Ghetto, but they can be found all over the city, particularly in spring, when you’ll see wooden crates of them stacked up outside restaurants complemented by the tantalizing aroma of garlic wafting into the streets.