istory, archeology, art, food and wine — Rome is generous with its variegated goods. The only real risk is overkill. The wise thing is to alternate sightseeing with food breaks.
But where to break the cultural spree with some well-chosen snack nosh? Here’s my shortlist of favorite places for smart (and tasty) intervals, arranged by sightseeing neighborhoods.
Campo de’ Fiori Leave the chaos behind as the refreshing ripples of the twin tub fountains of Piazza Farnese, home to the French Embassy, drain stress from your brow. Walk down Via dei Banchi Vecchi, and land at Il Goccetto, a historic neighborhood wine bar where Sergio will pour you a glass of happiness while you browse the menu. Accouterments vary, and may include carefully selected Italian cheeses, great sott’oli (pickled vegetables preserved in olive oil), spectacular salumi, like the notable mortadella with truffles, and a few superbly prepared dishes, including droolworthy tiella di Gaeta (a savory pie stuffed with various seafood or vegetable fillings), goat cheeses served with marmalade or smoked salmon; vegetable flans and terrines. The food is mainly an excuse to linger over the wine.
The old chalkboard features the day’s selections, per glass or bottle, and the choice is always among 50 different labels. Sergio and his wife Anna’s welcome is always friendly and warm, even during the Goccetto’s most crowded hours, around aperitivo time, between 7 and 9 p.m.
Il Goccetto is perfect for a hitch between seeing Piazza Navona, the Jewish Ghetto, Trastevere, Via Giulia and Castel Sant’Angelo — all nearby. Il Goccetto. Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 14. Tel. +39.06.686.4268.
Forum, Palatine & Colosseum After a long archeological dive into the heart of Imperial Rome and some respite from Stendhal Syndrome overdosing on the beauty of the Coliseum, I make time to relax under a canopy of leaves in the hip Monti neighborhood, possibly licking gelato off a wafer cone.
Fatamorgana is perfectly suited to the task, now that a new branch of the famous gelateria has opened in the classy suburra neighborhood. What to expect from the gelato tubs at Fatamorgana? Definitely not the air-jacked heaps of Technicolor gloop sold in industrial chain stores scattered around the centro storico. No, this stuff is made from scratch, using gluten-free ingredients that are always seasonally fresh.
Innovative flavors are a trademark, including dark chocolate wasabi, Gorgonzola and pears (delightfully bizarre), and icy confections inspired by Sardinian seadas (fried pastries filled with pecorino cheese, then drizzled with strawberry-tree honey). The list goes on and on: almond-cardamom, white chocolate, poppy seed, and pine nuts.
My personal favorites include apple-almond and cinnamon; peaches and red wine, black cherry, strawberry white wine and lemon, orange flavored dark chocolate, and the amazing Kentucky Choc, which is made with licorice, coffee and Kentucky tobacco! Fatamorgana. Via degli Zingari, 5.
St. Peter’s Walk in, elbow to the front of the counter, grab a slice, and prepare for Pizzarium ecstasy. Famed Gabriele Bonci bakes and serves some of the best (and most expensive) pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) in his hole-in-the-wall shrine. The secret is in the flour and in the natural leavening in the dough, which once baked is crisp on the outside and deliriously soft and melty on the inside.
Toppings vary throughout the day and are arranged according to season, availability, and the chef’s whim. My favorites include: bufala and basil, sautéed broccoli rabe and sausage, speck and smoked mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, porcini and parsley, artichoke and gorgonzola, pumpkin puree, smoked cheese and bacon.
The pizzas outfitted with creamed leeks, or roasted potatoes and rosemary are the most popular, and with good reason. Pizzarium also makes excellent bread and supplì (fried rice balls with different kinds of fillings). It’s a nice hike from the Vatican, inches away from the Cipro Metro stop. Pizzarium. Via della Meloria, 43. Tel. +39.06.3974.5416.