n times of raging veline, a prime minister consorting with teenagers, panic over meltdowns, bombing raids, and cynicism enough to feed whole armies, here’s my shortlist of Rome’s most idyllic, sappy and picturesque romantic dining spots, where mood, food and ambience are pitch perfect and you can also escape the worst of the crowds.
You might want to leave your “breaking news” phone at home. You’ll note a disproportionate number of hotel restaurants. That’s because most of Rome’s most intoxicating views need to be seen from on high. But some “on highs” are better than others. I haven’t provided a price breakdown because rooftop and panorama view dining is upscale by definition. The view is factored in. You’re unlikely to walk out without spending at least €100 in two (with the euro soaring again, those of you paying in dollars take note). But love is priceless, right?
Roof Terrace Restaurant at the Hotel Forum Both the rooftop restaurant and the American bar have unbroken panoramic views of the three Roman Fora of Nerva, Augustus and Trajan. In the near distance are the Palatine Hill and the Coliseum. Come at sunset, inhale the sweet scent of cascading geraniums and bougainvillea, and prepare to say “yes.” Hotel Forum, Via Tor de’ Conti, 25. Tel. +39.06.792.446.
Antico Arco The upscale (and pricey) location atop the Janiculum hill provides intimate ambience and a quiet, romantic setting. The upstairs seating is cozy, particularly in winter. Foodies flock here for the contemporary cuisine, particularly for the rack of lamb with foie gras sauce and pears in port wine, and the lusty chocolate volcano dessert. Antico Arco. Piazzale Aurelio, 7. Tel. +39.06.581.5274. Dinner only. Closed Sunday.
Il Bacaro With a handful of small outside tables under a charming ivy-draped canopy, this tiny candle-lit secret not far from the Pantheon makes for an ideal romantic escape. When it’s cold outside, ask for the inside corner table for two. The menu is seasonal and very elegant, with main entrées focusing on choice meats and regional specialties. As a delightful bonus, the chef keeps clients from picking at each other’s plates by offering samples of all the pastas ordered among those in your party. Il Bacaro. Via degli Spagnoli, 27. Tel. +39.06.687.2554. Dinner only. Closed Sunday.
Il Palazzetto Restaurant & Wine Bar The restaurant and adjacent wine bar occupy a 16th-century building flanking the Spanish Steps and facing the Keats-Shelley Museum. There’s a garden where guests can dine surrounded by ivy-covered walls and potted plants (the garden can be covered and climate-controlled for private events). Leaf through books in the rustic Library Room, or relax on the two panoramic terraces on the fourth and fifth floors, which also serve light lunch and dinner. The spectacular views over the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna and the famous Bernini “Barcaccia” fountain are matched only by the Trinità dei Monti Church and obelisk that frame the perfect rooftops. Palazzetto. Vicolo del Bottino, 8. Tel. +39.06.6993.41000. Closed Monday.
Hi-Res The High Restaurant & Terrace Lounge, on the top floor of the Valadier hotel offers enchanting views over rooftops, domes and terraces of the Piazza del Popolo area. In the sophisticated contemporary style and relaxing ambience offered by the large panoramic terrace and the enclosed area for dining in winter, lovers can choose between vegetable crudités at the Tartar Bar; or hit the Wok Corner if in the mood for light-fusion cuisine; or pick the ingredients at the Fry Top counter, where chefs work the grill tirelessly. Hotel Valadier. Via della Fontanella, 8. Tel. +39.06.361.1998.
Roofgarden at La Minerva. With its front row and up-close view of the vast dome of the Pantheon, this rooftop restaurant’s magical atmosphere is enchanting on a summer evening. The good news is it’s now open year round. Grand Hotel de la Minerve. Piazza della Minerva, 69. Tel. +39.06.6952.0169.
Terrazza Bramante Imagine a lush garden overlooking terracotta dovetailed roof tiles, a quiet candle-lit ambience, secluded tables, and the starry eyed couples and clandestine lovers that occupy them. It happens on the multi-level terraces of the Hotel Raphael, where guests enjoy one of the most romantic sunsets of the centro storico. Sweeping views stretch from St. Peter’s to Castel Sant’Angelo, following the Tiber to Piazza Venezia, the Pantheon, the Palazzo del Quirinale, Piazza di Spagna and beyond. Hotel Raphael. Largo Febo, 2. Tel. +39.06.682.831.
La Terrazza Rose Rooftop Lunge The Tiber waterfront lounge on the sixth floor of the St. George Hotel is not a restaurant proper, but food won’t be on your mind when your gaze scopes the 360-degree view of the domes and terraces of Via Giulia, Piazza Farnese, and ochre facade palazzi just beyond the nearby Campo de’ Fiori. St. George Hotel. Via Giulia, 62. Tel. +39.06.6866.1826/825/245/ Open June-to-September, depending on weather. Tues.-Sat, 7:30 p.m. till midnight.
Romolo nel Giardino della Fornarina Romolo is a little neighborhood restaurant hidden away on the back streets of Trastevere. The restaurant and outside courtyard are housed in a 16th century building. Allegedly, artist Raphael met Margherita Luti here, the woman who became his model and soon after his lover. Margherita was nicknamed “la Fornarina,” (she was the daughter of a fornaio, a baker) and this is where she lived and posed for the Maestro. Her portrait is a Raphael hallmark. The cuisine at Romolo is typically Roman, seasonal and unpretentious. Dine sheltered under the trees and eat out of each other’s hands. A good place to drop on one knee. Romolo. Via di Porta Settimiana, 8. Tel. +39. 06.581.8284. Closed Monday.
Circus Garden at the Hotel Fortyseven The lushly landscaped top floor of the boutique hotel Fortyseven offers Mediterranean cuisine, an interesting wine list and a bird’s eye view of the round Temple of Hercules, the Aventine, the Campidoglio, the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, home of the Roman Holiday classic Bocca della Verità (“Mouth of Truth”), and the sensually curved banks of the river Tiber. Hotel Fortyseven. Via Luigi Petroselli, 47. Tel. +39.06.678.7816.