SHOPPING in Rome:
Not all ways lead directly to the goal: the Roman Micaela Calabresi Marconi made a detour and studied law. Only afterwards she was certain: she needs something where she can build and maintain relationships, a job in communication. Armani, Pucci, Zegna and Versace crossed her way, and she eventually opened an own event agency. But that wasn't enough. At the peak of the economic crisis Marconi took over Saddlers Union and together with her brother Paolo she dusted off the forgotten brand that specialises in historic, handmade leather articles. The new address? Via Margutta 11, the street of craftsmen, similar to Montmartre in Paris. Federico Fellini had his residence here - and for Marconi it was the ideal spot for a Saddlers Union boutique. Today only those who know where they want to go will find Saddlers Union. A door plate is missing - it's a cosy, private house with a workshop where favourite pieces can be repaired on the spot if need be. Marconi found her calling.
Attention: There is nothing to drink at the bar - in the L'Olfattorio Bar you are served neither whiskey nor beer, but scents. This is how it works: Go into the bar and order Eau de Toilette. Then pick the scent that you like most.The perfumes on offer are from small manufacturers, and you can test them for free. When you like a scent, you receive the address in Rome where you can buy that perfume. The innovative business concept works, because it allows small producers to introduce themselves and to compete against the big ones.Aside from perfumes you can also purchase scented candles and all sorts of other olfactory delights. Just don't stay for too long, you might get dizzy from all those scents.
Did you know? It's so hard to say good-bye to Rome, you would love to pack a piece of it and take it with you. If not for yourself, then at least for friends and family at home, since no one can describe how delicious this particular pasta or that pesto sauce was. A hot tip to make things easier for you: The Cerasari is a shop for delicacies in which you can buy all your most favourite treats and take them home with you. Endless wine shelves contain the best of Barolo & Co, wide counters seduce with Tramezzini and fish platters, the shop windows lure you with unusual pasta and sauces that are stacked to the ceiling. If you cannot decide, just buy a gift hamper, with wine, parmesan, canned goods, sausages and pasta all nicely wrapped for the undecided customer.
STAY in Rome:
For a long time there were only two ways to Rome: Via the golden baroque hotels with their outrageous interior design or via the avant-garde hotels with their hysterical modernism, which seems to cater more to museum rooms than to living creatures. The gap between both philosophies was filled by the Hotel Capo D'Africa: It is service-oriented without being overbearing, modern without seeming sterile, and it has a long history. What else is new in Rome? The former schoolhouse is not the severe type: Bright colours, bright wood and very spacious rooms easily make you forget the times when exams still took place in those same rooms. Those with some nostalgia for the cane can hire a personal trainer at the fitness center. You can easily catch up with the lost calories in the rooftop restaurant, which offers great food, a beautiful view and lots of calm near the collosseum. The Capo D'Africa is surely less spectacular than other hotels, and it isn't high art. Yet for those who seek the golden mean it means they have hit home. Doubles starting at 189,- Euro per night.
They are small and luxurious, the new guest houses in the Italian capital. To reside classically is out of date, it's way more cosier to check into a mini hotel where you can feel better than at home. No surprise, given the location and its equipment! The San Carlo suites on Via del Corso in the historic part of Rom are situated on the second floor of a historic palazzo. On the one side you'll find the Piazza del Popolo, on the other one the Via Condotti. It really doesn't get any better as regards location. By the way, the interior is dominated by elegant designer furniture, an electric fire, crystalline room dividers and a bath tub with hydro-massage function. In addition you're provided with information touch screens and a virtual reception. Nothing stands in the way of some intimate togetherness. The continental breakfast includes eggs and bacon. The round-the-clock Open Bar in the lounge area offers snacks and drinks. In case that all suites are booked, don't worry: a few streets further down, near the Piazza Navona, you'll find the Gigli d'Oro suites - run by the same management. The boutique hotel with unfinished wooden floors and high-tech elevator spreads across three floors of a venerable renaissance palace. An the interior? Luxurious - what else?
Style: Minimus. Fun: Maximus! The Ripa Hotel has set is own standards, transcending Roman opulence. The result is beautifully low key: White walls with fluffy carpets and retro-style furniture that adds nice colour accents. Clear lines, indirect lighting and a lot of room for artistic expression, this was the idea of the Ripa Hotel. Another plus: The personal trainer in the fitness centre and the hotel owned restaurant are two house numbers down. It doesn't happen too often in boutique hotels that there is something to eat. The view from suites' terraces is incredible. This alone is worth the trip. The location is impressive: Circus Maximus, Vatican and Colloseum are the complete opposite of the futuristic looking hotel, yet in perfect harmony. Classical meets avant-garde in this distinguished boutique hotel: Simple, functional, and simply beautiful! Doubles starting at 136,- Euro a night.
EAT in Rome:
The Trattoria pre-empts demanding guests and their complaints, letting them decide what to eat: If you desire you can put together your own menu. The kitchen can be observed through a glass window, so you can verify that the Trattoria is only using the finest ingredients for its creations.Onion and garlic are rather rare, while citrus is more common as a flavour enhancer. The ambiance is classy, too: The Trattoria occupies two floors of a 17th century palace, while the inside is decorated with much glass, chrome and modern furnishing.
Feel like something completely different? Then you shouldn't miss the Gusto: With its brick walls, the bright ship planks and the solid wooden tables the restaurant is definitely one of the most modern in Rome.The interior design, the guests, the ambience: Everything seems cool and relaxed like in New York, the old Rome seems miles away. The cuisine is simple but trendy, undoubtedly Mediterranean, but with a modern twist.The downstairs Pizzeria serves specialities from the wood oven, such as Salami Pizza with Ricotta Cheese, mainly to a young crowd. The restaurant upstairs is a bit more classy, but still rather unpretentious for Rome. The wine bar starts at 18.00 with an aperitif for 9 Euro, and every Tuesday and Thursday it's Swing and Jazz night. If you want to try the recipes at home, take a look in the shop next door, where you can buy cookbooks and the right utensils.
The Antico Caffé della Pace is history: Guests have been making the pilgrimag to the calm square since the 19th century to sip on their espresso. It makes you feel like in a time warp: Pictures by G.B. Piranesi and G.B. Falda show the coffee house and its sourroundings as it looked in their days, and the many antiquities take you back in time.The café was then and still is the location of choice for poets, musicians, painters and everyone within their immediate orbit. This is where comedy is written, fashion trends evolve on the sketch paper, and ideas for poems and pictures are born.The guest list reads like the who's-who of the Roman and international art scene: The Dutch Thorwaldsen was here, just as Scipione, Ungaretti or Monichelli. Hot Tipp: Take a notepad and pen for an autograph. And if there is no big shot in sight, maybe you will be kissed by the muse and make great art yourself.
SIGHTS in Rome:
It took ten years, various culture secretaries and 150 million euro to complete the eccentric building designed by star architect Zaha Hadid. She especially put emphasis on the interaction between glass, fair-faced concrete and metal. Once again it becomes obvious: it's not only art, but also architecture which is maximal here in the Flaminio quarter. The 27.000 square metres of the area with its 20 metres high entrance hall forms an open, urban space and guides the visitors along curved walls and interwoven levels on unexpected paths through five galleries. In the well-lit museum (thanks to the glass roof) we find the two museums MAXXI art and MAXXI architecture. The house is devoted to preserve and conserve the cultural heritage by means of exhibitions, workshops, performances and (educational) projects. But more: it offers space for experimenting and exploring modern aesthetic contents. Tickets for 11 euro (reductions possible).
Who's better, the Swedes or the Italians? Last year most would have said that it depends on your tastes. The Italians have traditionally specialized in baroque knickknacks, lots of brocade and kitsch ribbons, while the Swedes swore by practical, striped and minimalist furniture. Now everything is different, because today everyone agrees: Back to the roots, charming and cosy furniture made of precious wood should help you live the easy life! Europe is finally united. Each year more than a thousand visitors storm the Moa Casa. Some are there to evaluate the trends and others to buy the newest in interior design. 200 exhibitors work their customers on 20,000 square meters. If you need a break from all the furniture, you don't need to walk very far: Next to the MOA Casa the MOA Gustibus offers tastes of traditional Italian specialties, and naturally for purchase, too.
Once the Globe theatre was the centre of the action, today the Teatro Dell'Orologio is rocking the boat: This small theatre has left the mainstream and is as off-Broadway as you can be. Far beyond classical tragedy, the theatre is experimenting to such an extent that critics are left speechless. You might recognize the plays, but you will never have seen them like this: Ionesco, Genet, Becket and Maeterlinck are all rediscovered in strange ways. Shakespeare would be delighted and Brecht overjoyed: The Teatro dell'Orologia lacks the technical sophistication of the great stages, but its dedication to the art that makes this theatre so special. Valentino Orfeo is the artistic director, but other directors also play their parts. To be there or not to be? Poor Yorick would have had no doubt!