SHOWBIZ TRAVELER: ROME
Reviving Rome’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ | Where to eat | Seeking bargains | Where to visit | Rome after dark | A Gelato crawl through Rome
Sure, you’re there to see movies, make acquisitions and lubricate relationships. But if you have two hours free, take to opportunity to star in your own neorealist Vittorio De Sica film. Like Paris and Lisbon, Rome now touts a nifty bike-sharing program called ATAC (bikesharing.roma.it), whereby you can pick up and drop off a bicycle at 19 different outlets throughout the city. After paying a 5 euro initial fee, you’re charged .50 euro by the 1/2 hour.
Even better, another outfit called Top Bike Rental offers private guided four-hour tours — two people for 120 euros — of AppianWay, aqueducts and catacombs. You can request a “wine and cheese break” too. If you prefer to pedal sans a docent, Top Bike’s rentals all feature a city map in a holder that fits between the handlebars, a helmet and a lock. Prices start at 14 euros for a half-day; topbikerental.com. Caveat: Rome is notoriously perilous for the pedal set. Head to the 148 lush acres of the Villa Borghese gardens for a more serene ride.
If you have a half day, never underestimate the complexities of a Roman pizza. Better yet, learn to prepare four native thin-crust, hand-tossed varieties at the Culinary School in the Prati neighborhood. In this three-hour course, you’ll learn the intricacies of making the dough, sauce and toppings (including potatoes, a local favorite) for the perfect pizza all Romano. Gather a group of four and you’ll pay $290 per person and get a chance to compete in the kitchen. Of course, lunch is included. If you’re more inclined toward la dolce vita, try your hand at making strawberry and pistachio gelato, as well as sumptuous desserts like torta caprese (flourless cake with chocolate and almonds) or ricotta mouse with lemon peel and honey. The school offers 1/2 day and whole day courses, (selectitaly.com/food).
Prefer to cook with a pastoral view of the countryside? Head to Fontana del Papa (cookitaly.it) and book a one day excursion an hour outside of the city at a family-run farmhouse surrounded by an olive grove. Half-day classes, which range from pizza making to four-course dinner preparations, start at 140 euro per person.
If you have a full day: A surefire antidote to the chaos of the eternally rambunctious city would be a jaunt to the 13th century mountaintop village of Orvieto. Just an hour out of Rome by train, this serene enclave perched at 1,000 feet is reached by a funicular at the station. The Duomo at the town center — which features the Romanesque and Gothic styles of two different artists who worked on its completion — must be ogled for its exterior: marble sculptures of the bible’s most intriguing tales, including the Annunciation, Cain’s slaying of Abel, the creation of Eve and the Last Judgment.
With over 100 local wines in stock, Enoteca Regionale dell’Umbria (16 Via Ripa di Serancia) should not be missed. This wine bar in a former Medieval convent features two floors of underground cellars and serves snacks like salumi, boar prosciutto and pecorino cheeses. For a proper meal, head to the garden or dining room of I Sette Consoli (1A Piazza Sant’Angelo; isetteconsoli.it) and splurge for the prix-fixe menu, which may include braised veal cheeks with truffle polenta or saddle of suckling pig with wild fennel. Don’t pass on the Sicilian cannoli with limoncello-flavored ricotta cream.