Best guides, top hotels, and the Cinecitta

Where Ancient Meets Modern
During the restoration of the Capitoline Museums, some of their classical statues were moved into the Centrale Montemartini, a neglected electrical station not far from the basilica of San Paolo. The museums' armless nymphs, pensive muses, and stern imperial busts looked so unexpectedly perfect against a backdrop of mighty cast-iron boilers that the statues' temporary home has since become permanent. At 106 Via Ostiense; 39-06/574-8030;

—Lee Marshall

The Exedra Excels
When the Hotel Exedra opened in late 2002, its neo-baroque pomp seemed a little too, well, nouveau. But two years on (and with a brand-new spa), it feels lived in and less self-consciously grand. Room 341, one of the new suites, is the one to book—its first guest was Giorgio Armani. Paved in green marble, with a smart retro touch that recalls James Bond circa Dr. No, it has views over the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian. Room 341, $3,680. At 47 Piazza della Repubblica; 39-06/489-381;


Cultural Blends
Tucked away in a 17th-century palazzo on the Via Gregoriana, just yards away from the Spanish Steps, is Indoroman, a place, says owner Gaia Franchetti, "where Italy and India meet." Franchetti regularly trawls India for handwoven fabrics, to which she often applies her own motifs. You can buy the cottons and silks in the raw or have them made into tablecloths, scarves, dresses, or quilts. We loved the Jaipur patchwork squares ($220) in wild Day-Glo colors and the bright bedcovers ($615). At Indoroman's annex, Petra Sarda, Gaia's American sister-in-law, Anne Franchetti, traffics in Sardinian pottery. The speckled blue and gray-green glazes make the slender bowls and spherical jugs look almost Japanese. At 36 Via Gregoriana; 39-06/6919-0908;

"I love Supperclub. It's built in an old palazzo on amazing grounds, and you eat lying on Roman beds. The menu, by chef Giovanni Petricone, always surprises." Dinner, $75. At 14 Via de' Nari; 39-06/6880-7207.


Beyond Osso Buco
Of all the trattorias in Rome, Matricianella is special. Typical in many ways (elbow-to-elbow tables, jovial atmosphere), its menu and wine list are anything but. Note the Chilean Sauvignon, the fritti misti with apple, eggplant, and courgettes, and the kicky penne all'arrabbiata (pasta in chili-spiked tomato sauce). Dinner, $75. At 4 Via del Leone; 39-06/683-2100.


The Specialists
When Antonio Barbieri was the head concierge at Hotel de Russie, he was the man we sought for the latest inside scoop. Barbieri has started his own business, Concierge in Rome, and he's taken his Rolodex with him. For a recent client, Barbieri arranged dinner on the loggia of the Knights of Rhodes's Rome headquarters, overlooking Trajan's Forum. Rates, from $250 a day; 39-329/851-1043;

Mercedes Tedaldi is a superb tour guide, especially for kids—even for too-cool-to-emote teenagers. Incredibly knowledgeable, she brings Rome alive in a way few scholars can. $ Rate, $60 an hour; 39-347/175-1051.

Brit John Fort is great with historical curiosities. He'll take you to the holy well in the church of Santa Maria in Via and to hidden gems such as Simon Vouet's Temptation of St. Francis in San Lorenzo in Lucina. $ Rates, from $245 for three and a half hours; 39-348/752-9571.

For an aristocrat's take on the city, Stefano Aluffi-Pentini, who runs A Private View of Italy, can arrange visits to private villas and monuments in and outside the city. $ Rates, from $1,200 per day; 39-06/474-1985.

The City of Domes
The Pantheon is the oldest, and St. Peter's the most famous. But Rome has many more dazzling domes.

SANT'ANDREA DELLE VALLE This is the highest dome in Rome after St. Peter's. Giovanni Lanfranco's flamboyant The Glory of Paradise is the highlight. At 6 Piazza Vidoni.

SAN CARLO AI CATINARI With its many windows, Rosato Rosati's dome looks like a sand dollar. At Piazza Benedetto Cairoli.

SANT'ELIGIO DEGLI OREFICI The only church in Rome by Raphael has an austere dome with a cupola by Baldassare Perruzi in the 1570s. At 8A Via Sant'Eligio.

—Jake Morrissey

How to Get Into the Cinecitta
Few ever see the inside of this legendary movie lot, where Fellini filmed 8 1/2. Unless, that is, they're in town for La Notte Bianca, the annual event in September when Rome stays up all night. Shops remain open, cinemas put on marathons, and, as of this year, the historic film studios open their gates.

Rome Moderne
In a city where sleek sofas coexist with medieval frescoes, Spazio Sette—Rome's best design shop—gets the mix just right. The store carries furnishings from big names (like Cassina) as well as clever pieces from up-and-comers. At 7 Via dei Barbieri; 39-06/686-9747.

—Elizabeth Minchilli

Three on the Via Guilia
Laid out by Pope Julius II at the beginning of the 16th century, the lovely Via Guilia was meant to lend a touch of refine-ment to the route between central Rome and St. Peter's. Today the street is lined with noble palazzi whose ground floors house a string of worthy galleries and antiques emporiums. Assieh Meneghini (95 Via Guilia; 39-06/6889-2898) is piled high with rustic home wares: shell lamps, contemporary and vintage paintings, masks from the South Pacific, and cases of butterfly specimens. Here, Provence meets Baroque Rome with a modern ethnic twist (from $740 for a vase to $6,150 for a painting). A few doors away is Apicius (86 Via Guilia; 39-06/6821-7952), a wineshop that is also Rome's top address for high-quality olive oil from all over Italy. Keep an eye out for Vincenzo Zamparelli's prizewinning tangy green extravergine (right); the new pressing should arrive late November or December—when discerning Romans buy their year's supply. Just next door at Bar Perù ($ 39-06/686-1310), ask the barman, Alfredo, who has been serving coffee for more than half a century, for a caffè speciale. It's a powerful Italian black coffee with a shot of liquor—jet fuel for the tired traveler.


Vista Spettacolare
From the Aerophile 5500, the world's largest tethered helium balloon, you can see all of the Borghese Gardens. In fact, you can see the entire Eternal City, which, at 500 feet, looks like a toy town. Flights leave every 15 minutes, weather permitting. $19-$22; 39-06/3211-1511.

With Reservations
The Hotel Russie's location—a stroll from Piazza del Popolo and Piazza del Spagna—is the best in Rome. And dining in the garden is unbeatable. But the decor (and service) could use a touch-up. Rates, $735-$2,945. At 9 Via del Babuino; 39-06/328-881;

Who is Rome's Next Big Chef?
We love Andrea Fusco's inspired organic cuisine at Giuda Ballerino! (dinner, $115; 135 Via Marco Valerio Corvo; 39-06/7158-4807), as well as the delicious creations of Anthony Genovese at Il Pagliaccio (dinner, $100; 129A Via dei Banchi Vecchi; 39-06/6880-9595). But in the end we give our nod to Fabio Baldassarre, whose new L'altro Mastai (dinner, $150; 53 Via G. Giraud; 39-06/6830-1296) sits just off the Piazza Navona. The menu changes seasonally; go in the fall, when Baldassarre serves dishes like spaghetti with rabbit-and-lobster sauce and veal fillet with black truffles.


The Hotel Eden
The neoclassical Eden is a stylishly subdued place with some of the largest rooms and the best views in the city (even if the bathrooms are a tad small). Book one of the fifth-floor Double De Luxe rooms: We like No. 511, which has a balcony overlooking the gardens of Villa Medici. Rate, $920. At 49 Via Ludovisi; 39-06/478-121;


All His Marbles
Enrico Fiorentini's remarkable marble workshop, La Bottega del Marmoraro, is part gallery, part library, and part salon. You'll find the 77-year-old marmoraro (not a sculptor, but an artisan whose medium is marble) surrounded by busts of emperors, cherubs, pediments, bas-reliefs, and a vast collection of stonemason tools. Fiorentini sells little marble tablets (from $10) inscribed with quips in Roman dialect, as well as more imposing items, such as an 18th-century statue of a putto ($12,275). But what he enjoys most is chatting away the day with serious marble buffs, people who know their Greek serpentine from their Giallo Antico. $ 53B Via Margutta; 39-06/320-7660.


The Secret Sharer
Prince Jonathan Doria Pamphilj's family palace, the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, holds a private collection of some of the most important paintings in Europe: Caravaggios, Brueghels, even Diego Velázquez's portrait of a scowling Pope Innocent X (above), which Francis Bacon later recycled in his "Screaming Pope" series. Nearly as entertaining is Prince Jonathan's audioguide narration (which includes some touching personal anecdotes), conveyed in plummy Oxford English with just the faintest Italian inflection. At 2 Piazza del Collegio Romano; 39-06/679-7323.


Designer Discovery
At his small clothing shops, Angelo di Nepi, who's known for bold colors and dynamic patterns, also makes great accessories, like this two-tone silk scarf with a festive satin ruffle. $75. 39-06/678-6568;

Chic Streets
Like the Raval in Barcelona, Rome's San Lorenzo was once considered off-limits. A hotbed of antifascism under Mussolini, today this network of working-class streets buzzes with wine bars, art studios, and quirky boutiques. The burgeoning contemporary-art scene centers on the Pastificio Cerere, a former pasta factory converted into artists' studios. Pino Casagrande's all-white loft on the fifth floor (7A Via degli Ausoni; 39-06/446-3480) shows a wide range of new Italian works, from paintings to photography to furniture design. A more recent arrival, Andrea Gobbi redecorates his gallery (33A Via dei Lucani; 39-06/4434-0151) according to the theme of each new show; recently it has been a cinema foyer and an English country house. Claudio Sanò (67A Largo degli Osci; 39-06/446-9284) does colorful Baroque-meets-Futurist handbags and briefcases ($185-$735) in Tuscan leather. Some pieces are beautifully sedate, others kitschy (like the men's attaché that looks as if it's been bitten into). Luogo Myriam B (75 Via dei Volsci; 39-06/4436-1305) creates extravagant bracelets, necklaces, and earrings with latex, shells, tulle, rock crystal, and industrial wire mesh ($25-$300). After shopping, eat at Uno e Bino (dinner, $90; 58 Via degli Equi; 39-06/446-0702), where Sicilian chef Andrea Buscema serves his trademark animelle (sweetbreads) toasted in thyme with cannellini beans.


The Sistine Chapel After Hours
Not only can Charles FitzRoy of Fine Art Travel give you a refreshingly calm, unpeopled visit, but he can also arrange a viewing of the Raphael frescoes in the Loggia di Raffaello and the Cappella Paolina, the Pope's personal chapel. "It's always a bit of a last-minute gamble," says FitzRoy, "as the Pope often uses the chapel for private prayer, but it's well worth taking the chance." $ Rates, $4,150; 44-20/7437-8553;


"When I need my shoes fixed, I go to Celletto, a shop at 16 Via Lucina with the best repairman in the world."


The Next-Best Thing to Valentino
The Roman designer takes the occasional haute couture client at his atelier in the 15th-century Palazzo Mignanelli, just off the Spanish Steps. But those lucky few are either royal, celebrity, or both. Otherwise, his charming and talented sidekick, Maria Pia Reggi, handles the appointments. Perfect suits from $46,640, evening dresses from $73,650. At 22 Piazza Mignanelli; 39-06/67391.


Where to Catch an English-Language Film
The historic Pasquino (9 Piazza Sant'Egidio; 39-06/581-5208) has three screens but muddy sound and dull Hollywood fare. A better choice is the Warner Village Moderno (39-06/477-791), in the Piazza della Repubblica, and The Metropolitan (39-06/679-4908), at the Piazza del Popolo end of Via del Corso.

Open on Sunday
AL PRESIDENTE A sophisticated Roman trattoria. Dinner, $125. At 94-95 Via in Arcione; 39-06/679-7342.

MIRABELLE A terrific restaurant in the Hotel Splendide Royal with a view over Villa Borghese. Dinner, $125. At 14 Via di Porta Pinciana; 39-06/4216-8838.

DAR POETA No frills, just the best pizza in Rome. Dinner, $20. At 45 Vicolo del Bologna; 39-06/588-0516.


Vino Nobile
At the famed Hotel Hassler's International Wine Academy, a cross between a wine school and a private club, members can take courses on Italian wine and stay in one of the four elegant rooms. In October, the IWA's new aperitivo terrace will open to nonmembers. Membership, $25; room rate, $430. At 10 Via Trinità dei Monti; 39-06/699-0878;

Table Tops
Maffetone Design sells decorative ceramic tiles and mosaics inspired by ancient Roman designs. The tables and furniture are handmade in workshops in the countryside. $300-$30,000. At 26 Via di Panico; 39-06/683-2754.

—Laura Morelli

The Gold Standard
In a vaulted workshop near the Piazza Fontanella Borghese, Fausto Maria Franchi and his crew create fantastical gold and silver pieces that fall somewhere between sculpture and jewelry. Franchi's free-form designs, which often incorporate precious stones, are by turns sleek, organic, even baroque. We especially love the delicate filigreed rings and the set of silver bowls. At 98-100 Via del Clementino; 39-06/687-1558;

—Laura Morelli

With Sugar on Top
Venerable sweetshop Moriondo & Gariglio makes every kind of confection you can imagine, from clever chocolate Easter eggs and Valentine's hearts to a rainbow of fruity pastilles and gumdrops. For a truly fabulous gift, ask the store to embed a ring or other bauble in one of the hearts or eggs. At 21-22 Via del Piè di Marmo; 39-06/699-0856.


Morning at the Market
After admiring the figs and peaches at Rome's great food market the Campo de' Fiori, stop for an impeccable panino or pizza bianca at Antico Forno Campo de' Fiori (22 Piazza Campo de' Fiori; 39-06/6880-6662). Then make your way to Marco Roscioli Salumeria (21 Via dei Giubbonari; 39-06/686-4045), just down the street, to inhale the expensive perfume of prosciutto and truffles. For a late lunch, Ditirambo ($ $55; 74-75 Piazza della Cancelleria; 39-06/687-1626) serves fabulous radicchio ravioli and ethereal ricotta pudding.

—Anya von Bremzen

When in Rome: David Lynch's Wine List
The wine list at many restaurants in Rome can overwhelm anybody with its sheer abundance. So try to order something local—it will win you instant camaraderie with your server. Here are some of my favorites:

Lazio Rosso "Racemo," L'Olivella A spicy and supple red made in Frascati, once known only for insipid whites.

Frascati Superiore "Vigna Adriana," Castel de Paolis In a world of watery, timid whites, this robust, fragrant one is an eye-opener.

Lazio Rosso "Ferro e Seta," Villa Simone A deep, dark red made by local retailer Piero Costantini at his winery outside the city.

The Jewel Chief
Giorgio Cazzaniga has a spectacular way with gold and precious stones. Combining neo-Byzantine opulence with Roman Baroque elegance, his pieces have a vaguely Russian feel, owing perhaps to the influence of his grandfather (the founder of the family business, he was raised in a Roman palace belonging to a cousin of Czar Nicholas II). We fell in love with a gem-encrusted pill-holder necklace ($12,250) that resembles an Orthodox priest's censer, in miniature. The necklaces fashioned from rare ancient marble (from $9,900) are equally tempting. At 18 Passeggiata di Ripetta; 39-06/320-7663.


Kitchen Mistress
Blu Aubergine is more than a cooking school; it's a private consultation. Princeton-born Dana Klitzberg, who worked at San Domenico in New York, dispenses advice about where to find guanciale at home and which mascarpone makes the best tiramisu. $185 per person, minimum two people, for a half day. 39-06/686-9986;

Artists' Colony
In the charming Rione Pigna neighborhood is Ditta G. Poggi, an old-fashioned art-supply emporium. Set among crafts and fashion boutiques, this store, which began life in 1825 as a spice shop, has sold canvases to Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, and Balthus (a close friend of Poggi's garrulous owner). Besides selling archaic materials like gum arabic and lapis lazuli, Poggi carries every other artist's implement, from Kolinsky sable brushes to mahogany easels. At 74-75 Via del Gesù; 39-06/678-4477.


Oxtail, Sea Bass, and Black-Coffee Granita
THE NEW SEAFOOD HIT Hosteria del Pesce (dinner, $110; 32 Via di Monserrato; 39-06/686-5617) just might replace La Rosetta as Rome's It seafood restaurant. The young, casual vibe doesn't distract from the utter perfection of the calamaretti and the magnificent grilled sea bass.

THE OFFAL TRUTH Can oxtail and pig trotters be elegant? They are at the austere but stately Checchino dal 1887 (dinner, $100; 30 Via di Monte Testaccio; 39-06/574-6318). The restaurant's rigorous Roman cuisine is without equal—ditto the wine list—and the timid can always opt for the divine cheese course or braised baby lamb.

PASTA THE ROMAN WAY The ultratraditional Sora Lella (dinner, $100; 16 Via Ponte Quattro Capi; 39-06/686-1601) dishes out a distinctly Roman semolina gnocchi. And the spaghetti with black pepper and pecorino cheese is perfection at Sora Margherita (lunch, $50; 30 Piazza delle Cinque Scole; 39-06/686-4002), a homey dive in the Jewish ghetto that's beloved by local gourmands.

COOL COMFORTS The laboratory-like San Crispino (42 Via della Panetteria; 39-06/679-3924) scoops out Italy's richest, most vibrant gelato in flavors like Sardinian honey and Sicilian orange. At Caffè Sant'Eustachio (82 Piazza Sant'Eustachio; 39-06/6880-2048), the coffee granita is so dark it could qualify as an alternative energy source.

NEW-WAVE WINE BAR Trendsetting vintages and simple grills are the thing to order on the panoramic terrace of the Wine Bar at Città del Gusto (dinner, $185; 161 Via Enrico Fermi; 39-06/5511-2264), a former warehouse recently converted into the flashy headquarters of the Gambero Rosso magazine and television empire.


Da Bolognese
So what if the food at this Piazza del Popolo institution packs no nouvelle punches? Dishes like ricotta-and-spinach tortelloni or the traditional carello dei bolliti misti—boiled beef with salsa verde (parsley, garlic, olive oil) and piquant Cremona mustard—are reliably delicious. The unflappable head waiter, Antonello, makes everyone feel like a regular. Dinner, $100. At 1-2 Piazza del Popolo; 39-06/361-1426.


A Room With a View—and a Pool
The swimming pool at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton (day pass from $55; 101 Via Alberto Cadlolo; 39-06/35091) is where Rome's smart set spends its summer—when not at the beach. The only other place to take a dip in the city is the smaller, but no less chic, pool at the Hotel Aldrovandi Palace ( day pass from $50; 15 Via Ulisse Aldrovandi; 39-06/322-3993). In one of Rome's poshest neighborhoods, this teardrop-shaped oasis—like the Hilton's—has only a small number of day passes.


Tricks, Fakes, and Vanishing Columns
Visual trickery is everywhere, but the 16th-century Sala delle Prospettiva in the Villa Farnesina (230 Via della Lungara; 39-06/6880-1767) is a masterpiece of deception. Baldassare Peruzzi painted this fresco so that the wall appears to be an open-air loggia with views of the city. When a visitor enters the room, the wall seems to vanish into an idyllic landscape. A few other sneaky sights:

The Perspective Gallery in the Palazzo Spada, built in 1660 by Francesco Borromini, is a vaulted corridor lined with stone columns that seems to extend more than 100 feet. In reality, the corridor is only 28 feet long. At 13 Piazza Capo di Ferro; 39-06/686-1158.

When the Church of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola was built in the 17th century, there was no money for a dome, so Andrea Pozzo painted the flat ceiling to look like one. At Piazza di Sant'Ignazio; 39-06/679-4406.

Linger a while when visiting Gianlorenzo Bernini's splendid twin colonnades encircling the oval-shaped St. Peter's Square. Two spots on each side of the central fountain (which are marked by disks in the pavement) offer an amazing sight: When a visitor stands on them, the columns seem to line up.


All Saints
In a city filled with Christian mementos (too many of them totally unremarkable), Mar Statue Sacre stands out for its exquisite one-of-a-kind statues of saints, angels, and nativity figures in wood and cast bronze. $ $4-$3,800. 61 Borgo Vittorio; 39-06/686-4554,

—Laura Morelli

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