Undercover: Rome

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  • Trevi Fountain at Night
  • Trevi Fountain

Amy Watkins goes in search of the real Rome.

Ah Rome, the Eternal City. It might have all the big classic sights, but how can you head off the tourist track and sink your teeth into a real Roman experience?

Graffiti-covered and slightly ramshackle San Lorenzo is the student district done good. When the sun goes down it becomes the hippest area of town and although it has retained its edgy atmosphere it still costs under EUR10 to get a taxi there from most major attractions and it’s home to some of the city’s most authentic eateries.

I headed to Pommidoro, a simple family-run classic trattoria on Piazza dei Sannitti where hearty plates of delicious meats and pastas – mainly from the Lazio region – are served up at bargain prices. Buzzing with passionate Italian conversations, this is the place to get a real taste of Rome.

When the sun goes down the coolest place to head for a thirst-quenching cocktail and some entertaining people-watching is Bar del Fico. Only a few steps from well-known Piazza Navona, this tastefully trendy bar, with its twinkling fairy lights on the ivy-covered walls, is constantly hopping and is the place to relax with a chilled bellini on a summer’s evening.

In the daytime go back to the Piazza to fall in love with Petrocchi’s handmade leather shoes – the shop was established in 1946 near the Spanish Steps but still attracts movie stars and fashionistas ready to flex their plastic.

After a day of hardcore shopping it’s good to have somewhere to relax and Crossing Condotti, just around the corner from the Spanish Steps, is a gorgeous townhouse apartment style hotel that’s perfect after a day of designer couture credit-card damage.

When I want some peace from the bustling city I head out to the Villa Doria Pamphili park; Rome’s biggest public landscaped park in the grounds of a 17th century villa. Take a quiet stroll here from the tranquil hideaway of Hotel San Anselmo on the Aventine Hill.

One of my favourite things to do in Rome on a Sunday is to head to Porta Portese for the flea market and mingle with the locals as they haggle and push through the stalls. Ignore the tat and head for the antiques for an exquisite Roman souvenir. Not far from the market is the tucked away former convent Hotel Santa Maria in Rome’s central Trastevere district.

 Read our full Rome destination guide »

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