FROM THE ART AND CULTURE OF FLORENCE TO THE TOURISTY ATMOSPHERE OF ROME, WE COVER SOME OF OUR FAVORITES OFF THE BEATEN PATH.
Whether it’s your first time visiting or your fiftieth, Italy never gets old. Standing before the towering Colosseum in Rome or admiring the statue of David in Florence—they’re worth it every time, even after elbowing past heaps of tourists.
But you don’t need a guidebook for those activities. When you’ve checked off the must-see sights, how can you have a more genuine experience in two of Italy’s most famous cities?
THE FLIPSIDE OF FLORENCE
Typically, tourists explore Florence north of the Arno River—but cross Ponte Vecchio and find an even more enchanting area, called Oltrarno.
Check into SoprArno Suites to embrace the neighborhood’s charm. Each room has its unique vibe with paintings, lamps, and furniture which beautifully combining vintage and bohemian elements. The accommodation is unique, plus it situates you in precisely the right area to explore the city.
You’ll notice many tiny storefronts brimming with artisan goods in Florence. Wander Sdrucciolo de’ Pitti and the surrounding streets for hidden gems of sparkling jewelry, slick leather shoes, hand-painted stationery, and vibrant pottery, all made by the craftsmen and women sitting in the store.
It’s equally pleasurable to eat and drink your way through Oltrarno. Order a classic Margherita pie at Gustapizza, a no-frills, cash only joint which does one thing and does it well: pizza. Ristorante Konnubio makes for an elegant meal, and stuffed pasta are star dishes here. Leave room for dessert—theirs are decadent, edible works of art.
Become a sommelier for a day at Mama Florence, a culinary workshop and tour company owned by Filippo Bartolotta and Vanessa Held. You’ll quickly adopt their passion for fine wines and fantastic cuisine. Choose from activities like a local market tour, pasta making class, or wine tastings, all of which make you feel like an insider of Florence.
When you crave something other than wine, Mad Souls & Spirits offers a rotating menu of innovative cocktails related to a theme, and across the street, Love Craft specializes in whiskey- and Scotch-based craft drinks. Expect trendy drinks and hip patrons spilling onto the streets.
One late afternoon, rent a bike at Filofficina bike shop and cruise east alongside the Arno, watching the setting sun place every building in a fiery glow. Your evening’s final destination is Piazzale Michelangelo. Expect crowds, but when you see the view, you’ll understand why: this is the ultimate sunset spot in Florence.
It’s true—even in the most sought-after destinations of Italy, it is views like these, which you can witness again and again, and they never get old.
DO AS THE ROMANS DO
It pays to be adventurous on the streets of Rome. Even in the Historic Center, walk a few blocks off the main drag and discover tucked-away wine bars and darling boutiques with one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Via de Monserrato and Via Giulia are prime examples, mere minutes away from famed Campo de’ Fiori. Find Il Goccetto, a humble enoteca (wine bar) labeled “Vino Olio” with warm, golden lighting on the inside. Grab a glass and join the locals who often overflow onto the cobbled streets.
You can easily spend a day shopping at stores in this area. Chez Dédé has everything necessary for sophisticated European style, from silk scarves to statement art pieces. Nearby, ring the doorbell at Maison HALABY and enter a wonderland of handcrafted bags where Creative Director Gilbert Halaby will design one specifically for you.
Around 6 pm, restaurants offer aperitivo—Italy’s version of happy hour—and Meccanismo in the Trastevere neighborhood has the best in Rome. Expect an enormous platter filled with delicious foods like a lasagna slice, olives, and focaccia. Still have room for dinner? Try their cacio e pepe, a traditional dish comprised of pasta, cheese, and pepper. If and when you tire of typical Italian fare, dine at Hotel Palazzo Dama’s restaurant Pacifico. Their Peruvian cuisine, including mouthwatering tacos and ceviche, is a refreshing change of pace.
Custom tours offer a way to discover Italy in a new way. Scott Dunn Private Journeys crafts bespoke itineraries, and you can opt to see off-the-beaten-path sites (like Renaissance art in Villa Farnesina) or go beyond a guidebook in the Vatican or Pantheon. If you dream of zooming around on a Vespa, book a day trip with Scooteroma Tours. Nothing tops getting to see Rome from the back of a motorbike as you pass sun-kissed facades, lively open-air markets, and ruins scattered throughout the city.
Finally, rest your head at D.O.M. Hotel on Via Giulia. The atmosphere feels modern and sultry, and the central location strikes a brilliant balance between sightseeing and living like a local in the Eternal City.
Special thanks to: Palazzo Dama, D.O.M. Hotel, Scott Dunn Private Journeys and guide Fabio Luciani, Scooteroma, Norwegian Air