|This article originally appeared in
|When in Rome
As you sip sweet wine by an ancient piazza, you'll understand why this city lives la dolce vita
by Eric J. Lyman
can match Rome for the sheer diversity of
historical eras revealed by its buildings.
Roman mythology says that the city was
founded in the 8th century B.C. by the warrior
Romulus, who gave Rome its name. And
Rome still boasts hundreds of pre-Christian
Roman structures standing alongside the
earliest Christian churches in Europe, gray
medieval fortresses, magnificent
Renaissance palaces and massive Fascist-
era buildings and monoliths.
marvels are not the city's only siren call.
Rome is one of the world's culinary capitals,
star-studded period in the 1950s and '60s that has now evolved into a style of living well, known as alla
Though Milan is known as Italy's business capital because of the location of the Italian Stock Exchange and
most of Italy's largest banks and insurance companies, Rome is nonetheless home to many of the country's
largest firms (most, like communications company Telecom Italia, utility giant Enel and flagship air carrier
Alitalia, are former state monopolies). Film studio Cinecittá—nicknamed "Hollywood on the Tiber"—is also in
Rome, along with several important fashion houses, such as Valentino.
If it were a country, Rome's GDP would be around €80 billion—more than any other city in Italy, and more or
less the same as midsize countries like New Zealand and Hungary. And the economy is booming: Through
the end of 2005, the economy had been growing at a clip of more than 4 percent per year for half a decade,
faster than any other part of Italy.
Taxis are the best way for the uninitiated
to get around town. For cabs flagged down
on the street, the fare starts at €2.36 and
rises at the rate of €1.03 per kilometer.
Calling a cab is slightly more expensive:
The meter starts running when the taxi is
There are times—such as rush hours or
during severe weather—when finding a
cab can be difficult. If multiple trips are on
your agenda, consider hiring a car for the
day. The most economical option is one
of the main taxi companies, such as
Cooperativa Samarcanda (06 55 51),
which provides drivers at €25–40 per hour,
depending on the duration of service.
But there is no guarantee the driver will
speak more than basic English. Limousine
providers, such as the Rome Limousine (06 33 83 221), guarantee English-speaking drivers and Mercedes
Benz cars starting at 55 per hour, with a three-hour minimum.
Compared to other large European cities, Rome's mass transit system is limited and confusing. Because
builders kept running into ancient structures buried under the city streets, development of the metro system
was halted with just two lines traversing the city's historical center. This transferred the transport burden to a
bus system, which, except for a half dozen or so routes that cater to tourists, can be difficult to understand.
Considered the most stylish and prestigious hotel in
Rome for the last several years, Hotel de Russie (Via del
Babuino 9; 06 32 88 81; €525 and up) is a stunning
property with a posh location between the Spanish Steps
and Piazza del Popolo. The hotel, located on the cusp of
the city's most exclusive shopping area, is known for its
beautiful terraced gardens, which can seem like an island
of tranquility compared to the buzz of the city outside the
dolce vita era, when the most famous and beautiful stars in
the world frequented the bars and restaurants of this tree-
lined avenue. The street hosts the U.S. Embassy and
several well-known hotels—the Regina Baglioni, the Hotel
Majestic and the Westin Excelsior leap to mind—but the
best choice in the area may be the Hotel Eden (Via
Ludovisi 49; 06 47 81 21; €290 and up), just a few blocks
off Via Veneto on a quiet side street. The hotel boasts a
Michelin-starred restaurant set in an unforgettable rooftop
perch, as well as a convenient and tranquil location, with
Piazza Barberini, the Spanish Steps and Via Veneto all
within a few minutes' walk.
The most impressive hotel to approach in all of Rome is the Hotel Hassler (Piazza Trinta dei Monti 6, 06 69 93
40; €390 and up), which stands proudly right at the top of the Spanish Steps. The hotel, which has its own
rooftop restaurant, has been one of the city's landmarks since the 19th century. In contrast, one of the newest
top-level hotels is Forty-Seven (Via Luigi Petroselli 47; 06 67 87 816; €280 and up), across the historical center
from the other properties named here, between Circus Maximus and the Teatro di Marcello. The hotel,
overlooking two ancient Roman temples and the Tiber River, combines Art Deco with a classical feel.
Nowhere gives more support to Rome's claim as one of the world's culinary capitals than the hilltop ristorante
La Pergola (inside the Cavalieri Hilton, Via Cadlolo 101; 06 35 09 21 52), the city's only three-star Michelin
restaurant, with an elegant atmosphere, impeccable service, breathtaking vistas of St. Peter's Basilica and the
city—and a wine list nearly as breathtaking as the view. Celebrated chef Hans Beck creates seasonal menu
choices that never fail to amaze.
The Hostaria dell'Orso di Gualtiero Marchesi (Via dei Soldati 25c; 06 68 30 11 92), housed in an opulent 15th-
century palace, is an icon among Roman restaurants and offers a creative and gratifying take on traditional
Dal Bolognese (Piazza del Popolo 1;
06 36 11 473) is particularly attractive in the
cooler months, with a menu of expertly prepared
pastas and grilled meats. Tucked away on a
side street of Rome's old ghetto is Piperno
(Monte de Cenci 9; 06 68 80 66 29). It has been
around for nearly 150 years but remains one
of the city's culinary secrets, with a menu of
traditional choices prepared with a delicate hand.
And for a less sophisticated but more typical
Roman experience, try the Taverna Trilussa
(Via del Politeama 23; 06 58 18 918). This
always bustling local spot is so Roman that its
enticing menu is written in the local dialect,
rather than in traditional Italian. The "mimosa"
is a mouth-watering pasta dish only available
Traditionally, Romans entertain themselves with an early evening stroll (known as a passegiatta) and a long
dinner. There are plenty of beautiful settings for a promenade: One of the best routes starts in Campo dei Fiori
and wends to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and Fontana di Trevi, ending at the Spanish Steps. At a leisurely
pace, it takes about an hour (not counting any stops) and includes some of the city's best-known monuments.
Over the last few years, wine bars have started appearing all over the city, offering the finest Italian wines by the
glass in quiet, reflective settings. Two of the oldest and best are Cavour 313 (Via Cavour 313; 06 67 85496)
and Cul de Sac (Piazza Pasquino 73; 06 68 80 10 94).
For entertainment, the best one-stop option is the Auditorium Parco della Musica (Viale Pietro de Coubertin
SN; 06 80 24 12 81), which comprises several complexes in one location and features top-notch dance,
concerts, symphonies and theatrical performances. Call to see what's on tap.
One of the most stunning entertainment options during the summer months is the summer jazz series at Villa
Celimontana (Via Alessandro Poerio 99/A; 06 58 97 807), which features nighttime jazz concerts, drinks and
light meals in a forested villa that's reportedly the actual place where Emperor Nero played his fiddle as Rome
People do business differently in different cultures, so what wins the day in Roanoke can ruin the deal in
Rome. A basic understanding of Roman culture is essential to successful business in the Eternal City. Here
are some fundamentals to get you started:
• Italians need to know and trust the people they do business with, both professionally and personally. It will be
difficult to negotiate strictly on terms and issues; you must allow Italians enough time to get to know you and
your company before they can feel comfortable with you and your proposal. This will require multiple meetings
and lots of follow-up before decisions are made.
• You can move this process forward by providing your Italian colleagues with considerable background on
yourself, your proposal and your company, prior to any substantive discussions. Italians need more context,
history, background and detail, all in an effort to feel comfortable with you and what you have to say.
• First impressions are very important: Italians believe in la bella figura, which means demonstrating that you
know the correct way to do whatever needs doing. This applies to everything from knowing how to behave
when your senior is across the table (think: meeting Caesar), how to dress for a business meeting (well-styled
suits, please), how to eat pasta (don't twirl it on a spoon) and how to present a proposal (a handout needs to
look as perfect as you claim its contents to be).
• Bella figura means you demonstrate your ability to be above the rules that mere mortals must live by…as
Italians will seek to do with you. Rules and systems are all seen first as tests of one's rank and authority:
Those with power make the rules for others, but are often exempt from following the rules themselves.
• Bella figura also requires that men and women treat each other in a way that respects and celebrates their
differences. Businesswomen should ensure their authority and credibility has been pre-established and is
understood, while anticipating the positive attention of their male counterparts.
• Time is more fluid in Italy: Work gets done when it has to be done, driven less by the clock than by the needs
of those at the top of the hierarchy. With this in mind, stay very flexible about unplanned interruptions,
unexplained missed deadlines and last-minute schedule changes.
• When that deal is finally signed, schedule a celebratory Italian meal (antipasti, pasta, one or two main
courses, dessert and espresso—with coffee after, never with, dessert) in a fine restaurant, and toast ("Cin cin")
with the best Italian wine you can afford.
If you have a free hour...
The best way get a taste of
Rome in a short time is to
walk up the steps to the
Campidoglio, a small,
stunning piazza designed by
Michelangelo and dominated
by a massive bronze statue
of the Roman Emperor Marcus
Aurelius in its center and
facades on three sides.
Two side buildings make up
the Campidoglio Museum,
an impressive collection of
ancient Roman artifacts and
The central building houses
the offices of Rome's mayor,
and a short walk around it to
either side offers a
spectacular view of the
Imperial Roman Forum from above, complete with the Coliseum in the background. With a little extra time,
meander down into the Forum or take a tour of the Campidoglio Museum.
If you have a free day...
Start the day at St. Peter's Basilica, the largest and most impressive church in all of Christendom.
Michelangelo's Pièta and Moses are off to the right as you enter, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini's massive central
altar is another must-see. Adventurous souls should go to the top of the Basilica for a breathtaking view of
Rome. Doors open at 8:45 a.m., and anyone who gets there early will seem to have the place to themselves,
as most tour buses don't arrive until 9:30 a.m. or so.
After absorbing St. Peter's, walk to nearby Borgo Pio, a neighborhood that was once a small village and retains
some village-like charm. The area, found off to the right when looking at the front of St. Peter's, is popular with
tourists, so there are few bargains to be found. But there are several charming trattorie open for lunch, such as
Da Roberto (Via Borgo Pio 62; 06 68 80 39 57).
After lunch, walk up the road to the Vatican Museums, which house what may be the world's single most
important collection of cultural treasures. Starting with a small but impressive collection of Egyptian artifacts
and culminating with the awe-inspiring Sistine Chapel, the museum is not to be missed.
If you have a free weekend...
Follow in the footsteps of icons like Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Frank Sinatra, Brigitte Bardot, Ingrid
Bergman and Gregory Peck and live la dolce vita for a weekend. Stroll tree-lined Via Veneto, stopping for coffee
at the Doney Gran Café (Via Veneto 145; 06 47 08 28 05), one of the favorite haunts of the stars. Or opt for the
Café de Paris (Via Veneto 90; 06 48 85 284) across the street, where the paparazzi traditionally gathered to
snap photographs of the rich and famous at the Doney.
Harry's Bar (Via Veneto 15; 06 48 46 43) is at the end of Via Veneto, and the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti,
Rome's chicest shopping street, are also nearby. Eat a great meal at one of the restaurants mentioned above,
then while away the evening sipping aged grappa and listening to top-notch jazz at Alexanderplatz (Via Ostia 9;
06 39 75 18 77) or Big Mama (Vicolo San Francesco a Ripa 18; 06 58 12 551), or consider tickets for the opera
at Rome's famously ornate Teatro dell'Opera di Roma (Piazza Beniamino Gigli 7; 06 48 16 02 87).
If the weather is nice—and in Rome, it usually is—wander off Via Veneto to nearby Villa Borghese for a stroll.
The villa is the largest green space inside city limits, and it includes the unforgettable Galleria Borghese
(Piazza Scipione Borghese 5; 06 32 810), home to one of the most impressive collections of Renaissance
paintings and sculptures in the world, all housed in the ancestral home of one of Rome's most important
Overview: Rome's Fiumicino Airport is simple to navigate, considering its size, but it offers few amenities and
little to do during an extended layover.
Internet access: Internet access at the airport is limited. As of March 2006, none of the VIP lounges offered
wireless Internet access, and only some have computers available in tiny business centers. The best of a
weak lot is the Alitalia lounge in Terminal C. Telecom Italia has been experimenting with wireless areas in
different spots around the airport. It's an ongoing project, with hotspots marked with red "Wi-Fi" signs and the
Waiting around: Again, there isn't much to offer in this area. Frescobaldi is an adequate wine bar serving
Tuscan wines by the glass near gate B10 in the European terminal. In Terminal C, the shopping area has
been evolving for the better part of a decade and is slowly improving.
Security and customs: The airport is divided into three terminals: Domestic flights mostly go through Terminal
A (the only exception is flights to Milan's Malpensa Airport, since they are usually part of longer onward
journeys); flights to most of the European Union are in Terminal B (except flights to the U.K.); and
intercontinental flights, flights to Malpensa and flights to the U.K. are in Terminal C. One insider tip: If the lines
are long in Terminal C, but not B, pass through security control in Terminal B and then take an immediate left
toward Terminal C. The two small passport control stations there are almost never busy.
A taxi is the fastest and surest way into town and costs €35–60, depending on traffic and destination. Taxis
wait outside each terminal. Italian-speakers can skip the line and order one to pick them up in any terminal by
calling 06 55 28 28 92. Anyone planning to use a limousine service can request that they start the service at
In addition, there are two trains that run from the airport to the city center. The Leonardo Express costs €11 and
leaves the airport twice an hour, with direct service to Stazione Termini, Rome's main train station. There is
also a local train that costs €5 and stops at several intermediate points in the city.
ERIC J. LYMAN is a freelance writer based in Rome.