Coffee: the bean that travelled for 5000 years

Italy is famous for coffee but there is not a plant of coffee growing in the Country. How does Italy become one of the top coffee exporters in the world?
It is because of espresso-style coffee, that means a process from selecting varieties, roasting style and especially the art of making.
The first energy drink of the “old world” was probably used by the shepherds in Africa or the middle east. The habit of roast and ground coffee beans was very popular amongst Arabic people for Centuries. Not popular until the XV Century, drinking coffee was often associate to not-Christians behaviour.
Venice was probably one of the first European cities to see the arrival of coffee beans, welcomed by some but also very criticized.  But soon Italians started to love the beverage, included Pope Clemente VII who was so in love with coffee to externalize that be a coffee drinker was not against to be a good Christian.
Anyway, thanks to the introduction of sugar in the food system to become more and more popular than was necessary to open coffee houses.
In England, the first coffee house opened in Oxford in 1637 followed by many others, turned soon into clubs for intellectuals and politicians.
During the 17th Century, European colonials overseas started to cultivate coffee in the new world, now main coffee producers are Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and many other south Americans countries.
Nowadays is just crazy to think to start a day without a cup of coffee for millions of people worldwide, but in Italy is also a social and cultural need. The first thought in the morning, a very comfort flavour when something goes wrong, the first way to approach a new friend or a business meeting.
Many travellers are really surprised about how different is to enjoy the coffee time in Italy. For instance, in Rome is not a relaxing moment.
At home, until the laziness (together with Clooney advises) affected all the people that runt to buy the home espresso machine, the most popular coffee at home was done with the “macchinetta,” the amazing espresso machine invented by Mr Bialetti in 1933. Is the easiest cheapest and traditional way to make a delicious coffee…if used properly of course.
At the “bar”, that is not a night club for music and alcohol here, but simply a coffee house that serves coffee, cappuccino, pastries and some sandwiches and snacks, ordering a coffee means just one thing: ordering an espresso coffee.
Espresso can be ordered in many different ways according to the preferred style, that sometimes refers to pour some milk or others inside, or even the choice of the cup shape and material. Your favourite bar -generally the one “sotto casa” or close to the office is generally managed by people that know everything about you, because the “barista”, the one who prepares your coffee, is not a stranger, is a confessor, a friend, sometimes a “guru” and philosopher.
If this sounds weird to you, just come to experience directly. Be sure no one will forgive a bartender for a not good coffee…is just something that can ruin your day. It’s an art, and there’s no kidding around about the perfect espresso: rich, creamy, perfectly balanced from start to finish, not one coffee ground burned by the scorching hot.

How to order a coffee in Rome

Example a) I need espresso coffee

  1. Access the bar
  2. Look around to find the cashier and reach it (maybe there will be a not ordered line, be brave)
  3. Ask for “un espresso” and pay
  4. Bring the bill to the bartender (probably he will be busy)
  5. Try to get bartender attention (be brave), then ask
  6. Give the bartender the bill (he will probably look and strap a little)
  7. Put the bill on the bar (generally, locals leave a spare coin to hold the paper down – that is also the little tip to the bartender)
  8. Take your coffee

Example b) I need cappuccino and cornetto (traditional Italian breakfast)

  1. Access the bar and have a look at the display to choose what you’d like to buy
  2. Look around to find the cashier and reach it (maybe there will be a not ordered line, be brave)
  3. Tell “cappuccino e cornetto” what you like (you’d need to know before you go) and pay
  4. Bring the bill to the bartender (probably he will be busy)
  5. Put the bill on the bar (generally, locals leave a spare coin to hold the paper down – that is also the little tip to the bartender)
  6. Ask for what you’d like
  7. Eat your cornetto and drink your cappuccino standing at the bar

Coffee styles

Caffè or Espresso: a straight shot of coffee.
Caffè americano: not exactly coffee as known in the United States, generally is just espresso coffee and hot water in the cappuccino cup (that is not the size of a mug, do not complain).
Caffè corretto: espresso “corrected” by a shot of liquor or Sambuca. Style beloved by men after a meal.
Caffè macchiato: espresso “stained” with a dab of steamed milk.
Caffè ristretto: espresso with a tad less water, stronger than regular espresso.
Caffè in tazza grande: is espresso in the cappuccino cup.
Caffè marocchino: espresso coffee with milk froth and chocolate powder.
Cappuccio or cappuccino: coffee combined with steamed milk (more so than macchiato) and taken only at breakfast.
No matter what style is, the important is that is done with love, take our Espresso, Gelato and Tiramisu tour of Rome to discover much more!

Best Roman bakeries and the art of making bread in Rome

Bakeries in Rome: a little bit of history

Beginning of Roman age people did not have bread, they used to eat a kind of focaccia named “puls” and made with an ancient variety of spelt flour. Spelt in ancient Latin was named Farrus, so the word “farina” is probably coming from this recipe.
Differently from ancient Romans were already experts in the art of making bread and used to eat a recipe named pita.
When ancient Roman and Greek culture met, ancient Romans were amazed by the Greek art of making bread and started to make similar recipes. In the beginning, bread was just baked in house and quickly become very popular. Considered by many a fashion trend and criticized by important people of the time, like Catone (the censor), the bread will instead survive and will become popular amongst rich people soon.
When bread starts to be popular amongst rich families too, in each house of rich people the slave chef needed to wear a kind of mask and gloves to protect bread while working. After some years, bread becomes so popular that expert bakers from Greece came to Rome to teach local baker men to make bread.
Bread in Rome was named differently according to the eating style: nauticus (if baked for sailors), gradilis if made to be eaten while assisting shows at the Colosseum or amphitheater, ostiaries if baked to be eaten with oysters, durus and sordid if baked with not quality flours.
It seems to be that the number of bakeries in Rom during Augustus’ age, were more than 300, all of them managed by greek people. Archeological memories of those from the excavations in Pompeii, where were found burnt bread and complete bakeries with Owens, benches, and displays.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, trade of bread disappeared, but people carried on baking at home, in the meantime, a new religion was spreading with bread and wine as the focus of the rite: Christianism.
During feudalism, with a completely new social and economic organization, mills for grinding grains become the property of the feudal lord, people could bake their bread in the oven but were forced to pay taxes to the lord.
Around 1000 A.C. with the starting of corporations of the arts and works, the baker comes back to be a profession.
It is more than 1000 years that in Rome people love bread and pastries with dried fruit or aromatic herbs, raisins, pignoli, candy skin. Still today one of the most famous pastries, Maritozzo, traditionally baked for wedding parties, is now a must to taste, beloved by Romans.
The most famous bread in Rome is baked in two villages: Genzano and Lariano. Protected with IGP label in 1997, is done with flour 0, mother yeast for two steps raising time and covered with a particular whole-wheat flour. Bread comes crunchy and flavored outside and soft and white inside.
Bread leftovers never are wasted in Rome, after few days, if losing softness is still today used fo traditional simple recipes as bruschetta, bread, and beans soup, wet with milk was breakfast dish for kids, mixed with meat for polpette (meatballs).

Here you are the best bakeries in Rome

  • Panella: Via Merulana 54 (Santa Maria Maggiore/Vittorio)
  • Roscioli: Via dei Chiavari (Campo de Fiori/Argentina)
  • Antico Forno Urbani: Piazza Costaguti (Jewish Ghetto)
  • Roscioli: Piazza Campo de Fiori (Campo de Fiori/Navona)
  • Panificio Mosca: Via Candia 14 (Prati/Vaticano)
  • Gianfornaio: Via dei gracchi 179 (Prati)
  • Antico Forno ai Serpenti: Via dei serpenti 122 (Monti)


Here you are some of the tours you can book to visit these bakeries.


Click on the one you prefer to book it.

Boast of Italian traditional food: pappa al pomodoro

Pappa al pomodoro: the original recipe

The dish has ancient origins, although it became famous because of Il Giornalino di Gian Burrasca (1911) and the song Viva la pappa col pomodoro.


  • 500 g (about 2 cups) peeled tomatoes, chopped
  • 250 g (about 1/2 lb) stale bread (preferably Tuscan bread), cut into smallish pieces
  • 1 liter (about 4 cups) vegetable broth, warmed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • basil, chopped coarsely
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (you can also use seasoned or spicy oil)
  • salt and pepper


Place the stale bread in a large bowl and pour the warm broth over it, cover and set aside for at least 1 hour.
Over medium heat and in a wide pot, pour the oil and sauté the garlic. Add the tomatoes and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
Go back to your bread, which should have absorbed most of the broth. Add the bread to the pot, squeezing it a bit with your hand as you do so to eliminate any excess broth. Cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.
Serve warm, adding a bit of fresh-cut basil and a swirl of good olive oil on top. And remember, always cut fresh basil with your hands, not with a knife or scissors!
Buon appetito!

Wine and food pairing guide

The art of pairing wine and food is the key to a successful meal and the passport to the most pleasant experiences. It is the ability to create a relationship between food and wine based on the tasting and the use of the senses.
In this article, you will found a short wine and food pairing guide. I hope it will help you to allay your doubts.

Why should you put any effort into it?

If you are a food and wine lover, you are looking for the best culinary experience ever. Matching food and wine exalt the flavours of both for a most satisfying experience. This is why you should learn how to do it. I know, it is not easy!
Food and wine can give very different sensations on the taste-olfactory level, related, on one side, to the individual receptive ability; on the other, to his personal background.
In terms of pairing, there are no absolute rules; however, practising (not boring after all) is necessary.

Let’s start from the main characteristics of the wine

Firstly, you should focus on wine tasting. Take time to discover the number of sensations our mouth is able to distinguish: sweetness, acidity, salty, bitterness, followed by sparkling sensations, tannic acid, alcohol, smoothness, taste persistency, flavour persistence and body.

And what about the characteristics of the food?

When it comes to food, you should focus on sweetness, acidity, minerality and bitterness, followed by a quantity of fat, greasiness, zestfulness, spicy and persistence of taste and scent. Concerning acidity and bitterness, you should always talk about sour trend flavour and bitter trend flavour.
When it comes to sweetness, you should consider sweet trend flavour food, like pasta, bread, shellfishes, meat and all those ingredients that give a delicate sensation. Only when it comes to sugar like desserts, you should talk about real sweetness.

The goal of the game

Once identified wine and food characteristics, you should find a way to match both and create harmony.
The best way to balance food and wine is looking for a contrast of flavours. Start with specific food and select the wine that can offer the opposite sensations.
For example: if you eat a dish full in sweet trend flavour and fatness, you need a wine that will provoke strong sensations like acidity, sparkling and salinity.
A similar successful match is Parmigiano Reggiano (sweet and greasy) and Prosecco (acidity and sparkling).
When you eat something salty and/or with bitter trend or acidity, you need a wine that will provoke smooth sensations.
As an example: grilled meat (bitterness given from fire cooking) and Merlot/ Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah.
In case of very juicy and greasy sensations, you need dehydrating sensations like alcohol and tannins. As an example: stew meat and Nebbiolo.
Sugar is the only exception: in this case, you should look for similarity, not for contrast. The perfect wine for dessert is a sweet one.

Let’s recap! How to create the perfect wine and food pairing

  1.  Taste properly food and wine focusing on the organoleptic properties of both.
  2.  Identify and count sensations.
  3. Verify harmony between wine and food.
  4. Use your personal taste.

The moment of truth

Taste and enjoy. A good pairing can highlight and often improve the properties of wine and food. If your match is well done, you will probably have the best steak of your lifetime, and the best wine of course.
At this point, you will know why is impossible to order wine before food at the restaurant, as well as choose one bottle for all the guests wishing that wine could perfectly match with all the dishes ordered. To avoid this, each guest can ask for a glass that pairs with his dish. Maybe, this is not the cheapest choice, but for sure it is the best one.

What is the winning strategy at the end? Testing and tasting.

Boast of Roman traditional food: mozzarella in carrozza

Mozzarella in carrozza: the original recipe

Like many of Italy’s most delicious recipes, mozzarella in carrozza (“mozzarella in the carriage”) has humble origins too.  The idea comes from the custom among less well-off families, who could not afford to waste food, to use up stale bread and no-longer fresh mozzarella in a new and tasty dish.
Over time the recipe for mozzarella in carrozza conquered Lazio kitchens, to establish itself as a classic too in Roman tradition.
The name “mozzarella in carrozza” refers to the fact that the two slices of bread form the “carriage”, within which the cheese travels.

How to make mozzarella in carrozza


  • 6 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 fist-sized ball mozzarella, cut into approximately 1/4-inch slices, then strips
  • 4 flat anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, for frying


Make sandwiches out of the bread and mozzarella, leaving a little margin around the edges unfilled with cheese and the anchovies fillet,  and press the edges together with your fingers to help seal. Pour the milk into 1 soup bowl, the flour into another, and beat the egg with salt and pepper in another. Warm the oil in the frying pan over medium heat. Dunk the sandwiches briefly, 1 by 1, in the milk, then dredge in the flour, then dip in the beaten egg. Fry in hot oil on each side until crisp and golden and remove to a paper towel.

What to do and where to eat in Rome: Giardino degli Aranci

Giardino degli Aranci: a little bit of history

The garden, whose name comes from the many bitter orange trees growing there, extends over the area of an ancient fortress built near the Basilica of Santa Sabina by the Savelli family between 1285 and 1287, which, in turn, was built over an old castle constructed by the Crescentii in the tenth century. The garden is bordered by a wall that once surrounded the Savelli castle and other remains of the castle can also be still seen.

 The castle was later given to the Dominican Order from Santa Sabina, which transformed it into a monastery, and the small park into a vegetable garden. According to legend Saint Dominic gave the garden its first orange tree, after transporting a sapling from Spain. Legend also tells that Saint Catherine of Siena picked the oranges from this tree and made candied fruit, which she gave to Pope Urban VI.

The garden setting is very symmetrical, with a central avenue aligned with the viewpoint, and later named in honor of the actor Nino Manfredi. The central square is named after another Roman actor, Fiorenzo Fiorentini, who for many years led the ongoing summer theatre season in the park.
The fountain at the entrance in Piazza Pietro D’Illiria is made up of two separate pieces: a Roman thermal bath, and a monumental marble mask originally carved to adorn a fountain built in 1593 by Giacomo della Porta for a cattle market (Campo Vaccino) in the centre of Rome. The mask has a long history. After the dismantling in 1816 of the Campo Vaccino fountain, it was recovered and from 1827 used to decorate a fountain erected on the right bank of the Tiber. This fountain was demolished in 1890 and the sculpture was kept in municipal warehouses until being moved to its present location.
On the right of the Giardino there’s the site of the Knights of Malta, a very particular building that is put right in front of San Pietro. From the keyhole of the entrance door of the palace you can see the Basilica di San Pietro like if it is just inside the garden. You should definitely try it, it isn’t something everybody knows and it’s a very funny and beautiful experience.

When to go

The perfect period to come and see the Giardino is spring, because the trees inside the garden are full of flowers and the colors of this place is really amazing, plus, in spring this area is really really beautiful and has a very romantic atmosphere, everything is green, and the sun starts to go down very late so you can enjoy every single moment here in this amazing park, including a stunning sunset.
This is the second place where you can enjoy the best view of Rome, so you can come here during the day to see everything or in the evening to have a very special moment with a different but amazing view.

What and where to eat on the Aventino hill

Up on the hill where the Giardino degli Aranci is there are not a lot of places and if you manage to find a restaurant here, sure it will be way too expensive and not so good, so I will give you some advices for some good places in this area, close to the Circo Massimo (that is under the Garden).
One of the best bar here is Bar Bistrot Gusto Massimo (Via del Circo Massimo 5), here you can have a panino or a sandwich or just a coffee but you can even have lunch sitting at a table and enjoying the view of Rome; if you’re looking for a place to have dinner or lunch, but you’re sick of pasta and pizza (strange but could happen), you can go to 0,75-Zerosettantacinque (Via dei Cerchi 65) where you can enjoy the best hamburgers of this area, the staff is very friendly and the prices are not too high, even if we are in the city center; another very good restaurant, a little bit fancier and with traditional Roman dishes, is Alvaro al Circo Massimo (Via dei Cerchi 53), their best recipe is the Amatriciana and the Lasagne, definitely worth everything.
On Saturday and Sundays, at the old fish market location in San Teodoro, is possible to visit the Farmer’s market that offers local products guaranteed by Coldiretti. For an organic gourmet experience inside the market book our Farmer’s market food tour. Two delicious hours tasting cheeses, hams, honey and learning hot to make grocery shopping.

How to reach it

The buses that arrive closest to the Garden are: 81, 160, 628 (on Via della Greca) and the buses 23, 30, 44, 280, 130,170, 716, 781 (on Lungotevere Aventino).

Contact us

Any enquiry about this article? Write to Martina at
Martina is a local foodie and insider, she has a bachelor in Fine Art for Tour Operators and Cultural Management. Meet Martina and join one of our events.

What to do and where to eat in Rome: Villa Pamphili

Villa Pamphili: a little bit of history

The nucleus of the villa property, the Villa Vecchia or ‘old villa’, already existed before 1630, when it was bought by Pamfilio Pamfili, who had married the heiress Olimpia Maidalchini, to enjoy as a suburban villa. Thereafter he set about buying up neighbouring vineyards to accumulate a much larger holding, which was often known as the Bel Respiro or ‘beautiful breath’ as it stood on high ground, above the malarial areas of Rome, and offered spectacular views which were a desirable feature of Baroque villa settings.
In 1644 Cardinal Giambattista Pamphili became elected to the papacy and took the name of Innocent X. In accordance with this change in status, the Pamphili aspired to a grander and more expansively sited new villa. Early designs were made, possibly by Virgilio Spada rather than the traditional attribution to Borromini, but these were rejected. Instead the project was placed in the hands of the Bolognese sculptor Alessandro Algardi in 1644, assisted by Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi.
The initial design had a central casino (not the modern usage as a gambling establishment) with wings, but only the central block was built. The layout has a central circular room around which the other rooms were arranged. Construction began in 1645 and was complete by 1647 although embellishments and the garden layouts were not finished until 1653. The casino, sometimes known as the Casino del Bel Respiro, was designed as a complement to the Pamphili collection of sculptures both ancient and modern, and other Roman antiquities such as vases, sarcophagi and inscriptions; it was only ever intended for display of the collection and the family and guests resided in the older Vecchia Vigna.
As a show case for sculpture, the somewhat crowded Casino facades have rhythmically alternating windows with niches which were elaborately adorned with sculptures, both antique and modern, with busts in hollowed roundels, with panels of bas-reliefs, and reliefs.
When Girolamo Pamphili died in 1760 without male heirs, the disputes which broke out among the possible heirs were settled in 1763 when Pope Clement XIII Rezzonico granted to Prince Giovanni Andrea IV Doria the right to take the surname, the arms and the vast properties of the Pamphili; the Prince’s claim was based on the marriage between Giovanni Andrea III Doria and Anna Pamphili. Since then, the villa has been known as the Villa Doria Pamphili.
Throughout the 18th century, features were regularly added such as fountains and gateways by Gabriele Valvassori and other architects retained by the Pamphili and their heirs. After the Napoleonic era, more sweeping changes were made. A notable difference is that at the Villa Doria Pamphili’s giardino inglese the Roman remains are likely to be genuine. The site of the villa contained several Roman tombs that yielded vases, sarcophagi and inscriptions that were added to the Pamphili collection.
During the defense of the short-lived Roman Republic in 1849–1850, Garibaldi hastily fortified three of the villas on the outskirts of Rome. The Villa Doria Pamphili lay near the scene of some of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat by the Porta San Pancrazio, as students joined Garibaldi’s legions to defend Rome from the French troops that were eventually successful in reinstalling Pope Pius IX. In the course of the French bombardment, the prominently-sited neighboring Villa Corsini—called dei Quattro Venti for its airy perch— was destroyed. In the aftermath prince Doria-Pamphili bought the extensive Corsini grounds, almost doubling the Villa Doria Pamphili’s already extensive grounds, and erected on the former villa’s site the monumental commemorative arch, also known as the ‘Arch of the Four Winds’, which has ever since provided the major access to the Villa’s grounds. The Corsini casina near it, called the Palazzino Corsini, was not harmed. Today it is used for temporary art exhibitions.
New constructions extended and altered the Villa Vecchia which was given a Romanesque styled façade that is not wholly successful. For the first time, Medieval sculptures were added to the Doria-Pamphili collection of Classical antiquities. At the turn of the 20th century, Art Nouveau interiors were added by Prince Doria Pamphili. The Casino del Bel Respiro, long secluded from public use, was bought by the Italian State in 1957 and used as the seat of a Ministry. Today its collection of antiquities and sculptures is open to the public as a museum.
The park has an area of 1.8 km². It was bought in 1965–1971 by the City of Rome from the Doria-Pamphilii-Landi family. The park’s facilities include sites for bird-watching and jogging, and it is much frequented by the inhabitants of Rome, especially on weekends.
The two sections of the extended villa grounds are divided by a road built for the Olympic games of 1960 as part of the “Via Olimpica”, linking E.U.R. with the Olympic Stadium: the road runs partly in a narrow defile. In celebration of the Jubilee Year of 2000, a curved and arching pedestrian bridge by Massimo d’Alessandro was built to join the two sections more amenably.

When to go

The Villa is opened every day, so you can come here whenever you want just to take a walk or to have a picnic or even to do some jogging. Please remember that the Villa is opened from 7 a.m till 6 p.m in winter and from 7 a.m till 9 p.m in summer, so you can’t see it at night.

What and where to eat close to Villa Pamphili 

Inside the villa there’s a bar/restaurant called Vivi Bistrot (at the entrance of Via Vitellia 102), so if you’re inside the villa and you get hungry or thirsty you can always come here (remember that the water that comes from the Nasoni, the little fountains everywhere in the villa and in Rome, it’s a very good water so you don’t need to buy it); of course the bar is opened only when the Villa is, so if you want to have dinner or lunch you can look for other places, the best restaurants in this area are: La Gatta Mangiona (Via Federico Ozanam 30-32), where you can eat the best pizza napoletana in Rome; La Schiacciata Romana (Via Folco Portinari 36), a very simple place where you can enjoy a good roman pizza and some cheeses and salumi; but the best restaurant to taste the real roman cuisine is Da Cesare (Via del Casaletto 45).
The best place to have an aperitivo is Mò Mò Republic (Piazza Carlo Forlanini 10), they have a really nice garden full of rabbits and a lovely atmosphere.
If you want to buy some pastries or cakes, this area has the best pasticcerie of Rome, you can go to Cristalli di Zucchero (Via di Val Tellina, 114) or to La Dolce Vita (Via Mezzenile 70).
Looking for a very special experience? book an organic gourmet picnic.
Pic-nic in Rome is the ultimate way to enjoy nature and amazing food with your travel companions.

How to reach it

Villa Pamphili has a lot of different entrances, so the addresses are: Via di San Pancrazio, via Aurelia Antica, via Leone XII, largo M. Luther King, via Vitellia, via della Nocetta, so obviously there are a lot of ways to get here, the best way is to take the bus:  710, 870 (via Vitellia, via di Porta S.Pancrazio), 31,33,180,791 via Leone XIII), 984 (via Aurelia Antica e via Leone XIII), 982 (via Vitellia, Via Leone XIII).

Contact us

Any enquiry about this article? Write to Giorgia at
Giorgia is a local foodie and insider, she studied foreign languages and she has a degree in Interpreting and Translation and a Master degree in Audiovisual Translation. Meet Giorgia and join one of our events.

What to do and where to eat in Rome: San Pietro

San Pietro: a little bit of history

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, or simply St. Peter’s Basilica, is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome.
Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world.[3] While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”.
Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of St. Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles and also the first Pope; supposedly, St. Peter’s tomb is directly below the high altar of the Basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. Construction of the present basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter’s Basilica of the 4th century AD, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.
St. Peter’s is famous as a place of pilgrimage and for its liturgical functions. The Pope presides at a number of liturgies throughout the year, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people, either within the Basilica or the adjoining St. Peter’s Square. St. Peter’s has many historical associations, with the Early Christian Church, the Papacy, the Protestant Reformation, and Catholic Counter-reformation and numerous artists, especially Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. St. Peter’s is one of the four churches of Rome that hold the rank of Major Basilica. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not a cathedral because it is not the seat of a bishop; the Cathedra of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.
St. Peter’s Basilica is neither the Pope’s official seat nor first in rank among the Major Basilicas of Rome. This honor is held by the Pope’s cathedral, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran which is the mother church of all churches in communion with the Catholic Church. However, St. Peter’s is certainly the Pope’s principal church in terms of use because most Papal liturgies and ceremonies take place there due to its size, proximity to the Papal residence, and location within the Vatican City proper. The “Chair of Saint Peter”, or cathedra, an ancient chair sometimes presumed to have been used by St. Peter himself, but which was a gift from Charles the Bald and used by many popes, symbolizes the continuing line of apostolic succession from St. Peter to the reigning Pope. It occupies an elevated position in the apse of the Basilica, supported symbolically by the Doctors of the Church and enlightened symbolically by the Holy Spirit.

When to go

In San Pietro, you can visit the square that is always opened and the basilica, but you can go inside only from 7 a.m till 7 p.m. Please remember that this is a religious site so dress in accordance with the rules of the place.

What and where to eat: the best restaurants near San Pietro

This time I want to start my advice with the gelateria, because here, just in front of the entrance of the Vatican Museum, there’s one of the most famous ice-cream shops of the entire city, the Gelateria Old Bridge (Viale Dei Bastioni di Michelangelo 5), you should try their pistachio!
On Via Dei Gracchi, you’d find Gelateria Dei Gracchi one of the most amazing artisanal gelaterias in town.
For lunch and dinner, I have more amazing places to suggest: the first one is the Ristorante Arlù (Borgo Pio 135), a lovely place famous for the egg pasta and their desserts; the Trattoria Gallo Brillo (Viale Delle Milizie 116), where you can try amazing roman recipes and a lovely and suggestive aperitif; the Ristorante I San Pietrini (Via Delle Fornaci 89), famous for their Mediterranean cuisine; the Osteria dell’Angelo (Via Bettolo 24), the Osteria il Sorpasso (Via Properzio 31), and the last but not the least, Il Ragno D’Oro (Via Silla 26).

How to reach it

It’s very easy to get to San Pietro, because there are a lot of buses that arrive here (like 40, 64 and 492), but the easiest and fastest way is the subway, you can take the red line (the line A) and arrive at Ottaviano; if you are close to the blue line (the line B) you can get to Termini and there change.

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Any inquiry about this article? Write to Antonia at  Antonia is a local foodie and insider, she studied foreign languages and she speaks English and German. Meet Antonia and join one of our events.

What to do and where to eat in Rome: Castel Sant'Angelo

Are you close to Castel Sant’Angelo? Would you like to know what to do and where to eat in this area? Here you are even more: this is the list of the best restaurants near Castel Sant’Angelo.


Castel Sant’Angelo: a little bit of history

The tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian, also called Hadrian’s mole, was erected on the right bank of the Tiber, between 134 and 139 AD. Originally the mausoleum was a decorated cylinder, with a garden top and golden quadriga. Hadrian’s ashes were placed here a year after his death in Baiae in 138, together with those of his wife Sabina, and his first adopted son, Lucius Aelius, who also died in 138. Following this, the remains of succeeding emperors were also placed here, the last recorded deposition being Caracalla in 217. The urns containing these ashes were probably placed in what is now known as the Treasury room deep within the building. Hadrian also built the Pons Aelius facing straight onto the mausoleum – it still provides a scenic approach from the center of Rome and the right bank of the Tiber, and is renowned for the Baroque additions of statues of angels holding aloft elements of the Passion of Christ.
Legend holds that the Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590, thus lending the castle its present name. A less charitable yet more apt elaboration of the legend, given the militant disposition of this archangel, was heard by the 15th-century traveler who saw an angel statue on the castle roof. He recounts that during a prolonged season of the plague, Pope Gregory I heard that the populace, even Christians, had begun revering a pagan idol at the church of Santa Agata in Suburra. A vision urged the pope to lead a procession to the church. Upon arriving, the idol miraculously fell apart with a clap of thunder. Returning to St Peter’s by the Aelian Bridge, the pope had another vision of an angel atop the castle, wiping the blood from his sword on his mantle, and then sheathing it. While the pope interpreted this as a sign that God was appeased, this did not prevent Gregory from destroying more sites of pagan worship in Rome.
The popes converted the structure into a castle, beginning in the 14th century; Pope Nicholas III connected the castle to St Peter’s Basilica by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. The fortress was the refuge of Pope Clement VII from the siege of Charles V’s Landsknechte during the Sack of Rome (1527), in which Benvenuto Cellini describes strolling the ramparts and shooting enemy soldiers.
The Papal state also used Sant’Angelo as a prison; Giordano Bruno, for example, was imprisoned there for six years. Another prisoner was the sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini. Executions were performed in the small inner courtyard. As a prison, it was also the setting for the third act of Giacomo Puccini’s 1900 opera Tosca; the eponymous heroine leaps to her death from the Castel’s ramparts.
Decommissioned in 1901, the castle is now a museum, the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo.
Today the Castel Sant’Angelo, more than a National Museum, is a place full of life (despite the multiple stories about its ghosts), where are usually held concerts, events e tours.
On the other side of the splendid Ponte sant’Angelo there is a little square with a Methodist Church. This is the site for Concerts of Classic Music and Opera that take place on Fridays and Saturdays. Join our Music in Rome event with Tiramisu tasting and paired wine. The sweetest night you’d imagine in Rome.

When to go

The best period of the day to come and walk around the forum is late afternoon, when the sun goes down and the entire castle and the bridge (Ponte Sant’Angelo) become red and orange, with amazing views everywhere and a lovely and super romantic atmosphere.
The Castle is opened every day, from 9 a.m till 7.30 p.m (ticket office closes at 6.30 p.m). You should always check if there are some temporary shows or particular events (like concerts) in order to book the best tour you can get.

What and where to eat: the best restaurants near Castel Sant’Angelo

One of the best restaurant of this area is definitely La Fraschetta di Castel Sant’Angelo (Via del Banco di Santo Spirito, 20), a lovely and homely restaurant where you can enjoy their amazing home made pasta and some really delicious desserts (try the tiramisù!!); if you are inside Castel Sant’Angelo and you want to take a break or just have a coffee, well, you already are in the right place: right in the middle of the castle there’s a lovely and very simple bar, Coffee in Castel Sant’Angelo, perfect for a nice break or lunch.
The last, but not the least, some advice if you want to taste an amazing gelato. There’s a wonderful gelateria, right in front of Castel Sant’Angelo, on the other side of the river, the Gelateria del Teatro (Via dei Coronari, 65), where you can taste some very strange flavors, or you can go to Chocolat Roma (Via del Banco di Santo Spirito, 22), where, you can imagine, their specialties are the chocolate flavors! Yummy!

How to reach it

Subway, A line: Lepanto; Ottaviano-San Pietro
Autobus: lines 62, 23, 271, 982, 280 (Piazza Pia)
line 40 (Piazza Pia)
line 34 (Via di Porta Castello)
line 49, 87, 926, 990 (Piazza Cavour-fermata via Crescenzio)
line 64, 46 (Santo Spirito)

Contact us

Any enquiry about this article? Write to Alessandra at Alessandra is a local foodie and insider, she studied foreign languages and she speaks English and German. Meet Alessandra and join one of our events.

What to do and where to eat in Rome: Colosseo

Are you in Rome? Would you like to know what to and which are the best restaurants near the Colosseum? If so, keep reading this article.

A little bit of history: the Colosseum

The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills, through which a canalized stream ran. Gladiatorial schools and other support buildings were constructed nearby within the former grounds of the Domus Aurea. In contrast to many other amphitheaters, which were located on the outskirts of a city, the Colosseum was constructed in the city center; in effect, placing it both symbolically and precisely at the heart of Rome.
Construction of the Colosseum began under the rule of Vespasian in around 70–72 AD (73-75 AD according to some sources)The Colosseum had been completed up to the third story by the time of Vespasian’s death in 79. The top-level was finished by his son, Titus, in 80, and the inaugural games were held in A.D. 80 or 81. Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheater. Commemorative coinage was issued celebrating the inauguration. The building was remodeled further under Vespasian’s younger son, the newly designated Emperor Domitian, who constructed the hypogeum, a series of underground tunnels used to house animals and slaves. He also added a gallery to the top of the Colosseum to increase its seating capacity.
In 217, the Colosseum was badly damaged by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio Cassius) which destroyed the wooden upper levels of the amphitheater’s interior. It was not fully repaired until about 240 and underwent further repairs in 250 or 252 and again in 320. Gladiatorial fights are last mentioned around 435. An inscription records the restoration of various parts of the Colosseum under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (reigned 425–455), possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in 443; more work followed in 484 and 508. The arena continued to be used for contests well into the 6th century. Animal hunts continued until at least 523, when Anicius Maximus celebrated his consulship with some venationes, criticized by King Theodoric the Great for their high cost.
The Colosseum underwent several radical changes of use during the medieval period. By the late 6th century a small chapel had been built into the structure of the amphitheater, though this apparently did not confer any particular religious significance on the building as a whole. The arena was converted into a cemetery. The numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were converted into housing and workshops, and are recorded as still being rented out as late as the 12th century. Around 1200 the Frangipani family took over the Colosseum and fortified it, apparently using it as a castle.
During the 16th and 17th century, Church officials sought a productive role for the Colosseum. Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) planned to turn the building into a wool factory to provide employment for Rome’s prostitutes, though this proposal fell through with his premature death. In 1671 Cardinal Altieri authorized its use for bullfights; a public outcry caused the idea to be hastily abandoned.
In 1749, Pope Benedict XIV endorsed the view that the Colosseum was a sacred site where early Christians had been martyred. He forbade the use of the Colosseum as a quarry and consecrated the building to the Passion of Christ and installed Stations of the Cross, declaring it sanctified by the blood of the Christian martyrs who perished there. However, there is no historical evidence to support Benedict’s claim, nor is there even any evidence that anyone prior to the 16th century suggested this might be the case; the Catholic Encyclopedia concludes that there are no historical grounds for the supposition, other than the reasonably plausible conjecture that some of the many martyrs may well have been.
The Colosseum is today one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, receiving millions of visitors annually.  In recent years the Colosseum has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment, which was abolished in Italy in 1948. Several anti-death penalty demonstrations took place in front of the Colosseum in 2000. Since that time, as a gesture against the death penalty, the local authorities of Rome change the color of the Colosseum’s night time illumination from white to gold whenever a person condemned to the death penalty anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released, or if a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty. Most recently, the Colosseum was illuminated in gold in November 2012 following the abolishment of capital punishment in the American state of Connecticut on April 2012.
Because of the ruined state of the interior, it is impractical to use the Colosseum to host large events; only a few hundred spectators can be accommodated in temporary seating. However, much larger concerts have been held just outside, using the Colosseum as a backdrop. Performers who have played at the Colosseum in recent years have included Ray Charles (May 2002), Paul McCartney (May 2003), Elton John (September 2005), and Billy Joel (July 2006).

When to go

The best period to visit the Colosseum is, in my opinion, spring (from April to the end of May), the reason is that in summer is way too crowded and busy and since you can visit the inside of the amphitheater, it’s better to do it without thousands of people around, even though for security reason they don’t let more than 3000 people in at the same time. Spring is the best period even because the Colosseum is one of the highlights in Rome that you should see both with the daylight than at night, so if you come in winter maybe it’s too cold to go for a walk at midnight, but spring has the perfect temperature to do it.
The Colosseum is opened every day from 8.30 am till 4:30 pm in winter and from 8:30 am till 7 pm in summer.

What and where to eat: restaurants near Colosseum

This is one of the most suggestive and romantic areas of Rome, so my advice is, at least once, to have dinner here, even if probably it will cost a little bit more than other areas. There are three amazing restaurants (and not too expensive), just few steps from the Colosseum: Le Terme del Colosseo (Via del Cardello 13), where you can have a lovely dinner with entertainment, because sometimes they have singers or bands playing music at dinner time; Hostaria Isidoro al Colosseo (Via di San Giovanni in Laterano 59/A), one of the most famous restaurant in Rome where you can taste the real roman culinary  tradition in all the recipes; Naumachia (Via Celimontana 7), a very nice place famous for their pizza and their antipasti (you should try the supplì or the eggplants!).
As always, since you’re going to be in the most famous country in the world for gelato and caffè, I have advice even for some bars and gelaterie.
Oppio Caffè (Via delle Terme di Tito 72) is one of the best places around the Colosseum for aperitif, and they have some tables outside just in front of the Colosseum itself, so you even have an amazing view; please always remember that when you sit outside, especially in front of monuments or big squares, you may pay an extra; the two best gelaterie of the district are: La Dolce Vita (Via Cavour 306), try their wild fruits and yogurt and Cremeria Don Pepe (Via di San Giovanni in Laterano 40).

How to reach it

Getting to the Colosseum is very easy, you can arrive here with the subway (the B line, the blue line), or by bus: 75, 81, 673, 175, 204.