Erica Firpo

Correspondent

  • Rome, Italy, Europe

Erica Firpo writes about art, culture and travel for online and print publications such as The Huffington Post, New York Times, Globespotters, The Guardian, BBC Travel and Cathay Pacific’s Discovery Magazine. She is Luxe Guide’s Rome editor. With Rome as home base, she loves to travel the Mediterranean in search of contemporary art and culture as well as traces of the Ancient Roman Empire.

  • On June 25, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best day trips from Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Rome is by far the center of the world, and definitely Italy for the matter of a great day trip.  Just 20 minutes away by local train and on the coast is the archaeological site Ostia Antica, often dubbed Rome’s Pompeii as it is a completely expose, ancient harbor city.  A fun full day or half day trip, you are literally walking back in time through ancient houses, temples and forum.  Just a few stops down is Ostia Lido, the beach strip which becomes a very vivacious summer spot.  If the coast beckons you, 45 minutes northest of Rome is Santa Marinella, a small beach community with ancient ruins, Renaissance palaces, open beaches and delicious fish restaurants.

    To the northeast and reachable by train and bus in 45 minutes is Tivoli which has the beautiful 2nd century Villa Adriana, Emperor Hadrian’s countryside home, and Villa d’Este, an incredible Renaissance villa with vast gardens and singing fountains. After a morning of site visits, I particularly love a long pranzo (lunch) at Sibilla, a restaurant overlooking Tivoli’s cascades and situated in a reconstructed Roman temple.

    If looking to get out of the Lazio region for the day, head northeast to Orvieto in Umbria.  The less-than-one-hour regional train ride leaves at the base of this charming hill town whose early 15th century cathedrale boasts the very best in early Renaissance paintings.  If chaos is what you are looking for, la bella Napoli is only a quick 75 minute train ride from Rome (via rail transit providers TreniItalia and Italo).  In Naples, you can pick up Christmas decorations, eat the best pizza you'll ever have and walk on the dark side (of Spaccanapoli) all in one day.  For a bit of Tuscan sun, Florence is only 90 minutes away by fast train.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best activities in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo With thousands of monuments, churches, archaeological sites and museums in Rome, the best activity that the Eternal City has to offer is a change of perspective.  On a clear day, climb the 551 steps (or take the elevator half way to the top) for a view from a country within a country. At nearly 450 feet in height, St. Peter’s cupola is the tallest structure in Rome and boasts the best view of the city.  For another point of view, the Terazza delle Quadrighe in the very center of Rome has vantage points of both the contemporary city and ancient forums.
     
    Rome’s ancient history is layered underneath centuries of literal and figurative build up.  Since almost every visible rests upon something ancient, to uncover the past, you just need to go underground.  A few steps from the Trevi Fountain is Città dell’Acqua, a walkable, imperial-era housing structure.  And nearby is the Domus Romane at Palazzo Valentini, remains of ancient houses with multi-media museum.

    Seeing Rome after the sun sets is a beautiful experience. I love visiting the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel on Friday evenings for an almost private walk through the museums, and when the heat rises, I prefer to visit the Colosseum at night for a nocturnal walk through the hypogeum.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    Where are the best cocktails in Rome?

    Daniele Gentile, Micca Club, Photo by Diageo Hands down, my favorite place for a cocktail in Rome is the Hotel de Russie’s Stravinskij Bar.  Though higher priced than most Rome bars, the Stravinskij Bar is the gold standard for both atmosphere ~ a lovely hidden garden in the center of Rome~  and extraordinarily made cocktails.  French Mojito, anyone?  Across town, near Campo de’ Fiori is the quieter PierLuigi restaurant.  Hidden to the side, PierLuigi’s has a tiny, design bar with an excellent bartender whose Manhattans make me feel like an Uptown girl.  Around the corner and open only from midnight to 4 am is the Jerry Thomas Project, a speakeasy inspired by Boardwalk Empire, with cocktails to match the Jazz Age. Reservations are required.

    When on the other side of town, Caffè Propaganda, a restaurant near the Colosseum, wins for the most stylish bar with lovely stemware and beautiful chandeliers. The bartenders are not afraid to make anything with flair. One friend swears by their Cosmpolitans.  Micca Club in the nearby Piazza Vittorio/train station area, has boasting rights to southern Italy’s best bartender.  Daniele Gentili won this January's Diageo Reserve World Class bartending semi-final and will be hopefully representing Italy for the July 2013 World Championship.  His signature drink? Frankie loves Rome- a cappuccino-inspired cocktail of Tanqueray No. 10, meringue, lime and Frangelico.

    Some of Rome's best cocktails are old school where bartenders make their own bitters and finesse historic drinks like the Martinez. Hosting the center ring for cocktails lately is Barnum Cafe, near Campo de’ Fiori. A slightly more casul setting, Barnum serves up delicious cocktails. Its bartenders have also just opened The Gin Corner at the Hotel Adriano near Piazza Farnese. The specialty? Gin of course.

    Look out for Misceliamo, a new entry to Rome’s cocktail scene and located at the First Art Hotel by Piazza del Popolo. Misceliamo is all about mixology, and intends on making the best cocktails in Rome. The all-white lounge bar has a slightly Clockwork Orange vibe, but I have my eye on summers at the rooftop terrace.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best bars in Rome?

    Photo: Grand Hotel della Minerve Choosing the best bars in Rome is simply question of want.  As in “Do I want cocktails or wine? Charm or scene? Local or international?” Rome has a kaleidoscope of choices, so I’ve found the best and perhaps only way to narrow them down is by theme.   

    For a beautiful view, you can find me at Roof Garden at Grand Hotel della Minerve. Bar Le Cupole practically peeks into the Pantheon and nothing beats a sunset toast to architecture’s very best dome. If I’m feeling more down to earth, I head to Piazza Navona’s historic Caffè della Pace for its turn-of-the century charm and excellent people watching, or else Il Goccetto, some say one of the oldest wine bars in Rome, near Campo de’ Fiori. Campo, itself, can be an excellent place to hold court when in need of open space, but avoid the piazza during the college crowd, usually from dinner onwards.
     
    The luxurious Hotel de Russie’s Stravinskij Bar never fails to impress me with the quality of their cocktails. The award-winning bartenders are also clever with improvisation. Barnum, near Campo de' Fiori, has a slick set of bartenders with bespoke Prohibition-era cocktails.  Open Baladin, the self-proclaimed “sancta sanctorum” of beer, is an obvious inclusion in the very best of Rome. The bar stocks over 100 artisanal Italian beers and makes quite delicious burgers. When national pride is not enough, I go regional at Palatium, a wine bar focusing on Lazio region vintages, or even more Rome-centric at Enoteca Provincia Romana, which has Rome-focused menu of wines and other notable products from the region.

    In the summer months, make sure to stay outdoors. Camponeschi has a gorgeous position in the quiet Piazza Farnese and great cocktails.  And its not a bad idea to grab a table at any of the bars in Piazza del Rotonda (Pantheon) and Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere just before sunset.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best bakeries in Rome?

    Just as every neighborhood has a market, every neighborhood also has a bakery or two. Citing one as "the best" can be fighting words, so let's play safe and list the top bakeries by neighborhood.

    In the center, everyone will tell you to head to Campo de' Fiori for the pizza bianca at the Forno right on the square at #22. The forno makes pizza and bread (like local favorites Genzano, Lariano and Osso) daily, and across the alley at vicolo del Gallo 14, the Forno also makes sandwiches, cookies and other pastries.  The nearby Antico Forno Roscioli, on via dei Chiavari 34, has a killer pizza rossa, among other kinds of pizza, great selection of breads and pastries, and a delicious tavola calda (a kind of take out diner).

    Nobody visits Trastevere without a bite of pizza from La Renellaa busy bakery on via del Moro 15.  Monti's Antico Forno ai Serpenti on Via dei Serpenti,122-123, a neighborhood staple, was renovated last year and has a great selection of baked goods as well as jams, confits and marmalades.  Up the hill in the Santa Maria Maggiore area, Panella on via Merula 54 has a mouth-watering selection of baked goods, in particular Roman specialities and is excellent lunch spot.

    The sprawling Trionfale area behind the Vatican boasts Rome's latest VIP bakery and take out pizza shop.  Gabriele Bonci has recently become internationally famous thanks to his amazing and creative pizzas at Pizzarium on Via della Meloria, 43, and now is staking his dough at his epynomous bakery Panificio Bonci, via Trionfale 34/36.

    For those with a sweet tooth, some of my favorite pastry shops are Campo de' Fiori's Pasticerria De Bellis Piazza del Paradiso 56, the Ghetto's DolceRomaVia del Portico D'Ottavia, 20/B, and Mondo di Laura, Via della Reginella, 18, and finally Trastevere's Biscottificio Innocenti Via della Luce 21.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best bakeries in Rome?

    Just as every neighborhood has a market, every neighborhood also has a bakery or two. Citing one as "the best" can be fighting words, so let's play safe and list the top bakeries by neighborhood.

    In the center, everyone will tell you to head to Campo de' Fiori for the pizza bianca at the Forno right on the square at #22. The forno makes pizza and bread (like local favorites Genzano, Lariano and Osso) daily, and across the alley at vicolo del Gallo 14, the Forno also makes sandwiches, cookies and other pastries.  The nearby Antico Forno Roscioli, on via dei Chiavari 34, has a killer pizza rossa, among other kinds of pizza, great selection of breads and pastries, and a delicious tavola calda (a kind of take out diner).

    Nobody visits Trastevere without a bite of pizza from La Renella, a busy bakery on via del Moro 15.  Monti's Antico Forno ai Serpenti on Via dei Serpenti,122-123, a neighborhood staple, was renovated last year and has a great selection of baked goods as well as jams, confits and marmalades.  Up the hill in the Santa Maria Maggiore area, Panella on via Merula 54 has a mouth-watering selection of baked goods, in particular Roman specialities and is excellent lunch spot.

    The sprawling Trionfale area behind the Vatican boasts Rome's latest VIP bakery and take out pizza shop.  Gabriele Bonci has recently become internationally famous thanks to his amazing and creative pizzas at Pizzarium on Via della Meloria, 43, and now is staking his dough at his epynomous bakery Panificio Bonci, via Trionfale 34/36.

    For those with a sweet tooth, some of my favorite pastry shops are Campo de' Fiori's Pasticerria De Bellis Piazza del Paradiso 56, the Ghetto's DolceRoma, Via del Portico D'Ottavia, 20/B, and Il Mondo di Laura, Via della Reginella, 18, and finally Trastevere's Biscottificio Innocenti Via della Luce 21.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are some things to know before visiting Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo There are just three things you need to know before visiting the Eternal City that will help you to have as best a Roman experience as possible.

    Drink the water. Whether from the rubinetto (tap) or fontanella (fountain) Roman water is clean, cold, drinkable and high in calcium. Don't be afraid to fill your bottle over and over again. If it was good enough for an emperor, it is good enough for you

    Be fashionably late for dinner. Most restaurants open for dinner at 7pm, but Romans usually head to restaurants around 8:30pm and onwards.  

    Stand up and smell the coffee. Though many bars offer table service, standing at the bar is perhaps the best way to catch great conversations, and bar prices are significally cheaper than table service. 
  • On June 25, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are some things to know before visiting Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo There are just a few things you need to know before visiting the Eternal City that will help you to have as best a Roman experience as possible:
    • Drink the water. Whether from the rubinetto (tap) or fontanella (fountain) Roman water is clean, cold, drinkable and high in calcium. Don't be afraid to fill your bottle over and over again. If it was good enough for an emperor, it is good enough for you.
    • Be late for dinner late. Most restaurants open for dinner at 7pm, but Romans usually head to restaurants around 8:30pm and onwards.  
    • Enjoy your coffee standing. Though many bars offer table service, standing at the bar is perhaps the best way to catch great conversations, and bar prices are significally cheaper than table service. 
  • On June 14, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the Rome Metro like?

    Photo by Erica Firpo The Rome Metro is quite easy to navigate as there are only two lines- Metro A (red) and Metro B - which run primarily on the eastern side of the city center (though crossing NW/SE).  As part of the ATAC team (Rome's transit authority), metro, buses, trams and local trains link the entire area of Rome and its outer suburbs together. The metro connects the Vatican neighborhood through the city center to the Colosseum and San Paolo/Ostiense neighborhoods, with the ever chaotic Termini Station as Metro hub and transfer point.  In addition, the metro has stops at secondary train stations Tiburtina and Ostiense.

    Basic Metro Facts:
    1. The Metro runs underground for most of its travels, though does surface out of the city center.  
    2. Metro stops can be distinguished by the large red M as its signage.
    3. Travelers must always purchase and validate their tickets. Tickets can be purchased at the local tabaccaio (tobacco/stamp shop), news stands, ticket booths and ticket machines.  Validation must occur prior to passing through the Metro turnstyles.
    4. Metros are often crowded and can be hot in the summer months, though some of the newer metros have light airconditioning.  Personal space is rare on the metro so pay attention because pickpocketing is rampant.
    5. Metro hours are 5:30 am to 11:30 pm. 
    6. For those traveling with bags, small children and strollers or prams, entry and exit to the metro is not always accomodating. There are few elevators and often times escalators are not functioning.
    7. Most transit strikes are announced in advance and have the charming ability to frustrate the entire city, if not country. Always peruse google for the word sciopero (strike) and review ATAC website as well.

  • On June 1, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the best way to see the Colosseum in Rome?

    Photo by Darius Arya @Saverome The Flavian amphitheatre, best known by the moniker Colosseum, is one of the new seven wonders of the world, which is why there is no wonder that it is also Rome's most popular attraction.  As a large open-air arena, the Colosseum is best visited in the early morning hours or post lunch time.  A noontime visit in the spring and summer months can be dehydrating as sun shines directly into the arena, like a light on a petri dish.

    Getting into the Colosseum is easy. All you need is a ticket which is valid for a twenty-four hour period.  It's important to note that the ticket purchase lines are often quite long so it is best to purchase tickets in advance/online at COOP and Omniticket.  The regular ticket allows you to visit the principle areas (first and second tier), and for an additional fee, you can organize a group visit with radio-headsets in your preferred language.

    For a more indepth experience, there are several reliable private tour companies such as Context Travel and Understanding Rome which can provide an enlightening tour.  COOP also organizes special visits to third tier and underground from now through November 2, during the daytime and selected evenings in the Luna sul Colosseo program.  

  • On June 1, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the best way to see the Colosseum in Rome?

    Photo by Darius Arya @Saverome The Flavian amphitheatre, best known by the moniker Colosseum, is one of the new seven wonders of the world, which is why there is no wonder that it is also Rome's most popular attraction.  As a large open-air arena, the Colosseum is best visited in the early morning hours or post lunch time.  A noontime visit in the spring and summer months can be dehydrating as sun shines directly into the arena, like a light on a petri dish.

    Getting into the Colosseum is easy. All you need is a ticket which is valid for a twenty-four hour period.  It's important to note that the ticket purchase lines are often quite long so it is best to purchase tickets in advance/online at COOP and Omniticket.  The regular ticket allows you to visit the principle areas (first and second tier), and for an additional fee, you can organize a group visit with radio-headsets in your preferred language.

    For a more indepth experience, there are several reliable private tour companies such as Context Travel and Understanding Rome which can provide an enlightening tour.  COOP also organizes special visits to third tier and underground from now through November 2, during the daytime and selected evenings in the Luna sul Colosseo program.  

  • On June 1, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the best way to see the Colosseum in Rome?

    Photo by Darius Arya @Saverome The Flavian amphitheatre, best known by the moniker Colosseum, is one of the new seven wonders of the world, which is why there is no wonder that it is also Rome's most popular attraction.  As a large open-air arena, the Colosseum is best visited in the early morning hours or post lunch time.  A noontime visit in the spring and summer months can be dehydrating as sun shines directly into the arena, like a light on a petri dish.

    Getting into the Colosseum is easy. All you need is a ticket which is valid for a twenty-four hour period.  It's important to note that the ticket purchase lines are often quite long so it is best to purchase tickets in advance/online at COOP and Omniticket.  The regular ticket allows you to visit the principle areas (first and second tier), and for an additional fee, you can organize a group visit with radio-headsets in your preferred language.

    For a more indepth experience, there are several reliable private tour companies such as Context Travel and Understanding Rome which can provide an enlightening tour.  COOP also organizes special visits to third tier and underground from now through November 2, during the daytime and selected evenings in the Luna sul Colosseo program.  

  • On June 1, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best luxury hotels in Rome?

    Photo by Hotel de Russie There are many different kinds of luxury hotels in Rome. My list for the very best in luxury refinement always starts with the Hotel de Russie, an oasis by Piazza del Popolo. I love everything for its central location, garden courtyard, neo-classical design and amazing concierge service for its high-quality, customer service and positive response to any question put forth.  

    My number two (and often numero uno in the hot Roman summer) is Parco dei Principi whose design is a mix of lavish classical and cutting-edge modern.  Parco dei Principi is slightly off the beaten path as it is situated on the edge of the large Villa Borghese park which means it has a quietude that other hotels lack, as well as a lovely Gatsby-inspired outdoor pool.  

    For old school opulence, the Residenza Napoleone III is my choice. Located in the very center of the city in a 16th century palace, Residenza Napoleone III is named for notable guest Emperor Napoleon III.  Recently renovated, the residence is comprised of two substantially-sized apartments, luxurioulsy decorated in mid-19th century refinement.  Included in the residence are personal majordomo and a major amount of history both inside the palazzo and at its doorstep. 

    Special mention goes to Roma Cavalieri, high on Montemario hill to Rome's northwest. Part of the Waldorf Astoria collection, the Cavalieri lavishes a very different kind of luxury on its guests. Along with its lovely suites and its Michelin three-star restaurant, the Cavalieri has a gorgeous deck, three pools, and helipad.  It also offers pet pampering, gladiator lessons and special art tours.  The hotel is decorated with its own private collection of Renaissance and Baroque art.   Personally, I really enjoy the hamburgers at poolside.


  • On June 1, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best food gifts to buy in Rome?

    You are in Rome, the capital of Italy, so you can easily find every foodie delight represented from every region here including cheese, meats, artisanal pastas, pastries, chocolates, oils, vinegars, wine and liqueurs. The question is where and how?  Rome has several gastronomia and salumeria, speciality delicatessens, that stock and showcase some of Italian's finest foods.  These shops are well-versed in the art of food packing and are equipped with bubble wrap and vacuum packs, one of two important requirements for food gifts.  The other requirement is knowing what you can bring out of Italy and to your next destination. The US has a nice pamphlet Know Before You Go which details what you can bring back duty free and what you can't bring in at all.  And happily, the USDA has stated it will relax its ban on Italian pork products.

    Food gifts I like to bring back include cheese, torrone (Italian nougat candy), coffee beans, wine (just a few bottles), pannettone and chocolate. Where do I go? For cheese and torrone, I head to Volpetti, either its Navona area shop on Via della Scrofa or its sibling of the same name Volpetti in Testaccio area.  Volpetti has a great selection of cheese and salamis, with a tendency for regional favoritism. I also suggest Beppe e i suoi formaggi, a lovely wine and cheese store in Rome's Ghetto neighborhood.  Beppe is from Piemonte so his selection (often homemade) include northern favorites. He also has an amazing wine cellar, with Italy's very best whites and reds. For wine, cheese, pannettone and meats, I head to Roscioli near Campo de' Fiori and its latest invention Romeo near Vatican city.  For chocolate, I particularly love Moriondo e Gariglio near Piazza Venezia.

    When in doubt and in need of a gift, I will rely on the knowledge of Katie Parla, Elizabeth Minchilli and the team behind Eating Italy Food Tours.  Each brings their own home grown knowledge to Rome's food scene and all have great know how on what to eat and where to find it in Rome.
  • On June 1, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the Rome Metro like?

    Photo by Erica Firpo The Rome Metro is quite easy to navigate as there are only two lines- Metro A (red) and Metro B - which run primarily on the eastern side of the city center (though crossing NW/SE).  As part of the ATAC team (Rome's transit authority), metro, buses, trams and local trains link the entire area of Rome and its outer suburbs together. The metro connects the Vatican neighborhood through the city center to the Colosseum and San Paolo/Ostiense neighborhoods, with the ever chaotic Termini Station as Metro hub and transfer point.  In addition, the metro has stops at secondary train stations Tiburtina and Ostiense.

    Basic Metro Facts:
    1. The Metro runs underground for most of its travels, though does surface out of the city center.  
    2. Metro stops can be distinguished by the large red M as its signage.
    3. Travelers must always purchase and validate their tickets. Tickets can be purchased at the local tabaccaio (tobacco/stamp shop), news stands, ticket booths and ticket machines.  Validation must occur prior to passing through the Metro turnstyles.
    4. Metros are often crowded and can be hot in the summer months, though some of the newer metros have light airconditioning.  Personal space is rare on the metro so pay attention because pickpocketing is rampant.
    5. Metro hours are 5:30 am to 11:30 pm. 
    6. For those traveling with bags, small children and strollers or prams, entry and exit to the metro is not always accomodating. There are few elevators and often times escalators are not functioning.