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 May 28, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    Should visitors rent a car in Rome?

    undefined Visitors to Rome should have no need or desire to rent a car in Rome. The city is well-connected by public transport, ATAC, hired car/driver and taxi, and most areas and sites are easy to reach by walking and/or bicycle.  For those wishing to drive around the city, it is important to know that Rome is governed by traffic regulations and travel within the center is for ZTL (limited traffic zone) permit holders, available to only to residents and businesses- most rental car usually ​do not offer ZTL permits to its clients. If still wishing to drive through Rome, parking and traffic regulations must be well researched. My suggestion? Rent a bicycle from Collalti or try a roaming holiday with Scooteroma.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best neighborhoods in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo If Rome is like a country within a country, then its neighborhoods are warring states with distinct personalities and fervent neighborhood fidelity.  The city of Rome is comprised of twenty-two rioni, small districts, some of which have been in existence since the beginning of the Republican age.  Almost every district has something beautiful from famous monuments and churches to architecture and museums, so defining the "best neighborhood" is rather a subjective experience.  If anything, Rome is where the heart is, which means what ever area you love best is the best.

    Historic Center: a mosaic of eight rioni, this is perhaps the most desired area of Rome for its great location to almost every cultural site and gorgeous Renaissance/Baroque setting.  From Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Venezia, it is Rome's epic center and within walking distance to monuments, museums, piazza and parks like Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Campo de' Fiori, Ara Pacis, Villa Borghese and Piazza di Spagna.  The area is also well connected by public transportation. Downside? It gets the most traffic- whether cars or tourists- so expect noise.

    Across the Tiber river is Trastevere, once considered one of Rome's "real" neighborhoods, a busy neighborhood of meandering streets and medieval buildings.  Over the decades, the neighborhood has become a site to visit so the now-chaotic area is a bit of an ersatz Rome. The beautiful Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere is a favorite among residents and visitors from morning through late evening.  From Trastevere, you can easily walk to the historic center and Vatican/Prati area, and it is well-connected to the city by public transport.

    On the same side of the Tiber river, and to Trastevere's north, is Vatican City with adjacent Borgo and Prati neighborhoods.  Where as the quaint Borgo can be overrun with visitors, Prati is a busy residential neighborhood that does not get the influx of tourism.  Prati's via Cola di Rienzo is a long shopping street, popular on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but remember that the area tends to stick to some of Rome's rigid rules of openings and closings.  If you are looking for quiet yet connected, this is the neighborhood.

    Across the river (and slightly up hill) is Parioli, a neighborhood rebuilt in the 1920s and 30s and just outside the 3rd century AD Aurelian walls. Parioli has a reputation for being slightly snobby but it can be best described as a well-off residential neighborhood with all of the very same shops that the city center and Prati have to offer. Connecting to Parioli can be a bit of a pain but buses and trams do wind their way through the area.  Best feature? The plethora of parks that border the area: Villa Borghese, Villa Ada, Villa Glori and Villa Balestra.

    Back within the ancient walls is niche neighborhood Monti, a tiny enclave near the Roman Forum and Colosseum.  Recently, Monti has made headlines not only as Rome's very first neighborhood dating to the Roman Republic, but as a hipster haunt.  Monti has a more urban vibe than the historic center, thanks in part to the consistent local traffic and its collection of cute wine bars and restaurants.  It is well-connected by Rome's public transportation system ATAC and a short distance from Termini  Station.

    Fighting for the title of one of Rome's last remaining Roman neighborhoods is Testaccio, in the southwestern area of the city and within the Aurelian walls. Like Monti, Testaccio is ancient, built atop more than two thousand years of history and amphorae.  Once an ancient port, today's incarnation of Testaccio is working class neighborhood, nightlife hub and upcoming hipster hangout.  Testaccio in the day time is family and food oriented, with markets, parks and sports facilities, at night, it is a very busy hangout and club scene. The area is well-connected to the city by public transportation.  Ironically, immediately adjacent to Testaccio is Aventino, one of Rome's historic hills and a very quiet residential and rigidly zoned area.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best neighborhoods in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo If Rome is like a country within a country, then its neighborhoods are warring states with distinct personalities and fervent neighborhood fidelity.  The city of Rome is comprised of twenty-two rioni, small districts, some of which have been in existence since the beginning of the Republican age.  Almost every district has something beautiful from famous monuments and churches to architecture and museums, so defining the "best neighborhood" is rather a subjective experience.  If anything, Rome is where the heart is, which means what ever area you love best is the best.

    Historic Center: a mosaic of eight rioni, this is perhaps the most desired area of Rome for its great location to almost every cultural site and gorgeous Renaissance/Baroque setting.  From Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Venezia, it is Rome's epic center and within walking distance to monuments, museums, piazza and parks like Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Campo de' Fiori, Ara Pacis, Villa Borghese and Piazza di Spagna.  The area is also well connected by public transportation. Downside? It gets the most traffic- whether cars or tourists- so expect noise.

    Across the Tiber river is Trastevere, once considered one of Rome's "real" neighborhoods, a busy neighborhood of meandering streets and medieval buildings.  Over the decades, the neighborhood has become a site to visit so the now-chaotic area is a bit of an ersatz Rome. The beautiful Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere is a favorite among residents and visitors from morning through late evening.  From Trastevere, you can easily walk to the historic center and Vatican/Prati area, and it is well-connected to the city by public transport.

    On the same side of the Tiber river, and to Trastevere's north, is Vatican City with adjacent Borgo and Prati neighborhoods.  Where as the quaint Borgo can be overrun with visitors, Prati is a busy residential neighborhood that does not get the influx of tourism.  Prati's via Cola di Rienzo is a long shopping street, popular on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but remember that the area tends to stick to some of Rome's rigid rules of openings and closings.  If you are looking for quiet yet connected, this is the neighborhood.

    Across the river (and slightly up hill) is Parioli, a neighborhood rebuilt in the 1920s and 30s and just outside the 3rd century AD Aurelian walls. Parioli has a reputation for being slightly snobby but it can be best described as a well-off residential neighborhood with all of the very same shops that the city center and Prati have to offer. Connecting to Parioli can be a bit of a pain but buses and trams do wind their way through the area.  Best feature? The plethora of parks that border the area: Villa Borghese, Villa Ada, Villa Glori and Villa Balestra.

    Back within the ancient walls is niche neighborhood Monti, a tiny enclave near the Roman Forum and Colosseum.  Recently, Monti has made headlines not only as Rome's very first neighborhood dating to the Roman Republic, but as a hipster haunt.  Monti has a more urban vibe than the historic center, thanks in part to the consistent local traffic and its collection of cute wine bars and restaurants.  It is well-connected by Rome's public transportation system ATAC and a short distance from Termini  Station.

    Fighting for the title of one of Rome's last remaining Roman neighborhoods is Testaccio, in the southwestern area of the city and within the Aurelian walls. Like Monti, Testaccio is ancient, built atop more than two thousand years of history and amphorae.  Once an ancient port, today's incarnation of Testaccio is working class neighborhood, nightlife hub and upcoming hipster hangout.  Testaccio in the day time is family and food oriented, with markets, parks and sports facilities, at night, it is a very busy hangout and club scene. The area is well-connected to the city by public transportation.  Ironically, immediately adjacent to Testaccio is Aventino, one of Rome's historic hills and a very quiet residential and rigidly zoned area.
  • On May 28, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the tipping etiquette in Rome?

    Tipping is a hot debate in Rome.  Most Romans will tell you that there is absolutely no need to tip- waiters receive monthly salaries as opposed to minimum wage and coperte (per person cover) are almost always itemized into the bill.   If there is a reason to tip - such as great service, waiter is a friend, personal obligation, et al - the tip is token gesture of only a few coins.  In fact, big tippers are rare and mostly hold foreign passports.  However, last year, Mark Zuckerberg inflamed the debate when he supposedly did not leave a tip at the Ghetto's Nonna Betta restaurant.  The speculation is that he lives by the phrase "when in Rome. . . ".  The bottom line is that tipping in Rome is all about comfort zone.  If you feel you should tip, go right ahead but here are some guidelines:  

    In restaurants, bars and caffes, first and foremost review the bill to make sure everything is properly included and then assess the experience.  Service should always be beyond satisfactory to merit a tip.  There is no need to reward poor service and bad attitude ever.  Tips should never exceed 10%, and should range  between 5 to 8%, more than that is an exaggeration.  Always have small change on hand.  One euro and two euro coins make the perfect mancia.  

    On the flip side of the tipping coin, taxi fares should not be  "rounded up" or tipped.  It is more important to pay attention to the taxometer and fare regulations (which should be prominently displayed on the back of the front seat). Make sure to have smaller bills (fives, tens and twenties) as taxi drivers are not known for enjoying breaking a fifty or hundred euro bill.


     


  • On May 7, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best farmers markets in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Every neighborhood in Rome has a local market, whether open-air like Campo de' Fiori or covered like the large Mercato Trionfale nearby Vatican city.  Markets traditionally are hubs not just for food but for social life.  At the market, you will learn the wheres, whys and whens of season produce like Settembrini figs, Ovuli mushrooms and artichokes, discover new recipes, and meet new and old neighbors.  Essentially, the market is the heart of Italian culture as the day begins and ends around food.  Rome's markets have decades and centuries of history and personality, as well as some contemporary history.

    The archetype Roman market is open-air Campo de' Fiori, in the heart of the city. Though not the most economical,  the morning market has fresh produce, spices, flowers and knicknacks.  The square itself has several great butchers to accompany your morning shopping.  Rome foodies favorite the weekend only Circus Maximus Farmer's Market. A recent addition to Rome's food scene, the market resides on the renovated grounds of an ancient fish market and showcases organic and non-organic products from Lazio and surrounding areas including vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread, wines, olive oiis, meats, honey, preserves and pastas. ( Farmer's market fans will note that this past April, the Farmer's Market second location moved to the Garbatella neighborhood.)  Across the river, Trastevere's Piazza San Cosimato market has great produce and an rock-and-roll cheese vendor whose selection includes non-Italian cheese along with local favorites.

    Along with Farmer's Market Garbatella, there are many markets that rank top on the list for Rome foodies and are not in the historic center.  The Monday-Saturday Mercato Trionfale (via Andrea Doria 3, adjacent to Vatican City), is one of the largest markets with an abundant amount of produce, meat, bread and cheese vendors, among others.  If you do like fish and other edible sea creatures,Trionfale has the largest amount of fish vendors who in turn have the most diverse selection of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, et al. Take note, whether produce, meat, fish, bread or cheese, a great market lists origin of each product, along with price.  

    Testaccio's famous piazza market was recently moved just down the street to a new partially-covered structure. Most of the original vendors relocated to the new structure, which mixes covered and open-air design.  Like other markets, Testaccio Market has fresh produce, meat, fish and bread, as well as lovely cheese, pastry and sandwich vendors.  Additional great markets include Flaminio's Mercato Comunale, Via Guido Reni, which has excellent chicken butchers, fresh pasta and organic fruits and vegetables, and likewise the nearby and quite large market at Ponte Milvio. Monteverde's San Giovanni di Dio market has some of Rome's best butchers, bakers and fruit vendors.  Near Termini Station, the weekday Piazza Vittorio market is sought out for its local and imported produce and other foods, as it is often considered the best place to find non-Italian produce and products like cilantro, durian, ginger and black rice.

    Again, every neighborhood has its own market. It's just a matter of talking with your neighbors. Just remember the golden rule: do not touch the produce unless you are invited to do so.


  • On May 7, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best farmers markets in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Every neighborhood in Rome has a local market, whether open-air like Campo de' Fiori or covered like the large Mercato Trionfale nearby Vatican city.  Markets traditionally are hubs not just for food but for social life.  At the market, you will learn the wheres, whys and whens of season produce like Settembrini figs, Ovuli mushrooms and artichokes, discover new recipes, and meet new and old neighbors.  Essentially, the market is the heart of Italian culture as the day begins and ends around food.  Rome's markets have decades and centuries of history and personality, as well as some contemporary history.

    The archetype Roman market is open-air Campo de' Fiori, in the heart of the city. Though not the most economical,  the morning market has fresh produce, spices, flowers and knicknacks.  The square itself has several great butchers to accompany your morning shopping.  Rome foodies favorite the weekend only Circus Maximus Farmer's Market. A recent addition to Rome's food scene, the market resides on the renovated grounds of an ancient fish market and showcases organic and non-organic products from Lazio and surrounding areas including vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread, wines, olive oiis, meats, honey, preserves and pastas. ( Farmer's market fans will note that this past April, the Farmer's Market second location moved to the Garbatella neighborhood.)  Across the river, Trastevere's Piazza San Cosimato market has great produce and an rock-and-roll cheese vendor whose selection includes non-Italian cheese along with local favorites.

    Along with Farmer's Market Garbatella, there are many markets that rank top on the list for Rome foodies and are not in the historic center.  The Monday-Saturday Mercato Trionfale (via Andrea Doria 3, adjacent to Vatican City), is one of the largest markets with an abundant amount of produce, meat, bread and cheese vendors, among others.  If you do like fish and other edible sea creatures,Trionfale has the largest amount of fish vendors who in turn have the most diverse selection of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, et al. Take note, whether produce, meat, fish, bread or cheese, a great market lists origin of each product, along with price.  

    Testaccio's famous piazza market was recently moved just down the street to a new partially-covered structure. Most of the original vendors relocated to the new structure, which mixes covered and open-air design.  Like other markets, Testaccio Market has fresh produce, meat, fish and bread, as well as lovely cheese, pastry and sandwich vendors.  Additional great markets include Flaminio's Mercato Comunale, Via Guido Reni, which has excellent chicken butchers, fresh pasta and organic fruits and vegetables, and likewise the nearby and quite large market at Ponte Milvio. Monteverde's San Giovanni di Dio market has some of Rome's best butchers, bakers and fruit vendors.  Near Termini Station, the weekday Piazza Vittorio market is sought out for its local and imported produce and other foods, as it is often considered the best place to find non-Italian produce and products like cilantro, durian, ginger and black rice.

    Again, every neighborhood has its own market. It's just a matter of talking with your neighbors. Just remember the golden rule: do not touch the produce unless you are invited to do so.


  • On May 7, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best farmers markets in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Every neighborhood in Rome has a local market, whether open-air like Campo de' Fiori or covered like the large Mercato Trionfale nearby Vatican city.  Markets traditionally are hubs not just for food but for social life.  At the market, you will learn the wheres, whys and whens of season produce like Settembrini figs, Ovuli mushrooms and artichokes, discover new recipes, and meet new and old neighbors.  Essentially, the market is the heart of Italian culture as the day begins and ends around food.  Rome's markets have decades and centuries of history and personality, as well as some contemporary history.

    The archetype Roman market is open-air Campo de' Fiori, in the heart of the city. Though not the most economical,  the morning market has fresh produce, spices, flowers and knicknacks.  The square itself has several great butchers to accompany your morning shopping.  Rome foodies favorite the weekend only Circus Maximus Farmer's Market. A recent addition to Rome's food scene, the market resides on the renovated grounds of an ancient fish market and showcases organic and non-organic products from Lazio and surrounding areas including vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread, wines, olive oiis, meats, honey, preserves and pastas. ( Farmer's market fans will note that this past April, the Farmer's Market second location moved to the Garbatella neighborhood.)  Across the river, Trastevere's Piazza San Cosimato market has great produce and an rock-and-roll cheese vendor whose selection includes non-Italian cheese along with local favorites.

    Along with Farmer's Market Garbatella, there are many markets that rank top on the list for Rome foodies and are not in the historic center.  The Monday-Saturday Mercato Trionfale (via Andrea Doria 3, adjacent to Vatican City), is one of the largest markets with an abundant amount of produce, meat, breaad and cheese vendors, among others.  If you do like fish and other edible sea creatures, take note of Trionfale which has the largest amount of fish vendors who in turn have the most diverse selection of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, et al, in Rome.  Testaccio's famous piazza market was recently moved just down the street to a new partially-covered structure. Most of the original vendors relocated to the new structure, which mixes covered and open-air design.  Like other markets, Testaccio Market has fresh produce, meat, fish and bread, as well as lovely cheese, pastry and sandwich vendors.  

    Other great markets include Flaminio's Mercato Comunale, Via Guido Reni, which has excellent chicken butchers, fresh pasta and organic fruits and vegetables, and likewise the nearby and quite large market at Ponte Milvio. Monteverde's San Giovanni di Dio market has some of Rome's best butchers, bakers and fruit vendors.  Near Termini Station, the weekday Piazza Vittorio market is sought out for its local and imported produce and other foods, as it is often considered the best place to find non-Italian produce and products like cilantro, durian, ginger and black rice.

    Again, every neighborhood has its own market. It's just a matter of talking with your neighbors. Great markets will list origin of each product, along with price.  Remember don't touch the produce unless you are invited to do so.


  • On May 7, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best farmers markets in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Every neighborhood in Rome has a local market, whether open-air like Campo de' Fiori or covered like the large Mercato Trionfale nearby Vatican city.  Markets traditionally are hubs not just for food but for social life.  At the market, you will learn the wheres, whys and whens of season produce like Settembrini figs, Ovuli mushrooms and artichokes, discover new recipes, and meet new and old neighbors.  Essentially, the market is the heart of Italian culture as the day begins and ends around food.  Rome's markets have decades and centuries of history and personality, as well as some contemporary history.

    The archetype Roman market is open-air Campo de' Fiori, in the heart of the city. Though not the most economical,  the morning market has fresh produce, spices, flowers and knicknacks.  The square itself has several great butchers to accompany your morning shopping.   Favorite markets that rank top on the list for Rome foodies include the Monday-Saturday Mercato Trionfale on via Andrea Doria (adjacent to Vatican City), perhaps one of the largest markets with an abundant amount of produce, meat, breaad and cheese vendors, among others.  If you do like fish and other edible sea creatures, take note of Trionfale which has the largest amount of fish vendors who in turn have the most diverse selection of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, et al, in Rome.

    On the side streets between the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus is the weekend-only Farmer's Market. This recent addition to Rome's food scene resides on the renovated grounds of an ancient fish market and showcases organic and non-organic products from Lazio and surrounding areas including vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread, wines, olive oiis, meats, honey, preserves and pastas.  Just this past April, the Farmer's Market second location moved to the Garbatella neighborhood.   Trastevere's Piazza San Cosimato market has great produce and an rock-and-roll cheese vendor whose selection includes non-Italian cheese along with local favorites.

    Testaccio's famous piazza market was recently moved just down the street to a new partially-covered structure. Most of the original vendors relocated to the new structure, which mixes covered and open-air design.  Like other markets, Testaccio Market has fresh produce, meat, fish and bread, as well as lovely cheese, pastry and sandwich vendors.  Other great markets surrounding the city include Flaminio's Mercato Comunale, Via Guido Reni, which has excellent chicken butchers, fresh pasta and organic fruits and vegetables, and likewise the nearby and quite large market at Ponte Milvio

    Monteverde's San Giovanni di Dio market has some of Rome's best butchers, bakers and fruit vendors. 
    Near Termini Station, the weekday Piazza Vittorio market is sought out for its local and imported produce and other foods, as it is often considered the best place to find non-Italian produce and products like cilantro, durian, ginger and black rice.

    Again, every neighborhood has its own market. It's just a matter of talking with your neighbors. Great markets will list origin of each product, along with price.  Remember don't touch the produce unless you are invited to do so.


  • On May 7, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best farmers markets in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Every neighborhood in Rome has a local market, whether open-air like Campo de' Fiori or covered like the large Mercato Trionfale nearby Vatican city.  Markets traditionally are hubs not just for food but for social life.  At the market, you will learn the wheres, whys and whens of season produce like Settembrini figs, Ovuli mushrooms and artichokes, discover new recipes, and meet new and old neighbors.  Essentially, the market is the heart of Italian culture as the day begins and ends around food.  Rome's markets have decades and centuries of history and personality, as well as some contemporary history.

    The archetype Roman market is open-air Campo de' Fiori, in the heart of the city. Though not the most economical,  the morning market has fresh produce, spices, flowers and knicknacks.  The square itself has several great butchers to accompany your morning shopping.   Favorite markets that rank top on the list for Rome foodies include the Monday-Saturday Mercato Trionfale on via Andrea Doria (adjacent to Vatican City), perhaps one of the largest markets with an abundant amount of produce, meat, breaad and cheese vendors, among others.  If you do like fish and other edible sea creatures, take note of Trionfale which has the largest amount of fish vendors who in turn have the most diverse selection of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, et al, in Rome.

    On the side streets between the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus is the weekend-only Farmer's Market. This recent addition to Rome's food scene resides on the renovated grounds of an ancient fish market and showcases organic and non-organic products from Lazio and surrounding areas including vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread, wines, olive oiis, meats, honey, preserves and pastas.  Just this past April, the Farmer's Market second location moved to the Garbatella neighborhood.   

    Testaccio's famous piazza market was recently moved just down the street to a new partially-covered structure. Most of the original vendors relocated to the new structure, which mixes covered and open-air design.  Like other markets, Testaccio Market has fresh produce, meat, fish and bread, as well as lovely cheese, pastry and sandwich vendors.  Other great markets surrounding the city include Flaminio's Mercato Comunale, Via Guido Reni, which has excellent chicken butchers, fresh pasta and organic fruits and vegetables, and likewise the nearby and quite large market at Ponte Milvio

    Monteverde's San Giovanni di Dio market has some of Rome's best butchers, bakers and fruit vendors. 
    Near Termini Station, the weekday Piazza Vittorio market is sought out for its local and imported produce and other foods, as it is often considered the best place to find non-Italian produce and products like cilantro, durian, ginger and black rice.

    Again, every neighborhood has its own market. It's just a matter of talking with your neighbors. Great markets will list origin of each product, along with price.  Remember don't touch the produce unless you are invited to do so.


  • On May 1, 2013
    Quia Querisma is now following Erica Firpo
  • On April 30, 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.  If the coast beckons you for beach and fish, 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.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best museums in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo As every knows, Rome is an open air museum, so a meander around the city will almost always prove to be the very best museum visit one could have.  When the need to go indoors strikes, my list of Rome's best museums includes Galleria Nazionale Arte Moderna (GNAM), the national art gallery that is a literal walk through Italian art history from just before its mid-19th century unification to today. 

    The recently renovated Palazzo Barberini has truly beautiful collection of artwork from early Renaissance through early 19th century with pieces by Caravaggio, Raphael and Holbein. If the paintings are overwhelming, look up at the enormous ceiling in the main salon, decorated in frescoes by Pietro da Cortona.

    For the ancient, I cherish any visit to Palazzo Massimo, part of the National Museum of Rome ticket which includes entries into three other museums including Cripta Balbi.  Though every floor houses lovely antiquities, I usually head up to the 2nd floor to enjoy the 1st century BC frescoes.  And then I will walk downtown to Cripta Balbi, a multi-layered archeological site/museum which showcases all the layers of Rome's history from Repubblican through late Renaissance.  

    It goes without saying that the Vatican Museums are considered the very best of Rome's museums. The collections include ancient, Renaissance, Baroque, Modern and even contemporary art. Some of antiquity's very best sculpture can be found in its Braccio Nuovo, while the architecture and wall decorations are just as delightful as the artwork displayed.  Renaissance's great all contributed brushwork to its hallowed walls included Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, Pinturicchio, Raphael and Botticelli.  If visiting between May and October, the Vatican Museums are open Friday evenings for special visits.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the one must-do activity when visiting Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo The one must-do activity in Rome is a visit to where it all happened: the Capitoline hill. One of the famed seven hills of Rome, the Capitoline was the Empire's most important hill and encompasses all eras of Roman history.   The Capitoline originally was home to antiquity's most important temples, which can be found underneath its present structures, Mayor's Office and Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums).  From the Capitoline hill, there are sweeping views of the Roman Forum, and several vantage points overlook the Roman Forum and Colosseum, including the Terrazza delle Quadrighe atop the Victor Emmanuel monument immediately adjacent to the Capitoline. The Musei Capitolini are Italy's oldest museums and sit in two Renaissance buildings flanking the mayoral office, which contain some of the Empire's best antiquities including the colossal statues of Constantine as well as a strong collection of Renaissance and Baroque artwork. The Capitoline is also known for its Michelangelo-designed Piazza del Campidoglio with bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius at its center. 
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the one must-do activity when visiting Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo The one must-do activity in Rome is a visit to where it all happened: the Capitoline hill. One of the famed seven hills of Rome, the Capitoline was the Empire's most important hill and encompasses all eras of Roman history.   The Capitoline originally was home to antiquity's most important temples, which can be found underneath its present structures, Mayor's Office and Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums).  From the Capitoline hill, there are sweeping views of the Roman Forum, and several vantage points overlook the Roman Forum and Colosseum, including the Terrazza delle Quadrighe atop the Victor Emmanuel monument immediately adjacent to the Capitoline. The Musei Capitolini are Italy's oldest museums and sit in two Renaissance buildings flanking the mayoral office, which itself is built atop a Roman temple and the 1st century tabularium. The Capitoline is also known for its Michelangelo-designed piazza with bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius at its center. 
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the one must-do activity when visiting Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo The one must-do activity in Rome is a visit to where it all happened: the Capitoline hill. One of the famed seven hills of Rome, the Capitoline was the Empire's most important hill. Visiting the Capitoline encompasses all eras of Roman history.  Several vantage points overlook the Roman Forum and Colosseum, including the Terrazza delle Quadrighe atop the Victor Emmanuel monument immediately adjacent to the Capitoline.  The Capitoline itself was home to antiquity's most important temples, which can be found underneath its present structures of Mayor's office and Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums).  The Musei Capitolini are Italy's oldest museums and sit in two Renaissance buildings flanking the mayoral office, which itself is built atop a Roman temple and the 1st century tabularium. The Capitoline is also known for its Michelangelo-designed piazza with bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius at its center.