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 April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best attractions in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Rome, as a city, is an amazing attraction whether meandering the streets or enjoying a glass of prosecco in a piazza, the setting is always beautiful. With nearly three thousand years of visible history, it is easily to stumble into the the 2nd century Pantheon, a picturesque piazza or a lovely church with Caravaggio frescoes. The best attractions in the Eternal City are a wonderful composite of ancient, Renaissance and Contemporary.  

    Start with the heart of the city at the Roman Forum. Rome's history begins here with its 9th century BC Roman atop the Palatine Hill, its pride is showcased with the massive Colosseum and its intense history centers around the Roman Forum.  What you see is not always what you get, so remember to head underground.  The Case Romane on the Celio hill, beneath the Church of Saints John and Paul (Santissimi Giovanni e Paolo) are two subterranean levels of explorable, ancient history.  The nearby Baths of Caracalla are amazing to walk through. Though stripped of adornment, the dimensions of the spectacular baths are still visible in both height and expanse. There is also a mithraeum located on the grounds of the Baths (underground) and is visitable by appointment.

    Rome is a city of reinvention, as best seen with the rise of the papacy.  St. Peter's and its accompanying Vatican Museums contain centuries of art history from ancient to modern/contemporary, and house Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  For a focus on early Renaissance to late Baroque, throughout out the city are several palaces, villas and galleries which house substantial art collections available to guests. Galleria Borghese proudly houses a noteworthy collection of Caravaggio paintings and Bernini sculptures, along with many others, and the newly restored Palazzo Barberini is a treasure for those who love painting.

    Not to be overlooked is the contemporary city.  Rome has an engaging community, heralded best by its two contemporary art museums: MAXXI and MACRO.  MAXXI and MACRO buidlings themselves are amazing fetes of architecture and are located in neighborhoods near the historic center, but just far enough away to maintain their distinct atmosphere.  Along with international artists, the museums showcase work by acclaimed Italian artists, providing a glimpse into contemporary Italy.  And finally Rome's pedestrian bridges- Ponte Sisto, Ponte Sant'Angelo, Tiber Island's Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabrizio and the new Ponte della Musica-- are beautiful.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Rome is a city for kids of all ages, though some think it is not quite that easy to entertain the little ones who easily can get tired and weary in a nearly 3000 year old city.  The best thing to do with kids in Rome is to get them involved, whether with history, art, culture or simply the city.

    Ancient history is more palatable when interactive-  take the kids to the Roman Forum (avoid high noon) and let them enjoy walking on the ancient Via Sacra or meandering around the Palatine hill.  For older kids, send them to school- Gladiator school, where they will learn how to fight like a Roman.  If needing to entertain all ages and the Forum doesn't suffice, head to Villa Borghese, the center's largest park which has pony rides, carousel, bikes, boats and bouncy castles, along with the vast green expanse. The park also has Casina di Raffaello for elementary-school age edutainment and BioParco, Rome's century-old zoo.

    Gelato tasting is always a hit with kids, whether comparing chocolates from Ciampini and Gelateria al Teatro in the historic center, or sampling more clever flavors at Fatamorgana in the Monti, Prati and Trastevere neighborhoods.  For a bit of a thrill, visit the Cripta dei Cappuccini in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione on Via Veneto.  The monks' cript includes an informative museum visit, but you're really going for the bones.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Rome is a city for kids of all ages, though some think it is not quite that easy to entertain the little ones who easily can get tired and weary in a nearly 3000 year old city.  The best thing to do with kids in Rome is to get them involved, whether with history, art, culture or simply the city.

    Ancient history is more palatable when interactive-  take the kids to the Roman Forum (avoid high noon) and let them enjoy walking on the ancient Via Sacra or meandering around the Palatine hill.  For older kids, send them to school- Gladiator school, where they will learn how to fight like a Roman.  If needing to entertain all ages and the Forum doesn't suffice, head to Villa Borghese, the center's largest park which has pony rides, carousel, bikes, boats and bouncy castles, along with the vast green expanse. 

    Gelato tasting is always a hit with kids, whether comparing chocolates from Ciampini and Gelateria al Teatro in the historic center, or sampling more clever flavors at Fatamorgana in the Monti neighborhood near the Colosseum.  For a bit of a thrill, visit the Cripta dei Cappuccini in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione on Via Veneto.  The monks' cript includes an informative museum visit, but you're really going for the bones.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    Where is the best shopping in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Shopping in Rome is quite easy as every neighborhood has artisanal boutiques, well known brands and souvenir shops. In general, Rome’s shopping is focused in and around Piazza di Spagna.  The piazza and streets leading to it, via dei Condotti, via del Babuino and via Frattina, are home to Italy’s home-grown brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Sergio Rossi, Missoni, Prada, Gucci, and Ferragamo.
     
    The nearby Via del Corso provides a different kind of eye-candy, with less expensive brands geared towards a much younger clientele as hipsters-in-training peruse for treasures at shops like Dada, Subdued, Energie and Diesel. The adjacent Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina showcases luxury brands like Bottega Veneta, Burberry and Louis Vuitton, but take a walk down the bordering Via Campo Marzio for lesser known brands and one-of-a-kind boutiques. If labels are less your fancy, neighborhoods Monti and Navona (Via del Governo Vecchio and Via dei Coronari) are overflowing now with boutiques promoting made-in-Rome artisans from jewelry and clothing to shoes and mosaics.  Trastevere always seems to be a favorite for those looking to avoid the trendy/tourist vibe of other neighborhoods. Even though the neighborhood has long since gentrified, there are many charming shops worth a perusal.

    Market lovers can still find surprises at local open markets such as Sunday's Porta Portese in Trastevere and Monday-Saturday's Via Sannio (in San Giovannni area), but these are less and less treasure troves for vintage hunters.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best plazas or piazzas to see in Rome?

    photo by Erica Firpo There is no definitive list to Rome’s best piazzas as Rome has so many and each piazza has something special.  My suggestions on best piazzas depend on time of day and mood.  When I want grandiose, I love standing in the centers of Piazza del Popolo (center) and Piazza San Pietro (Vatican). These gorgeous piazzas are the center of their respective worlds- Rome and the Vatican.  Their fountains, statues and curves never fail to make me smile. 

    For historic, postcard perfect beauty, I walk through Piazza Navona and Piazza della Rotonda (Pantheon), two not-to-be-missed piazzas for both daytime and evening visits.  I also find irresistible Piazza di Pietra for the massive columns of Temple of Hadrian that decorate its south side.  In a few months or more, the restorations to Piazza Agusto Imperatore will hopefully be completed and its palimpsest of architectural history from its central 1st century mausoleum to Augustus Caesar, Fascist  building facades, and Richard Meier-designed museum will be open for all.

    When I want to get away from the chaos of Rome, I enjoy a quiet coffee in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, an oasis of charm just off the busy via del Corso.  For the sunset, I sit at any of the caffes lining Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere as I love to watching the gold glow on the Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere while sipping prosecco.  But if anyone asks me, the tiny Piazza Santa Barbara dei Librari near Campo de' Fiori is the very best piazza in Rome. You'll have to go there to find out why.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best plazas or piazzas to see in Rome?

    photo by Erica Firpo There is no definitive list to Rome’s best piazzas as Rome has so many and each piazza has something special.  My suggestions on best piazzas depend on time of day and mood.  When I want grandiose, I love standing in the centers of Piazza del Popolo (center) and Piazza San Pietro (Vatican). These gorgeous piazzas are the center of their respective worlds- Rome and the Vatican.  Their fountains, statues and curves never fail to make me smile. 

    For historic, postcard perfect beauty, I walk through Piazza Navona and Piazza della Rotonda (Pantheon), two not-to-be-missed piazzas for both daytime and evening visits.  I also find irresistible Piazza di Pietra for the massive columns of Temple of Hadrian that decorate its south side.  In a few months or more, the restorations to Piazza Agusto Imperatore will hopefully be completed, so that its palimpsest of architectural history from its central 1st century mausoleum to Augustus Caesar, Fascist  building facades, and Richard Meier-designed museum will be enjoyed for lovers of different eras.

    When I want to get away from the chaos of Rome, I enjoy a quiet coffee in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, an oasis of charm just off the busy via del Corso.  For the sunset, I sit at any of the caffes lining Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere as I love to watching the gold glow on the Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere while sipping prosecco.  But if anyone asks me, the tiny Piazza Santa Barbara dei Librari near Campo de' Fiori is the very best piazza in Rome. You'll have to go there to find out why.
  • 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).  Here you can pick up Christmas decorations, eat the pizza you'll ever have and watch the water all in a day.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is the best thing to bring home from Rome?

    The best thing to bring back from Rome is a story- whether it is about someone you meet or an amazing experience.  Rome is a city of storytelling, no wonder it was the favorite protagonist for Federico Fellini, PierPaolo Pasolini and even Woody Allen.  If you must squeeze a memory into a suitcase, make sure it is homegrown. Though local artisans are few and far between, you can still find some here from mosaic makers to food artists, painters to clothing designers.  And with each, stop to learn their tale because whether it is a hand-made hand bag, bespoke shoes or a painting, each comes with a story to be shared.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What are the best places for gelato in Rome?

    Photo by Nicolee Drake @Cucinadigitale The great gelato question always inspires a lively debate Rome.  I think labeling a gelateria as "best" is very pesonal.  As a faithful choco-holic, I have only two gelaterie that I frequent, especially when in need of fondente (dark chocolate): Ciampini at Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina (just off of via del Corso) and Gelateria al Teatro on Via dei Coronari near Piazza Navona, as well as a second location along the Tiber river, Lungotevere Vallati, near Ponte Garibaldi and Largo Argentina .  Both make superb dark chocolate, and I am told their other flavors are heavenly as well, made from all natural products. 

    With Rome's recent gelateria-a-go-go, there are now many more spots to choose from.  A close friend swears by every unique flavor that Fatamorgana invents.  This bewitching gelateria has several convenient locations including Prati (Via Bettolo 7), Monti (Piazza degli Zingari) and Trastevere (Piazza San Cosimato).  Another gourmet chain is Vice Gelateria with several locations including the centrally located spot between Largo Argentina and Campo de' Fiori on Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II 96, and nearby the Vatican Museum's in Prati on Via Fabio Massimo 64.   My sister will never tire of the unending list of flavors Giolitti and Gelatera della Palma (Pantheon area). And  when chocolate is too much for me, my favorite fruit flavors are found at the tiny Corona Gelateria in Largo Argentina whose cocomoro (watermelon) quenches the summer thirst.


  • On April 30, 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 easilly 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.  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 April 30, 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 easilly 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.  For wine, cheese, pannettone and meats, 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 April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is there to do at Villa Borghese in Rome?

    Originally designed as a playground for Baroque-era haute bourgeois, Villa Borghese is Rome’s favorite public playground.  Traversing over 148 acres on the Pincio hill above Piazza del Popolo, Villa Borghese has enough entertainment for everyone.  Runners, bikers and roller bladers enjoy the light hills, whether B-Y-O –sports equipment or on site rental.  The redolent grounds include bike and roller blade rentals, pedal cars, paddle boats at the tiny Giardino del Lago, playgrounds, carousel and even a dog park and dog training grounds.  For smaller children, Villa Borghese boasts Italy’s oldest zoo, BioParco,  a children’s puppet theatre and movie theatre.

    For a different kind of mental visual stimulation, Villa Borghese is home to several cultural centers including Casa del Cinema (cinema house and caffe), Galleria Borghese (Reniassance and Baroque museum), Villa Giulia (Etruscan museum), the Bilotti Chapel (modern and contemporary art gallery), Casina di Raffaello (children’s museum and bookstore), Museo Canonica (modern art and artist’s studio) and Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna (modern and contemporary art).  In late Spring, the Villa hosts annual events including Piazza di Siena, a three-day equestrian event with show jumping and the famed mounted carabinieri show. In the summer months, the Globe Theatre has Italian-language Shakespeare performances and likewise the Casa del Cinema opens its al fresco theatre.

    Most come to Villa Borghese to relax and for an afternoon walk and/or caffe.  The park has several caffes, my favorite is the turn-of-the-century Casina dell’Orologio, an old-fashioned caffe and clock tower with delicious lunch menu and homemade gelato.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Erica Firpo answered the question: Erica Firpo

    What is nightlife like in Rome?

    Photo by Erica Firpo Roman nightlife is never easy to pin down.  Most will be quick to tell you that Rome is all about hanging out in restaurants, bars, piazzas and neighborhoods.   But others will extol the Fellini-like pleasures of late night dancing and boisterous caravans through the city.   The common denominator is that no matter what you want to do in the evening, you know you will always have a scene.  Rome , itself, is entertainment enough.

    The key to nightlife is the weather and whether or not you want dance or listen to music.  Rome's warm climate can often dictate where you want to spend the evening hours.   In the wintertime, those looking for dancing flock to via Galvani in Testaccio which is known for its wide range of nightclubs (discoteche). Clubs can be themed to music or style, and are often open late into the evening.  There are also live music venues all over the city , from jazz clubs to performing arts centers such as Monti’s Charity Café, Villa Celimontana jazz and ballet and opera at the Baths of Caracalla,  nearly 2000 year old archaeological site.

    Traditionally, Rome is not an indoor city and when the city warms, its nightlife heats up too.  From mid-April through mid-October everyone heads to a piazza, rooftop, riverbank or beach.  Cocktail bars and rooftops such as the de Russie’s Stravinskij bar, The First Hotel’s terrazzo and Trastevere’s Freni e Frizioni are buzzing with life.   Neighborhorhoods with a piazza of any size off the best places for al fresco dinners and street life parties.  Piazzas will be busy until the early hours of the morning such as Campo de' Fiori, Monti's Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, Trastevere's Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere and Ponte Milvio.   Clubs will close at the end of May, only to temporarily re-open on the banks of the Tiber as part of Lungo il Tevere, a summer evening events program, or in Fregene, a beach community about 30 minutes from the city center.  There is also the city-sponsored Estate Romana program of summer time cultural and music events.  For those looking for something more romantic, an evening walk through any piazza (aside form Campo de’ Fiori) and over any bridge will be perfect.
  • On April 17, 2013
    Mary Connelly is now following Erica Firpo
  • On April 12, 2013
    Katherine Sacks is now following Erica Firpo