Rome is a crazy, convoluted, headache inducing city that we absolutely love. There is something charming about all those vespas racing across the street, Italians arguing over the price of vegetables at the market, and the competing smells of all the restaurants. And while we love it, we can understand that Rome and drinking and eating local in Rome can be overwhelming.
We have created this guide to impart to you all the knowledge we learned over 4 years of living in the eternal city. Through our trials and errors we have chosen the best places in Rome to eat, get a coffee, take part in an aperitivo and get a drink. We also have included some of our favorite tips, advice and sites for when you visit Rome! So get out there and revel in the chaos and more importantly drink and eat local in Rome!
*For those of you who are visiting Rome for the first time be sure to check our our tips for visiting Rome, including our top nine tips for your first visit and our general tips, Part 1 and Part 2.
In Part 1 we cover transportation, how not to get ripped off by a taxi and the best way to get to Rome from the airport. Also the best way to cross the street is just to walk; do not hesitate, do not stop, just go. The drivers, generally, will not hit you, they are used to dodging mopeds; they can dodge a slower pedestrian.
In Part 2 we cover how to find a good restaurant in Rome (it can be more difficult than you think, especially after an exhausting day touring the Coliseum), how to prevent from being pick pocketed (no money belts required), and where to stay in Rome.*
Eat Local in Rome
Italy is all about food and Rome is no different however countless people have told us that they have had terrible meals in Rome which saddens us to no end. There are a lot of amazing restaurants in Rome but unfortunately there are some pretty terrible restaurants as well. If you follow our suggestions though we promise we won’t lead you astray, we actively hunted down excellent restaurants after stumbling on a few awful ones (Located near Termini Station, where most of the awful “restaurants” are located). If you need more tips check out our Tips for Visiting Rome-Part 2 where we cover where to find a great restaurant.
Osteria del Pegno
8 Vicolo di Montevecchio
Osteria Del Pegno is one of our favorites and we would have recommended it to everyone when we were in Rome but we only shared our secret with a few special people so count yourself lucky. It is a tiny little Osteria located just steps from Piazza Navona. Osteria del Pegno specializes in new Italian Cooking. You can find traditional Roman dishes here like Bucatini Amatriciana and Carbonara but you will also find Sea Bass Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Ravoli in a Zucchini Flower, Saffron and Orange Cream Sauce. It is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a bit of a nicer restaurant to eat at without a huge price tag.
Cul de Sac
73 Piazza di Pasquino
Cul De Sac is also a favorite restaurant of ours. It is located in Piazza Pasquino and is an enoteca or a wine bar. It has a fabulous selection of wines, they give you a giant book to make your selection from and the food is some of the best I have had in Italy, especially the Capri Ravioli with lemon and lime zest ricotta ravioli in a sage and butter sauce, so delectable. Cul de Sac is always busy and the tiny restaurant is always filled to the brim with locals. This is a place to wait for though, we promise it will be worth it!
Hosteria del Moro da Tony a Enzo e Mario
37 Viccolo del Cinque
Hosteria del Moro or just Tony’s is one of those restaurants that looks like a typical cliche Italian restaurant. It is a sprawling restaurant with tables crammed next to one another, spilling out onto the pavement, and filled with the cacophony of dinners chatting, waiters shouting orders and filled with laughter from the locals.
Are there a lot of tourists here? Yes, of course. Tony’s is located on one of the main roads through Trastevere that connects Piazza Triulussa to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere and it does get a lot of foot traffic from tourists navigating and photographing the medieval streets of Trastevere. But just because tourists have found this restaurant doesn’t mean it should automatically be avoided. In fact, in this case, Tony’s is a shinning example of a classic restaurant left unchanged after all these years even as its popularity grows with locals and tourists alike.
It is popular and for good reason. The cuisine covers a range of Italian specialties including the mammoth Florentine steaks and Alex’s favorite, the calamari. The steaks are about Flintstone sized and the calamari is the best we have had in Rome. It is always fresh and they are perfectly fried to crispy perfection. Their other famous dishes include a homemade lasagna that could feed a small army and a meal here should always be finished off with tiramisu and limoncello. A meal at Tony’s won’t set you back much either which is refreshing to find as their prices have not risen in conjunction with their popularity.
For amazing pizza all you need to do is head to Trastevere where there is a wealth of amazing pizza places. Dar Poeta is a famous pizza joint located just off Piazza Trilussa in central Trastevere. It is known for its pizzas which are neither totally Roman or Napolitano (and there is a big difference I promise). Another great pizza place is Pizzeria ai Marmi which is located on Viale di Trastevere. It is always crowded with locals and tourists alike with communal tables filling up both the inside restaurant and the sidewalk outside.
One of my all time favorite pizza places is Pizzeria da Baffetto which is conveniently located just across the street from our favorite bar, Abbey Theater. They have a wide range of pizzas and it is always crowded. It is the only place I have seen people line up for before it is open. It is all about the communal, tightly packed tables and the jugs of wine and the pizza of course. They do pizza and that is it. My favorite (Ashley) is the Pizza con fagioli or Pizza with Canolini Beans. Sounds weird but it is awesome, I promise. They also recently opened up a second one right out Campo dei’ Fiori called Baffetto 2.
If you are looking for pizza and you are on a budget you cannot go wrong with locals’ favorite Carlo Menta. Carlo Menta is also always packed and located on a typical cobblestone lined street in Trastevere. The tables are close together, there are two levels inside and an outdoor patio and it is always crowded. Perhaps it is because their pizzas start at 3euros and we are talking about getting the best whole Margherita pizza you have ever had in your life for 3euros. That is all. (and they also have a full menu of pastas and appetizers that are equally delicious)
If you are needing a break from pizza and pasta and need a little veggie break we would suggest Insalata Ricca. It is a chain, in so far as Italy does chains, which means there are eleven locations all around the city of Rome but thats it. You won’t find L’Isalata Ricca in Milan or Naples so get your salad fix now. They have a huge menu of over 2 pages of salads which range from the “Why do they feel the need to put corn on every salad” salads to the “ah yes a simple Greek salad, this is just what I was looking for” salad. To be fair they have some strange combinations but they are delicious so take a chance and a break at L’Insalata Ricca.
Their house wine is also ridiculously cheap and they also have great pastas and pizzas as well for those who cannot fathom having a salad. I am particularly fond of the Greek Salad and Pesto Pizza combination. They have a location right next to Cul de Sac which is awesome on Via Governo Vecchio just off Piazza Navona. We have been known to go to L’Insalta Ricca for lunch and then Cul de Sac for dinner and they also have a location right by the Vatican and one in Trastevere.
Another great staple of Italian cuisine is the Aperitivo hour, where you purchase a drink and then have access to a free buffet. You can find bars all over Rome where you can have Aperitivo, and they range from just small snacks to a full on buffet with pasta dishes and dessert. One of my favorite places for Aperitivo is Fluid located on Via Governo Vecchio near Piazza Navona. It is a great centrally located aperitivo bar with a wonderful relaxing water vibe. Seriously, their chairs are shaped like ice cubes and there is even a waterfall along the back wall!
There are also several other great Aperitivo Bars all over the city. Some favorites are Salotto 42 located in Piazza di Pietra near the Pantheon, Baccanale in Campo de’ Fiori, and the very popular Freni e Frizioni in Trastevere. Freni e Frizioni is always packed with local Romans and you will find everyone drinking and chatting and hanging out in the square just outside the bar.
Bar San Callisto
Bar San Callisto is reputedly the oldest cafe in Rome still in operations and is located just off the main square in Trastevere in Piazza San Callisto. Whether this is true or not, you never know in Rome, this is our favorite place to get a cappuccino. If you are looking for a classic, no frills, Italian cappuccino then you need to pop into San Callisto for one. There are tables outside to enjoy the sunny summer days in Rome and on the chillier days when the people watching is not as enticing there is interior seating as well. Come in the earlier morning, sip your cappuccino (or espresso), and enjoy watching the old men play scopa, a traditional Italian card game.
If you are not a coffee fan you can always indulge in their hot chocolate. This is not your typical hot chocolate but more along the lines of the drinking chocolate you will find in Spain. In Rome at San Callisto, their hot chocolate is topped with a very lightly sweetened whipped cream which perfectly breaks up the denser chocolate for hot chocolate perfection.
If you happen upon Bar San Callisto later in the evening, the old men playing scopa are replaced by young and ever so fashionable Italians drinking prosecco on the outdoor patio and even more lingering around Piazza San Callisto lounging on their motorinos chatting and smoking like they are out of a Fellini film. Grab a glass of prosecco and join in the fun!
Bum Bum di Mel
17 Via del Moro
Bum Bum di Mel is one of the liveliest bars in Trastevere with their Brazilian music blazing throughout the small bar but if you want a drink you have to get in line, literally. On busy nights here it is not uncommon to see a number machine come out. Grab a number, wait for it to be called and then order yourself one of the best fresh fruit cocktails available in Rome. No matter what you order it is going to be filled with fresh fruit from the strawberry capricoska to the many different mojitos they offer. On a sultry summer night in Rome there is no better way to cool off than indulging in a fresh fruit cocktail from Bum Bum di Mel.
11A Viccolo del Cinque
Rivendita Libri is not so much a bar but more of a pop in, grab a drink and pop back out. That may seem odd until you realized that the only drinks they serve here are alcoholic shots served in chocolate cups. Every evening the little shop, filled to the brim with mismatched books, is inundated with people as they head to the back bar with just one goal in mind, chocolate shots. These shots are creative combinations of alcohol, chocolate cups, and sprinkles which one just plops into your mouth, smile through the whipped cream and then head out the door. It is a simple but delicious moment. If you are looking for a perfect way to end your evening in Trastevere, you can never go wrong with a chocolate shot at Rivendita Libri!
If you are looking for a place to rub shoulders with the Expat community or just need a break from trying to speak Italian our favorite bar is Abbey Theater. It is a relaxed Irish bar and became our home away from home while we lived in Rome.
Gelato is a staple in Rome, feel free to eat it for breakfast (We have no shame when it comes to Gelato). Check out some of our favorites and see for yourself. We do have to HIGHLY recommend San Crispino for high quality and seasonal gelato and Frigidarium for homemade classic gelato. There are so many good gelato places in Rome! However, just keep in mind that there are bad ones out there (especially by Termini) and so one way to check if it is good is to look at the banana or pistachio gelato. If either are colors not found in nature the gelateria most likely is not using fresh ingredients!
Some of the best places to visit in Rome are listed in 5 Reasons Why I Love Rome and include Galleria Borghese and the Pantheon. A great out of the way place we love to visit is the Protestant Cemetery filled with the tombs of the expats that lived and died in Rome.
The Galleria Borghese is our favorite museum in Rome. It is filled with five Bernini statues that Bernini created especially for his patron, Cardinal Scipione Borghese who started the collection, including the Rape of Persephone, Apollo and Daphne and David. It also has works by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titan. It is a fantastic museum and the Villa was built specifically to hold the ancient and modern art that Cardinal Scipione Borghese collected, sometimes not always legally (Scipione Borghese could pretty much do what he wanted since his uncle was Pope Paul V Borghese).
The great thing about the museum too is that they only let a certain number of people into the museum in two hour increments so you never have to worry about it being overcrowded. The downside is you have to book your tickets in advance in order to get in. It is not that difficult though since they have online booking.
Also remember there is no photography allowed in the Borghese Gallery although the gardens are lovely to photograph. I learned that after I took an iPhone photo and was yelled at. They also do not allow you to bring in any bags either but there is a coat check where they keep everything. I would suggest getting to the museum half an hour before your entrance to check your bags and pick up your tickets.
Rome has fantastic neighborhoods and we loved exploring them. They all had unique charm, great sites and fantastic restaurants. Click below to see our Guides for the different neighborhoods of Rome.
Trastevere is located across the Tiber River (and that is exactly what the name means) and just south of the Vatican. It has become very popular in the past ten years with Italians, international students and tourists alike as it has some of the best food in Rome plus it is incredibly lively at night, especially in the summer. If you happen to visit in the summer make sure you grab some beers or a bottle of wine and head to Piazza Trilussa for an evening of people watching!
This is a great neighborhood to stay in if you want to experience the medieval heart of Rome but not be directly in the center of the city. It is very accessible to all the sights of Rome through the Tram #8 and also many sights are walking distance. While the cuisine here alone might convince you to stay here, you also can’t beat the picturesque winding medieval alleyways, the quaint piazzas and the intersections of history and local life!
Campo dei Fiori is a great jumping off point for exploring Rome as it is located in the southern half of the Centro Storico or the Historical Center. During the day the square is filled with a market frequented by locals and at night it comes alive with bars and restaurants, their seating spilling out into the square. There is also a lot to see and do around Campo dei Fiori including shopping and strolling the picturesque Via Guilia.
Campo dei Fiori is the neighborhood to stay in if you want to be in the middle of it all. You will be walking distance to a number of famous sights in Rome and be able to explore the city in leisure. Plus you will be in or near one of Rome’s most famous and popular piazzas, Campo dei Fiori, where a daily market is held watched over by the statue of Giordano Bruno.
Piazza Navona and the Pantheon is the northern neighborhood of the Centro Storico and is dominated by Piazza Navona and the Pantheon but there is much more to this neighborhood than just these two sites to check off the list. There is artisanal shopping on Via dei Coronari, our personal favorite bar, and some of the best restaurants in the city if you know where to look!
Piazza Navona and the Pantheon neighborhood is one of the most photo worthy of the whole city. Stay here is you want to be surrounded by beauty your whole trip plus the neighborhood is filled with artisanal shops, amazing restaurants and of course, some pretty amazing historical sights. This neighborhood is also the heart of Rome along with Campo dei Fiori and the two neighborhoods make up the Centro Storico or the historical center. You won’t be far from anything in Rome if you stay here.
Tours of the City
Rome is such a huge city and it is easy to get lost or miss something you want to see. If you are worried about missing a site or want to make sure you learn all the interesting facts, like the fact that Hadrian had a lover (a boy by the name of Antinuous), we would suggest taking a tour. Now tours are not for everyone but as Ashley used to be a tour guide we are a little partial to the tours in Rome and all of our fellow tour guide friends.
Ashley used to work for Dark Rome, now called City Wonder Tours, which gives a wide range of tours, from the Coliseum and the Vatican to the Crypts and Catacombs of Rome and Day Trips to Pompeii and Tuscany. A lot of our friends work for the company and the are absolutely fantastic. They are knowledge and most importantly entertaining. We would never give a boring tour.
Storytelling Rome Tours
Our good friend Massimo just started a new tour company as well and he offers tours on a topic you may not find anywhere else. Massimo’s main tour is all about the historic prostitutes and muses of artists who shaped Renaissance Rome. Now that is definitely a history lesson I think everyone will enjoy. Massimo also offer tours on the Emperors of Rome as well and his tours offer a different perspective on the sites of Rome that are so famous today and cover the scandals of Ancient and Medieval Rome. If you are going to Rome I would not miss out on these tours!
The Rogue Historians
Our other good friends Rachel and Ian started a tour company called Rogue Historians which offers an alternative style of tours with amazingly knowledgeable guides. Check out their website to learn more about the tours they offer!
Rome is a great city to use as a jumping off point, if you are spending a fair amount of time in Rome and need a break or have just visited the city several times day trips are always a nice option to see some more of Italy. Some of our favorite day trips are to head out to the great beaches nearby or to swing down to Naples and see Pompeii.
We would also highly recommend taking the train a half hour outside of Rome to visit the town of Frascati. Frascati is known for the white wine it produces and is a gorgeous little hillside town with a great market and wine bars. It is easily accessible from Rome and its a great little place to escape for a half day or even a stay overnight.
Tivoli is another great option for a day trip out of Rome. The charming town is easily reached from Rome’s Tiburtina train station and the journey is only half an hour away. The charming town is famous for two things, Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este. Hadrian’s Villa was built by Emperor Hadrian in the 2ndcCE and the term villa should be used loosely to describe this sprawling complex where Hadrian spent most of his time.
He actually hated living in Rome so he constructed his villa in Tivoli and coincidentally most of the politics of Rome moved with him making the villa less a home and more a thriving center of government. The Villa d’Este is a traditional Renaissance villa which was actually inspired by Hadrian’s Villa. The Villa d’Este however, is famous for its gardens and fountains. The town of Tivoli is also a gorgeous medieval city and worth checking out.
Also remember if you find yourself in Rome on April 21st do not forget to wish the city Happy Birthday! It is traditionally held that this is the day in 753BC that Romulus drew his famous line in the sand marking out the boundaries of his new city. No one was allowed to cross these sacred lines but unfortunately his brother did not agree with the founding of the city. He walked over the sacred lines and Romulus was “forced” to kill him, thus the city of Rome was born!
Heading to Rome soon? Don’t forget to buy travel insurance! Sure you may not use it but its always good to have. We recommend <World Nomads which we have been using for years and have always made us feel secure as we travel around the world!
Pin for Later
This post does contain affiliate links. They cost nothing for you but they keep our site running. Thanks for supporting IPoA!