Stephanie Spitler
March 19, 2013 4:00 am

All eyes have been on Rome (and the Vatican City) this week, as Catholic cardinals gathered to choose the new Pope. It’s been a while since I visited the Eternal City, but watching the throngs of people fill St. Peter’s Square, and seeing the beautiful shots of Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica, made me nostalgic.

So, just like we did last week in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, let’s get cultural and celebrate all things Italian (and, more specifically, Roman). I’ll share my favorites from my travels, and feel free to share your own thoughts/wish lists in the comments. You guys had great recommendations for awesome things to see and do in Ireland, so let’s share the love and keep it going for Italy. Ciao!

Beehive Hotel: When I was there it was more hostel than hotel, but I’m not surprised at all that it’s grown and evolved since then. The Beehive is owned by an American expat couple, and when I was there (in the early 2000’s) I remember their helpful advice and the welcoming atmosphere. They gave me a guide to the city that they had compiled themselves (it’s available to everyone now, as their “Guide to Rome” on the website). Looking at the website now, and seeing how much the place has changed (they’ve added a vegetarian café!), makes me eager to go back and check out the new and improved spot.

Hostaria Isidoro: The Beehive’s Guide to Rome brought me to this gem, a restaurant by the Colosseum that I’m sure I never would’ve found without Steve and Linda’s recommendation. It was the best meal I had in Rome (gelato doesn’t count as a meal, right?). The rustic décor (stone walls and wood beam ceilings) is the perfect atmosphere for a delicious, leisurely meal. I say leisurely because the house special, called “assaggini,” is a kind of never-ending parade of pasta. They’ll bring you small plates of different kinds of pasta until you tell them to stop. But bring a friend, because you need at least 2 people to order it. (Trust me, it’s worth it!)

Roman Forum: Ok, so I know that this is mentioned in EVERY guidebook and it isn’t exactly an inside tip. It’s probably a “duh” spot to mention, but it was one of my favorites so I’m going to sing its praises. The special thing about the Forum, to me, was that you were surrounded by the monuments and ancient ruins; you were walking through them, not staring at them, separated by a velvet rope. It’s that accessibility that really stood out to me.

Trevi Fountain: This is another touristy spot that is probably already on everyone’s must-see list, but it really is gorgeous. The scale and intricacy of the sculptures is breathtaking to behold in real life. Plus, you HAVE to swing by and toss a coin in, to ensure your return to Rome.

There are a bunch of other places I’d recommend: the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Square, and the Pantheon. But honestly, the best part of any trip is when you venture away from the guidebook must-sees and discover your own favorite places. Whether it’s a great sidewalk café on a little side street, or a restaurant that serves amazing pasta (see above), those are the places you’ll remember most fondly.

So, what great hidden spots have you discovered (or heard about) in Rome?

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Featured image via Shutterstock

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