A beautiful tableau of visible history where nearly 3000 years of culture and commerce overlap on the streets: in Rome, every day is a story waiting to happen, writes Erica Firpo. The Italian-American writer, who has called the city home for the last two decades, shares her insider tips with Cabana.



Roma, Cabana Magazine © Antonio Monfreda 


Rome is always described as a beautiful tableau of visible history, but it’s more marketplace and less museum. Every day is a story waiting to happen and a barter needing to be made. More than 2700 years of culture and commerce overlap on the streets, creating a delicious cacophony where ancient architecture and Baroque splendor sit shoulder to shoulder with just a touch of contemporary creativity, like Sant’Andrea de Scaphis, a medieval church with the most contemporary site-specific art installations. Meanwhile, the decayed is arm-and-arm with the decadent, from the market stalls of Porta Portese to frescoed ceilings of Galleria del Cembalo.

Where to Stay 

Palazzo Manfredi and Palm Suites Palazzo: Manfredi has the best view in Rome: the Colosseum in its entirety. The standalone palace also pitches a Gatsby vibe with period furniture from the roaring twenties and marvelous mid-century. Closer to home, Manfredi’s Palm Suites are a series of eclectic, fabulously styled apartments in the Monti neighborhood, perfect for playing house.

Hotel de’ RicciA retro-inspired reboot of a private townhouse, the eight-room Hotel de’ Ricci is impeccably styled and designed with the enophile in mind. Each of the rooms include curated wine bars, while the wine cellar reportedly boasts the best and biggest collection in the Eternal City. And it’s just-behind Campo de’ Fiori.

Hotel Vilòn: An 18-room hotel hidden in the Palazzo BorgheseVilòn seems like a film set, and it should be thanks to silver screen set designer Paolo Bonfini. Bonfini brings in jewel tones, and mixes up mid-century modern with contemporary, set to the backdrop of the palace’s historic architecture. The best guest rooms are garden facing with terrace, perfect spot for an afternoon escape. 

Villa Laetitia: A Belle Epoque villette beautifully restored by Anna Fendi Venturini. Eclectic, yesteryear glamour, pristine vintage, and just a touch of contemporary. The Vittoria location (adjacent to Prati and along the river) is just far enough from the craze of historic center, but close enough for a scenic stroll along the Tiber.

Hotel d’inghiliterra: Piazza di Spagna’s best kept secret. After a painstaking restoration, save for the ground floor restaurant and lounge, Inghilterra’s 82 rooms and suites are luminous and combine Rome’s ancient heritage with contemporary design. Inghilterra is set to re-open this summer, July 2024.


Where to Eat

Retrobottega: Dark and moody Retrobottega features open kitchens and communal tables. Chefs Alessandro Miocchi and Giuseppe Lo Lodice create menus that celebrate natural flavors, locality and creativity, along with Miocchi's homemade pastas and bread. Behind is Retrovino, the restaurant’s intimate wine bar.

OrmaRome’s newest Michelin star. With its fluid lines, wood paneling, and soft leather, Orma is an architectural journey as well as a culinary one. Guests move through spaces as they move through the creative menu designed by Bogota-born chef, Roy Caceres. On the rooftop you'll find Orma Bistrot, Caceres’ more casual spin.

Piatto Romano: a journey through cucina romana. From the vignarola (a spring salad of artichokes, fava and pea) and baccalà (cod) to carbonara (made with free-range eggs and local pecorino), and coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew), each dish at Piatto Romano celebrates the traditions of Roman cuisine, through today’s gaze.

La Matricianella: a tiny Roman trattoria with wooden furniture and a cozy vibe. This is where you’ll feel at home and eat one of the best amatriciana in the city.

NIte Kong: a sultry, La Dolce Vita inspired noir lounge, created by cocktail king Patrick Pistolesi whose Drink Kong consistently ranks in the top 50 Best Bars.

The Court: an open loggia/terrace looking onto the Colosseum and ancient gladiatorial school, Ludus Magnus with award-winning cocktails from Matteo Zed.


Where to Shop

Antiquariato Luciano Pirili: A wunderkammern of antiques from the 18th through 20th century on Via Banchi Nuovi. Meandering Pirili requires a little bit of patience, here you’ll find a bust of Hadrian, Louis XIV chairs and Empire chandeliers.

Porta Portese: Rome’s Sunday flea market is an all-you-can-eat buffet of objects, furniture, books, bicycles, clothing, jewelry and household goods. Anything and everything you’ve ever thought about collecting can be found here. The banchi (vendor stands) span more than a kilometer, so a visit can take few hours. Art historian and collector, Giuseppe Garrera, insists the best time to peruse is before 6am.

Borghetto FlaminioSunday vintage market in a former bus depot just north of Piazza del Popolo. Expect to find knick-knacks, trinkets, antiques, collectables and retro designer accessories at this pay-to-enter flea market.


Roma, Cabana Magazine © Antonio Monfreda 


Borghetto Flaminio: Sunday vintage market in a former bus depot just north of Piazza del Popolo. Expect to find knick-knacks, trinkets, antiques, collectables and retro designer accessories at this pay-to-enter flea market.

Galleria MIA: A labyrinthine gallery around the corner from the Ara Pacis where every room is a discovery of designs - established and emerging, Italian and international. The delight is in the details from lighting, furniture and rugs to ceramics and flatware. Owners Marianna Lubrano, Emilia Petruccelli and Maria Rosaria Voccia are also founders of EDIT Napoli, EDIT design fair and Made in EDIT.

Re[F]use by Carmina Campus: Handbags made with umbrella fabric remnants, hoop earrings made from bottles, Re[F]use, a sustainability initiative, transforms refused materials into fashion and design pieces.

Triple F: Federica Formilli Fendi’s temple to restored vintage. The multi-level labyrinth is a series of rooms where Fendi creates mise-en-scene with her handpicked selection of furniture, lighting, clothing and objects by 20th century icons including Gio Ponti, Joe Colombo and Gabriella Crespi.


Roma, Cabana Magazine © Antonio Monfreda 

What to See & Do

Casa Balla: the home, studio and workspace of Futurist artist Giacomo Balla, Elisa Marcucci and daughters Elica and Luce. The Balla family lived here from 1929 and transformed the apartment into a working and living artspace. Every element - from the paintings and furnishings to the flatwork and floor tiles - is a work of FuturBalla.

Galleria del Cembalo: An art gallery on the ground floor of Palazzo Borghese, the Borghese family’s historic city center palace. Galleria del Cembalo showcases contemporary photography against its original rococo deco, and beautiful, manicured gardens with nymphaeum and fountains designed by Carlo Rainaldi.

La Galleria Nazionale: Italy’s home for modern and contemporary, La Galleria is an incredible, non-chronological walk through Italian art history. The national collection spans from the mid-1800s to today with magnificent works by era-defining artists, such as Manzoni, Pascoli, Di Domenicis, Clemente, Penoni, Pistoletto, and Fontana, as well as earlier favorites like Canova, Modigliani, Pelizza and Balla.


Roma, Cabana Magazine © Antonio Monfreda 


Museo della Forma Urbis: Rome’s newest museum showcasing Ancient Rome’s oldest map. Created between 203 and 211 CE, the Forma Urbis was a monumental map detailing all of Rome, consisting of 150 marble slabs that together measured 18m by 14m hung on the side of the Temple of Peace in the Roman Forum. Now in fragments, only 10% of the map remains, all of which has been cleverly displayed atop a reproduction of Nolli map, (a detailed 18th-century city map by Giambattista Nolli) and placed on the floor. You are walking on history.

Sant’Andrea de ScaphisThis tiny, deconsecrated 9th-century church is Gavin Brown’s tiny Rome outpost. Completely void of any decorating, just beamed ceilings and exposed brick walls, the rustic space is an inspired backdrop to capsule exhibitions by modern and contemporary art world luminaries.


Roma, Cabana Magazine © Antonio Monfreda 


Villa Albani Torlonia: A sprawling garden and neoclassical monument surprisingly hidden in a busy residential neighborhood, Villa Albani is a private home and art collection with a treasure trove of art. Perugino, Tintoretto, Giulio Romano, and Van Dyck are just a few names in the painting collection, but you’re here to immerse yourself in Villa Albani’s coveted collection of marble statues, mosaics and other antiquities originally curated by famed art historian and archaeologist, Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Surrounding the villa are beautifully maintained gardens.

Villa Medici: A 16th-century villa and home of the French Academy, a dynamic cultural hub with an artists’ residence, exhibition spaces, and more than 16 acres of beautiful gardens. The villa’s facade is decorated with stucchi, garlands and ancient bas relief, including fragments from the Ara Pacis and the Arcus Novus. The villa is undergoing a restoration project where contemporary designers are paired with historic rooms. In 2023, India Mahdavi restored and reimagined the apartments of Cardinale Ferdinando de Medici, with nine more. Don't miss Ferdinando’s padiglione, a tiny and elaborately decorated pavilion hidden in the garden.


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