This article is part of a guide to Rome from FT Globetrotter
Every good day in Rome starts with a cornetto and a foamy cappuccino. The best fresh cornetto in town is found at Antico Caffè Ruschena, located on the banks of the Tiber (opposite the Ara Pacis, an altar to Pax, the Roman goddess of peace). It is the perfect place for an easy, Italian-style standing breakfast, having a quick chat with the bartender and enjoying the clank of coffee cups and friendly “Buongiorno!”.
On Saturdays or Sundays, embrace the slow rhythm of the city and go for a walk along Via di San Teodoro (near the Circus Maximus), one of Rome’s most beautiful and lesser-known streets. It offers a unique perspective of the Forum and you’ll stumble upon a secret gem: the Campagna Amica farmers’ market, where the fruit and vegetables seem to take on the colours of precious stones. The small-scale farmers and shepherds who bring their produce here have maintained and protected local food and drink traditions for generations. I recommend buying a jar of sour cherry jam, a classic addition to traditional Roman cakes, and tasting the smoked buffalo ricotta — two local specialities that take me back to my childhood growing up in Rome.
When it comes to galleries and museums, there’s no shortage of choice in Rome, but the Galleria Borghese, located in the splendid Villa Borghese park, never fails to amaze. No matter how many times you have been, there is always something new to discover. Each visit is a journey through the history of Rome, from its time as capital of the Roman empire, through the Middle Ages and up to the Renaissance, the Baroque era and the 19th century. Raffaello, Titian, Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio . . . they all live together in this unmissable place. The building itself too is a work of art, with warm-coloured marble and surprising architectural details.
If you want to jump straight into the 21st century, MAXXI, the national museum of contemporary art and architecture designed by Zaha Hadid, is a cultural hotspot that offers a less conventional take on the city.
In Rome, making time to get lost is mandatory. Leave your to-do list aside and go discover an unexpected Baroque church wedged between two palazzi, or the romantic bougainvillea dangling from a tiny terrace. Whether you’re exploring the bustling area around Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, or the picturesque Via Margutta (whose famous residents have included Federico Fellini and the artist Renato Guttuso), you will discover less crowded streets dotted with charming galleries and antique shops, colourful flower stands and snug bars for an al fresco coffee or wine.
In the heart of the city, you will come across Ciampini, a café nestled in the lovely Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina. This is where to indulge in la dolce vita with a newspaper and a coffee on the piazza, or, dare I say, by having one of the best gelatos in Rome. Try a scoop each of chocolate and hazelnut, topped by a touch of homemade whipped cream. Buonissimo!
As evening falls, the city unleashes more magic. You can not leave Rome without experiencing aperitivo on a spectacular terrace during golden hour. Terrazza Caffarelli, part of the Capitoline Museums, offers a bird’s-eye view of the city — and the perfect setting to take in its cinematic beauty at sunset. Spending an afternoon or evening here feels like you’re on a film set. Order a classic spritz and a plate of purple-potato gnocchi with clams and green beans, then a gelato to finish. Sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
For dinner, head to Due Ladroni, a traditional Roman restaurant where you are truly made to feel at home in a cosy and familiar setting. Here, the spaghetti with musky octopus is a favourite, and the riso al salto and the raw seafood antipasti are also loved by its loyal clientele.
But if you want to dine at a true Roman institution, Camponeschi — amid the elegance of the iconic Piazza Farnese — offers a taste of the city’s high life. Popular with local celebrities as well as the international jet set for its refined yet warm atmosphere, the restaurant serves traditional Roman cuisine — and beyond. You might try the vignarola, a mélange of peas, broad beans and artichokes — spring on a plate — or the carbonara, cooked to the original recipe.
After dinner there’s no better way to end the day in this beautiful city than walking home in the warm and unique light of a Roman sunset.
What are your favourite ways to spend a day in Rome? Share your tips in the comments below
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