Tag Archive | "Rome"

De La Ville Roma

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De La Ville Roma

De La Ville Roma

By Marc Kristal

“Location, location, location,” that governing incantation of all real estate deals, isn’t quite as ironclad when it comes to choosing a hotel. For one, part of the pleasure of travel involves discovering unknown, out-of-the-way gems; for another, hostelries in the heart of the action tend to be crowded, expensive, and touristic. The site of the InterContinental De La Ville Roma, however, would be impossible for even the most dedicated alternative traveler to resist. Just down the hill from Trinità dei Monti, at the top of the Spanish Steps, on Via Sistina, the hotel offers the privacy afforded by a discreet, narrow walking street while being a minute from one of the most majestic and storied overlooks in all of central Rome. De La Ville Roma is a pleasant stroll from such famous destinations as the Borghese Gallery and its sublime surrounding gardens and park, the Villa Medici, Piazza del Popolo, and vias Condotti (for shopping) and Veneto (for pretending you’re Fellini); and, if you enjoy sightseeing on foot (and in Rome, who doesn’t?), it’s not much further to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, the Forum and the Vatican – many of the places that, in spirit and in fact, make the city feel “eternal.” And like the street where it lives, the hotel itself, comprised of three buildings surrounding a central court, owns a discreet, old-world decorousness that enables guests to feel at once a part of, and apart from, the city. The pleasures of its setting aside, De La Ville Roma presents a number of charms that separate it from the typical “brand” hotel, and make it a pleasurable place indeed to vacation, vacation, vacation.


De La Ville Roma

De La Ville Roma

Appropriately, for a city in which the past everywhere haunts the present, De La Ville Roma is layered with history. During the Roman Empire, the land formed a part of the legendary Gardens of Lucullus, developed by the great general and politician whose name is synonymous with extravagant gourmandizing (as in “a lucullan feast”). Beginning in the sixteenth century, a monastery occupied the site; what is today the hotel’s inner courtyard functioned as a cloister in which the monks devoted themselves to prayer. In 1924, the Hungarian architect József Vágó combined the multiple structures into a hotel – which quickly became one of Rome’s most prestigious – and its modern, and very colorful, life began. According to Ciro Verrocchi, De La Ville Roma’s general manager, the hotel’s back door made it a popular choice for philandering politicians, and then as now the place remains a favorite among film stars, rock musicians, and supermodels (and, apparently, a good location: Woody Allen shot a scene for To Rome with Love in one of the suites).

With 192 rooms (24 of them suites), De La Ville Roma isn’t especially large, and the public spaces, though mostly high-ceilinged, are intimately scaled, which gives the hotel the welcome flavor of a private villa or pensione, a quality enhanced by the multiple terraces and balconies, many of them lightly, colorfully landscaped, that overlook the interior court. These alternate with 27 rooms that take advantage of the hotel’s location near the top of the Pincian Hill to deliver commanding panoramic vistas of the city and Borghese Gardens. The availability of the outdoors, the curiosity encouraged by the terrace-ringed communal courtyard, give De La Ville Roma a distinctly Roman companionability that’s unusual in a five-star hotel – in which the experience is typically more about the room than what’s outside the window – a sense of community echoed in the second-floor outdoor dining terraces and the Emperor’s Terrace, the rooftop bar/restaurant that opens in the warm months.


De La Ville Roma

De La Ville Roma

When asked what most distinguishes De La Ville Roma from the competition, Verrocchio answers, immediately, “it has the old charm,” and unlike other hotels with what he calls “a big tradition in the city, like the Excelsior, you have the great location.” Combined with “the consistency of a branded hotel,” Verrocchio adds, “it’s a place you can feel ‘old fashioned’ but with good quality.”

That’s largely a fair assessment, though De La Ville Roma is not without its shortcomings. The traditional hotel, with its festoon curtains and patterned rugs, requires freshening to rescue it from dowager-dom – both the rooms in which I stayed needed a coat of paint and new carpets – and more attentive housekeeping; and certain elements, notably the tiny, underequipped fitness room and frustratingly hit-or-miss wifi, would elicit complaints from travelers used to InterContinental’s dependably consistent amenities. De La Ville does not disappoint, however, when it comes to service: you are fussed over by teams of suitably (but not excessively) friendly and colorful receptionists, concierges, waiters, and bellmen in a fashion that does feel old-school in the most enjoyable and genuine of ways. If the ultimate measure of any establishment is its staff,  De La Ville Roma deserves its five stars – and just outside the door, the heart of Rome awaits.

Visit InterContinental De La Ville Roma


Marc  Marc Kristal is an architecture, design and travel writer. Kristal, a contributing editor of Dwell and a former editor of AIA/J, and has written for The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Wallpaper, Surface, and numerous other publications. In 2003, he curated the exhibition ‘Absence Into Presence: The Art, Architecture and Design of Remembrance’ at Parsons School of Design, and in 2009 he was part of the project team that created the award-winning Greenwich South planning study for the Alliance for Downtown New York. His books include Re:Crafted: Interpretations of Craft in Contemporary Architecture and Interiors (2010) and Immaterial World: Transparency in Architecture (2011), both from The Monacelli Press. Also a screenwriter, Kristal wrote the film Torn Apart.  He lives in New York.

Letter from Rome: 6 Great Roman Resources

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St. Peter's seen through the keyhole of the Priory of the Knights of Malta. Photo by Karen Glenn.


By Tom Passavant

Let’s face it: Exploring Rome is at once exhilarating and exhausting. All those churches! All that pasta! And yes, all those guidebooks and maps and web sites and blogs that purport to explain it all for you. After four weeks of daily explorations, not to mention years of accumulating dozens of said guidebooks, maps, etc., here is my latest, field-tested (or in current jargon, curated) list of resources that really worked for me in Rome.

Eyewitness Travel: Top Ten Rome If you’ve got to tote just one guide book around Rome, make it this one. How authors Reid Bramblett and Jeffrey Kennedy manage to cram so much useful information into a 4” x 7.5” book of less than 200 pages is beyond me, but they consistently steer you straight (the Top Ten lists of the title are especially well-chosen) and even manage to include tips and info that bigger guides miss.

Speaking of which, Eyewitness Travel: Rome, with its superb illustrations, is far and away the best full-size guide, but it weighs as much as a Roman paving stone. Bring it along in your checked luggage, and use it for research in your hotel room.

Rough Guide Map: Rome I know, paper maps are so last century. Try telling that to the droves of tourists on every corner squinting at the various free maps handed out in hotels and the tourist office. It’s not that those maps are completely useless, but that they could be so much better. So pony up $8.95 (it’s available from Amazon) for this absolutely indispensable tool, printed on tough, waterproof paper with legible type and highlighting everything from bus routes to shopping streets to gelaterias. Even when you still get lost, it will probably lead you to some unexpected Roman pleasure or treasure.

Head at Capitoline Museum. Photo by Karen Glenn.

Rome Bus This free app for iPhone and iPad, courtesy of Atac, Rome’s transportation agency, is invaluable for getting around on the city’s excellent, if tangled, bus system. Tell it where you are and where you want to go and the walking directions and bus connections (in English) pop up in no time.

Eat Rome This terrific iPad and iPhone app, recently introduced by the Rome-based food writer Elizabeth Minchilli, is a delight to use, not only for its logical, easy-to-navigate format, but also for the impeccable dining choices within. Organized by category–pizzerias, wine bars, cheese shops–and by location, with zoomable maps, it offers reviews by Minchilli and also links to web sites when available. $2.99 from the Apple app store. Check out her video below.

Food Wine Rome David Downie is one of those writers you’d love to hate. In addition to being an insightful reporter, his knowledge of Rome and its food culture is comprehensive, and his lifestyle is enviable. (He “divides his time between France and Italy,” as his web site puts it.) This handsome paperback serves up generous helpings of both deep background (33 ways to order coffee in Rome, everything you need to know about bread, pasta, salumi, etc.) and instant access to Rome’s finest food sources.


Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.

Letter from Rome: The Biscotti Files

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Biscotti at Il Fornaio. Photo by Karen Glenn.


By Tom Passavant
They say that armies travel on their stomachs. So for the legions of tourists who descend on Rome every day, I have one word of advice for withstanding the rigors of sightseeing: biscotti. The Eternal City abounds with options for quick and delicious snacks, from standup espresso bars to pizzerias, but no city on earth is as passionate about cookies (biscotti in Italian) as Rome. Even Palermo can’t compete with the great bakeries in every Roman neighborhood offering endless mouth-watering variations on flour, butter, shortening and sugar, not to mention nuts, fruit and chocolate. What’s more, most bakeries are open from early morning to evening, without the usual midday closing. That means that you can always get your energy level back up before taking on the third church of the day.
After two weeks of dogged investigative journalism, I’ve come up with a short list of bakeries in various neighborhoods that will not disappoint even the most demanding biscotti lovers.

Innocenti Tucked away in a quiet corner of Trastevere is this century-old, no-frills biscottificio where even the most basic cat’s tongues, with their slightly burnt edges, manage to trump the competition. The selection of both traditional and more modern cookies is vast, and everything is sold by weight, but the friendly owner and her assistants are happy to pick out an assortment for you. Via Della Luce 21/A.


Innocenti. Photo by Karen Glenn

Il Fornaio When it comes to traditional styles of biscotti, like brutti ma buoni (ugly but good) and pine nut-paved della nonnas, our hands-down favorite is this busy place between the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Campo de Fiori. The nut-filled varieties are especially creamy, and those virtuous white balls might harbor a liqueur-spiked cherry. Via del Baullari 5/7.

Panella This sleek, modern place in Esquilino, just southwest of the main train station, is famous for its breads and for coffee drinks topped with a spoonful of the thickest, yellowest cream imaginable. The vast array of biscotti and other pastries are first-rate, too, and there are indoor seats at various counters where you can enjoy your treats without the usual markup for table service. Via Merulana 54/55.

Farinando Tucked away behind the Aventine Hill and across the Tiber from Trastevere, Testaccio is one of Rome’s foodiest neighborhoods, featuring everything from trendy late-night hangouts to one of the best food markets in the city. It’s also home to this new bread/pizza/biscotti storefront that offers a nice selection of traditional cookies–try the rich, whole wheat integrali for example, which taste like graham crackers gone to heaven. Another highlight is the array of exceptionally light and flavorful pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice, cut to order from a long rectangle of dough). Plenty of tables, too. Via della Robbia 30.

Antico Forno Roscioli It’s tough to know where to start describing the pleasures of this perpetually crowded bakery near the Campo de Fiori that offers everything from superb cookies and pastries to memorable pizza al taglio, unusual breads, and savory tarts stuffed with vegetables. There’s even a tavola calda where you can point to various hot dishes and enjoy the fast food of your dreams while standing shoulder to shoulder with Roman businessmen and women at barrel tables right on the street. Their sister deli/restaurant, a few doors down, has the best spaghetti carbonara in Rome. Via dei Chiavari 34.



Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.

Letter from Rome

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Spring along the Tiber, looking at the Ponte Sisto bridge. Photo by Karen Glenn.

by Tom Passavant

It’s spring in Rome, with thunderstorms giving way now to sunny skies. Even the marble statues in the piazzas look refreshed and ready for the onslaught of summer tourists. One of the first things that struck my wife and me when we arrived last week after a two-year absence was how green Rome looked, in more ways than one. Recycling bins have taken over a couple of parking spaces on virtually every block–this in a city where finding a place to park your Fiat is about as easy as achieving sainthood. Clearly the Romans are taking trash seriously.
We also could not help but notice just how verdant everything was. We are staying in Testaccio, a middle-class Roman neighborhood at the foot of the Aventine hill and just across the Tiber from far better known Trastevere. The avenues here are lined with towering trees, the apartment buildings are built around courtyards filled with orange and lemon trees dripping with fruit, often with a three-story tall palm tree in the center. We are surrounded by gorgeous greenery, with the Tiber on two sides, the serene, leafy Protestant Cemetery (final resting place of Keats and Shelly, among others) on another, and the lush, winding streets of the decidedly upscale Aventino between us and the Circus Maximus.
And it occurred to me that this is something that a lot of visitors to Rome miss. It’s so easy to spend all your time communing with piles of stone and churches and museums filled with (admittedly stunning) paintings and sculptures that you might not consider taking a break and heading for the hills–literally. Most of Rome’s urban hills are studded with parks and well-maintained gardens, and even neighborhoods without major attractions, like the Aventino and Gianicolo hillside above Trastevere offer a glimpse of a gentler lifestyle than you see on the traffic-clogged streets below. I know, I know–the time you spend strolling up the Via Santa Sabina in the Aventino or the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi in Gianicolo might seem to come at the expense of that tour of the Barberini Palace, but when you get home you’ll remember those cool, sweet streets every bit as fondly.

Vendor selling artichokes at Testaccio Market. Photo by Karen Glenn.


And finally, Rome at this season is full of wonderful green things to eat. Virtually every trattoria that means to be taken seriously–not to mention the local supermarket up the street from us– has a hand- lettered sign by the door announcing that fresh fava beans have arrived. Artichokes and squash blossoms are everywhere–atop pizzas, in pasta, fried or cooked in olive oil, stirred into risotto or pureed into pestos. Fresh peas, plates of garlicky sautéed chicory, and the much-prized crispy puntarelle, bathed with olive oil and anchovies, are the inevitable first course or side dish. The other night at a neighborhood restaurant called Agustarello, the chef/owner offered a soup special that managed to include artichokes, peas, favas and asparagus in a porridge so thick we ate it with forks. Ahh, spring in Rome.


Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.

Fred Plotkin, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

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Fred Plotkin.

Fred Plotkin is a self-styled “pleasure activist.” But that playful term doesn’t begin to encapsulate his extraordinarily accomplished and diverse background. Fred is one of the world’s leading authorities on Italian food and cooking, the author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, which has just been released in its 5th edition. A Fulbright Scholar, he’s taught a course on Fellini at the New School. As a wine expert, he has led tastings and organized cellars for restaurants.

Fred also knows a staggering amount about opera –- he worked at La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera and authored Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera. You may have heard him as a guest on the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday afternoon broadcasts, or caught him lecturing onboard a Crystal Cruises or a trip run by the Smithsonian Institution. The author of nine books and countless articles for such publications as Bon Appetit and The New York Times, Fred maintains a dizzying travel schedule but took a few moments to answer some questions about Italy, food and the pleasures of travel.

The 5th edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler is just out. I’ve used it as my food bible when I’ve traveled in Italy. How did it come about?

Most of my books seem to be the result of people asking me for advice and information about the things I love –Italy, opera, food, wine, among them. I have traveled more widely in Italy than anyone I know, including Italians. I have always had an eye and nose for that which is local and typical rather than touristy. Italy has an unmatched food and wine culture and I see it as something that should be documented so that it is not corrupted. Thirty years of notes formed the basis of the first edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler back in 1996 and there have been updates in 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010.



 How exhausting is it to update such a guide?

Well, you should know that I do not have a staff. Everything I have written about in this book I have seen, smelled, heard, touched and tasted myself. This is a very personal guidebook that reflects my taste and experience. I never say that something is “the best” without adding the words “I know.”

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craigslist for Vacation Rentals

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Glenn Diamondheadview

This view for $99 a night via craigslist? Photo by Karen Glenn.

Interested in renting a one-bedroom cottage with a pool in West Palm Beach for $85 per night? Or maybe a two-bedroom apartment in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco for $150 a night? Or perhaps a studio in Rome near the Trevi fountain for 85 euros ($119) per night? They were among the hundreds of vacation rentals posted today on craigslist.

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West on Books: Europe’s Best Bookshops

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Acqua alta

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice 

By Richard West

Finally in our hotel room in Rome. Unpacking the luggage, all seems well –camera, return-flight valium, phone recharger. Wait! The books. No books.

Good to learn early what's been forgotton, the books we planned to guide and amuse us through Rome-Venice-Vienna-Lucerne-Paris. Luckily, however, we did print a recent story from Everett Potter's Travel Report blog on finding English-language bookshops in, what a coincidence, the very same cities on this trip. Ah, here it is:

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