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Rome

Do as the Romans do. John Hooper on gelati, football and how to get the best from your Roman Holiday

John Hooper | January/February 2016

DON’T try to do too much. More than 2,500 years of history have left a lot of stuff and trying to see it all can bring on an attack of Stendhal’s Syndrome. Sample the sights on a first visit, but next time follow a line through the city: maybe classical Rome or the Baroque churches, or whatever – you’ll see much more besides.

DO beware of taxi drivers. Most are honest, but there are still tricksters at the airports, stations and main tourist sights. The fares from Fiumicino and Ciampino airports to the centre are €48 and €30. But the centre is defined as within the Aurelian Walls, and since most visitors have no idea where they are – and anyhow they’re discontinuous – that leaves plenty of scope for jiggery-pokery.

DON’T be surprised if it pours with rain even in high summer. Torrential storms are characteristically Roman, but the water thankfully clears quickly.

DO indulge your Audrey Hepburn fantasies by ordering an espresso at an outside table (for serious posing, try Ciampini in Piazza San Lorenzo). But be prepared to pay up to three times as much to sit down: Italians regard coffee as something to knock back while standing at a bar.

DO put together a picnic lunch at a deli (Erzinio, off the tourist-packed Piazza Venezia, is improbably excellent). But…

DO find somewhere unobtrusive to eat it. Romans get indignant when tourists leave half-eaten pizza slices on their treasured monuments.

DON’T resist the temptation of ice cream from a gelateria artigianale. Giolitti, founded in 1890, makes some of Rome’s finest. But my favourite is in a litter-strewn street north of the Vatican. Al Settimo Gelo has the best vanilla you ever tasted.

DO take a sedative before checking hotel prices in the centre. The Hotel Campo de’ Fiori, which has a splendid roof terrace, is surprisingly reasonable (though the rooms are small). For a five-star treat and close-up view of the Colosseum, try Palazzo Manfredi.

DO talk about football (if you’re a fan). But don’t assume you’re ingratiating yourself by loudly singing the praises of AS Roma: a substantial minority of Romans support Lazio.

DO go to Trastevere – for its dilapidated beauty and great bars (for wine by the glass, Enoteca Ferrara; for beer from the barrel, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà). But the young scene has long since gone, most recently to the district of Monti. For a true antidote to monuments and souvenirs, head to Il Pigneto where Pasolini prowled (Necci dal 1924, a bar-restaurant with a shady garden, excellent food and variable service, featured in “Accattone”). Even today, nearby Via Macerata, with a pusher on every corner, could be a set for “The Wire”.

DO go to the Giardino degli Aranci on the Aventine hill for an even more sublime view of the city than from the top of the Spanish Steps.

DO come in spring or autumn. Avoid summer.

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