This is a guest post by Jonathon Spada – thank you Jonathon!
First-time visitors to Rome are often enchanted by the vintage glamour from the classic mid-century films set in the Eternal City. A happy-go-lucky Audrey Hepburn atop a vintage Vespa zipping through narrow, winding streets or a gorgeous Anita Ekberg splashing around the Trevi Fountain set the bar high for many visiting Rome. While the stars gracing the silver screen may have changed over the years, the vintage glamour in Rome is far from gone.
For those seeking to follow in the footsteps of the vintage elite, this list is for you! Read recommendations below for restaurants, shopping, art and architecture, as well as locations for an afternoon picnic and bike ride to live out your dreams for your very own Roman holiday.
Let’s start with the most famous: the street Via Veneto, still one of the most prestigious in Rome, opens onto the south-east edge of Villa Borghese gardens, winding its way to Piazza Barberini. The street was immortalized as a destination for the who’s who of cinema starlets when it was featured in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita, especially the Café de Paris (Via Veneto, 90) and Harry’s Bar (Via Veneto, 150) which still serve up espressos to VIPs today.
There’s nothing more glamorous than a meal with a view, and Rome can deliver with some fabulous al fresco terraces. The terraces belonging to the iconic Hotel Hassler, the Cavalieri, the Grand Hotel Palace, and Hotel Minerva, are some of the most distinguished locations with celebrity chefs serving award-winning menus amidst stunning panoramic views that have hosted the vintage glamour crowd for decades. If you’d like to indulge at one of these hotels without breaking the bank, just grab a prosecco at sunset. Rome at dusk is nothing short of spectacular.
Via Margutta, a “hidden” parallel to Via Babuino off Piazza di Spagna, holds many local claims to fame. It was here that John Bradley, Gregory Peck’s character in Roman Holiday, lived at no. 51. It was also the residential street for many of Rome’s celebrities through the decades, including Federico Fellini and Picasso for a brief stint in 1917. Today the charming street is lined with galleries, small artisanal shops, and restaurants, including Osteria Margutta (Via Margutta, 82), historically known as the meeting place for many of the internationally famous artists who lived and worked here, including Italo Calvino, Giorgio De Chirico, and Pier Paolo Pasolini to name a few.
The most glamorous shopping district in Rome remains the Tridente district, delineated by three ‘prongs’ that lead to Piazza del Popolo – Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso, and Via del Babuino. The cross streets in this area are home to international and local boutique ateliers for fashion, art, home decor, and antiquities. Here you’ll find all of the global fashion houses – Gucci, Bulgari, Fendi, Prada, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, and so on. Here you’ll find Via Condotti, the so-called “5th Avenue” of Rome and a very popular street to see and be seen. If you’re looking for a taste of local fashion, organize an appointment with local personal shopper Barbara Lessona, who has access to not only exclusive showrooms like André Laug (who used to dress Audrey Hepburn!) but also the lesser-known, specialty stores like G’local in Campo Marzio. Or for one-of-a-kind finds, head to La Bottega Margutta on Via Margutta, 58 or get a personalized marble engraving for as little as €15 from the Bottega del Marmoraro di Sandro Fiorentini also on Via Margutta.
Of course Rome is known for its wealth of ancient, Byzantine, and Renaissance art and architecture but the vintage glamour scene lends itself to a different era – that of modern art from the early 20th century and onwards.
The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna near the north-west end of the Villa Borghese gardens has an impressive permanent collection and a constantly changing wealth of temporary exhibitions. Or if you’re looking for something a little more intimate, head back to Via Margutta where you’ll find plenty of local artist-run galleries featuring both vintage and contemporary works.
The architecture in Rome is an extraordinary tapestry of contrasting styles from different centuries built on top, next to, and inside each other. To stroll characteristically charming narrow streets in Rome, check out the Monti neighborhood (the area north of Via Cavour) or the Jewish Ghetto (near Campo de’ Fiori and Largo Argentina). It’s easy to get lost around Campo de’ Fiori, but head to nearby Via Giulia for an exceptionally stunning walk.
The Esposizione Universale Roma, or EUR neighbrohood was a massive urban planning project in the 1930s under Benito Mussolini. Destined to be the host for the 1942 World Expo but ultimately never took place due to the Second World War, the quarter is known for several Fascist Era architectural monuments, such as the square colosseum and artificial lake. The stark architecture contrasts with that of the center but brims with mid-century elegance. A lovely stroll and coffee along Via Europa or around the artifical lake, laghetto dell’EUR, feels like a step back in time.
The vintage glamour of summer in Rome is immortalized by movie stars on bicycles, vespas, and indulging in lazy picnics in Rome’s beautiful parks. Bicycles and Vespa rentals can be rented through a many different companies, but the most popular is Bici Baci, which has several rental locations throughout the city.
The Villa Borghese Gardens have plenty of lovely spots for a picnic with scenic views. There’s a particularly peaceful and shady spot that faces the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in the north-west end of the park. Villa Borghese is a great place to rent a bicycle or golf cart and go for a ride. Take your bike to the Giardino del Lago, which features a picturesque pond and manicured gardens.
In addition to Villa Borghese, Villa Doria Pamphili (near Trastevere and the Vatican) and Villa Ada (in the north end of Rome) are the two other largest public parks that are perfect for a giro on 2 wheels. For something more central, right around the corner from the Colosseum is Villa Celimontana. Surrounded by the ruins of prestigious Roman palaces of the Oppian Hill, the park is less vast but features plenty of places to sit down, lay out a blanket and relax for a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Via Appia Antica, the original road into the ancient city of Rome, is another fabulous bike route where several stops can be made along the way to visit catacombs, ruins of ancient villas, and even drink refreshing spring water from the Ninfeo di Egeria, which is naturally sparkling. The vintage glamour of Rome best marketed by the beautiful women and men in the cinema of the 1950s and 1960s can still be experienced today and add a particularly sophisticated layer to your own Roman holiday.
About the author:
Jonathon Dominic Spada manages Margutta Glamour Studios, a collection of 4 elegant vacation rentals repurposed from historic artist lofts and studios, located on Rome’s distinguished “artists’ street” – Via Margutta. Margutta Glamour Studios are perfect for families or couples seeking to experience the elegant lifestyle of the vintage glamour in Rome. We offer professional wedding and event planning services as well.
For reservations and more information, visit www.marguttaglamourstudios.com
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