Explore the modern side of the Eternal City
Most visitors may flock to Rome to savour its historic wonders, but its contemporary culture is as palpable as its past. While away the days in modern art galleries. Don your designer gear and make the Roman streets your runway. And discover the city’s best pizza in a hipster hideout. From some of the best boutique hotels in Rome, you can dive head first into its contemporary scene, without missing the must-see sights of this eternal city.
You’ve seen Michelangelo’s Renaissance masterworks, from the Sistine Chapel to St Peter’s Basilica. Now, experience Rome’s thriving modern art scene. A 19th century military fortress that was abandoned soon after it was built, Forte Prenestino was resurrected in the ‘80s when it was occupied by left-wing students. Their radical legacy continues: today it’s a centre for political, cultural and music events, with street art making for an edgy and exciting façade.
Step off the streets and into the galleries. Designed by Zaha Hadid, the MAXXI museum of contemporary art is, in itself, a statement in forward-thinking design. Engage with deeply political installations, focusing on technology in the modern age and relationships between different countries. Catch a film screening in the auditorium. Or simply explore this triumph of urban architecture on a guided tour.
A sleek glass growth emerging from a converted Peroni brewery, MACRO museum of contemporary art is another striking spot on Rome’s contemporary cityscape. Crammed with collections of post-1960s artwork, it hosts exhibitions by local and international artists alike.
Top tip: Over the winter period, MACRO hosts Fotografia Festival, a collection of works by international photographers. From portraiture to the present day, each year brings a new theme for artists to respond to.
The designer boutiques and vintage boltholes of Rome place it hot on the heels of Italy’s fashion capital, Milan. Pair designer shopping with sightseeing at the Spanish Steps. Known as Rome’s Fifth Avenue, Via dei Condotti is the home of the big-name brands, or griffes to the locals. Here you can peruse Prada shades, Cartier jewellery and Gucci handbags before taking your purchases for an afternoon aperitivo at a nearby bar.
To see the more down-to-earth side of Rome’s fashion scene, Via del Boschetto is a delightful street in the heart of hipster neighbourhood, Monti. Just a short walk from the iconic Roman Forum, vintage boutiques and local designers stand shoulder to shoulder in this bustling street. You might even step in and find the designer at work.
After a day of shopping, make one final stop at the Palazzo Fendi. An exclusive entrance leads from the flagship store up to the fashion house’s first boutique hotel: the impeccably styled Fendi Private Suites.
Founded by Carlo Petrini nearly 30 years ago, the Slow Food Movement is all about championing locally produced food and drink and traditional cooking. Rome may have been where it began, but the movement is usually associated with Tuscany and Piedmont. So it’s exciting to see that its popularity in the capital is now rising faster than airy dough in a wood-fired oven.
Rome is known for its impeccable food, but the streets are over-saturated with tourist traps – so it’s important to know where to go. For a quick bite in between sightseeing, stop off in Pizzarium. This is a truly authentic spot, brimming with locals every lunchtime. Take in the sights, sounds and smells – from the butcher-tiled walls and humming of ovens to the intoxicating wafts of dough and bubbling cheese . The local ingredients are the stars of the show here – from the über-fresh basil to the organic Mulino Marino flour baked into every base.
Now you’ve lunched like a local, discover the other end of Rome’s dazzling foodie spectrum – the Michelin-starred scene. As its name suggests, Metamorfosi fuses classic Italian flavours with experimental and contemporary twists. Splash out on a 10-course tasting menu and experience truly creative cooking.
For a more intimate affair, head to Il Pagliaccio. Be sure to book in advance – this is Rome’s only two-Michelin-starred restaurant, and there are just 28 seats. Head chef Anthony Genovese crafts dishes inspired by his eclectic background, merging elements of his French heritage, Italian home and culinary adventures in Asia. Think lobster with passionfruit and chocolate, and a fruity tandoori quail curry.