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Images of Southern ItalySouthern Italy MapsExperience Southern ItalyIn Depth: Excerpts from Exceptional Books about ItalyRomeNaples and CampaniaPuglia, Basilicata, and CalabriaSicilyTravel Smart Southern ItalyAtlas
Main Table of ContentsRome Neighborhoods The Forum Navona And Campo Corso And Spagna Repubblica And Quirinale Villa Borghese And Piazza Del Popolo The Vatican Trastevere And The Ghetto The Catacombs And Via Appia AnticaNaples Neighborboods Royal Naples Vomero Spaccanapoli And CapodimonteSiracusaPalermo
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Main Table of ContentsWhat’s WhereSouthern Italy PlannerSouthern Italy TodayTop AttractionsTop ExperiencesA Great Itinerary
Next Chapter | ContentsRome. Italy’s capital is one of the great cities of Europe. It’s a large, busy metropolis that lives in the here and now, yet there’s no other place on earth where you’llencounter such powerful evocations of a long and spectacular past, from the Colosseum to the dome of St. Peter’s.Naples and Campania. Campania is the gateway to southern Italy—and as far south as many travelers get. The region’s happy combination of spectacular geologyand rich cultural heritage makes it a popular place both to unwind—on the pint-size islands of Capri and Ischia or the resorts of the Amalfi Coast—and to explorethe past—at the archaeological ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum. In the middle of everything is Naples, a chaotic metropolis that people love and hatein nearly equal measure, though after a decade of urban renewal the lovers now appear to be in the majority. On a good day it’s Italy’s most fun and friendly largecity. On a bad one it’s a giant traffic jam, filled with crooked cabbies and purse-snatching kids on scooters.The Southern Peninsula. The southernmost regions of the peninsula—Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria—are known for their laid-back medieval villages,shimmering seas, and varied landscapes. The coastline of Puglia, along the heel of Italy’s boot, is popular with beachgoers, but for the most part you’re off thebeaten path here, with all the pleasures and challenges that entails. You’ll find fewer English-speakers but more genuine warmth from the people you encounter.The most distinctive attractions are the Sassi (cave dwellings in the Basilicata village of Matera) and trulli (mysterious conical-roof dwellings found in abundance inPuglia’s Valle d’Itria). Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites.Sicily. The architecture of Sicily reflects the island’s centuries of successive dominion by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Spaniards, and, mostrecently, Italians. Baroque church–hopping could be a sport in the cacophonous streets of Palermo and seafaring Siracusa. The breezes are sultry, and everyday lifeis without pretense, as witnessed in the workaday stalls of the fish markets all along the ports of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts, bursting with tuna, swordfish, andsardines. Greek ruins stand sentinel in Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, blanketed in almond, oleander, and juniper blossoms. All over the island the ins and outsof life are celebrated each day as they have been for centuries—over a morning coffee, at the family lunch table, and in the evening passeggiata.Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Contents
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsSpeaking the Language | Restaurants: The Basics | Hotels: The Basics | Getting Here | Italy from Behind the Wheel | Typical Travel Times | When to Go | On theCalendarS P E A K I N G T H E L A N G U A G EHere, as in much of Italy, when locals talk among themselves, they often revert to dialect that’s unintelligible to the student of textbook Italian. Each region has adialect of its own; Salentinu (spoken in the tip of the heel) and Barese (around Bari) are distinctive enough to be considered separate languages, though theydeveloped in neighboring areas.Thanks to the education system and the unifying influence of radio and television, nearly everyone speaks standard Italian as well, so you can still benefit fromwhatever knowledge you have of the language. English-speakers aren’t as prevalent as in points north, but this is the land of creative gesticulation and otherimprovised nonverbal communication. Chances are, you’ll be able to get your message across.R E S T A U R A N T S : T H E B A S I C SA full meal in Italy has traditionally consisted of five courses, and every menu you encounter will still be organized along some version of this five-course plan:First up is the antipasto (appetizer), often consisting of cured meats or marinated vegetables. Next to appear is the primo, usually pasta or soup, and after that thesecondo, a meat or fish course with, perhaps, a contorno (vegetable dish) on the side. A simple dolce (dessert) rounds out the meal.This, you’ve probably noticed, is a lot of food. Italians have noticed as well—a full, five-course meal is an indulgence usually reserved for special occasions.Instead, restaurant meals are a mix-and-match affair: you might order a primo and a secondo, or an antipasto and a primo, or a secondo and a contorno.The crucial rule of restaurant dining is that you should order at least two courses. It’s a common mistake for tourists to order only a secondo, thinking they’regetting a “main course” complete with side dishes. What they wind up with is one lonely piece of meat.H O T E L S : T H E B A S I C SHotels in Italy are usually well maintained (especially if they’ve earned our recommendation in this book), but in some respects they won’t match what you find atcomparably priced U.S. lodgings. Keep the following points in mind as you set your expectations, and you’re likely to have a good experience: First and foremost, rooms are usually smaller, particularly in cities. If you’re truly cramped, ask for another room, but don’t expect things to be spacious. A “double bed” is commonly two singles pushed together. In the bathroom, tubs are not a given—request one if it’s essential. In budget places, showers sometimes use a drain in the middle of the bathroom floor. And washcloths are a rarity. Most hotels have satellite TV, but there are fewer channels than in the United States, and only one or two will be in English. Don’t expect wall-to-wall carpeting. Particularly outside the cities, tile floors are the norm.G E T T I N G H E R EThe major gateways to Italy are Rome’s Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci (FCO), better known as Fiumicino, and Milan’s Aeroporto Malpensa (MAL). There are
The major gateways to Italy are Rome’s Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci (FCO), better known as Fiumicino, and Milan’s Aeroporto Malpensa (MAL). There aresome direct flights to secondary airports, primarily Venice and Pisa, but to fly into most other Italian cities you need to make connections at Fiumicino, Malpensa, oranother European hub. You can also take the FS airport train to Rome’s Termini station or a bus to Milan’s central train station (Centrale) and catch a train to anyother location in Italy. It will take about one hour to get from either Fiumicino or Malpensa to the train station.Located 8 km (5 mi) outside Naples, Aeroporto Capodichino (NAP) serves the Campania region. It handles domestic and international flights, including severalflights daily between Naples and Rome (flight time 55 minutes).The three main airports of the deep south are Bari and Brindisi, in Puglia, and Lamezia Terme, in Calabria. All three have regular flights to and from Rome andMilan. In addition, Reggio di Calabria’s airport has flights to and from Rome.Sicily can be reached from all major international cities on flights connecting through Rome, Milan, or Naples. Planes to Palermo land at Aeroporto Falcone-Borsellino (named in memory of two anti-Mafia judges famously assassinated in 1992) in Punta Raisi, 32 km (19 mi) west of town. Catania’s AeroportoFontanarossa, 5 km (3 mi) south of the city center, is the main airport on Sicily’s eastern side.There are direct express trains from Milan and Rome to Palermo, Catania, and Siracusa. The Rome–Palermo and Rome–Siracusa trips take at least 11 hours. AfterNaples, the run is mostly along the coast, so try to book a window seat on the right if you’re not on an overnight train. At Villa San Giovanni, in Calabria, the trainis separated and loaded onto a ferryboat to cross the strait to Messina. Direct trains run from Milan, Rome, and Bologna to Bari and Lecce.I T A L Y F R O M B E H I N D T H E W H E E LAmericans tend to be well schooled in defensive-driving techniques. Many Italians are not. When you hit the road, don’t be surprised to encounter tailgating andhigh-risk passing. Your best response is to take the same safety-first approach you use at home. On the upside, Italy’s roads are very well maintained. Note thatwearing a seat belt and having your lights on at all times are required by law. Bear in mind that a vehicle in Italian cities is almost always a liability, but outside ofthe cities it’s often crucial. An effective strategy is to start and end your Italian itinerary in major cities, car-free, and to pick up wheels for countryside touring inbetween.T Y P I C A L T R A V E L T I M E S Hours by Car Hours by Train Naples–Rome 2:30 1:30 Naples–Bari 3:00 4:00 (via Benevento and Caserta) Bari–Lecce 1:45 1:45 Naples–Matera 3:15 6:00 (via Benevento then Bari) Naples–Cosenza 4:00 3:45 Naples–Messina 7:00 5:30 Messina–Palermo 2:30 3:45 Messina–Siracusa 2:00 2:45 Siracusa–Palermo (via Catania or Messina) 3:00 4:15 Palermo–Agrigento 1:15 2:05W H E N T O G OSpring: In April, May, and early June, southern Italy is at its best. The weather is generally pleasant and the fields are in full bloom. Easter is a busy time for mosttourist destinations—if you’re traveling then, you should have lodging reserved well ahead of time. By May the sea water is warm enough for swimming byAmerican standards, but you can often have the beach to yourself as Italians shy away until at least June.Summer: Temperatures can be torrid in summer, making it a less-than-ideal time for a visit to the south. In Campania, Naples can feel like an inferno, thearchaeological sites swarm with visitors, and the islands and Amalfi Coast resorts are similarly overrun. Even the otherwise perfect villages of the interior are toodazzlingly white for easy comfort from July to early September. If you seek a beach, whether on the mainland or Sicily, keep in mind that during August all of Italyflocks to the shores. Even relatively isolated resorts can be overrun.Fall: Visit the south from late September through early November and you can find gentle, warm weather and acres of beach space; swimming temperatures lastthrough October. Watch the clock, however, as the days get shorter. At most archaeological sites, you’re rounded up two hours before sunset—but by then mostcrowds have departed, so late afternoon is still an optimum time to see Pompeii, Herculaneum, or Agrigento in peace and quiet.Winter: Early winter is relatively mild (bougainvillea and other floral displays can bloom through Christmas), but particularly later in the season, cold fronts canarrive and stay for days. In resort destinations, many hotels, restaurants, and other tourist facilities close down from November until around Easter. Elsewhere, youneed to reserve rooms well in advance between Christmas and the Epiphany (January 6), Agrigento’s almond festival in February, and the Carnevale in Acirealeand Sciacca.
O N T H E C A L E N D A RThese are some of the top seasonal events in southern Italy:From December through June, the stagione operistica(opera season) is underway at Teatro San Carlo in Naples.In early February Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore (Almond Blossom Festival, www.mandorloinfiore.net) is a week of folk musicand dancing, with participants from many countries.The Settimana Santa (Holy Week), culminating with Easter, features parades and outdoor events in every city and most small towns. Naples and Trapani haveparticularly noteworthy festivities.Twice a year, the first Sunday in May and on September 19, Naples celebrates the Feast of San Gennaro. In the Duomo, at 9 AM a remnant of the saint’s bloodmiraculously liquefies, after which there’s a ceremonial parade.Maggio dei Monumenti is a cultural initiative in Naples lasting the entire month of May. Special exhibits, palaces, private collections, and churches are open to thepublic for free or at a discount.Every fourth year in June, the Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare (Regatta of the Great Maritime Republics) sees keen boating competition amongAmalfi, Genoa, Pisa, and Venice. In 2012 Amalfi is the site for the event.Estate a Napoli (Summer in Naples) is a season-long festival of concerts and performances—a reward for those enduring the Neapolitan heat.Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Contents
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsSouthern Italy is slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, so it’s no wonder that it has experienced invasions and migrations for millennia, many of which haveleft their mark culturally, linguistically, and architecturally.The southerners really are different from Italians farther north. Under an ostensibly sociable and more expressive exterior, they are more formal when dealing withstrangers and authority, often using the antiquated voi form for addressing them (rather than Lei or tu). They are also more likely to leave home to find work,traveling to northern Italy and to northern European countries, especially.P O L I T I C SPolitics tends to be clientelistic in much of the south. In this climate of mutual back-scratching and with unemployment rates (12%) twice the national average, themain preoccupation for many voters is the contratto a tempo indeterminato (lifetime job), an elusive goal since EU and other labor reforms have taken effect. Votesare often cast for the politician who promises opportunities for career advancement in the public sector where such jobs are offered. Over the years this has insuredinefficiencies, if not outright corruption.T H E E C O N O M YThe north has developed rapidly in the past 50 years, but the Italian entrepreneurial spirit in the south struggles to make good. This is primarily due to the stiflingpresence of organized crime. Each major region has its own criminal association: the Camorra in Naples, Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia, ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria,and the Mafia in Sicily. The system creates add-on costs at many levels, especially in retail. In spite of it all, foreign investment, combined with generous EuropeanUnion funding, have contributed to an agricultural resurgence over the last decade, particularly in wine, citrus, and olive oil.In addition to its agricultural advantage over the north, southern Italy has woken up to its other major asset, its remarkable cultural and natural heritage. UNESCOlists 14 World Heritage Sites in southern Italy, and the last decade has seen the creation of several national parks, marine parks, and nature preserves. Environmentaland cultural associations have mushroomed as locals increasingly perceive the economic benefits of preservation.In general, small average farm size in the south (5.8 hectares, under 15 acres) has helped maintain a pleasing mosaic of habitats in the interior. Landscape andproduct diversity has been aided by the promotion of traditionally grown products by the European Union and its DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta,Protected Designation of Origin) project.T O U R I S MTourism is on the rise in Puglia and Basilicata, while 2009 saw Campania’s worst year in more than a decade, largely due to the previous year’s garbage strike thatleft Naples and the surrounding areas inundated with trash. Sicily still pulls nature lovers and adventure seekers who cycle or hike its rugged terrain, and Calabriaremains largely a beach holiday destination crowded only from mid-July through August. Religious tourism accounts for large visitor flows throughout the year—asmany visitors pay their respects to the Madonna di Pompei sanctuary as they do to the archaeological site up the road. In almost every village and town in southernItaly you’re likely to see the bearded statue of Capuchin priest Padre Pio.Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Contents
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsU N D E R G R O U N D N A P L E SIn Naples the locals point to the ground and say there’s another city underneath. This is Napoli Sotterranea, a netherworld of ancient Greek quarries and aqueducts,Roman streets, and World War II bomb shelters. Parts have been cleaned up and made accessible to the public.T H E R U I N S A R O U N D V E S U V I U SThis may be the closest you’ll ever get to time travel. Thanks to Vesuvius blowing its top in AD 79, the towns round its base were carpeted in fallout and preservedfor posterity. Allow a good half-day to look around bustling Pompeii or the more compact, less busy, and better preserved Herculaneum. For the best Romanfrescoes, head to the Villa Oplontis between the two ancient cities.T H E A M A L F I C O A S TOne moment you’re gazing out at a luxury sailcraft, the next you’re dodging mules on precipitous footpaths. “Comforts of the 21st century in a medieval setting”just about sums up the remarkable Amalfi Coast.M A T E R A ’ S S A S S IYou can see why Matera is a favorite with filmmakers shooting biblical scenes. You get that time-warp feeling especially in early morning or at night among theSassi—buildings seemingly gouged out of the limestone cliffs.L E C C EWith its much-feted baroque facades and extensive Roman remains in the city center, Lecce has a legitimate claim to being Puglia’s fairest city. As an added bonus,nearby are a largely undeveloped coastline and the magical walled town of Otranto.B R O N Z I D I R I A C E , R E G G I O D I C A L A B R I AFew bronze statues have survived intact from the ancient Greek world. The presence of not one but two larger-than-life bronzes, restored to almost perfectcondition, is reason enough to trek to Reggio di Calabria, on the eastern side of the Strait of Messina.M O U N T E T N AYou can take the single-gauge railway around its foothills, splurge on an SUV-experience near the summit, or just stroll across old lavafields on its northern flank.Alternatively, go down into the gorge of Alcantara and see what happens when lava flow meets mountain spring water.P A L E R M O , M O N R E A L E , A N D C E F A L ÙWhen it comes to medieval mosaics and Norman cathedrals, Palermo and its environs are the envy of the world. Biblical scenes in the newly restored PalatineChapel in Palermo shimmer in ripples of gold leaf, and nearby Monreale’s and Cefalù’s cathedrals are replete with heavenly golden mosaics.I M P E R I A L R O M A N V I L L A , P I A Z Z A A R M E R I N A
I M P E R I A L R O M A N V I L L A , P I A Z Z A A R M E R I N A“Villa” doesn’t begin to describe this opulent palace from the latter years of the Roman Empire. The stunning mosaics that fill every room are perhaps the bestpreserved and certainly the most extensive of the ancient Roman Empire.D U O M O , S I R A C U S AFew buildings encapsulate history better than the Duomo of Siracusa. The cathedral started life as the temple dedicated to the goddess Athena sometime in the early5th century BC, as one glance at the majestic fluted columns inside confirms.Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Contents
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsR E D R E D W I N EAlthough historically wine in the south was mass produced (badly) for export or consumed locally to provide extra calories to overworked fieldworkers, the pastdecade has seen enormous strides in high-quality wine production. Reds are becoming especially prestigious and compete well in the international market.Basilicata’s Aglianico del Vulture and Campania’s Taurasi are made from the aglianico grape. Both are rich, complex wines with potential for aging. Aglianico haseven been dubbed “the Barolo of the South” by connoisseurs. In Puglia, the Primitivo grapes (known as zinfandel in the New World) become rich, jammy, full-bodied reds. Sicily is where local varieties like Nero d’Avola are blended with international grapes like merlot and cabernet sauvignon to great effect.P A S T I C C E R I A S I C I L I A N ACannolo, setteveli, cartoccio, cassata, and diminutive cassatina: it sounds like the list of characters from an opera, but these ricotta-filled delights can be found in anyself-respecting pasticceria on the island of Sicily. The top performers cluster around Palermo and Catania: Massaro and Cappello, both just a short walk from thePorta Nuova, have been delighting palates for more than a century combined, while Savia’s pedigree in Catania stretches even farther back. The secret lies in thefreshness and simplicity of the ricotta made from the whey of ultrafresh sheep or goat’s milk, and, depending on the recipe, studded with chocolate chips, liqueur, orcandied fruit.F I E R Y L A N D S C A P E SVolcanoes have long fascinated people on the move. The ancient Greeks—among the first sailors around the central Mediterranean—explained away Etna as theplace where the god Hephaestus had his workshop. Millennia later, northern European visitors to Naples in the 18th and 19th centuries would climb the eruptingVesuvius or cross the steaming craters of the Campi Flegrei west of the city. Farther south, in the Lipari islands of the northeast of Sicily, Stromboli performs alightshow about every 20 minutes, ejecting incandescent cinder, lapilli, and lava bombs high into the air. To add to the fascination, several of the Lipari islands risesheer out of the Mediterranean, and beaches are black with volcanic fallout. Though stripped of their mythology by generations of geologists and deprived by localauthorities of even a frisson of risk, Italy’s volcanoes are still a terrific crowd-puller.T H E G R E A T S U M M E R P E R F O R M A N C E SExploiting its Mediterranean climate and atmospheric venues, the south of Italy lays on an impressive range of cultural events during those hot summer months.The ancient theaters of Segesta, Siracusa, and Taormina in Sicily are used for anything from Greek plays to pop concerts, while in Campania the Greek temples atPaestum serve as a scenic backdrop for opera and symphonic music. The 18th-century villas near Herculaneum at the foot of Vesuvius have also joined the musicalact in recent years. With time (and money) head across the bay to Capri for a sunset concert at Villa San Michele, high over the Mediterranean. But then, where doyou go from there?Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Contents
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsD A Y 1 : N A P L E SFly into Naples’s Aeroporto Capodichino, a scant 8 km (5 mi) from the city. Naples is rough around the edges and may be a bit jarring if you’re a first-time visitor,but it’s classic Italy, and most visitors end up falling in love with the city’s alluring waterfront palazzi and spectacular pizza. First things first, though: recharge witha nap and, after that, a good caffè—Naples has some of the world’s best. Revive in time for an evening stroll down Naples’s wonderful shopping street, ViaToledo, to Piazza Plebescito before dinner and bed.Logistics: Under no circumstances should you rent a car for Naples. Take a taxi from the airport—it’s not far, or overly expensive—and you should face fewlogistical obstacles on your first day in Italy.D A Y 2 : N A P L E SStart the day at the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale, budgeting at least two hours for the collection. Then take Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli and grab a coffeeat one of the outdoor cafes in Piazza Bellini. From here, head down Via dei Tribunali for a pizza at I Decumani or Di Matteo. Continue along Tribunali to Via delDuomo for a visit to the city’s cathedral. From Via del Duomo, turn right onto Spaccanapoli, turning off for a brief stop at the Cappella Sansevero for a look at thepinnacle of Masonic sculpture before heading to Piazza del Gesù and the churches of Il Gesù Nuovo and Santa Chiara. Walk downhill, following the ViaMonteoliveto and Via Medina to the harbor and the Castel Nuovo; then head past the Teatro San Carlo to the enormous Palazzo Reale. Walk 15 minutes south tothe Castel dell’Ovo in the Santa Lucia waterfront area, one of Naples’s most charming neighborhoods. Then it’s back up to Via Caracciolo and the Villa Comunale,before heading back to your hotel for a short rest before dinner and perhaps a night out at one of Naples’s lively bars or clubs.Logistics: This entire day is easily done on foot. Naples is one of the best walking cities in Italy.D A Y 3 : P O M P E I I / S O R R E N T OAfter breakfast, pick up your rental car, pack in your luggage, and drive from Naples to Pompeii, one of the true archaeological gems of Europe. If it’s summer, beprepared for an onslaught of sweltering heat as you make your way through the incredibly preserved ruins of a city that was devastated by the whims of Mt.Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago. You’ll see the houses of noblemen and merchants, brothels, political graffiti, and more. From Pompeii, get back in your car andit’s on to Sorrento, your first taste of the wonderful peninsula that marks the beginning of the fabled Amalfi Coast. Sorrento is touristy, but it may well be the Italiancity of your imagination: cliff-hanging, cobblestone-paved, and graced with an infinite variety of fishing-port and coastal views. There, have a relaxing dinner offish and white wine before calling it a day.Logistics: Naples to Pompeii is all about the A3: a short 24 km (15 mi) brings you to this archaeological gem. From Pompeii it’s a short ride back on the A3 untilthe exit for Sorrento; from the exit, you’ll take the SS145 to reach Sorrento.D A Y 4 : P O S I T A N O / R A V E L L OYour stay in Sorrento will be short, as there’s much of the Amalfi Coast still to see: Positano, your next stop, is a must. It’s one of the most visited towns in Italy forgood reason: its blue-green seas, stairs “as steep as ladders,” and white Moorish-style houses make for a truly memorable setting. Walk, gaze, and eat (lunch), beforeheading on to the less traveled, even-higher-up town of Ravello, your Amalfi Coast dream come true, an aerie that is “closer to the sky than the sea.” Don’t miss theDuomo, Villa Rufolo, or Villa Cimbrone before settling in for a dinner in the sky.Logistics: Sorrento to Positano is a 30-km (19-mi) jaunt, but the winding roads will draw it out for the better part of an hour—a scenic hour. From Positano,
Logistics: Sorrento to Positano is a 30-km (19-mi) jaunt, but the winding roads will draw it out for the better part of an hour—a scenic hour. From Positano,Ravello is another slow 18 km (11 mi) to the east, perched high above the rest of the world. Be prepared to use low gears if you’re driving a stick shift (as youalmost surely will be).D A Y 5 : M A T E R AIt will take a bit of a drive to get to Basilicata from the Amalfi Coast; leaving Campania and entering Basilicata is generally a lonely experience. Little-traveledroads, wild hills, and distant farms are the hallmarks of this province, which produces deep, dark aglianico wines and has perfected the art of peasant food. You’llspend a while in your car to make it to Matera, a beautiful, ancient city full of Paleolithic Sassi (cavelike dwellings hewn out of rock)—but it’s worth it. Traversingthe city is like taking a voyage through time. Spend the afternoon exploring the Sassi, but take care not to miss the new part of the city, too. Then enjoy a relaxingdinner at one of Matera’s excellent restaurants—just decide whether you want flavorful local beef (Le Botteghe) or a flurry of Basilicatan tapas (Lucanerie).Basilicata, you’ll soon discover, is full of unrivaled values at restaurants, and with such options you’ll be guaranteed to sleep well in the Sassi.Logistics: It’s a long haul from your starting point, Ravello, to Matera. It’s a good thing Basilicata’s landscape is so pretty. Once in Matera, if you’re staying in theSassi, get extra-detailed driving and parking instructions from your hotel beforehand—navigating through thousand-year-old alleyways can be challenging.D A Y 6 : L E C C EThis drive will take a good 2½ hours, so get an early start. The baroque city of Lecce will mark your introduction to Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. It’s one ofItaly’s best-kept secrets, as you’ll soon find out upon checking out the spectacular church of Santa Croce, the ornate Duomo, and the harmonious PiazzaSant’Oronzo. The shopping is great, the food is great, and the evening passeggiata is great. Don’t miss the opportunity, if you wind up at a bar or café in theevening, to chat with Lecce’s friendly residents—unfazed by tourism, the welcoming Leccesi represent southern Italians at their best.Logistics: It’s not far from Matera to Lecce as the crow flies, but the trip is more involved than you might think; patience is required. The best route is via Taranto—don’t make the mistake of going up through Bari.D A Y 7 : B A R IThe trip from Lecce to Bari is a short one. Check into the pleasant Domina Hotel Bari Palace and spend the morning and afternoon wandering through Bari’s centrostorico. The wide-open doors of the town’s humble houses and apartments, with bickering families and grandmothers drying their pasta in the afternoon sun, willgive you a taste of the true flavor of Italy’s deep south. Don’t miss Bari’s castle and the walk around the ridge of the ancient city walls, with views of wide-open seaat every turn. Finish the day with a good fish dinner, and celebrate your last night in Italy by checking out one of the city’s multitude of lively bars—Bari boasts oneof southern Italy’s most hopping bar scenes.Logistics: This is one of your most straightforward, if not quickest, drives: just take the coastal S16 for 154 km (95 mi) until you hit Bari. It is a two-lane highway,though, so don’t be surprised if the trip takes two hours or more. If you get tired, beautiful Ostuni (the “città bianca,” the white city) is a perfect hilltop pit stophalfway there.D A Y 8 : B A R I / D E P A R T U R EBad news: This is your wake-up-and-leave day. Bari’s Aeroporto Palese is small but quite serviceable. Exploit its absence of crowds and easy access and use it asyour way out of Italy. Connections through Rome or Milan are more frequent than you might think. Plan on leaving with southern Italy firmly established in yourheart as the best way to see the Italy that once was—and be thankful that you were able to see it while it is still like this.Logistics: Bari hotels offer easy airport transfers; take advantage of them. There are also regular public transport connections between the central train station andthe airport. Return your rental car at the Bari airport; you won’t have to arrive at the airport more than an hour or so before your flight.T I P SAlitalia usually doesn’t mark up open-jaw trips, but Easy Jet (www.easyjet.com) has inexpensive domestic air service and operates Milan (Malpensa)–Naples,London (Gatwick and Stanstead)—Naples, Bari–Milan (Malpensa), and Bari–Rome (Fiumicino) routes. Blu-Express (www.blu-express.com) flies from Rome(Fiumicino) to Brindisi, Catania, and Lamezia Terme. If you can find a cheap round-trip fare from your home to Milan plus those two flights on low-cost carriers,you might save some money. Also look at low-cost carriers that shuttle passengers between London and southern Italy; you can often save the most money of all bycombining two such one-way fares with a round-trip discount fare to London; however, beware of inconvenient connections in London (Luton, for example).Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Contents
Main Table of ContentsFrom La Bella Figura, by Beppe SevergniniFrom The Southern Italian Table, by Arthur SchwartzFrom Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy, by Joseph Bastica & David Lynch
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsD A Y O N E : F R O M M A L P E N S A T O M I L A NThe airport, where we discover that Italians prefer exceptions to rulesBeing Italian is a full-time job. We never forget who we are, and we have fun confusing anyone who is looking on.Don’t trust the quick smiles, bright eyes, and elegance of many Italians. Be wary of everyone’s poise. Italy is sexy. It offers instant attention and solace. But don’ttake Italy at face value. Or, rather, take it at face value if you want to, but don’t complain later.One American traveler wrote, “Italy is the land of human nature.” If this is true—and it certainly sounds convincing—exploring Italy is an adventure. You’re goingto need a map.So you’ll be staying for ten days? Here’s the deal: We’ll take a look at three locations on each day of your trip. They’ll be classics, the sort of places that get talkedabout a lot, perhaps because they are so little known. We’ll start with an airport, since we’re here. Then I’ll try to explain the rules of the road, the anarchy of theoffice, why people talk on trains, and the theatrical nature of hotel life. We’ll sit in judgment at a restaurant and feel the sensory reassurance of a church. We’ll visitItaly’s televisual zoo and appreciate how important the beach is. We’ll experience the solitude of the soccer stadium, and realize how crowded the bedroom feels.We’ll note the vertical fixations of the apartment building, and the transverse democracy of the living room—or, rather, the eat-in kitchen.Ten days, thirty places. We’ve got to start somewhere if we want to find our way into the Italian mind.First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset,olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It’s alluring, but complicated. In Italia, you can go round andround in circles for years. Which of course is great fun.As they struggle to find a way out, many newcomers fall back on the views of past visitors. People like Goethe, Stendhal, Byron, and Twain always had an opinionabout Italians, and couldn’t wait to get home and write it down. Those authors are still quoted today, as if nothing had changed. This is not true. Some things havechanged in our Italy. The problem is finding out what.Almost all modern accounts of the country fall into one of two categories: chronicles of a love affair, or diaries of a disappointment. The former have an inferioritycomplex toward Italian home life, and usually feature one chapter on the importance of the family, and another on the excellence of Italian cooking. The diaries takea supercilious attitude toward Italian public life. Inevitably, there is censure of Italian corruption, and a section on the Mafia.By and large, the chronicles of love affairs are penned by American women, who display love without interest in their descriptions of a seasonal Eden, where theweather is good and the locals are charming. The diaries of disappointment tend to be produced by British men, who show interest without love. They describe adisturbing country populated by unreliable individuals and governed by a public administration from hell.Yet Italy is far from hellish. It’s got too much style. Neither is it heaven, of course, because it’s too unruly. Let’s just say that Italy is an offbeat purgatory, full ofproud, tormented souls each of whom is convinced he or she has a hotline to the boss. It’s the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the spaceof a hundred meters, or the course of ten minutes. Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis. People who live in Italysay they want to get out, but those who do escape all want to come back.As you will understand, this is not the sort of country that is easy to explain. Particularly when you pack a few fantasies in your baggage, and Customs lets themthrough.
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsIt wouldn’t be surprising if the old proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” was coined in Southern Italy. La cucina povera, the food of theimpoverished Italian peasant, features dishes with few ingredients used in extremely creative ways, and from this historically poor land come some of the mostingenious and popular foods in the world, including pizza, macaroni, spaghetti, tomato sauce, meatballs, and mozzarella. The food of Southern Italy is still today“the Italian food the whole world knows as Italian,” in the words of the late, venerated food writer Waverly Root.The food of Southern Italy started to become popular internationally in the late 1800s. Within twenty years of the unification of Italy in 1861, when it seemedhopeless to make a good life in the south, the Napolitani, Molisani, Pugliesi, Lucani, Calabresi, and Siciliani tried to escape their miserable poverty by emigrating toNorthern Italy, northern Europe, and in great numbers to the English-speaking countries that were seducing immigrants—America, Australia, and Canada.Wherever they went, they opened groceries, pizzerias, bakeries, and restaurants, like the ones in old Hollywood movies, with red-checkered tablecloths and straw-covered wine bottles hanging from the ceiling.Southern Italian food was pretty much the only Italian food outside of Italy until sometime in the mid-1970s, when so-called Northern Italian food was introducedby restaurants in the big cities of the United States, then London, Toronto, and Australia. However, most of those supposedly Northern Italian menus were cookedby chefs from the south, or the poor central region of Abruzzo, famous for its cooks. All they did was add pasta dishes with butter and cream—fettuccine Alfredo!—and served, instead of veal Parmesan, veal Valdostana, chops stuffed with fontina and ham. Suddenly, macaroni gave way to egg pasta in restaurants.Then, in the 1990s, the world became aware of the Mediterranean diet, which is heavy in complex carbohydrates, with olive oil as its main fat. The diet wasconceived by Missouri-born Ansel Keyes, an expatriate living in the tiny seaside town of Ascea, in the province of Salerno, in southern Campania near the borderof Basilicata, where people often live to be more than 100 years old on a diet of pasta, beans, vegetables, small blue-fleshed fish such as sardines and anchovies, andolive oil. Other main protein sources there are eggs and cheese, but very little meat. The International Olive Oil Council learned of Keyes’s work, and promotedolive oil as the healthiest fat in the world.Until thirty years ago, however, much of Southern Italy lived on pork fat, rendered into lard or not. Good olive oil was too expensive for the poor people whoproduced it. Pork fat, in the form of cured bacon, pancetta, and rendered lard, usually called sugna in the south, is still used in cooking, but more parsimoniouslythan it used to be. Still, when you want something to have the same taste and texture that your Calabrian or Neapolitan great-grandma achieved, you have to use thepork fat she did.Olive oil of both the absolute best and poorest quality is now produced in every region of the south. Puglia, in fact, produces more olive oil than any other region ofItaly. The best Pugliese oil has a mild, buttery but very fruity flavor, usually without a strong peppery kick. The worst Pugliese oil is used to lubricate machinery, tomake soap and hair products. Like that.To an amazing extent, Southern Italian cooking is Old World cuisine based on New World ingredients. With influences from the ancient Greeks and Romans,North Africans, the French, the Austrians, and the Spanish, much of Southern Italy’s cooking is based on produce that comes originally from Mexico and Centraland South America. Tomatoes; potatoes; peppers of every kind, color, heat, and sweetness; squash, both hard-shell winter ones and soft-skinned summer ones;corn; chocolate; vanilla; and all beans are from the New World, except for chickpeas, fava beans, and lentils, which are so Old World that they are mentioned in theBible.None of these foods existed in Europe until the Spanish brought them back from Mexico and other conquests in the sixteenth century. In the 1520s, Cortés’s partyreturned to Spain from Mexico around the same time as Spain gained control of Southern Italy, the Kingdom of Naples, eventually called the Kingdom of the TwoSicilies.Originally used by Europeans as ornamental plants, tomatoes didn’t catch on as something to eat until the eighteenth century, even though Cortés’s party had
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsL A S T O R I AIT A L I A N EH E N W N T I A NN W O DA lot of people think that the relevant history of Italian wine began ten years ago. Or maybe twenty. To some extent this is true: The last two decades have been arevolutionary period in Italian winemaking. Thanks to dramatic improvements in technology and viticulture, world-class wines can now be found all over Italy, notjust in a handful of regions. In fact, when talking to producers, we hear over and over how 1990 was a watershed year for them—the year when the wine worldreally began to take Italy seriously.What’s so special about 1990? For one thing, it was one of the best vintages of the last century. But it was more than that. As many Italian winemakers explain it,‘90 was great not only because of the weather but because of the changes they had been making in their cellars and vineyards.It’s not that there weren’t great wines in Italy before 1990. You can trace legendary vintages of estate-bottled Italian wine almost as far back as you can Bordeaux:There’s the 1928 Bertani “Acinatico” Amarone, ‘47 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo, ‘55 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino, ‘61 Gaja Barbaresco, ‘82 Giacosa“Santo Stefano” Barbaresco. These wines were so naturally blessed that they wouldn’t necessarily have benefited from modern technology. But these historicbottlings were the exceptions, not the rule. As a source of reliable, high-quality wines at all price tiers, from every region, Italy didn’t come into its own until veryrecently.One reason for the recent developments is that the eighties and nineties marked a big generational shift in Italian winemaking. The post—World War II farmer orentrepreneur with limited training and a penchant for industrial-scale production gave way to a son or a daughter, often fresh out of enology school, whotransformed the family property into more of a château. This shift wasn’t just idealistic but economically necessary. The Italian government and the EuropeanCommunity invested heavily in new vineyards in the sixties and seventies, and although this helped revive Italy’s flagging agricultural economy at the time, it alsoresulted in huge surpluses of wine. The EC then tried to reduce these surpluses by compelling vintners to send some of their grapes to huge industrial distilleries, orby paying growers to rip up vines and plant something else. Generally speaking, Italy was for a long time a welfare state for wine. Vintners continued to producemore than the market would bear, knowing that they’d get at least something for the extra; occasionally they just lived off the subsidies they got to let their land layfallow, since planting other crops wasn’t necessarily profitable.The production excesses of the seventies and early eighties gave Italy a bad reputation among serious wine drinkers. But the profits from those excesses helpedfinance much of what has happened since then. Throughout Italy, it’s a familiar story: The father had some vineyard land and made his living selling grapes to thelocal cooperative. But now his children are replanting those vineyards, building a cellar, buying new oak barrels for aging and vinification, and producing high-endwine under their own label.Among the longer-established estates, vintners often pinpoint the year they switched from “old style” to new: the year they replaced their thirty-year-old, 50-hectoliter chestnut casks with new, 225-liter French oak barriques; the year they began “green harvesting” grapes in midsummer, so that their vines wouldn’t over-produce; the year they bought their first “roto-fermenter,” a space-age vessel that speeds up the process of extracting color and tannin from red grapes. These typesof changes have been overwhelmingly recent—if not always welcome by Italian wine purists. On the whole, Italian winemakers are producing cleaner, more full-bodied, more oak-influenced wines than in the past, which has helped them in the international market—but has also caused some traditionalists to lament their lossof individuality.The ancient history of Italian wine is much more romantic: the Etruscans training wild vines up trees, the Greeks bringing seeds across the Adriatic and more or lesscreating Italian viticulture. But as a modern-day consumer looking for a bottle of Italian wine in a shop or a restaurant, you need not look much further back thanWorld War II. There was a thriving wine industry in Italy before then, but very few Italian producers sold wines as we know them today—in bottles, with labels
World War II. There was a thriving wine industry in Italy before then, but very few Italian producers sold wines as we know them today—in bottles, with labelsidentifying who made them and where they came from.When the merchants of Bordeaux created their famous 1855 classification—which ranked sixty established châteaus on the basis of price and quality—Italy wasn’tyet a unified country. Italian winemaking at that time was defined by the tenuta: a vast farm estate, often controlled by a noble family, on which a number ofmezzadri (sharecroppers) lived and worked. The mezzadria system, which prevailed throughout central and northern Italy up until the 1960s, was a culture in whichthe sharecropper made a little wine for himself and turned over the rest of his grapes (and portions of all his other produce) to the landowner as rent. The landlordvinified his sharecroppers’ grapes in a central winery called a fattoria and typically sold it in bulk. In the south of Italy was the more oppressive latifondo system, inwhich peasants had no vested interests in the large landed estates.After World War II, things began to change, and fast. Italy transformed itself from a monarchy to a republic, and its new government tried to redistribute Italy’s landto the peasant population. Large estates in the south were broken up, and many landowners in the center and north were compelled to sell off parcels to theirassorted mezzadri. But the Agrarian Reform, as it was called, didn’t go far enough: Not only was the system of redistributing land hopelessly corrupt, the parcels thegovernment eventually doled out were usually too small to do any one farmer much good.Despite the Agrarian Reform—or perhaps because of it—rural Italians began leaving home in droves in the mid-fifties, emigrating to other countries or moving toone of the big cities of northern Italy (Turin and Milan especially) to find work. According to historian Paul Ginsborg, in his book A History of Contemporary Italy:Society and Politics 1943–1988, more than 9 million Italians were involved in “interregional migration” between 1951 and 1971.A twentieth-century industrial revolution in Italy took hold incredibly fast. By the early sixties Italy was among the world’s largest producers of washing machines,refrigerators, and cars, and only 30 percent of the population was still involved in agriculture; today that figure is less than 10 percent. Says Ginsborg: “In less thantwo decades Italy ceased to be a peasant country and became one of the major industrial nations of the West.”This “rural exodus” affected winemaking in a number of ways. For one, scores of wine farms were being sold or simply abandoned because there was no one left towork on them. This prompted a new class of entrepreneurs, most of them businesspeople and many of them foreigners, who snapped up these distressed orabandoned properties for weekend getaways. Eventually, these nonfarmers helped reshape the Italian wine business into a real business. Look at the current rosterof cantina owners in Chianti Classico, for example, and you’ll see not only a number of famous Italian industrialists but plenty of Swiss and British ones as well—not to mention doctors, lawyers, and advertising execs, all of whom turned their hobbies into enterprises.In 1963, the Italian government drew up the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) laws, which created legally defined production zones and productionformulas for what were once simple farmhouse wines. Modeled after French wine appellations (see “La Légge,” on page 9), DOCs were seen as a first step increating a commercial identity for Italian wines.Concurrent with the DOC implementation, however, were the ongoing efforts of the Italian government and the EC to prop up the agricultural sector. The “GreenPlans” of 1961 and 1966 financed massive plantings of various crops throughout Italy, although they tended to focus on the most fertile sites on the plains—not thebest places for vines. To take pressure off small vine growers, cooperative wineries were set up throughout Italy, often run by local politicians. The main function ofthese wineries was to serve as a sponge for all of the grape juice people were producing. Even the wines classified as DOC, from private estates, tended to be mass-produced. Watery-tasting Soave, fizzy Lambrusco, and acrid Chianti became Italy’s best-known wine exports.Even now, people still talk about watery Soave and acrid Chianti—and, unfortunately, still drink them sometimes. And it is true that Italy is still a major producer ofbulk wines and concentrated grape musts, particularly in Puglia and Sicily, which ship tanker loads of vino da taglio (cutting wine) to producers in northern Italyand beyond. But thanks to a number of circumstances—including changing consumer tastes and an EC ban on new vineyard plantings—Italian wine has beenradically transformed.Since 1988, the total vineyard area in Italy has declined by about 17 percent, and overall wine production by about the same amount. Of the 50 million hectoliters ofwine now produced yearly in Italy (more than a billion gallons), nearly 25 percent of it is classified with a DOC designation, compared with just 5 percent in 1988.As we discuss on the following pages, a DOC is no guarantee of quality, but Italy has nevertheless reduced the amount of vino da tavola (table wine) it makeswhile increasing its production of “classified” wine. These days, the EC gives subsidies to vintners who restructure their existing vineyards to produce better-qualitygrapes, rather than simply buy everything and send the excess to a distillery. And many DOC production formulas—that is, the recipes vintners must follow in orderto label their wines with a DOC designation—have been revised in recent times to reflect a greater emphasis on quality. The Chianti Classico DOC, which wasextensively rewritten in both 1984 and 1996, is probably the most famous example.Furthermore, the number of small- and medium-size Italian wineries seems to increase every day: countless wineries profiled in this book, for example, producedtheir first vintage in the nineties. No longer is great Italian wine found only in Piedmont and Tuscany. The whites of Friuli–Venezia Giulia—which, truth be told,have been great since the seventies—have become genuinely fashionable in the United States. In Sicily, still the undisputed champ of bulk-wine production,vintners have been ripping up big-production white grapes and planting the native red, nero d’avola, along with other reds like syrah and cabernet sauvignon. Oftencalled the “Australia of Italy,” the island once known for Marsala has become one of Italy’s hottest sources for powerful dry reds.In Puglia, the native primitivo grape has benefited from its proven paternity of American red zinfandel. The soft, plush reds from this grape are some of the bestvalues to be found in Italy. There are also some excellent, well-priced reds to be found in the Marche (Rosso Cònero and scores of “super-red” blends), Umbria (thewines of Montefalco), and Abruzzo (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo). On the white side, the much-maligned Soave has been elevated by producers like Gini, Pieropan,Inama, and Anselmi, while farther north the winemakers of Trentino–Alto Adige are quietly turning out some of the best aromatic whites to be found anywhere inthe world.Without a doubt, the most exciting thing about Italian wine is its diversity. There are Italian sparklers, especially from Lombardy’s Franciacorta region, that canstand toe-to-toe with Champagne. There are dessert wines, like Friuli’s rare Picolit, that rival Sauternes. There are ethereal Barolos and Barbarescos that can take onthe best of Burgundy. Cabernet blends from Tuscany to compare with Bordeaux. Friuli and Alto Adige whites that eclipse Alsace. Then there are countless Italianwines that defy comparison: Tuscany’s reds from sangiovese, Friuli’s whites from tocai, Basilicata’s and Campania’s reds from aglianico, and many others. The listgoes on and on, as the following pages attest.JOSEPH BASTIANICH is America’s foremost authority on Italian wine. The co-owner, with Mario Batali, of several of the most acclaimed Italian restaurants in
Main Table of ContentsIntroducing RomeRome PlannerExploring RomeWhere to EatWhere to Stay in RomeNightlife and the Arts in RomeShopping in RomeRome in Depth
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsTop Reasons to Go | Getting OrientedComing off the Autostrada at Roma Nord or Roma Sud, you know by the convergence of heavily trafficked routes that you are entering a grand nexus: All roadslead to Rome. And then the interminable suburbs, the railroad crossings, the intersections—no wonder they call it the Eternal City. As you enter the city proper,features that match your expectations begin to take shape: a bridge with heroic statues along its parapets; a towering cake of frothy marble decorated with allegoricalfigures in extravagant poses; a piazza and an obelisk under an umbrella of pine trees. Then you spot what looks like a multistory parking lot; with a gasp, yourealize it’s the Colosseum.You have arrived. You’re in the city’s heart. You step down from your excursion bus onto the broad girdle of tarmac that encircles the great stone arena of theRoman emperors, and scurry out of the way of the passing Fiats—the motorists behind the wheels seem to display the panache of so many Ben-Hurs. Theexcitement of arriving here jolts the senses and sharpens expectations.The timeless city to which all roads lead, Mamma Roma, enthralls visitors today as she has since time immemorial. More than Florence, more than Venice, this isItaly’s treasure storehouse. Here, the ancient Romans made us heirs-in-law to what we call Western civilization; where centuries later Michelangelo painted theSistine Chapel; where Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s baroque nymphs and naiads still dance in their marble fountains; and where, at Cinecittà Studios, Fellini filmed LaDolce Vita and 8½. Today, the city remains a veritable Grand Canyon of culture: Ancient Rome rubs shoulders with the medieval, the modern runs into theRenaissance, and the result is like nothing so much as an open-air museum.Little wonder Rome’s enduring popularity feeds a gluttonous tourism industry that can feel more like National Lampoon’s European Vacation than RomanHoliday. As tour buses belch black smoke and the line at the Vatican Museums stretches on into eternity, even the steeliest of sightseers have been known towonder, why am I here? The answer, with apologies to Dorothy, is: There’s no place like Rome. Yesterday’s Grand Tourists thronged the city for the same reasontoday’s Expedians do. Majestic, complicated, enthralling, romantic, chaotic, monumental Rome is one of the world’s great cities—past, present, and, probably,future.But always remember: Quando a Roma vai, fai come vedrai (“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”). Don’t feel intimidated by the press of art and culture.Instead, contemplate the grandeur from a table at a sun-drenched café on Piazza della Rotonda; let Rome’s colorful life flow around you without feeling guiltybecause you haven’t seen everything. It can’t be done, anyway. There’s just so much here that you will have to come back again, so be sure to throw a coin in theTrevi Fountain. It works.T O P R E A S O N S T O G OThe Pantheon: Of ancient Rome’s remains, this is the best preserved and most impressive.St. Peter’s Square and Basilica: The primary church of the Catholic faith is truly awe-inspiring.Galleria Borghese: With a setting as exquisite as its collection, this small, elegant museum showcases some of the finest baroque and Renaissance art in Italy.A morning walk through Campo de’ Fiori: The city comes alive in this bustling market square.Roman pizza: Maybe it’s the ovens, maybe the crust, maybe the cheese, but they just don’t make it like this back home.
G E T T I N G O R I E N T E DRome is a sprawling city, but you’ll likely spend most of your time in and around the historic center. The area is split by the River Tiber (Tevere in Italian). To itswest are the Vatican and the Trastevere neighborhood. To its east is everything else you’ve come to see: the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, and scores of otherexceptional sights, not to mention piazzas, fountains, shops, and restaurants. This is one of the most culturally rich plots of land in the world.Ancient Rome. Backstopped by the stupendous Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill were once the hub of Western civilization.Navona and Campo. At the heart of Rome’s historic quarter, these districts revolve around the ancient Pantheon, Campo de’ Fiori, and spectacular Piazza Navona.Corso and Spagna. Rome’s “Broadway,” Via del Corso, begins at Piazza Venezia and neatly divides the city center in two. A few blocks east is Piazza deSpagna, a classic area for people-watching and sophisticated shopping.Repubblica and Quirinale. A largely 19th-century district, Repubblica lets art lovers go for baroque with a bevy of Bernini works. To the south looms theQuirinale hill, crowned by Italy’s presidential palace.Villa Borghese and Piazza del Popolo. Rome’s largest park is home to the treasure-packed Galleria Borghese. Neighboring Piazza del Popolo is one of the city’smain squares.The Vatican. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and artlovers come here to see St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel.The Ghetto and Trastevere. Once a Jewish quarter, the newly gentrified Ghetto still preserves the flavor of Old Rome. Across the Tiber, Trastevere is aneighborhood of mom-and-pop trattorias and medieval alleyways.Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Contents
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsReservations Required | Making the Most of Your Time | When to Go | Hop-On, Hop-Off | Roman Hours | Tourist Information | Walking Tours of Rome | GettingHere and Around | Getting Here by Car | Getting Here by Train | Getting Here by Air | Getting Here by Bus | Rome Public Transit | Getting Around by Bus andTram | Getting Around by Metropolitana | Getting Around by TaxiR E S E R V A T I O N S R E Q U I R E DYou should reserve tickets for the following sights. See the listings within the chapter for contact information:Galleria Borghese requires reservations. Visitors are admitted in two-hour shifts, and prime time slots can sell out days in advance, so it pays to plan ahead. You canreserve by phone or through the gallery’s Web site.In the ancient Rome archaeological area, reservations for the Colosseum save you from standing in a ticket line that sometimes takes upward of an hour. You canreserve by phone or on the Web.At the Vatican, you need to reserve several days in advance to see the gardens, and several weeks in advance to see the necropolis. For information about attendinga papal audience, see the Close Up box “A Morning with the Pope” several pages into this chapter.M A K I N G T H E M O S T O F Y O U R T I M ERoma, non basta una vita (“Rome, a lifetime is not enough”): this famous saying should be stamped on the passport of every first-time visitor to the Eternal City.On the other hand, it’s a warning: Rome is so packed with sights that it is impossible to take them all in; it’s easy to run yourself ragged trying to check off the itemson your “Santa Claus” list.At the same time, the saying is a celebration of the city’s abundance. There’s so much here, you’re bound to make discoveries you hadn’t anticipated. To conquerRome, strike a balance between visits to major sights and leisurely neighborhood strolls.In the first category, the Vatican and the remains of ancient Rome loom the largest. Both require at least half a day; a good strategy is to devote your first morning toone and your second to the other.Leave the afternoons for exploring the neighborhoods that comprise “Baroque Rome” and the shopping district around the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti. If youhave more days at your disposal, continue with the same approach. Among the sights, Galleria Borghese and the multilayered church of San Clemente areparticularly worthwhile, and the neighborhoods of Trastevere and the Ghetto make for great roaming.Since there’s a lot of ground to cover in Rome, it’s wise to plan your busy sightseeing schedule with possible savings in mind, and purchasing the Roma Pass(www.romapass.it) allows you to do just that. The three-day pass costs €20 and is good for unlimited use of buses, trams, and the metro.It includes free admission to two of more than 40 participating museums or archaeological sites, including the Colosseum (and bumps you to the head of the longline there, to boot!), the Ara Pacis museum, the Musei Capitolini, and Galleria Borghese, plus discounted tickets to many other museums. The Roma Pass can bepurchased at tourist information booths across the city, at Termini Station, or at Terminal C of the International Arrivals section of Fiumicino Airport.W H E N T O G O
Not surprisingly, spring and fall are the best times to visit, with mild temperatures and many sunny days; the famous Roman sunsets are also at their best. Summersare often sweltering. In July and August, come if you like, but learn to do as the Romans do—get up and out early, seek refuge from the afternoon heat, resumeactivities in early evening, and stay up late to enjoy the nighttime breeze. Come August, many shops and restaurants close as locals head out for vacation.Remember that air-conditioning is still a relatively rare phenomenon in this city. Roman winters are relatively mild, with persistent rainy spells.H O P - O N , H O P - O F FRome has its own “hop-on, hop-off” sightseeing buses. The Trambus Open Roma 110 bus leaves with 10-minute frequencies from Piazza dei Cinquecento (at themain Termini railway station), with a two-hour loop including the Quirinale, the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, St. Peter’s, the Trevi Fountain, and Via Veneto.Tickets are €16 (kids 6–12, €7). A variant is the Archeobus, which departs every 20 minutes from the Piazza dei Cinquecento and heads on out to the Via AppiaAntica, including stops at the Colosseum, Baths of Caracalla, and the Catacombs. Tickets are €13 (kids 6–12, €6). The Web site for both is |www.trambusopen.com.R O M A N H O U R SVirtually the entire city shuts down on Sundays, although museums, pastry shops, and most restaurants are closed Mondays. However, most stores in the centrostorico area, the part of town that caters to tourists, remain open. Shop hours generally run from 10 AM to 1 PM, then reopen around 4 PM until 7:30 or 8 PM.Unless advertised as having orario continuato (open all day), most businesses close from 1 to 4 PM for lunch, or riposo. On Mondays, shops usually don’t openuntil around 3 or 4 PM. Pharmacies tend to have the same hours of operation as stores unless they advertise orario notturno (night hours); two can be found atPiazza Barberini and Piazza Risorgimento (near St. Peter’s Square). As for churches, most open at 8 or 9 in the morning, close from noon to 3 or 4, then reopenuntil 6:30 or 7. St. Peter’s, however, is open 7 AM to 7 PM (6 in the fall and winter).T O U R I S T I N F O R M A T I O NRome’s main APT (Azienda Per Turismo) Tourist Information Office is at Via Parigi 5–11 (06/488991 | www.romaturismo.it), near the main Termini rail station.In addition, green APT information kiosks with multilingual personnel are situated near the most important sights and squares, as well as at Termini Station andLeonardo da Vinci Airport. These kiosks, called Tourist Information Sites (Punti Informativi Turistici, or PIT) can be found at:PIT Castel S. Angelo, Lungotevere Vaticano; open 9:30–7 PMPIT Cinque Lune, Piazza delle Cinque Lune (Piazza Navona); open 9:30–7 PMPIT Fiumicino, Aeroporto Leonardo Da Vinci–Arrivi Internazionali Terminal C; open 9–7:30 PMPIT Minghetti, Via Marco Minghetti (corner of Via del Corso); open 9:30–7 PMPIT Nazionale, Via Nazionale (Palazzo delle Esposizioni); open 9:30–7 PMPIT Santa Maria Maggiore, at Via dell’Olmata; open 9:30–7 PMPIT Termini, Stazione Termini, at Via Giovanni Giolitti 34; open 8–8 PMPIT Trastevere, on Piazza Sidney Sonnino; open 9:30–7 PMW A L K I N G T O U R S O F R O M EAmerican Express, Context: Rome, Enjoy Rome, Through Eternity, and Rome Walks are all reputable companies offering guided walking tours of the city.Most walks focus on a theme—”Ancient Rome” and “The Vatican Museums” are perennial favorites, but there are other more quirky options as well, from “Romeat Twilight” to “The Architecture of Fascism.” Here’s how to contact the companies:American Express(Piazza di Spagna 38, Spagna | 00187 | 06/72282 or 06/72280308 | www.americanexpress.com). Context: Rome (Via Baccina 40, near the RomanForum | 00184| 06/0697625204 or 888/4671986 | www.contextrome.com). Enjoy Rome (Via Marghera 8A, nearTermini | 00185 | 06/4451843 | www.enjoyrome.com).Through Eternity (06/7009336 | www.througheternity.com).Rome Walks (347/7955175).G E T T I N G H E R E A N D A R O U N DG E T T I N G H E R E B Y C A RThe main access routes from the north are A1 (Autostrada del Sole) from Milan and Florence and the A12-E80 highway from Genoa. The principal route to or frompoints south, including Naples, is the A2. All highways connect with the Grande Raccordo Anulare Ring Road (GRA), which channels traffic into the city center.For driving directions, check out | www.tuttocitta.it. Note: private cars not belonging to residents aren’t allowed in the entire historic center during the day(weekdays 8–6; Saturday 2 PM–6 PM). Parking in Rome can be a nightmare.G E T T I N G H E R E B Y T R A I N
Rome is a major hub for Trenitalia (892/2021 within Italy, 06/68475475 from abroad | www.trenitalia.it), which has service throughout Italy. The main station inRome is Termini, but there is also significant traffic through the Tiburtina, Ostiense, and Trastevere stations. On longer routes (to Florence and Venice, forinstance), you can either travel by the cheap but slow diretto trains, or the fast but more expensive Intercity or Eurostar.G E T T I N G H E R E B Y A I RRome’s principal airport is Leonardo da Vinci Airport/Fiumicino (06/65951 | www.adr.it) commonly known as Fiumicino (FCO). It’s 30 km (19 mi) southwest ofthe city but has a direct train link with downtown Rome. Rome’s other airport, with no direct train link, is Ciampino (06/794941 | www.adr.it) or CIA, 15 km (9 mi)south of downtown and used mostly by low-cost airlines.Two trains link downtown Rome with Fiumicino. Inquire at the APT tourist information counter in the International Arrivals hall (Terminal B) or train informationcounter near the tracks to determine which takes you closest to your destination in Rome. The 30-minute nonstop Airport-Termini express (called the LeonardoExpress) goes directly to Track 25 at Termini Station, Rome’s main train station; tickets cost €11. The FM1 train stops in Trastevere. Always stamp your tickets inthe little machines near the track before you board.For Ciampino, COTRAL buses connect to trains that go to the city.G E T T I N G H E R E B Y B U SBus lines cover all of Rome’s surrounding Lazio region and are operated by the Compagnia Trasporti Laziali, or COTRAL (800/150008 | www.cotralspa.it). Thesebus routes terminate either near Tiburtina Station or at outlying Metro stops, such as Rebibbia and Ponte Mammolo (Line B) and Anagnina (Line A).COTRAL and buses run by SENA (800/930960 | www.sena.it) are good options for taking short day trips from Rome, such as those that leave daily from Rome’sPonte Mammolo (Line B) metro station for the town of Tivoli, where Hadrian’s Villa and Villa D’Este are located.R O M E P U B L I C T R A N S I TRome’s integrated transportation system is ATAC (06/46952027 or 800/431784 | www.atac.roma.it), which includes the Metropolitana subway, city buses, andmunicipal trams. A ticket (BIT) valid for 75 minutes on any combination of buses and trams and one entrance to the Metro costs €1. Day passes can be purchasedfor €4, and weekly passes for €16. Tickets (singly or in quantity—it’s a good idea to have a few tickets handy so you don’t have to hunt for a vendor when youneed one) are sold at tobacconists, newsstands, some coffee bars, automatic ticket machines in Metro stations, some bus stops, and ATAC and COTRAL ticketbooths. Time-stamp tickets at Metro turnstiles and in little yellow machines on buses and trams when boarding the first vehicle, and stamp it again when boardingfor the last time within 75 minutes.G E T T I N G A R O U N D B Y B U S A N D T R A MATAC city buses and trams are orange, gray-and-red, or blue-and-orange. You board at the rear and to exit at the middle; you must buy your ticket before boarding,and stamp it in a machine as soon as you enter.Buses and trams run from 5:30 AM to midnight, plus there’s an extensive network of night (notturno) buses. ATAC has a Web site (www.atac.roma.it) that canhelp you plan your route. To navigate the site, look for “Muoversi a Roma” and then click on “Calcola il percorso” to get to another page that changes the site intoEnglish.Be aware that festivi buses run only on Sundays and holidays; regular buses will either be marked feriali (daily) or won’t be labeled. Free Metro Routes maps areavailable at tourist info booths.G E T T I N G A R O U N D B Y M E T R O P O L I T A N AThe Metropolitana (or Metro) is the easiest and fastest way to get around Rome. The Metro A line—known as the linea turistica (tourist line) will take you to achunk of the main attractions in Rome: Piazza di Spagna (Spagna stop), Piazza del Popolo (Flaminio), St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Museums (Cipro-MuseiVaticani), and the Trevi Fountain (Barberini). The B line will take you to the Coliseum (Colosseo stop) and Circus Maximus (Ostiense Station), and also lead youto the heart of Testaccio, Rome’s nightlife district. The two lines intersect at Rome’s main station, Termini. Street entrances are marked with red “M” signs. TheMetro opens at 5:30 AM, and the last trains leave the last station at either end at 11:30 PM (12:30 AM on Friday and Saturday nights).G E T T I N G A R O U N D B Y T A X ITaxis in Rome do not cruise, but if free they will stop if you flag them down. They wait at stands but can also be called by phone (06/6645, 06/3570, 06/4994,06/5551, or 06/4157). Always ask for a receipt (ricevuta) to make sure the driver charges you the correct amount. Use only licensed cabs with a plaque next to thelicense plate reading “Servizio Pubblico.”E A T I N G A N D D R I N K I N G W E L L I N R O M EIn Rome, traditional cuisine reigns supreme. Most chefs follow the mantra of freshness over fuss, simplicity of flavor and preparation over complex cookingmethods.So when Romans continue ordering the standbys, it’s easy to understand why. And we’re talking about very old standbys: some restaurants re-create dishes thatcome from ancient recipes of Apicius, probably the first celebrity chef (to Emperor Tiberius) and cookbook author of the Western world. Today, Rome’s cooksexcel at what has taken hundreds, or thousands, of years to perfect.
Still, if you’re hunting for newer-than-now developments, things are slowly changing. Talented young chefs are exploring new culinary frontiers, with results thattingle the taste buds: potato gnocchi with sea urchin sauce, artichoke strudel, and oysters with red-onion foam are just a few recent examples. Of course, there’sgrumbling about the number of chefs who, in a clumsy effort to be nuovo, end up with collision rather than fusion. That noted, Rome is the capital city, and theinflux of residents from other regions of the country allows for many variations on the Italian theme.F O O D I E F I N D SVia Cola di Rienzo is home to two of Rome’s best specialty shops: Castroni (Via Cola di Rienzo 200, Prati | 06/6874651), pictured above, a gastroshop that sellshigh-quality cured meats, Italian cheeses, wines, pastas, and fresh truffles. Next door, Franchi (Via Cola di Rienzo 196, Prati | 06/68743382) is well known amongexpats for its imported foreign foods from the United States, Great Britain, Japan, India, and Mexico, as well as its impressive selection of candies, preserves, oliveoils, and balsamic vinegars. Franchi is a great place to stop in for caffé and a cornetto (an Italian croissant).A R T I C H O K E SIf there’s one vegetable Rome is known for, it’s the artichoke, or carciofo. The classic Roman preparation, carciofo alla romana, is a large, globe-shaped artichokestuffed with wild mint and garlic, then braised. It’s available at restaurants throughout the city in spring, when artichokes are in season. For the excellent Roman-Jewish version, carciofo alla giudia—a younger artichoke deep-fried until crisp and brown—head to any restaurant in the Ghetto.B U C A T I N I A L L A M A T R I C I A N AWhat may appear to the naked eye as spaghetti with red sauce is actually bucatini alla matriciana—a spicy, rich, and complex dish that owes its flavor to animportant ingredient: guanciale, or cured pig’s cheek. Once you taste a meaty, guanciale-flavored dish, you’ll understand why Romans swear by it. Along withguanciale, the simple sauce features crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes. It is served over bucatini, a hollow, spaghetti-like pasta, and topped with gratedpecorino romano cheese.C O D A A L L A V A C C I N A R ARome’s largest slaughterhouse in the 1800s was housed in the Testaccio neighborhood. That’s where you’ll find dishes like coda alla vaccinara, or “oxtail in thestyle of the slaughterhouse.” This dish is made from oxtails stewed with tomatoes and wine, and seasoned with garlic, cinnamon, pancetta, and myriad otherflavorings. The stew cooks for a day or two, then is finished with the sweet-and-sour element—often raisins or bittersweet chocolate—and served over polenta orpasta.G E L A T OFor many travelers, the first taste of gelato is one of the most memorable moments of their Italian trip. Almost a cross between regular American ice cream and softserve, gelato’s texture is dense but softer than hard ice cream because of the process by which it’s whipped when freezing. Gelato is extremely flavorful, and oftenmade daily. In Rome, a few common flavors are stracciatella (chocolate chip), caffè (coffee), nocciola (hazelnut), fragola (strawberry), and cioccolato (chocolate).P I Z Z ARoman pizza comes in two types: pizza rustica and pizza al taglio (by the slice), which has a thicker focaccialike crust and is cut into squares. These slices are soldby weight and are available all day. The other type, pizza tonda (whole rounds), has a very thin crust. Pizza tonda is cooked in wood-burning ovens that reachextremely high temperatures. Since they’re so hot, the ovens are usually fired up only in the evenings, which is why Roman pizzerias are only open for dinner.Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Contents
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | ContentsAncient Rome | Navona and Campo: Baroque Rome | Corso and Spagna: Piazza Venezia to the Spanish Steps | Piazza della Repubblica to Quirinale | VillaBorghese and Piazza del Popolo | The Vatican: Rome of the Popes | The Ghetto, Tiber Island, and Trastevere | The Catacombs and Via Appia AnticaMost everyone begins by discovering the grandeur that was Rome: the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Pantheon. Then many move on to the Vatican, the closestthing to heaven on Earth for some.The historical pageant continues with the 1,001 splendors of the baroque era: glittering palaces, jewel-studded churches, and Caravaggio masterpieces. Arriverefreshed—with the help of a shot of espresso—at the foot of the Spanish Steps, where the picturesque world of the classic Grand Tour (peopled by such spirits asJohn Keats and Tosca) awaits you.Thankfully, Rome provides delightful ways to catch your historic breath along the way: a walk through the cobblestone valleys of Trastevere or an hour stolenalongside a splashing Bernini fountain. Keep in mind that an uncharted ramble through the heart of the old city can be just as satisfying as the contemplation of achapel or a trek through marbled museum corridors. No matter which aspect of Rome you end up enjoying the most, a visit to the Eternal City will live up to itsname in memory.A N C I E N T R O M ETime has reduced ancient Rome to fields of silent ruins, but the powerful impact of what happened here, of the genius and power that made Rome the center of theWestern world, echoes across the millennia.In this one compact area of the city, you can step back into the Rome of Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Virgil. Walk along the streets they knew, cool off in the shade ofthe Colosseum that loomed over the city, and see the sculptures poised above their piazzas. At the end of a day of exploring, climb one of the famous hills andwatch the sun set over what was once the heart of the civilized world.Today, this part of Rome, more than any other, is a perfect example of that layering of historic eras, the overlapping of ages, of religions, of a past that is very mucha part of the present. Christian churches rise from the foundations of ancient pagan temples. An immense marble monument to a 19th-century king shares a squarewith a Renaissance palace built by a pope. Still, the history and memory of ancient Rome dominate the area. It’s fi tting that in the aftermath of centuries of suchpageantry Percy Bysshe Shelley and Edward Gibbon refl ected here on the meaning of sic transit gloria mundi (so passes away the glory of the world).T H E C A M P I D O G L I OYour first taste of ancient Rome should start from a point that embodies some of Rome’s earliest and greatest moments: the Campidoglio. Here, on the CapitolineHill (which towers over the traffic hub of Piazza Venezia), a meditative Edward Gibbon was inspired to write his 1764 classic, The History of the Decline and Fallof the Roman Empire, for here is where it all began. Of Rome’s famous seven hills, the Capitoline is the smallest and most sacred—it has always been the seat ofRome’s government and its Latin name is echoed in the designation of the national and state capitol buildings of every country in the world.Origins of the Campidoglio.Spectacularly transformed by Michelangelo’s late-Renaissance designs, the Campidoglio was once the epicenter of the Roman empire, the place where the city’sfirst shrines stood, including its most sacred, the Temple of Jupiter.Originally, the Capitoline Hill consisted of two peaks: the Capitolium and the Arx (where Santa Maria in Aracoeli now stands). The hollow between them wasknown as the Asylum: here, prospective settlers once came to seek the protection of Romulus, legendary first king of Rome—hence the term “asylum.” Later,