City Guide Rome

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History meets Hedonism

Issue 02/2009


Text Ilona Marx Photos Andi Zimmermann Illustration Roman Klonek

One thing is clear from the outset: no single city in the world has more history than Rome. And that has to be a major reason for making a visit to the eternal city an obligation. But what about other good reasons for travelling to Italy?

With a view to the politics and the economy of this scandal-ridden country also known as the ‘dirty boot’ it doesn’t seem particularly inviting. Berlusconi seems to put more effort into his personal potency than into his profile as government leader, and with his cabinet of former models and TV anchorwomen he will hardly be rescuing Bella Italia from the crisis. Is life really still so ‘dolce’ in the capital of hedonism?

It is. A mere few hours later and any doubts are blown away, and the hard-won Puritan principles of ambition and abstinence melt away like Stracciatella ice cream in the Roman midday sun. Because if there’s one thing the Romans know how to do, it’s how to live with chaos, yes, even enjoy it. With self-ironising nonchalance, they overcome the adversities of daily life and instead of building up frustration, surrender to the good things in life: the wonderful food, excellent wines, the sunshine, and the imposing architecture. Enough reasons, therefore, to visit the city on the Tiber and do as the Romans do.

J’N’C editor Ilona Marx and photographer Kai von Rabenau from Berlin also allowed themselves to be captivated by the magic and legends of this almost 3000-year-old city. As well as numerous long-established traditional businesses, most of which have been family-run for generations and make up the essence of the Centro Storico, there is also a great shopping experience just waiting to be discovered in the Monti quarter, which lies just to the north of the Coliseum. Around the Piazza dei Fiori shopping opportunities abound, with fashion and more. The best thing is to just wander through the narrow streets and take in the pretty shops and tastefully furnished small trattorias, enotecas and ristorantes. If you’re interested in architecture and want to explore more than just the historical wealth of the city you should not miss the auditorium designed by Renzo Piano and the new museum of contemporary art MAXXI, designed by Zaha Hadid.

Far away from St Peter’s, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, but another must-see, is the up-and-coming artists’ quarter of San Lorenzo, which is located to the northeast of Termini station. Last but not least, is Trastevere, to the west of the Tiber, the neighbourhood that precedes its reputation of offering an excessive nightlife. La Dolce Vita is tempting from all corners of the city, but perhaps you should give the refreshing dip in the Fontana di Trevi, film-style, a miss. The guards with their shrill whistles have seen it all before and don’t have a sense of humour as far this is concerned. Perhaps you should go and get a quick blessing from the Pope instead. You can get one per week from the Vatican by pre-arrangement. And after all that excess it certainly won’t do any harm.

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