Rome – Centro Storico – hidden gems near the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps in the Campo Marzio district are one of Rome’s post popular tourist spots, so it will be busy all the time unless you go really early in the morning. I made them part of my jogging route as there’s something very cool about running up and down them early in morning when there’s no-one else around.

Be warned that as of 2019 you can no longer sit down on the steps, unless you want to get a €450 fine! Audrey Hepburn should definitely have got a ticket for littering in Roman Holiday though (at 1.00).

City map here.

Unbelievably there’s a great place to eat near the Spanish steps that’s not a tourist trap…

Fiaschetteria Beltramme (Intermediate A), 39 Via della Croce

This classic trattoria has been serving trad Roman dishes since 1889. It’s best to get here early at about 7.30 to beat the crowds because they don’t take reservations. There are several tables set for four but as a lone diner I was seated at a large table laid for eight which I shared with a Japanese and American couple, two Finns and a German, all of whom turned out to be foodies who like me had tracked the place down. Conversation ranged from secret Roman restaurants and Yorkshire beer to Singaporean cuisine and cured reindeer meat. It’s amazing what you can learn through a shared love of food.

To start I had the soup of the day; a stew of chickpeas and pasta hoops in a hearty broth (A). To follow, Pollo alla Romana, three chicken legs stewed with tomatoes , onions and peppers until the meat was falling off the bones, wonderful (A). On the side Carciofo alla Romana (artichoke heart braised with mint, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil), another tasty local classic (B). I had a quartino each of the house white and red with each course and both were very good for table wines. To finish Zabaione (aka Zabaglione)with two chunks of amaretto biscuit, also excellent (A). Total cost €48, very good value considering the location.

Unbeknownst to most people, there is a fun, little known sight down a backstreet near the top of the stairs. Palazzetto Zuccari , aka Casa dei Mostri (Monster House), was built by the famous Baroque artist Federico Zuccari in 1590 as a studio. For a while it was the residence of the exiled queen of Poland.

The faces on the facade were inspired by the Parco dei Mostri (Monster Park) in the north of Lazio.

A sleepy Sunday in Trastevere next!

One thought on “Rome – Centro Storico – hidden gems near the Spanish Steps”

  1. I’ll second the recommendation of the Beltramme: on a street (in an area) crammed with bad value tourist traps it stands out. Its daily specials often have interesting stuff. Fort example on a recent visit they were doing spaghetti carbonara esteve (summer carbonara) which was made by substituting pieces of fried zucchini (courgettes) for the usual bacon or pancetta. Excellent idea.

    And if you’re in this area you can also visit Antica Enoteca (also known as L’Enoteca Antica) further up the street at 76b. Cavernous, late 19C fittings (reminds me a lot of the old style Victorian pubs you used to find in London: all worn brass, dark wood and spotty mirrors), vast wine list (from Ligurian vermentinos to passito de Pantelleria), good range by the glass, reasonable restaurant attached and a tavola calda at lunchtime. Also Sky Sports on TVs and, the last time I went anyway, a music track of 80s UK synthpop (ABC, Erasure, Heaven 17, Phil O and co, Yazoo, etc, etc). The bar staff seem used to, or at least unphased by, people joining in the chorus to “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?”. Recommended. For some reason the bar staff ring a bell at 10.30, look at each other meaningfully and go round collecting up glasses. Quite nostalgic for those of us who remember closing time. Following this, however, they continue to serve drinks just the same as before, which recalls that other lost British drinking institution: the lock-in. God knows why but go here if you can. Order at the bar, collect your drink there, pay for it all at the cashier by the door when you leave.

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