Rome – an early start in the Centro Storico

The Bernini statues in Piazza Navona are stunning…

…but the square is generally heaving with tourists making it hard to get good photos.

Map of the neigbourhoods in the Centro Storico here. City map here. Post on the statues and fountains in Navona here.

My solution was to get up really early and go to see them before, and after, a takeaway breakfast in the historic centre. I went twice to catch the sun in different postions. The hour after sunrise, known as golden hour, is the best time for photography if your sleeping patterns allow you to get up that early.

Grab a Pizza Bianca (olive oil, salt, rosemary) or Pizza Rossa (tomato sauce) to take away from Antico Forno Roscioli at 34 Via dei Chiavari. Video here.

Then follow up with a coffee and optional Maritozzo con Panna, a cream-filled bun, from nearby Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria at 16 Piazza Benedetto Cairoli.

Both businesses open at 7am (8.30am on Sundays), and are just a short walk from Piazza Navona, or the Parthenon and Fontana di Trevi, more of which in another post.

While you’re in Café Roscioli, pop into Roscioli Salumeria, Vineria con Cucina next door at 21/22 Via dei Giubbonari to book a table for lunch (essential, it’s very popular). Video here.

I know this post reads like an advert for the Roscioli mini-empire (each business is owned by a different sibling) but honestly I’m not getting anything for it, they really are excellent. For further references, the salumeria is listed in 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die and all three businesses are in Where Chefs Eat.

After an amuse bouche of ricotta with pink beetroot, I had the Mortadella e Parmagiano, homemade mortadella with parmesan curls (B+) followed by the Burrata di Corato e Pomodorini, cream mozzarella with sun-dried tomatoes (A). To drink a bottle of ‘Abelos Bio’ Frascati Superiore by De Sanctis (B) and tastes of four different Amari (A/B). Some compliementary chocolate and biscuits sealed the deal (B).

The total bill came to €141 but half of that was the Roscioli cookery book and two bottles of San Simone, for the flavour (A) as well as the font.

Not the cheapest place to eat but the food is stunning so it’s great for a treat.

While you’re in this area this early though you should go to the Mercato di Campo de’ Fiori which starts at 9am.

If you have a little time to kill before the market gets going, you could check out this hidden courtyard around the corner, the Arco degli Acetari (vinegar-makers arch) at 19 Via del Pellegrino, which features on a lot of postcards. Video here.

While I was here I wanted to go to another bakery, Forno Campo de ‘Fiori at 22 Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, because I heard that their Pizza Rossa edges out Roscioli’s (although they are related), but it was closed unfortunately.

After lunch I went to Galleria Spada, the Spada family gallery of 17th century paintings and sculpture (including work by Titan, Guercino and Gentileschi), at 13 Piazza Capo di Ferro. I got in for the reduced price of €2.50 with my Roma Pass. Video here.

Out in the courtyard is La Prospettiva del Borromini, a Baroque optical illusion of what looks like a long colonnade but which in fact is only nine meters in length.

They also have a very fat cat known as Lady Spada.

If you’ve got a soft spot for cats, as I have, then it’s just a short distance to Largo di Torre Argentina where a huge colony of feral cats lives amongst the archaeological ruins.

There’s a cat sanctuary here, the Colonia Felina di Torre Argentina, where there are cats everywhere you look.

Flopped cats

If you’d rather just go shopping, check out Dispensabile, a really nice homewares shop at 37-39 Via d’Aracoeli. If you’re into Italian furniture design then also check out Arcon at 104 Via della Scrofa and Fortuna Roma at 55 Via di Monte Brianzo which are slightly further afield but still in the historic centre.

Back to the hotel for a siesta, then it’s time for dinner…

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