With masking and vaccination requirements largely dropped in Italy and summer approaching, crowds of travelers have started to return to Rome’s Centro Storico – the area most dependent on tourism and hardest hit by the pandemic – according to hoteliers and other people working near the emblematic places of Rome.
“Trevi Square and the whole center of Rome are full of tourists,” said Fabrizio Rezza, reservations manager for the Hotel Fontana, referring to the crowds around the historic landmark in front of the hotel, the Trevi Fountain. “It seems no one is afraid of Covid anymore.”
So the Eternal City continues to live up to its name, boosted by long-awaited reopenings and a slew of new restaurants, hotels and cultural venues across the city.
Museums and archaeological sites
Under renovation since 2007, the distinctive circular Mausoleum of Augustus (entrance 5 euros) began to welcome the public again last year, and the Casa Romana, a 4th century residence located under the Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barraccoalso reopened after an even longer hiatus.
Among the nascent cultural places of Rome, the new Ninfeo Museum offers visitors the opportunity to admire the ruins of an ancient refuge and pleasure garden of emperors such as Claudius and Caligula. (The museum is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. An adult ticket costs 14.30 euros and can be purchased via Vivaticket.) The Just Open (and Free) Garum The museum (named after an ancient Roman fish sauce) traces the history of Italian cuisine and food. Housed in a 16th-century palace, the new museum features centuries-old utensils, vessels, molds and other cooking utensils, as well as an extensive library of books and prints related to the culinary arts.
Italy has also reintroduced free admission to state museums and archaeological sites on the first Sunday of each month. At all other times, some popular tourist sites, including the Colosseum website (which includes the Forum and the Palatine Hill; 16 euros) and Borghese Gallery (entry at 13 euros; free for children under 17), requires the purchase of tickets online.
Extensive buffet of new restaurants
Over the past two years, many beloved restaurants in Rome have been forced to close, such as the Michelin-starred Metamorfosi, the panoramic Lo Zodiaco summit and Doozo, considered by some to be the best Japanese restaurant in Rome.
But as befits a food-centric city, Rome’s scorching food scene serves up an expansive buffet of new eateries, from thin-crust pizzerias awash in craft beer (Elementary), to delicatessens brimming with platters of prosciutto and grilled meats (Aventine), to natural wine shops with an aces selection of Italian dishes served in an open kitchen in the back (Enoteca the Antidote).
Some of the most sought-after new tables are at Romane, the new restaurant of celebrity chef and restaurateur Stefano Callegari, known for being the inventor of the trapizzino, a cone-shaped bread container that can be filled with everything from eggplant parmigiana to beef tongue in green sauce. Loud, friendly and unassuming, Romane serves respectful and sometimes embellished versions of classic Italian cuisine, including fried artichokes, Amatriciana spaghetti, and “the best chicken cacciatore I’ve ever had in my life,” in the words of the food journalist and food expert. Luciana Squadrilli olive oil. Expect to pay around 60 euros for a three course meal for two people.
Hotels: luxury and kitsch
The lack of tourists has also hurt the accommodation sector, which has suffered some of the worst losses. According to Giorgio Palmucci, president of ENIT, the national tourism agency, around 400 regional hotels have closed during the pandemic. They include giants like the Sheraton Hotel Roma and Conference Center and the Selene, which had hosted luminaries like former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Travel trends that will define 2022
Despite significant losses, the hotel sector is starting to rebound, thanks to recent arrivals such as luxury W Roma (prices in May from 720 euros) and kitsch-cool Mama Shelter Rome (prices in May from 289 euros), with its rooftop bar, co-working space and green restaurant. For particularly large wallets, the Maalot Roma (prices in May from 423 euros) is a hushed town house mixing contemporary works of art and historic furnishings (upholstered sofas, oriental rugs) which has won praise from the sumptuous Don Pasquale restaurant. While waiting for your table, you can sit at the intimate two-seater bar and sip the excellent signature cocktail, Almost a Classic Drink (14 euros), which lights up a traditional Vieux Carré with a dose of grappa.
For slimmer wallets and more Scandinavian tastes, the new 55-room Camplus Hotel Roma Centro (rates in May from 123 euros) is a haven of clean lines and soft colors near the city’s central station, Termini.
Pizza labs, Patti Smith and other summer events
Going forward, a slew of summer festivals are set to take place around Rome, with some returning after a pandemic-era hiatus. At the end of May, some 60 master pizza makers will knead, stir and bake their way into the hearts (and stomachs) of attendees at the free event. La Citta della Pizza. The festival celebrates Italy’s most famous food in its many permutations – Neapolitan, Roman, folded, fried – as well as bread and olive oil, and a free “pizza school” will provide further indoctrination in the pie art. You can then wash it all down in mid-June with some of the 2,500 Italian and international vintages available at wineforum (entrance 20 euros), the city’s annual grand gala of wines and spirits.
Musically, the multi-week citywide concert series known as Rock in Rome (most issues between 20 and 40 euros) returns in June after a two-year break. Held in major venues around the city, including the former Circus Maximus, this year’s series will feature Italian and international artists such as Patti Smith, Massive Attack, Herbie Hancock, Suicidal Tendencies and Maneskin.
Important information about the coronavirus
The Italian government lifted the country’s state of emergency and recently eliminated many of the old regulations, although proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 is still required to enter Italy from a foreign country. In Italy, such proof is no longer required to enter almost any place, and masks are no longer mandatory in the vast majority of indoor spaces. Notable exceptions are public transport and closed entertainment venues – including cinemas, performance halls and concert halls – which require type FFP2 masks (similar to the N95 and KN95 models). The current health instructions can be consulted on the official website. Tourism Italy website.