About Judy E
Lives in Rome, Italy
Since Jul 2014
For the past decade Italy has been a constant in my assignments as travel writer and photographer. Rome, Florence, and Venice are the cities where I spend the most time, but much of my time has been spent in small towns and the countryside, too, especially in Southern Italy. It's always a privilege to criss-cross the boot, often in a convertible or by train. The art, culture, food, nature, and wine are all incredible. Italy is so rich in these that the problem is never to find something of interest, it's in all those wonders that for lack of space never make it to the printed page or web page. Born in the U.S. and with treasured years of working in the museum world in Washington, DC, I always bring those perspectives with me, too, including to TripAdvisor. I was delighted that TripAdvisor commissioned me to write some Travel Guides for Rome, Venice, and Sicily. Happy reading and happy travels!
Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Arenas & Stadiums, Historic Sites
Historic Walking Areas, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Religious Sites, Churches & Cathedrals
Architectural Buildings, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Historic Sites, Lighthouses, Parks, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Castles, Cemeteries, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Religious Sites, Art Museums, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Architectural Buildings
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites
Visitor Centres, Sightseeing Tours
Ancient Ruins, Parks
Cemeteries, Historic Sites, Monuments & Statues, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Ancient Ruins, Visitor Centres
Breakfast at Hotel Forum is not a foodie destination, but overlooking the Palatine and Forum ruins, it makes for a convenient and picturesque start to the day. For early risers, service begins at 7am, allowing you plenty of time to savor coffee and eats before you begin a day of sightseeing.
Begin where Rome began. The Palatine is the legendary home of Romulus. Some of the findings here date back to the 10th century BC. Almost 1,000 years later, this was the coveted spot of the rich and powerful: emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero, to name but a few. Come up to see the grand ruins and enjoy open spaces and views over the Circus Maximus, the Aventine Hill, and the Forum. Been there, done that? News! Some sections of the villas of Emperor Augustus and his wife Livia were restored and opened to the public in 2014, when the museum was remodeled. You can also see models of Iron Age huts that were built on this hill. Colorful fragments of marble and frescoes (wall paintings) also nod to the colors of Ancient Rome in the time of the emperors.
One of the great engineering wonders of the ancient world is enormous in both scale and ingenuity. The Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum (Coliseum), is best experienced inside the theater. Step inside and imagine being one of some 50,000 or more spectators watching a show or gossiping under its arches. All kinds of spectacles took place here, including battles between gladiators.
L'Asino d'Oro offers delicious creative cuisine. Take a short walk to explore the narrow streets of the Monti neighborhood and then have a gourmet lunch here.
A stunning collection of antiquities and galleries of paintings make the Capitolini Museums a must. Not to be missed are the Dying Gladiator (aka Gaul), the bronze equestrian Marcus Aurelius in the circular gallery, paintings by Caravaggio and Guercino, and busts of emperors whose neighbors in adjoining rooms are gods and goddesses.
Visit the splashy Baroque fountains in Piazza Navona. In its center, the Four Rivers Fountain represents the world's major rivers of the known continents in the 17th century, with sculpted details including a horse, crocodile, and plants.
Three famous paintings remain in the very place for which they were originally commissioned. This French church has three stunning Caravaggio paintings situated in the Contarelli Chapel, each depicting a dramatic scene from the life of St. Matthew. The artist is famous for his dramatic use of 'chiaroscuro,' a contrast of light and dark, and for his keen expression of the human condition.
One of the great buildings of the world, the harmonious Pantheon is an architectural marvel. I simply enjoy being part of its space. Explore details including the oculus ('eye hole' in the dome) and the marble drain holes on the floor. When rains, it rains inside! In a city where it's hard to claim favorites, this is my favorite building in Rome.
Largo di Torre Argentina, known by Romans more simply as Largo Argentina, contains the ruins of some of Rome's oldest temples. Look for the entrance to Pompey's theater where Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44BC. This ancient sacred area is now a sanctuary that protects and cares for cats.
If it's summer, don't miss dinner on Tiber Island in the Tuscolano area, sitting at an outdoor table as the Tiber River whooshes by. In 2013 the dining level of the summer taverns improved dramatically when Giuda Ballerino opened, and in 2014 they added a level of gourmet dining and service that earned Andrea Fusco a Michelin star. I tend to order fish dishes here, but there are delicious options for carnivores and vegetarians too.
This stylish gourmet dining spot is situated across the Tiber River in lively Trastevere. Choose cuisine in a modern or traditional tone. Lobster with aromatic salad and mango, dusted with Calabrian hot pepper, perhaps? Or opt for seasonal splendors like an all-truffle menu. If that isn't enough to make you swoon, check out the New Year's Eve menu. Chef Cristina Bowerman ditched her international law career to switch to the world of food. The verdict? Delicious! Her creative flair pleases finicky international diners, as well as Romans who like to experiment.
Play 'find the dome' and search for other Rome landmarks up on the hillside perch of the Gianicolo. In the summer, this is the scene for an evening drink at outdoor lounges, open until 1am or so. The Janiculum Hill is where Romans traditionally would flee the summer heat in the center. It's also an escape from the noise. I love it for the panoramic city view, beautiful by day or night. On a clear day you can see the mountains. Easiest to spot in the city: stately white Villa Medici and the round Pantheon dome.
Food, glorious food! Campo de' Fiori market is the perfect spot to dive into the ingredients of Roman cuisine, from the fruit and vegetable stands to the butchers and bakers. Enjoy the play of color and begin to learn some of the words for food items. In winter and spring, watch the women expertly trimming the Roman artichokes.
Have a Sicilian breakfast at Nonna Vincenza. The combination of a fresh buttery brioche with pistachio granita (ice) is heavenly.
Dungeons, tombs, papal chambers, canons, armor, temporary exhibits, and an angel at the top are all here to explore in this round castle, which began as Emperor Hadrian's design for his tomb. A secret passageway, the 'passetto,' links the castle with the Vatican apartments. Summer evenings offer concerts on the terraces. In winter, an ice skating rink goes up outside.
The Vatican Museums have a collection of some of the world's best art. Not only is the area vast, but so is the subject matter displayed. The Sistine Chapel, Belvedere Court, Raphael Rooms, and Rotunda filled with sculptures vie for space with mummies, ancient gods and goddesses, heroes and villains, Etruscans, animal sculptures, and saints. Visitors on a single busy day can number 25,000 or more. You can't see these museums in a month, much less a day, so just head for the areas that inspire. Priority for most is the Sistine Chapel, with Michelangelo's Seven Days of Creation (ceiling) and Universal Judgment (entrance wall). It is the last thing you see as you pass through, so be sure to savor all that you see on the way there.
The world's largest and most important of the Roman Catholic churches, St. Peter's is a major destination for religious pilgrims. For everyone, it offers major works of art, including the Pietà by Michelangelo, and important architecture to explore. I love to climb the dome up to the very top.
Creative cuisine or delicious panini, take your pick. Romeo Chef and Baker is near the Vatican in the neighborhood of Prati, a good spot for a gourmet lunch or dinner.
The Peace Altar of Emperor Augustus is inside a building designed by U.S. architect Richard Meier, a pleasing union of ancient and modern architecture. The lower level also hosts major art exhibitions.
Piazza del Popolo is a vast square and was one of the main entry points to Rome by Via Flaminia, bordered to the west by the Tiber River and to the east by Villa Borghese. The obelisk was brought from Egypt to Rome by order of Emperor Augustus. Near the gate, the church of Santa Maria del Popolo has stunning paintings by Caravaggio and Pinturicchio.
Arancia Blu offers sumptuous vegetarian cuisine that also lures meat eaters, also due in part to Fabio's interesting wine selection. The intimate space and nice service makes for a lovely dinner. For a good sample of the cuisine, order the excellent tasting menu and ask Fabio to pair wines with each course.
Music presents no language barrier. A wide range of music from classic to jazz, pop, folk, and experimental is offered in this modern complex designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. (Architects Piano and Meier designed the two main buildings of the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.) Dance and theater are sometimes offered too, and this is the main site for the annual Rome Film Festival in October.
MAXXI, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, is full of interesting spaces to explore. View the exterior and then step into the lobby. See her unique interpretations of space for this museum which is dedicated to the design and architecture of the 21st century. The quality of temporary exhibitions can be inconsistent, but some are stunning. Check for film programs and other events, too.
I love this historic 1934 cinema set in the tiny green house in Villa Borghese park. Daytime is devoted to children's 'piccoli' (films). In the evening one or two international films are shown in the original language, like Jim Jarmusch's 'Only Lovers Left Alive.'
Circus Maximus, site of chariot races in Ancient Rome, will appeal primarily to history buffs or film fans who want to see where 'Ben Hur' and similar films were set. Just up the road is the entrance to Appia Antica, the Appian Way, a good starting point for a day of sightseeing.
Begun in the 4th century BC, this romantic and historic road is paved with basalt stones, and stretches of this road still have a bucolic pastoral backdrop. Elsewhere it is dotted with exclusive villas, some still occupied today and others in ruins, like former home of Emperor Commodus Villa Quintilli. The Appian Way is best experienced on a Sunday when it is closed to most car traffic. However, anytime this ancient road merits a visit for its link to ancient times.
Seized by Emperor Commodus for his own use, in its day Villa dei Quintili was the largest villa in the area outside of Rome. Wander the grounds to get a sense of scale. Imagine commanding the empire from here and having a good soak in its thermal baths. A small museum is at the main entrance, and on the opposite side of the grounds, the medieval structures near the Appia Antica gates have been restored. Inquire about opening hours.
Cinecittà, sometimes called Hollywood on the Tiber, is where many films have been made in Rome. See sets from 'Rome' (BBC) and 'Gangs of New York' (Scorscese) as well as costumes from 'Cleopatra' and Fellini's 'Amarcord.' This experience is nothing like a highly organized Universal Studios tour. Rather, the laid-back nature and retro feel make it quite charming. Sometimes you have access to the same bars as the actors, if any are around that day, but if filming is in progress, some areas may also be off limits. Children and those who are not film buffs may be bored, but enthusiasts will get a thrill out of stepping into 'The Dream Factory.'
Gourmet fare near the glamour of film studios and Ancient Roman aqueducts. At Giuda Ballerino, a worthwhile detour from Rome's center, you can have it all. Excellent food, attention to detail, and attentive service make Giuda Ballerino worth a deviation from the tourist tracks. Andrea's tasting menu and Romolo's wines add up to a splurge that is good value (and shows why they earned a Michelin star). The lovely, well-priced wines are from famous wineries plus many smaller producers. The osteria, a separate dining area from the restaurant, also offers delicious fare with a casual ambiance and economical menu that lures local families.
Ride bikes or hike past enormous aqueducts that date back to the first century AD, the times of Emperor Claudius. This is one of several aqueduct systems that, through clever Roman engineering, transported water to a thirsty city. This is a perfect activity for a Sunday, when the nearby ancient Appia Antica is closed to outside car traffic, although you can come on any day. Parco devil Acquedotti offers the unique opportunity to walk, bike, or picnic while the Ancient Roman aqueducts form a backdrop.
The Ancient Romans had their own antiquities craze, which often looked to the grandeur of Ancient Egypt. Near the Piramide Metro stop, see the Pyramid of Cestius built in the first century BC by a Roman determined to bring the grandeur of Egyptian pyramids to Rome, albeit on a much smaller scale, by building his own.
Ostia Antica offers a fascinating look at the ruins of what was once a bustling port city. The grounds are quite extensive, but even a visit to part of the archaeological site will give a glimpse into the ancient world. A theater, taverns, mosaics, temples, baths, and even a small museum all show different aspects of life. If you don't have time to visit Pompeii, this is a good place in Rome to time travel outdoors.
A rooftop dinner in summer at Hotel Raphael's Bramante Terrace is a divine way to conclude a day of sightseeing. The dome of the nearby church seems close enough to touch. Chef Jean Luc Fruneau selects the finest ingredients with an emphasis on organic and biodynamic ingredients for his vegetarian menu. In cooler weather, book lunch here.