A design lover’s guide to Rome

As holiday season heats up, the Italian capital beckons: explore everything from classical architecture to modern hotel stays

a view of the church of sant’ agnese in agone
Alexander Spatari

Rome’s reputation as the ancient jewel in Italy’s – even Europe’s – cultural and historical crown precedes it, driving millions to visit every year. But it is also the stomping ground of living, working creatives, where alternative art venues are springing up alongside Baroque basilicas and modern supper clubs take place above gloriously old-school trattorias, frequented by everyone from students to lifelong residents. Here’s today’s take on what to do, see and discover in the Eternal City.

WHERE TO STAY

The stripped-back interiors of the G-Rough hotel – a ten-suite townhouse – are the perfect palate cleanser from the curlicued architectural treasures (including the Colosseum) surrounding it. Its raw plaster walls provide a serene backdrop to the furniture: bright, original pieces by a who’s-who of Italian design greats, from Gio Ponti to Osvaldo Borsani (from £313 per night).

g rough
The stripped-back interiors of G-Rough
G-Rough

To feel as though you’re living in the city for a weekend, check in to Casacau. Choose from six stylish, self-catering apartments from £212 per night, decorated with contemporary art and Olivetti typewriters by Rome-based interior designer Nora P – she has a by-appointment vintage design store nearby on Via Panisperna that’s definitely worth a visit, too. One Fine Stay, the chic version of Airbnb, also has fabulous homes to rent in Rome. Try Via della Vetrina: a modern, airy apartment situated in a heritage building, available from £427 per night.

BREAKFAST AND LUNCH

Head to the trendy Testaccio district’s renovated mercato to pick up an espresso and anything from a still-warm ciabatta laden with tomatoes, olive oil and basil, to a kilo of mussels to cook for dinner. Its 100 counters include the first-ever vegan market stall to arrive in Rome.

tiberino
Tiberino bistro’s interior, designed by Studio Strato
Tiberino

For a relaxed sit-down lunch, head to bookshop-café-wine cellar hybrid Settembrini for a bowl of spaghetti with clams, tequila and candied lime. Its tables are beautifully decorated with blossom branches in jugs. Also head to farmhouse-style bistro Tiberino to enjoy the ambience of its plaster walls and exposed beams while you devour the perfect classic Caesar salad.

WINE AND DINE

For an edgy, Japanese take on Italian ingredients, dine at Palmerie Parioli, which serves yuzu-infused cocktails and gyoza-style ravioli in a slick concrete space filled with palm trees, marble tables and lights by Flos.

Most excitingly, InBlack – the ‘kitchen studio’ of chef Veronica Paolillo – has just launched a permanent, open-plan cook-and-eat space in the loft of a former semolina factory. Here, the chef herself holds workshops and exhibitions, as well as cooking delicious set-menu dinners that are served on the communal trestle tables with ferns and tree branches suspended overhead.

tre de tutto
Tre de Tutto in southern Rome
Tre de Tutto

We also love the casual vibes at Tre De Tutto, designed by Studio Tamat with simple tiled walls, peeling plaster and geometric lighting.

ART AND CULTURE

MAXXI (National Museum of 21st-Century Art) is Italy’s first museum dedicated to today’s visual art. Check out the architectural models by Florence’s 20th-century design progressives Superstudio.

market to table workshop
Mealtime at the ‘Market to Table’ workshop
Vaness Arena

Elsewhere, the owners of an ivy-clad sprawl of garçonnières (loosely translating as bachelor pads) have lent several apartments – all still glamorously furnished with smoked mirrors, Achille Castiglioni-designed lights and deep-pile moquette carpets – to artists Valerie Giampietro and Alessandro Cicoria to live in and run StudioLi, an independent arts collective. If you’re after some culinary culture, learn the art of mercato-shopping and cooking at a one-day ‘Market to Table’ workshop at the airy, arty Latteria Studio.

SHOP

For simple pleasures, visit the deli Amodei to buy ornately decorated tins of Lazio-region olive oil and vacuum-packed bags of roasted Turin nocciola (hazelnuts) in a space designed by local practice Studio Strato. At the contemporary Made-in-Italy textile brand Staystore, you'll find your perfect shade of linen pillowcase or napkin.

fendi’s exclusive palazzo prive shopping experience, with an interior by dimore studio
Fendi’s exclusive Palazzo Privé shopping experience, with an interior by Dimore Studio
ANDREA FERRARI

Detour to ‘home design gallery’ MIA – where mid-century Danish sideboards sit alongside contemporary handmade wine glasses – and spot Faye Toogood’s recognisable ‘Roly Poly’ chairs sitting out in the idyllic garden. For a final visual feast, head to Fendi’s sultry Palazzo Privé, the ‘VIP shopping apartment’ designed by Dimore Studio with signature flair, and take in the Fontana artworks on the walls along with the iconic brand’s Fendi Casa furniture.

ESCAPE THE CITY

Stroll into Vatican City, home to the Pope, to see the Sistine Chapel and Bramante Staircase. Alternatively, journey further afield to Lake Bracciano, a volcanic lake only an hour’s drive from Rome. Explore the rugged surrounding landscape or head to the shore-side towns, where parasols and artisanal gelato shops provide shelter and sustenance.

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