Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Rome, as Romans do

ROME Fri Oct 12, 2012 1:45pm IST

Tourists visit the Pantheon in Rome August 12, 2003. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/Files

Tourists visit the Pantheon in Rome August 12, 2003.

Credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile/Files

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ROME (Reuters) - In Rome one can still indulge in la dolce vita without breaking the bank, even in times of austerity.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you skip the crowds, dip into daring ice-cream (anyone for pecorino cheese flavour?) and of course, spend evenings in the piazzas watching the world go by, just as the Romans do.

Friday

5 p.m. - Rome's 2,000 year old Pantheon is the perfect place to start. Originally built as a temple to the gods in ancient Roman times, it is one of the city's oldest and best-preserved landmarks and still used as a church.

6 p.m. - Look no further than the cafes in the square, where you can admire the Pantheon's glorious facade over an aperitivo.

For a pick-me-up after a long journey, tucked up a side-street, Tazza d'Oro is one of many establishments claiming to serve the best coffee in Rome and you can buy beans there too.

7:30 p.m. - Dinner. You should make it your mission to avoid the ever-expanding number of tourist traps in the city's historic sites and the area around the Pantheon is no exception.

Make your way through bustling Piazza Navona, stopping to admire Bernini's dramatic Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, to La Montecarlo on Vicolo Savelli 13, where simple but delicious Roman food is still served at a reasonable price.

For those counting the pennies, Il Forno Roscioli on Via dei Giubbonari 21 is deservedly one of the most celebrated "pizza al taglio" spots in town.

Alternatively, pick up one of Aristocampo's famous panini con porchetta at Campo de' Fiori and sit on the empty flower market stalls and watch the evening unfold.

Some of the capital's best nightlife is here -- just be prepared for an early start in the morning!

Saturday

9 a.m. - A true Roman might insist on a lie-in, but with much to see head out early for Cafe de Paris on fancy Via Veneto, where Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" was filmed.

With tragedy worthy of the director, two years ago it was shut down after falling into Mafia hands and police revealed it had become a front to launder money. It now sells wine and other produce grown on lands confiscated from the mob.

10 a.m. - With a taste for Rome's darker heart, curiosity draws you to the crypt beneath the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, described as 'one of the most horrifying images in all of Christendom'.

No one seems to agree on how many thousands lie here, but its chambers, walls and ceilings are plastered with their bones in ghoulish patterns.

11 p.m. - Phew. Find solace among Bernini's marble sculptures, paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Rubens and many more at the Galleria Borghese set in a glorious park overlooking the city.

Housing more than its fair share of masterpieces, gallery visits are arranged in slots and should be booked well in advance at www.ticketeria.it or www.galleriaborghese.it

1 p.m. - Stroll across Villa Borghese to 'il Pincio' terrace for a view of Rome, then follow the steps down to Piazza del Popolo where the Santa Maria del Popolo church holds more works by Caravaggio, Raphael and others.

2 p.m. - With a pressing schedule and by now, probably a huge appetite, pop into the Matricianella at Via del Leone 4. Choose from 600 wines on their list and traditional Roman dishes that vary by season.

3:30 p.m. - Head for Piazza Venezia, meandering down the side-streets. Don't miss the displays in Italy's world famous designer stores on Via dei Condotti.

5 p.m. - Climb the steps to Michelangelo's piazza del Campidoglio for a spectacular view of the Roman Forum. Depending on your energy level, you can visit the Capitoline museums (open until 8 p.m. www.museicapitolini.org).

8 p.m. - Daring to copy Anita Ekberg's romantic, midnight swim in the Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita would lead to police arrest and a hefty fine nowadays, but an evening visit is recommended after the daytime throng of people has cleared.

9 p.m. - Cobbled alleyways, washing lines and fine food are just a few of the reasons Romans and visitors alike head for Trastevere in the evening.

In the tranquility of Piazza Sant'Egidio, Trattoria de' gli Amici, which serves some of the best "burrata" (creamy mozzarella) in Rome, has the distinguishing feature of being run by a cooperative that provides disabled people the opportunity to work.

For a louder and more Roman experience, head to Pizzeria ai Marmi on Viale Trastevere 53, popular in the capital for its fried antipasti and thin-crust pizzas prepared on marble slabs in full view of the diners.

Sunday

9 a.m. - Again, an unconventional start. First, its another early start at the weekend and second, you will be heading to church.

But St Peter's Basilica is no ordinary church-- it is one of the most important sites in the world for Roman Catholics. The remains of St Peter, one of Jesus Christ's 12 apostles, are said to lie beneath the basilica and its massive dome was one of Michelangelo's last projects.

If you have time, a visit to the Vatican museums to see the frescoed papal apartments, the Sistine Chapel and many other legandary works is well worthwhile.

2 p.m - Head to Osteria dell'Angelo on Via G. Bettolo 24 for a last Roman meal, famous for its pasta and fixed price menu.

Skip dessert and cross the road to Fatamorgana where some of the capital's wackiest ice-creams are found, from rose to pecorino cheese to olives and martini.

4 p.m. - No Roman experience would be complete without a stop at the bancarelle (market stalls) that pop up across the capital. The stalls on Via Giulio Cesare and Via Cola di Rienzo sell everything from designer-inspired clothes to house and kitchenware.

7 p.m - There's still time for one last aperitivo, which at Primo (on Via dei Baullari just off Piazza Navona) comes with unlimited trips to a free buffet of bruschette, mozzarella and other antipasti to keep you going until late. Watch the world go by.

(Reporting by Jessica Donati; Created by Paul Casciato)

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