Dispatch from Italy
Rome in December: puntarelle season, the best pajamas, and the Caravaggio-obsessed barber
Greetings from Rome, where I’m on the tail end of a two-week-long trip. We came for several reasons: a story for Wm Brown Magazine at the Castello di Vicarello and the launch event of the Italian Road Trip Monopoly x Issimo game at the Maserati factory, then we squeezed in and added on some other stops along the way.
I hadn’t ever been in Italy in early December, but I highly recommend it. Even if it’s been cold and damp, it’s cheery! Yes, even with all of the unsettling travel news, everyone is in a good mood. And speaking of that news, since so many have asked—a photo of your vax card is accepted by everyone when they ask for your Green Pass. Trains, hotels, museums, restaurants and bars—no problem. Also, it’s easy to get an antigen test for your return trip home at most pharmacies—just make sure to make an appointment in advance—and they are generally around 20 euros each. In Rome, masks are now required outside, but this is another plus of being here when it’s cold! And if you needed more reasons to come now—it’s puntarelle season (!!). We literally have been eating this variety of chicory at lunch and dinner every day that we are in Rome, because it’s only here! We asked for it in Naples and they looked at us like we had three heads!
We’ve covered a lot of ground on this trip—from Parma to Modena to Arezzo to Abruzzo to Rome to Naples and back to Rome. I’ll be sharing all of that in future posts, but thought I’d give you some of our highlights from this week in Rome—it’s so rare that we get more than a day or two here. I’ll be adding all of these into our Rome Black Book, which I published in early October, so you’ll have them all in one place. Accessing the archive is a feature for paid subscribers, as are the Black Books, so if you’re interested in that content, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
EAT + DRINK
La Matriciana: Our friends knew we wanted old school, and to go somewhere we hadn’t been before, so they brought us here. We loved everything, but the ossobuco with peas was the winner. The restaurant has been around since 1870, but it’s a new favorite to us! Near the train station/Monti.
La Campana: 500 years old definitely counts as old school, and this place, which they say is the oldest restaurant in the city, was incredible—the polpette, the veal breast with potatoes, the puntarelle…and one of the best desserts I’ve ever had: a bitter orange tart with dark chocolate gelato.
When we walked past the Pantheon (which incidentally requires visitors to show their vax pass—the only church we went to that required it, so be prepared for a line), we thought about getting a coffee at Sant’Eustachio, but their yellow plastic menus and slight overbranding turned us off a bit, so we opted for Giolitti, and I’m so glad we did. It was too cold to get a gelato (what they’re known for), but it served a great coffee, wasn’t crowded, and the interiors are so good.
Angelo Feroci is a butcher shop near the Pantheon that has such beautiful prepared foods, it made me wish we were staying in a rental!
Caffe Peru is just down the street from where we are staying, on Via di Monserrato. Besides their fantastic 5-euro Negroni, they make great toast sandwiches—my favorite is the spicy salami.
La Matricianella: I didn’t think to make a reservation for lunch, so we ate outside with our coats on. Even so, it was fantastic. Also, it seems easier to justify eating a hearty amatriciana pasta when you’re freezing!
L’Angolo Divino near Campo dei Fiori is a charming wine bar with a thoughtful edit.
È Passata La Moretta on Via di Monserrato might be a spot you’d walk right by, but the food is excellent and it attracts a very local crowd.
A few of these are repeats from the Rome Black Book, but I’m including them here because I visited them on this trip, and because non-paid subscribers haven’t seen that list!
Schostal: My favorite place to pick up holiday gifts—neck scarves in great patterns for 9 euros! If you have no plans to get to Rome but want to buy some great pajamas, scarves, or socks—DM them and tell Shirley to show you the options via video on Instagram. She’ll do it!
Antica Cartotecnica is a very old store that sells notebooks, typewriters, pens, inkwells, and is right near the Pantheon.
Bottega Il Marmoraro: Go to be inspired by Sandro’s craft and his humor, and if you have a couple of days, he can do a custom piece.
Giuliva Heritage: These are my dear friends, and while their studio isn’t necessarily a store, it’s a great place to get fitted and to see their lovely accessories up close.
Booktique: A well-curated book shop that also has Venetian slippers and cute tote bags with the Roman expression “Daje,” which make for nice gifts.
Antica Libreria Cascianelli: Definitely a bric-a-brac vibe in here—from rare books and maps to vintage postcards and photographs.
Battistoni: It’s worth walking into this men’s shop off Via Condotti if just to look at the art (Picasso traded art for clothes here!). We bought a knit tie, but I think the guys working there would have been happy to talk about the history of the store even if we didn’t buy a thing!
Chez Dede is also on our favorite street, Via di Monserrato, and always has a great curation—from jewelry to robes to bags, plus some really nice vintage finds.
Check out Genco Barbiere, the oldest barber shop in town, where Matt gets a shave and haircut every time he comes here. Roberto, the owner, is obsessed with Caravaggio, and his barber shop is right in the area where Caravaggio lived and worked. He took us on a walk to churches we’d passed so many times and never wandered into. A 45-minute walk with him and we saw this neighborhood in a whole new light. Go see him, get a shave, and ask him to share his itinerary! I’ll give you two of the highlights: pop into the Sant’Agostino church and the Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi.
Hotel De’Ricci: It’s so rare that we spend a week in a city, and even rarer that we stay in one hotel the whole time. The De’Ricci is in our favorite neighborhood, just off of Via di Monserrato, with lovely and super comfortable rooms and great staff/service. Usually we don’t eat breakfast, but this morning we tried the continental breakfast, and it was so good—salumi, cheese, fruits (best persimmon slices I’ve had!), a basket of great bread and pastries… we only ordered one and it was more than enough for both of us.