Enjoy authentic Roman cuisine and enthusiasm at Volpetti Piu. // © 2016 Eating Europe
Feature image (above): Rome’s Trevi Fountain has been restored to its former glory. // © 2016 Insight Vacations
Rome is always popular among travelers, but 2016 has brought new extra-special things to do in Italy’s capital city. Following are five reasons that visitors should add the Eternal City to their must-visit list this summer.
2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy
A Catholic tradition since 1300, a Jubilee Year is a time of special forgiveness that generally happens just once every 25 years. So, the announcement of an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2016 is drawing pilgrims (and the curious) to Vatican City for the opportunity to enter St. Peter’s Basilica through the Porta Sancta, the intricately carved bronze Holy Door open only during Jubilee years.
This, combined with the popularity factor of Pope Francis, will draw big crowds estimated at up to an extra 10 million people. A VIP option, available only on the new Insight Vacations Ultimate Italy Luxury Gold tour, includes out-of-hours entry to the Sistine Chapel, allowing guests the opportunity to experience Michelangelo’s masterpiece without being jostled by crowds, as well as fast-track access to the Vatican Museum’s papal art collection.
Once gritty neighborhoods, such as Ostiense and Testaccio, are on the radar for travelers keen to explore working-class Roman eateries, authentic food markets and a burgeoning culinary scene.
Ostiense, formerly best known for a marble Egyptian-style monument dating back to 18 BC called the Pyramid of Cestius, is now home to Eataly Roma, a four-story temple to Italian gastronomy where foodies can sample a range of artisanal products including craft beer.
In the former meat-packing district of Testaccio, highlights include browsing the food stalls of Mercato Testaccio, tucking into Rome’s best pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) and dining within cafe bars tucked inside atmospheric caves built of terracotta amphorae from second-century Rome. Visitors should go now to experience these lovely ‘hoods —before the crowds begin to arrive.
Situated at the base of the famous Spanish Steps landmark in one of the world’s most exclusive shopping enclaves, Chanel is drawing fashionistas to its new flagship shop in Piazza di Spagna. Not to be outdone, Italian fashion house Fendi has launched its first hotel on nearby Largo Carlo Goldoni. Located within the brand’s largest boutique, Palazzo Fendi, the exclusive Fendi Private Suites retreat is discreetly tucked in the third floor of a 17th-century palace originally owned by the Boncompagni-Ludovisi family, one of Rome’s most aristocratic lines. The seven-suite lodging also houses Italy’s first Zuma restaurant, a contemporary izakaya-style dining experience led by chef Rainer Becker, which features a roof terrace offering panoramic views of Rome’s most fashionable neighborhood.
Although the much-photographed Spanish Steps closed for renovations in spring 2016 (Bulgari is financing long-overdue repairs), the equally photogenic Trevi Fountain has reopened after an approximately $2.4 million refurbishment that took 17 months to complete.
Constructed from travertine stone and Carrara marble in 1762, this impressive masterpiece of late Baroque architecture has graced many films from Federico Fellini's “La Dolce Vita” to the romantic comedy “When in Rome,” becoming a celebrated symbol for Rome itself. Now, with the scaffolding down and the water flowing, Rome’s largest fountain is back to its original glory. Visitors can get an unobstructed view of this beautiful work of art and throw a coin over their shoulder, ensuring a return to the Eternal City.
The Bond Factor
The blockbuster film “Spectre” is also proving to be a big draw among Bond fans, car enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. The film features 20 unforgettable scenes set in Rome, including Daniel Craig’s parachute landing on historic Ponte Sisto bridge and a high-speed nighttime car chase featuring Bond’s Aston Martin DB10 and the villain’s Jaguar C-X75 speeding through the ancient narrow side streets and along the Tiber river.
To meet the needs of this whole new crop of visitors, Viator has launched a new “Spectre”-themed evening tour of Rome for 2016. Tailor-made for Bond fans, the evening visits key 007 locations, offers behind-the-scenes action stories and even includes a martini “shaken, not stirred.”