The cool girl’s guide to Rome

6 little-known, but authentic, ways to soak up the atmosphere of the ancient city
Marie Hennechart

Get your hands on a pair of hand-made sandals

At Di San Giacomo, you are in for an incredible treat. Not only can you snap up the most beautiful sandals made out of buttery Italian leather but shoppers can have sandals hand-made to their exact instructions. With dozens of different coloured leathers to choose from, not to mention a range of styles and dazzling embellishments to consider, this is fashion heaven.

sandals in rome
(Credit: Supplied)
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Learn how to make pasta      

When you’re consuming your body weight in pasta every day, it makes sense to have a yearning to see how it’s made. Remember the goofy grin Audrey Hepburn wore as she explored the city in Roman Holiday? That’s the sort of smile I had on my face when I arrived, with the rest of my group at Chef Fabbio Bongianni’s jaw-dropping apartment for our private lesson (thanks Trafalgar!) in the art of pasta making.

Though I thought I’d be distracted by the almost 360-degree views of Rome, before too long I was elbow deep in flour and water, kneading and rolling with the sort of inept enthusiasm that would make an Italian nonna weep.

Under Chef Fabbio’s expert guidance (alright, a lot of expert guidance) I was soon rolling out sheets of pasta to make sublimely delicate ravioli. Flour-covered and ready for a break, Chef Fabbio leads us out onto the terrace for a restorative glass of Prosecco while the city’s church bells ring out. This. Is. Heaven.

The good times only got better when we had the chance to enjoy our handiwork – cooked in butter and sprinkled with sharp parmesan. Bellissimo.

making pasta
(Credit: Supplied)

Step back into the city’s vibrant history

Every square, every church and every monument holds a clue to Rome’s millennia-long story. Take, for example, the spectacular Vittorio Emanuel II monument which was built in honour of the first king to unify modern Italy. The towering edifice of marble and stone is built on a truly jaw-droppingly large scale (the bronze statue of the king on his steed is so large a group or 17 people once held a dinner inside the horse, it’s said). So far, so historic.

But here’s a fun fact: In a city stuffed full of millennia-old artifacts and frescos and churches, where you can actually literally trip over significant historic landmarks, Romans hate this monument. Like, hate.

While tourists might happily snap away to capture the monument’s beauty for Instagram’s sake, locals consider it to be a gaudy and showy embarrassment. And it’s this sort of background and insider information you can only learn from a born-and-bred Roman (big shout out to our Roman Trafalgar guide, Cristina).

Enjoy an afternoon affogatto

At a tiny gelataria just off the Trevi Fountain, my new friend Julie and I jostle alongside three men in business suits and a group of mothers with children for attention. We are all partaking in the distinctly Italian afternoon delight of buying a pick-me-up affogatto. The gorgeous treat – which is generous scoops of vanilla gelato doused in hot espresso – is creamy, sweet and redolent of coffee. As we spoon the delicious melting gelato into our mouths, it is impossible to imagine a more delicious indulgence on this warm afternoon.

trevi fountain
(Credit: Supplied)

Snap up designer bargains at Mercato Monti

Talk about retail therapy in glorious Italian style: this indoor market located in the trendy Monti neighbourhood, features 20 up-and-coming Roman designers on rotation every weekend. When our group wanders in, we are met by stalls groaning with wares from glittering, modern jewellery (Nousatelier) to chic vintage kimonos (la pietra stregonia) to retro sunglasses (Monatature Vintage). Put it on your To Do list now.

Stop for a glass of Prosecco at sunset at the Vatican

After snagging a once-in-a-lifetime private tour of the Vatican with Trafalgar (thanks Cristina) I spent several hours wandering through the famed map gallery, marvelling at the Renaissance frescos and of course loving the sheer beauty of the Sistine Chapel, But it’s time for a drink – even in the Holy City. Luckily our group has the chance to watch the moon rise over Rome with a glass of wine in hand as we sit in a courtyard in the Vatican. Did the Pope join us for a cold one? No. Did I hope he would? Well kinda, yes. Nevertheless, being able to lay claim to enjoying a drink at the Vatican is damn cool (and restricted to a very lucky few courtesy of our Trafalgar group).

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