Rome: The Second Time
15 Itineraries That Don’t Go to the Coliseum
by Dianne Bennett and William Graebner
Reviewed by President and Senior Editor Joanna Hubbs
The fact that Walter Veltroni, the highly respected mayor of Rome until 2008 has written a foreword to this guidebook should inspire confidence in the Transitions Abroad reader eager to see the Rome behind the “Disneyland” itineraries, jammed with exhausted tourists that countless other guidebooks describe.
The writers insist that: this book isn’t for you—if you’re going to Rome for the first time. Not for you if you want to see the Coliseum, the Roman Forum….This book is not for you if you’re thinking about evenings in Trastevere with a bottle of beer in hand or perhaps a midnight frolic with the rowdies in Campo dei Fiori. This book is NOT “Rome for Dummies.”
It is a Rome rarely experienced by even intrepid travelers.
The authors take the reader through a number of itineraries, carefully explained and annotated with excellent maps. We visit the various aqueducts of Rome; the sites of Nazi occupation and atrocities still fresh in the minds of Italians; parks well off the beaten track. While the reader is guided to Monte Mario for a spectacular view of the city below, the Foro Italico (the Modernist stadium built by Mussolini), the writers explore the unexpectedly wild banks of the Aniene, the second and relatively unknown (to the foreigner) river of Rome which empties into the Tiber. In the Parco del Pineto, the writers observe,” two kinds of Roman parks—the one for grandmothers pushing strollers and one which drops us into the wild ravines that once covered many of Rome’s nearby hillsides.”
We are also urged to explore the daily life of middle class and lower middle class Romans by shopping, drinking and eating in their neighborhoods far from the “centro storico” to get a feel of the “real Rome” unknown to casual tourists.
In the last sections our guides provide excellent information about cultural life on Rome, which has blossomed in the last decade to include any number of galleries, with the added pleasure of participating in advertised openings often catered lavishly.
Finally there is a chapter on off-beat neighborhood restaurants and wine bars frequented by locals, not tourists (at least not yet!). Though the famed gelateria San Crispino is recommended, to this reviewer who has spent many a year in Rome, nothing beats the quality and variety of ice cream at Giolitti near the parliament building where politicians eat and whose demanding tastes the owners respect!
The guidebook ends with a description of a few romantic roof-top wine bars situated in such expensive hotels as the famed Raphael, where a drink will not deplete one’s budget but from which readers can feast their eyes on the panorama of the (excuse the cliché) “Eternal City.”
The book is published by Curious Traveler Press, 2009. The book may be purchased at the locations and online stores listed on the authors' fine frequently updated blog (www.romethesecondtime.com.)