7. Rome, Italy
The Eternal City revamps its ancient sites and opens hipster hotels
They call it the Eternal City, but that doesn’t mean Rome is stuck in the past. Post-pandemic, there’s a new energy to the Italian capital. For starters, a hit squad of cult international hotel chains has parachuted in post-pandemic, choosing to set up in residential areas where tourists rarely tread. Soho House opened in autumn 2021 behind the train station in the San Lorenzo district — home to a university, a hospital and Italy’s first pizza vending machine. On that same, eastern side of the city is The Hoxton, Rome, which has already brought London chic to the elegant Parioli district.
Closer to the centre, the W Rome opened in November just off Via Veneto, aiming for a dolce vita vibe. On the other side of the Tiber is perhaps the most exciting of all: Mama Shelter Roma, in the Prati district, which occupies two modernist former office blocks, both listed buildings. The French chain’s playfulness has gone all out, with outré carpets featuring everything from pizzas to Roman emperors, and pastel swirls around the basement pool. The highlight, though, is the rooftop restaurant, and its panoramic views of the city skyline, the dome of St Peter’s Basilica (almost reach-out-and-touch close) and the hills beyond the city.
Recent archaeological digs have seen ‘new’ ancient sites open to the public, from the Mausoleum of Augustus — a monumental, spiral-shaped tomb, where most of ancient Rome’s emperors were laid to rest — to the Horti Lamiani, the now-subterranean gardens of the emperor Caligula. Most exciting? The ‘archaeological box’ at the Aventine hill, where the remains of a first-century villa have been opened beneath an apartment block. The property is so huge, that the mosaicked bedroom and dining areas have been ingeniously suspended (in the ‘box’) over even earlier remains. Even the Colosseum has got in on the act — its new guided tour takes you down into the underground passageways where gladiators and wild animals once prepared for the games upstairs.
From National Geographic Traveller UK (Julia Buckley)
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