When in Rome: Top Italian Hot Spots for Non-Tourists

I recently went to Rome for the launch of Valentino's new fragrance Valentina. It was a short trip — only two days — but I managed to squeeze in some tourism and fun! So, for those of you who have already seen the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain, here are a few fun recommendations of what to check out when in Rome!


Location: Piazza Trinita dei Monti 6, 00187 Rome, Italy

Okay, so this is one of the nicest hotels in Rome (read: super-pricey!), but I have to say that it really deserves its five-star reputation. It has it all: fine-dining, a nice spa, and impeccable service. But what I love most about Hotel Hassler is its location. It is literally at the top of the Spanish Steps, meaning that you not only have a cultural landmark at your doorstep but you are in walking distance from Villa Medici, Villa Borghese, and (for those of you who love to shop) Via Condotti, where all the high-end stores are located. And, after a long day of site-seeing (or shopping — wink, wink!), they have a stellar courtyard restaurant on the first floor called the Palm Court. Below is a picture of my friend Vega Royo-Villanova and I having a glass of Chardonnay after the Valentino event.


Location: via Santa Croce in Jerusalem, 9

Truth be told, I am not a fan of seafood. So this really means a lot that I am actually recommending a restaurant known for it's Mediterranean cuisine. Carlos Souza from Valentino took me here the first night, and I was too scared to tell him that I don't usually eat fish. So I braced myself for what I thought would be a stomach-churning experience, but I have to say that the food was incredible! We had calamari, lobster, and an incredible linguine alla vongole. Delicioso!

In terms of tourism, I checked out Palazzo Barbarini, the Maxxi Museum, and the Villa Medici. Palazzo Barbarini, like most tourist destinations in Rome, was in walking distance from Hotel Hassler and, although I'd never heard of it before, I can safely say that it is worth checking out. The gallery houses works by Raphael and Caravaggio, not to mention Hans Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII. For me the most impressive was the latter since I remember studying it in college where I majored in art history!


Location: Via Guido Reni, 10, Rome, 153

Zaha Hadid's Maxxi Museum is proof that Rome and contemporary architecture are no longer a paradox. The building is characteristic Hadid — with curving lines and organic shapes — and the permanent collection already boasts works by Francesco Clemente, William Kentridge, and Gerhard Richter. So, although most people don't plan on going to Rome to see contemporary art and architecture, I have a feeling that they will change their minds thanks to this incredible art institution!


Location: 1 Viale Trinita dei Monti 00187

The Valentino cocktail hour and dinner were at the Villa Medici, so I decided to check it out during the day to see it from a different perspective. First of all, the Mannerist Villa is huge and, unfortunately for tourists, it's now a French Academy of Art so you usually can't see the interiors. However, it has a restaurant named Lagos that is worth trying, and there is a park, which is just a great excuse to be outdoors and enjoy Rome.

Naturally, at night, dressed in my Valentino couture and holding a glass of champagne, the Villa seemed completely different. It made me think of what it must have been like when the Medicis used to entertain there. The views are incredible, and you can literally see the entire city, including Vatican City. Not too shabby! Anyway, the picture above is of me and model/photographer Astrid Munoz in front of Villa Medici.

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