Rome Travel Guide

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer in Rome: Beating the Heat

We're going to Rome in the summer; what should we do? That's a question we're often asked.

Being a northerner (born and raised in Seattle), the heat of Italian cities in July and August is, frankly, more than I can appreciate. "Follow the Romans, go to the coast or the mountains!" is usually my reply. As the Italians say, "tutti al mare" - everyone to the sea.

But there will be plenty of tourists and a few Romans left in the city next month. Some love the feel of August, hot as it is, with the non-tourist parts of the city emptied. Nanni Moretti (Italy's Woody Allen) captured this in his award-winning film, "Caro Diario" ("Dear Diary"). Watching him scooter along empty streets almost makes me want to do that too. See a clip from the Vespa YouTube site.

And, Rome is fabulously full of activities in the summer. So if you find yourself in or near Rome in July and August, and you don't want to join the crowds at the local beaches (tho' that's not too bad either - see our post on Fregene on May 28), get off the beaten tourist track and head for one of the wonderful events - bars on the Tiber (Tevere), plays in the parks, opera in the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, jazz on the hilltops. It just doesn't get any better. Check out the website for their complete schedule and description of offerings under "Estate Roma" (Summer Rome). Note that anything not listed as being in English (plays, readings, films) very likely is not.

For the evening, here are two of our favorites:

First, stroll along the Tevere, sampling the food, drinks, and wares for sale, and of course don't miss the great people watching. At right is a photo of the scene early in the morning, long after the activities have ceased. You can reach this part of the Tevere by stairways from Trastevere (near Piazza Trilussa, near the Tiber Island [on both sides of the Tevere], near Viale Trastevere, etc.).
[Thanks to inromenow for the night photo; mine all disappeared into digital heaven.]

Second, go to jazz at Villa Celimontana. After an uphill walk of a couple blocks "in back" of the Coliseum, you'll find this hilltop park turned into a seasonal outdoor jazz venue is magical. We have heard great jazz here, from the big names to the unknowns. One night we found ourselves listening to very good Slovakian jazz, complete with a buffet provided by the Slovakian Embassy - all free. Another night we heard a stunning jazz duel between pianist Stefano Bollani and accordionist Antonello Salis. An upcoming event bound to be sold out is Bollani with one of the country's best trumpeters, Enrico Rava, on August 6. Villa Celimontana can be a bit difficult to figure out. There are a variety of bars and restaurants surrounding the stage and the limited seating area. Ideally you can go twice and figure out where you want to sit and how to make a reservation for the second time. Or, arrive early and get a seat in the chairs in front of the stage or on the steps leading to the restaurant areas. As in most things Italian, you can find a spot somewhere. It's impossible not to enjoy yourself here if you have any feeling for jazz and night music!

For the daytime, we recommend lying in your air conditioned hotel room and hitting the air conditioned museums--not exactly off the tourist track. But be sure to save your energy for the best part of summer in Rome - the evenings.

As the Italians say, buon estate - "good summer" - Dianne

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