MY STYLE: I might have more than just one, but I definitely dress comfortably when with my children. Leggings and Uggs, mostly—I had Uggs on my feet 15 minutes after giving birth to my third child! If I’m out to dinner, I’ll dress up a bit just to remind myself I can still look good if I want to! I go from flats to very high heels—nothing in between. In other ways, though, I like balance. I never wear entirely tight outfits—I’ll do something loose-fitting either on top or bottom. A big skirt with a sleek turtleneck, or skinny jeans with a boyfriend sweater. Another look I like is a short, simple dress with ankle boots, no tights, a sleek cardigan sweater, and earrings but never necklaces.
I LOVE ROME BECAUSE: It has a mild climate and an ideal geographic position—only half an hour away from the sea and the mountains.
Atop the Pincian Hill in Villa Borghese sits this elegant mansion. The restaurant there was one of Rome’s most fashionable places for artistic types leading up to WWII, at which point it became a hangout and tea house for British officers. As of 2004, it’s once again open to the public for lunch and dinner. Perhaps more than anything else, Casina Valadier offers a room—and a terrace—with a view. From your table, you can admire the beauty of the busts in the garden, or the outline of St. Peter’s and the Colosseum in the distance. This makes it perfect for a romantic dinner or wedding reception. Private rooms available.
This restaurant on the Western side of the Ponte Milvio serves butter-less Mediterranean cuisine, with some surprisingly good sushi thrown in for good measure. The white dining room and outside patio have hosted many a fashionable dining party. (Focaccia, spaghetti with clams, seared tuna) After dinner, Met becomes a cocktail bar for seeing and being seen. If it’s talking you’re after, though, be warned that all those beautiful people can get noisy!
Chiostro del Bramante
This beautiful Renaissance clister, attached to the church of Santa Maria della Pace and designed by Michelangelo’s rival, Donato Bramante, is now a gallery and cultural center. The exhibits usually have a modern bent—Warhol canvases have been shown in the past—but sometimes feature works from previous eras. Raphael’s “Sibyls” fresco is on permanent display. Walk up the original marble steps to the Bistro-Cafeteria, perfect for a glass of wine pre- or post-art-viewing or a hearty brunch—somewhat of a rarity in the Eternal City. There’s also a great bookstore with weekly theatre and visual arts workshops for children. Moms, while your kids are artistically engaged, see above about that glass of wine!
Built for the 2009 World Swimming Championships, Aquaniene is a massive sports complex with one indoor and two outdoor pools. All ages and levels are now welcome, but don’t be surprised if you end up swimming with pros, if not quite like one. Aquaniene offers a range of classes in and out of the water. Kids can learn modern dance or become a karate master. Adults can choose from capoeira, personal defense, and water aerobics, including a special version for pregnant women that focuses on breathing and posture. Little ones not taking their own classes wait happily in the fun-filled childcare center.
Cardinal Scipione Borghese commissioned the English-style gardens surrounding his opulent “party villa” in the 1600s. Today, they constitute Rome’s central park, and the perfect setting for more modest gatherings like family picnics or bike tours. The “floating” Ionic temple dedicated to Aesculapius is a must-see. In the warmer month, kids can ride ponies, paddleboats, and even hot air balloons (with some adult supervision, of course), or see a puppet show. To beat the heat altogether, head inside to the Borghese Gallery or the National Etruscan Museum.
Alessandra Marino and Alessandro Tudini, partners in business and life, reinvented the once-quiet Emperor Augustus Piazza with this multipurpose food complex. Over a decade after opening, ‘Gusto is still bustling with shoppers eager to get something new for the kitchen, or some cheese in a cup at the formaggeria. The option of doing both, as well as a handful of other gastronomic pursuits—all under one roof—is the whole idea. On the second floor, there is a formal restaurant that fuses regional classics with other cuisines in a style that might be called Italian nouveau, but the most unique thing about ‘Gusto might be the more casual osteria downstairs. There, you can order almost anything on the menu as cicchetti—snack-sized morsels reminiscent of the tapas often served in Venetian bars. To learn (and sample!) more about ‘Gusto’s products, take a class or go to a tasting in the cellar.
Good pizza is a great unifier, given that La Pariolina draws both a hip crowd and families—though of course these aren’t mutually exclusive! The restaurant makes Roman and Neapolitan pizza, both with their delicious homemade dough from stone-ground organic flour. Reservations are recommended, but patient walk-ins will almost inevitably be rewarded, as the restaurant is open until 1:00 am. Or make like Nicoletta Romanoff and skip the crowds by getting your food to go.
Bioparco di Roma
This zoo, located on the northern edge of Villa Borghese, has undergone a number of changes in its history. In the ’30s, it was one of the first to transition from cages to ditches in order to give the animals more space to roam. Today, it works to promote environmental conservation by breeding endangered species such as the black lemur, the Turkmenian kulan, and the mandrill. Outside the entrance—an impressive art nouveau gate from the turn of the century—there are men selling baloons. Once inside, kids especially love the playground inspired by Noah’s Ark and the reptile house. “We go on the weekends during feeding time!” Nicoletta Romanoff says.
U.S. Primavera Rugby
For over thirty years, Primavera has been one of Italy’s premier rugby clubs, competing in national and international tournaments, and often placing quite well. Always on the lookout for new talent, Primavera’s coaches work with boys as young as five in the U6 bracket. “I love watching my kids’ games,” says Nicoletta Romanoff. “The fields are green and the sidelines are always full of cheering families. There’s a real sense of community.”
Another temple burnt down on this site before the “new” Pantheon building took its place in 125 AD. It was dedicated to pan theos (all gods), before being converted to the Church of Santa Maria ad Martyres. Apart from its age, the Pantheon is best known for its dome—which was the world’s largets until Brunelleschi built the Florence Cathedral over a millenium later, and is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome. The oculus through which smoke from sacrificial offerings escaped was also used as a light source. No tour of historical Rome is complete without a trip to the Pantheon. Tourists line up at the bronze doors to stand in the sun-kissed patch beneath the dome opening, and to visit Raphael’s tomb.