THE ETERNAL CITY IS NOT COLD LIKE MARBLE OR HARD LIKE STONE.
SIX RESIDENTS OF ROME, ALL MEMBERS OF THE NESPRESSO CLUB, SHOW US THAT BENEATH ITS BLEAK FAÇADE AND ANCIENT COBBLES LIES A BEATING HEART.
RELICS ARE MEMORIES OF FALLEN GLORY, OF A FADED STAR.
THE “ETERNAL CITY” IS NOT UNCHANGING. THE STRIKING THING ABOUT ROME IS THE FRESHNESS OF ITS IMMORTALITY. And the secret of its perpetual youth is the practical attitude of its citizens, which makes them both respectful and irreverent towards their heritage. They have taken the art of recycling to levels of sophistication unparalleled among the cities of the world. Instead of carefully restoring their monuments like you embalm a corpse, they have chosen to mine the ruins of the past, even if that means holding up a church with pagan temple columns or constructing a city block where an ancient theatre once stood.
THE BAROQUE PERIOD WAS A GENUINE REBIRTH OF ROMAN EXPRESSIVENESS.
MORE THAN ANYWHERE ELSE, MODERNITY IN THIS CITY SEEMS TO MEAN RENEWING HISTORY OR REVISITING AGES PAST. Roman fashion, design, glamour, trattoria delicacies or a spoon distractedly swirling a frothy cappuccino on the terrace of an iconic café are just a few examples of ancestral legacies which seem to have been born yesterday. Only poor cities learn to live sparingly with their possessions. Spoiled cities like Rome need to stack things up where there is still a bit of space. Paris has devoted its largest square – measuring more than 8 hectares – to the only obelisk in the city. Rome has so many that you don’t even notice them anymore.
AMEDEO REALE Member since 2006
This winemaker from the art city of Lecce in Apulia, located at the heel tip of the Italian “boot”, left his brother to tread grapes while he took charge of bringing his specialist wine made from local grape varieties to Rome. After all, there is an international airport in the capital, which means he can travel to any of the fifteen or so countries he does business with. And this city has always been good at selling wine. The Greeks were the first to introduce the drink to Italy, but the Romans exported it throughout their Empire (and it is to them that Europeans are indebted for their love of it). He owns a red PIXIE, having failed to convince his wife to choose a product which matches the black capsules of his favourite Grand Cru, RISTRETTO, which he drinks very short – “like you’re supposed to.”
AMEDEO APPRECIATES THE SEASIDE CHARMS OF THE LATIUM COASTLINE AND THE FACT THAT THERE ARE SKI RESORTS LESS THAN TWO HOURS FROM THE CITY CENTRE. But Rome itself has a wide range of natural resources which tourists often miss. Amedeo goes jogging along the TIBER RIVERBANK which is closed off to cars, so you can peacefully enjoy the low-angle view of the city. He also goes walking with his family in the massive VILLA ADA, one of the main green areas in the Eternal City. Nothing like the well-maintained parks in Paris or London, it is a wild place, a real jungle kept that way by associations who campaign against the city developing it. Some of the trees have reached near-prehistoric proportions and it is not unusual for Amedeo to get lost there. Another large green area is the Villa Borghese, filled with sumptuous gardens a stone’s throw from the Piazza del Popolo with authentic Baroque interpretations of ancient imperial villas. If you plan to go there to enjoy, for example, the Borghese Gallery, make the most of the visit by having brunch at the CASA DEL CINEMA café. You have to have the right shoes to survive the hellish Roman cobblestones. Amedeo swears by the quality work of CALZOLERIA PETROCCHI, a traditional bootmaker who produces made-to-measure shoes of any type from just a photograph. Finally, for dinner in town, he recommends PASTIFICIO SAN LORENZO, a former pasta factory transformed into a fashionable restaurant which adds to the life and soul of this up-and-coming part of the city.
CRISTIANA TORRE Member since 2006
Cristiana manages the fine leather goods and shoes division at Fendi. This famous Roman luxury brand, together with the jeweller Bvlgari, proves that the Eternal City knows how to stand out from its neighbours in the very competitive area of elegance. While Milan, Florence and Naples tussle for domination of haute couture, Latin fashion has chosen to thrive in jewellery and leather. After all, the city possesses countless seasoned craftsmen, legacies of an imaginary empire which required the arts to provide it with the most accurate appearance of power. Cristiana owns two LATTISSIMA+, one in the city, one in the country, because she can no longer get by without her semi-instant cappuccino. One more reason to make it with a DECAFFEINATO INTENSO.
CRISTIANA’S RECOMMENDATIONS FOCUS, OF COURSE, AROUND FASHION ACCESSORIES. The young designer, DELFINA DELETTREZ, fourth generation of the Fendi dynasty, is starting a promising career in the world of jewellery with her animal and body part-shaped jewellery, like these eyes and mouths which recall pagan charms or ex-votos. Her aunt, Ilaria Venturini Fendi, launched the brand RE(F)USE, whose showroom was designed by the decorator, Paolo Colucci. This product line promotes the ideas of recycling and environmental-friendliness, bringing them aesthetic form through its bag, jewellery and furniture collections.
No less quirky is LA BOTTEGA DEL MARMORARO workshop, which Cristiana recommends to curiosity-shop fans. It is a wonderful little place which contrasts sharply with the prestigious antique shops around it. Enrico Fiorentini is a Roman born and bred who engraves what you ask for on ancient marble plaques. Once your inscription is written in Latin calligraphy, you will own a personalised piece of Rome. The aperitif is a new phenomenon taking Italy by storm. Cristiana particularly enjoys the CAFFÈ DELLE ARTI, the monumental bar at the National Gallery of Modern Art. It is a magical place when the light of sunset bathes the large adjoining terrace of the Villa Borghese. Finally, for a spot of frozen luxury, LA CASA DEL CREMOLATO specialises in a granita with a surprisingly rich texture.
ALESSANDRO DONADIO Member since 2003
This interior designer has a minimalist style which is sparing in colours. Yet, the city he lives in is a long way from this simple attitude. Alessandro isolates the prominent details of this overloaded setting to showcase them, like some Roman squares which create space around a victory column or an obelisk so that they can be admired.
This was the method used by the Renaissance geometer and painter, Piero Della Francesca, who created vast perfect views to depict a complicated building or a monstrous face. When it comes to coffee, Alessandro’s love of simplicity opted for a black CITIZ and charcoal CONCEPT. He likes the intensified aromas of a short ROMA Grand Cru, and is also a fan of the flavoured editions.
WHAT IS STRIKING ABOUT ROME, A BIT LIKE NEW YORK, IS THE DIZZYING SENSATION OF THE HUGE AND VARIED CROWDS. The VIALE TRINITÀ DEI MONTI, at the top of the Spanish Steps, offers a well-known view. It tends to be visited in the evening; yet it’s the blue light of dawn that lends a crystalline atmosphere to the view and seems to breathe new life into this old European “Babylon”. One of the most interesting monuments is the CASTEL SANT’ANGELO which looks like a gigantic UFO on the right bank of the Tiber. This former imperial mausoleum, transformed into an unassailable fortress once stripped of its marble coating, was intended to entertain the popes closeted away from the violent streets.
They asked the Renaissance painters to create a virtual paradise to overcome their solitude. The bar at the top offers a beautiful watchtower over the Vatican, whose palaces are linked to this pontifical bunker via a fortified passage. Lower down, the excellent DA SABATINO trattoria has a horizontal terrace on Piazza Sant’Ignazio, a delightful clearing in a jungle of buildings, which prove that Roman engineering is more theatrical than showy. At night, the Monti district is just as surreal, like something out of the Arabian Nights. The subtleties of darkness which play on the dilapidated stones create the illusion of a city covered in skin. Here, the AI TRE SCALINI wine bar serves exquisite wines in an informal setting. Finish off with the MAXXI, a contemporary art museum in a setting that is impressive in its own right.
BENEDETTA SCASSELLATI Member since 1999
Whenever she stops at the Boutique to stock up on DECAFFEINATO INTENSO, the sales assistant looks at Benedetta like someone who can’t quite place a face he’s seen before. “You must be famous,” he says when he eventually gives up. “Your national Membership number is 8.” However, this Public Relations Manager is only listed among the first ten members of the Italian Club because a friend who worked for Nespresso gave her a machine as a gift when the first capsules were sold in Italy.
Benedetta was quickly convinced by the performance of this household appliance which served her coffee just how she likes it, long with a beautiful crema. Since then, she has followed the brands latest technological developments, and recently purchased a U.
ORIGINALLY FROM BOLOGNA, BENEDETTA HAS LIVED IN ROME FOR FIFTEEN YEARS. SHE LOVES THIS LIVELY METROPOLIS WHICH MANAGES TO RENEW ITSELF WITHOUT REJECTING ITS BREATHTAKING PAST. More than anything else, it is a grandiose city which still manages to put everyone at ease. Perhaps it has seen the rise and fall of so many emperors that it now treats them as ordinary people. At the Campo Marzio, opposite the tired columns of the Temple of Hadrian, the Latin marble succumbs to the carefree spirit of Rome. Here, the SALOTTO 42 bar serves a lovely aperitivo, a practice that originally comes from Turin and resembles the Andalusian tapas tradition.
The evening starts with a colourful cocktail like the Spritz (sparkling wine and bitters), the Americano (red vermouth and club soda) or the Bellini (champagne and peach purée), biting into little appetisers served until you don’t want any more, which all together can make an actual meal. More than anything, Benedetta likes having somewhere to go after work to make the most of the last rays of sunshine.
Towards the Coliseum, CAFFÈ PROPAGANDA offers the same service in an operetta on the edge of the pine forests on the Caelian Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome. In the north of the city, RISTORANTE DOLCE cooks exquisite brunches, while in Monti the modern trattoria URBANA 47 take orders after midnight, perfect post-theatre. But her absolute favourite restaurant is BABETTE, whose grandness is inspired by the Danish film Babette’s Feast, famous for reviving pastry-wrapped quail.
ADRIANO CAPUTO Member since 2007
Most visitors who see Rome lit up at night think it wonderfully cinematic. But as someone actually involved in capturing national monuments on film, this lighting designer does not agree. Sodium streetlamps do not show the limestone facades at their best and Adriano accuses them of giving the city an unpleasant yellow glow. The only material they flatter is brickwork, which forms the skeleton of historical buildings.
What is more, the city’s inhabitants have often enshrined these architectural bones within Baroque or Renaissance reliquaries, much like Catholics do with their saintly relics. Adriano has a PIXIE machine at work so that he does not have to constantly go out for coffee. He likes his RISTRETTO very short, but still doesn’t know whether he should drink with his nose inside or outside the cup.
FOR AS LONG AS ROME HAS HAD ITS HEAD IN THE HEAVENS, ITS FEET HAVE TRAILED IN THE MUD. 150 YEARS AGO, IT WAS A THEOCRACY WHERE BANDITS SOUGHT SANCTUARY INSIDE CHURCHES. It needed to do a lot of sobering up before it could become Italy’s capital city, and is so attached to power that it is blind to that which it already holds. Whatever they do, the residents of Rome will always look back wistfully to their city’s glorious past. Some console themselves by climbing to the rooftops to feel the height of its past greatness. Rome can only be fully appreciated when seen from a great height, such as from the PALATINE HILL GARDENS, possibly the first hill of the city’s famous seven, where a romantic belvedere facing the forum shows off this sacred, accursed city, infernal in its grace.
Of equal stature is the extraordinary terrace of the HOTEL MAJESTIC, which proves more than any other that these esplanades allow the city to breathe. At the other end of the spectrum, BABINGTON’S English Tea Room seems to have its back turned to the Piazza di Spagna and offers a different view of the city, complete with all the puritanical condescension you would expect from an institution serving high tea. Adriano likes to withdraw to one of Rome’s many cloisters: lonely, silent spaces standing outside of time. He often goes to the CHIOSTRO DEL BRAMANTE, a beautiful example of slender, graceful Renaissance architecture, housing an exhibition space and café. And his final piece of advice: don’t leave Rome without visiting the PALAZZO BARBERINI.
DELFINA GIANNATTASIO Member since 2008
Delfina does not currently live in Rome because she is completing her architectural studies in Paris. Every time she returns home she uses it as an excuse to visit all the places that she misses when she is away. This also spurs her on to discover new parts of town that she would not normally visit. When she returns from Paris, a city where every building is made of the same pale, perfectly cut stone, Delfina realises that Rome is a colourful city.
She advises not limiting yourself to the big ‘must-see’ sites: Rome is also to be found in meeting friends in the open spaces of the historic centre, or in the graffiti of Trastevere. She enjoys short, Italian-style Espressos from her PIXIE machine, made with RISTRETTO or ROMA Grands Crus, and is devastated she can no longer find KAZAAR Limited Edition.
THE CITY CENTRE’S DESTINATION OF CHOICE FOR SHOPPING SUBVERSIVES IS THE VIA DEL GOVERNO VECCHIO, A STREET LINED WITH INDEPENDENT DESIGNERS AND INTERNATIONAL BRANDS. The nearby Via del Gesù is home to VERTIGO VINTAGE BOUTIQUE, a shop which is introducing vintage style to a city which still associates second-hand with second-rate. You can always find items from designers such as Balenciaga, Valentino, Fabiani, Yves Saint Laurent and Fendi, but the management has a particular penchant for old pieces of clothing made by anonymous tailors and exuding Roman elegance. Nearby, in the Jewish Ghetto area, the ERMANNO TEDESCHI GALLERY exhibits the work of contemporary artists, such as Nicola Bolatti and his unusual spaghetti networks. For an aperitivo, Delfina adores the hanging gardens overlooking the terrace of the bar at HOTEL DE RUSSIE. She much prefers it to the Hotel d’Inghilterra, which feels too much like a gentleman’s club.
From the slopes of the Monti Rione, whose sulphurous colours lend it an unmistakeable Roman quality, you can spot a number of famous sites: a walk along the VIA DEI SERPENTI affords a glimpse of the Coliseum as it emerges from the earth. On the left bank of the Tiber, the Trastevere atmosphere, tinged with the cruelty of an epic historical film and the wild energy of a Spaghetti Western makes this a wonderful résumé of Rome. Travestere is a labyrinth of cobbled streets, lined with little restaurants and old bars. The most authentic of these is the BAR SAN CALISTO. Further to the north on the same side of the river, the tiny CACIO E PEPE practically only sells three regional pasta dishes: “alla carbonara”, “alla gricia” (a carbonara without eggs) and “alla cacio e pepe”, with cheese and pepper.
INTERVIEW AT THE PIAZZA SAN LORENZO NESPRESSO BOUTIQUE
HOW DID YOU COME TO WORK FOR NESPRESSO?
Cristina Nicosia: I was born in Sicily, pretty much on the slopes of Mount Etna. A few years ago, I was doing promotional tastings in a shopping centre in Catania. One day, I was asked to do a Nespresso Grands Crus tasting session – and I think I came away even more convinced than my customers. In any case, the brand noticed my enthusiasm and gave me my first job with them, training salespeople on the island.
AND HOW DID YOU END UP IN ROME?
C. N.: In 2007, I was offered a job in the first Boutique opened in the Eternal City. It was an easy decision. Two years later, I became Boutique Manager.
WHERE IS ROME’S HISTORIC BOUTIQUE LOCATED?
C. N.: Piazza San Lorenzo, at the heart of the city. The Via del Corso is the backbone of this area, much like the Champs-Elysées in Paris, and it is near the Pantheon, the Chamber of Deputies, and the famous Piazza di Spagna, one of the busiest squares in the city, where a new Boutique was recently opened. Our customers include politicians and top civil servants as well as tourists.
HOW DO THEY DRINK THEIR COFFEE?
C. N.: Most come to try out new Grands Crus, but few come to relax. Probably because they tend to drink very strong ristretto coffees. Unlike a cappuccino, which you drink slowly, savouring the taste, this short coffee is for drinking standing at a bar, and is all about speed. Our customers have the highest standards, because a short extraction time leaves no room for error: it’s like the coffee is stripped down and any mistakes are shown up under a magnifying glass. They are looking for the best in coffee.
AFTER ALL, ITALIANS ARE USED TO EXCELLENCE...
C. N.: Absolutely. Most Italian bars serve excellent coffees and the baristas are wizards with their espresso machines, a delicate technology that was perfected in this country. We have to really emphasise our selling points to stand out in this competitive environment. In Italy, coffee is familiar, part of the furniture. It no longer has the appeal of an exotic import. Every bar and café has its own house style which wins the loyalty of its customers. We offer them the opportunity to venture beyond this restrictive world. One of our main strengths is our wide range of products, and the ability to create a perfect coffee from the comfort of your own home.
A NEW LOCATION ON THE PIAZZA DI SPAGNA A brand new boutique has just opened on one of Rome’s busiest squares. > Piazza di Spagna 34-35, 00187 Roma
THE BEST PLACES TO TRY A NESPRESSO IN ROME
This brasserie is something of an institution on the Piazza del Popolo, serving classic Italian dishes such as Mostarda di Cremona, large candied fruits served in mustard syrup.
Excellent fish dishes not far from the Villa Ada.
LA TAVERNA DELLO SPUNTINO
This rustic inn near the fortified Grottaferrata monastery to the south of Rome serves simple food at its best.
A New York atmosphere in the bustling Testaccio area.
Production Sandrine Giacobetti - Text Julien Bouré - Photography Jean-Claude Amiel