Marcia DeSanctis, an author and journalist from Connecticut, shares a snapshot of a recent trip to Rome, highlighting the best places to eat, drink and sleep in — and what you shouldn't miss.

Italy map with Rome pinned

On my way from visiting family in Bologna, en route to a work trip in Cairo, I did what any sensible person would do with a free day in Europe: I stopped in Rome.

By fall, the city is relieved of its summer swelter, as well as the impenetrable swarms of high-season tourists. Evenings are cool enough to wear a sweater. The city breathes again, and the energy is electrifying.

Left: Italian coffee Right: Marcia DeSanctis selfie
Breakfast and a selfie

I usually start the day in Rome with...

A long walk around the neighborhood where I am staying. I want to know, is there a supermarket where I can buy bottled water and a few peaches? Ultimately, my goal is to choose where I will have my cappuccino and sweet croissant rolls in the coming days.

A warm baking scent drifts out of Forno Monteforte onto via del Pellegrino, just off Campo de’ Fiori. The bakery is a world of sweet wonders, and I soaked up my coffee with a thick slice of pistachio bread.

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Plate of pasta
House-made pasta at Osteria da Fortunata

In Rome, you must eat...

Pasta all'Amatriciana. It is the king of Roman sauces, made with tomatoes, olive oil, pecorino cheese and guanciale (thick bacon) that comes from the pig’s cheeks. It is a surprisingly complex and rich sauce for its few ingredients and is best eaten with thicker pasta, such as this house-made scialatielli pasta at Osteria da Fortunata.

Caravaggio artwork in Basilica di Sant’Agostino
Saint Matthew and the Angel by Caravaggio on display in San Luigi dei Francesi

The top spot for a power shot of culture...

Is the church of San Luigi Dei Francesi, around the corner from the Piazza Navona and not far from the infinitely more crowded Pantheon. Here, in the far corner, framed by fabulous baroque architecture, you can have an intimate encounter with greatness: a divine triptych by the painter Caravaggio.

The paintings, from the early 1600s, are by the master of chiaroscuro (the interplay of light and dark). They tell the story of the life of St. Matthew, and are on permanent display here. You will tremble, and you will leave enlightened.

Nun walking in Rome
Walking in Rome

In Rome, I stayed in...

A clean, no-frills guesthouse in my favorite neighborhood between Piazza Navona and Campo de' Fiori, and minutes by sneakered foot to both Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican. There was not much to photograph in the sterile, though spacious room, but in the morning, I loved walking the shady, narrow streets behind Corso Vittorio Emanuele II towards the river. On a sunny September morning, it was the picture of calm—even during rush hour.

White blouse and perfumed soaps
A white blouse and perfumed soaps to take home from Rome

From Rome, I always bring back a...

White blouse, especially when I can find a cheap-ish one in late summer sales. Here’s why: on my first trip to Rome, when I was 18, I saw an Italian woman on the Via Veneto in a crisp, white blouse, and since then, I have been trying to emulate her style. I also pick up artisanal soaps at the farmacia—they are cheap and turn the chore of unpacking luggage into a floral-scented pleasure.

White Veja walking shoes
Rome walking shoes 

The one item I recommend bringing to Rome is...

A pair of white leather or pleather sneakers. I don’t want to walk around this stylish and somewhat formal city in the clunkers I wear to clean the garage. These comfortable and subtle Veja classics fit the bill. I walked over ten miles in them and ended the day with an aperitivo at the ultra-luxurious Hotel de Russie. My footwear felt entirely appropriate.

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