Things to do in Rome
Via del Corso
For a glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and famous of seventeenth-century Rome, there is no place better than the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, located right along Via del Corso near the Altare della Patria. A marvel of plush interior décor with important works of art stacked almost floor-to-ceiling, the museum represents baroque excess at its finest. Three of Caravaggio’s earliest paintings—Penitent Magdalene, Rest on the Flight into Egypt, and a disputed St. John the Baptist—are newly rehoused in their own room. Also worth seeing are the portraits of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velazquez and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Annibale Carracci’s landscape lunettes, and a double portrait by Raphael. The Galleria degli Specchi is like a mini-Versailles and particularly magical during an evening tour. I’m not usually one for audio guides, but the Doria Pamphilj’s is excellent. Jonathan Doria Pamphilj, who grew up in the palace and still lives in one of its apartments, narrates the tour and punctuates descriptions of the art with charming stories about his illustrious family.
There is also a beautiful bistro at the museum called the Caffè Doria with a separate entrance on Via della Gatta. A mix of Old-World charm and New-World mixology, you will feel far removed from the tourist packed sidewalks of Via del Corso in the luxe and newly renovated space. Both breakfast and lunch are served, but it’s really an ideal spot for a late afternoon aperitivo. The menu is on the pricier side, but the ambiance and top-notch service are worth it, especially after exploring the luxurious palazzo. The Caffè prides itself on a large selection of 80 premium gins, so I recommended ordering a G&T—the cocktail du jour in Rome. For an additional 5 euros, your drink will be accompanied by a selection of elegant and inventive bites chosen for you by the chef. If coffee and dessert are more your style, their patisserie are as delicious as they are beautiful to look at.
Mere steps away from Piazza Navona is the Church of Santa Maria della Pace. It was originally constructed in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV, who famously commissioned the building of the Sistine Chapel. In 1656, Pope Alexander VII had the façade restored by Pietro da Cortona. Several houses were demolished to accommodate the small piazza in front of the church, which allowed for carriage traffic. In the Renaissance, the Chigi Chapel inside was frescoed by Raphael, and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger designed the nearby Cesi Chapel. However, the church is most famous for its cloister designed by Donato Bramante in 1500-1504. Today, the Chiostro also contains a contemporary art gallery. Subjects of recent exhibitions include the works of Banksy, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Joseph Mallord William Turner.
On the upper level of the Chiostro is a café, which so happens to be one of the best places to work unperturbed in the city. You’ll often see students there sitting on their laptops for hours—and with good reason. The view is spectacular, the WiFi is free, and the friendly waitstaff serves breakfast, lunch, coffee and aperitivo. Don’t miss the nearby Via dei Coronari—a street once famous for antique shops. It’s now a bit touristy but still one of the most beautiful streets in the city, and there are ample opportunities for window shopping.