I Heart My City: Nicola’s Rome

Nicola Ferlei-Brown is a British travel writer based in Rome who’s passionate about getting the word out about where to eat, shop, and see all things divine in the city of Seven Hills. Here are a few of this art history aficionado’s favorite things about the place she’s proud to call home.

Follow Nicola’s story on her blog and on Twitter @Nicolascorner.

Rome is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to the Villa Borghese Park, where we can look out over Rome from the Pincio balcony.

Autumn is the best time to visit my city because there is better weather, fewer crowds, better food festivals, and more events. Rome closes down for the scorching summer months and the action is redirected toward the beach.

You can see my city best from Michelangelo’s Dome on the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City or from Gianicolo Hill.

Locals know to skip August as Rome is a ghost town and check out the lakes and beaches instead.

Castroni food store is the place to buy authenticlocal souvenirs with a gastronomic bent.

In the past, notable people like Audrey Hepburn, Monica Bellucci, and Sophia Loren have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is Galleria Borghese because it’s full of Bernini sculptures, including the best of the best, the “Apollo and Daphne.” Having said that, Rome is an open-air museum, where every turn and street corner offers up its own “wow” factor.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s to leave your stilettos at home unless you are a trained tip-toe specialist.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is in the piazzas sipping a cappuccino or at the beach sipping a glass of prosecco.

My city really knows how to celebrate food and eating because it’s the national pastime.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they are debating passionately about football, politics, or food.

For a fancy night out, I go with the flow. It’s about spontaneity in Rome, so be ready for the unexpected!

Just outside my city, you can visit Nemi, a lake named after the legendary goddess Diana. There is a delish strawberry festival held there in June that’s worth attending.

My city is known for being expensive and touristy, but it’s really cheap if you know where to go.

The best outdoor market in my city is Testaccio food market (okay, it recently turned indoor, but it’s still the best).

Pasticcerria Siciliana Svizzera is my favorite place to grab breakfast and Pizzeria ai Marmi on Viale di Trastevere is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read In Rome Now (in English) or Roma C’e (in Italian).

My city’s biggest sports event is football. Watch it at the Olympic Stadium.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go for a cheap aperitivo at Fluid Cocktail Bar on via del Governo Vecchio and devour the complimentary buffet. When in Rome!

To escape the crowds, I seek solace in the blissful bistro at Chiostro Bramante (Bramante’s cloister) on via Arco della Pace.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Elizabeth Taylor because she is a diva draped in decadence.

The dish that represents my city best is Pasta all’amatriciana, and caffè is my city’s signature drink.

Ara Pacis is my favorite building in town because I heart Richard Meier and it adds a slick lick of 2007 paint to Rome’s ancient architectural spectrum, which is a dramatic and daring design move.

The most random thing about my city is the strikes on the metro every Friday.

Circolo degli Artisti is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out the nightclubs on Via Galvani and in the Testaccio area.

Being run down by a drunk Sicilian taxi driver and rescued by the Italian film director Giovanni Mazza, the man who owns the O in the Hollywood sign, could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should check out the rooftop terraces at Rome’s top hotels and sip a cocktail while watching the caput mundi go by.

In the summer you should hit the beach for a spot of prosecco and fried calamari in Fregene.

In the fall you should fall in love…with Rome’s burnt-bronze-colored buildings and devour roasted chestnuts before heading off to the latest wild boar or wild mushroom festival in the Roman hills.

In the winter you should make the most of a thunderstorm at the Pantheon by witnessing the marvel of the rain falling through its oculus.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss boating in Villa Borghese lake, Bio-park, and Segway tours.

The best book about my city is The Woman of Rome by Alberto Moravia

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes because the riff-turned-anthem was adopted by the Italians and sung in the streets of Rome when Italy won the World Cup here in 2006.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because Rome is a Baroque maze of dames, domes, and Capuchin monks — and being able to get to a lake or beach in 30 minutes is bliss.

Beg to differ? Share your thoughts about the best of Rome by leaving a comment.

Love where you live? Fill out our I Heart My City questionnaire for a chance to share your insider intel with the Intelligent Travel community.


  1. John Melia
    North Carolina
    August 16, 2013, 4:01 pm

    We toured with Nicola on August 8, 2013 and she was just great. Personable, knowledgeable, and completely open to our wishes. This is the only way to see Rome the first time with a terrific private tour and tour guide. Worth every Euro for the 4 hours we spent with Nicola.

  2. Donna MacPhail
    Florida - USA
    August 16, 2013, 9:41 am

    Wow….so much more to see and do on our next visit to Rome. Would love to see it rain in the Pantheon. I think it will have to be during the Fall……..
    Grazie Nicola!

  3. Heather & Chris
    August 16, 2013, 8:54 am

    This past May, we were so fortunate to have Nicola as our private guide. Her knowledge and love of her city is so evident. I cannot imagine not having her by our side. Just loved her attitude and sense of humor – a perfect fit. If you are visiting for the first time and are a bit apprehensive, do not hesitate to see if Nicola is available. I assure you, you will not be disappointed. She is worth her weight in gold!

  4. Diane
    August 15, 2013, 11:58 pm

    Nicola is awesome. This blog is just a taste of her knowledge. She was our tour guide for 3 days and I’m now a huge Rome fan. Nicola made the whole experience fun and fascinating not only for the adults, but for the kids in our group too. Leslie@ Travel Better Podcasts- the next time you are in Rome please book Nicola as your guide. It will make all the difference!

  5. Paolo Muschialli
    Wales UK
    August 14, 2013, 4:05 pm

    Too many people arrive in Rome with a long list of what they MUST see. That is natural as its such a massive tourist draw, but so few actually experience Rome, or even Italy for that matter. Italy should be savoured by sipping wine in a bar or café and watching life go by. Getting to hear, smell and taste the city with the locals and really EXPERIENCE it. I will be there again in late August 2013 and can’t wait for it. Don’t rush, take your time and let the whole experience envelope you!

  6. Motorino
    August 9, 2013, 8:41 am

    Lovely observations and thoughts about Rome. Centi anni! And do visit ItalianTourism.us for more about Rome vacations.

  7. Leslie @ Travel Better Podcasts
    New York
    August 8, 2013, 3:22 pm

    I wish I had seen your post before I visited Rome for the first time in May. I liked Rome but it was so touristy that I feel that I couldn’t get to the essence of the city and go to the places that the non-tourists go. I saw everything important, but I didn’t experience the city properly and authentically.