Matteo Berti's Roma
An intimate and personal journey in the capital among the places of the heart of the well-known journalist
Rome is a lover. Beautiful, elusive, passionate. But Rome is also complicated. It’s a noble residence, its walls covered in tapestries and paintings, dotted with sculptures. Walking its corridors - or the streets of its centre - is sometimes intimidating, but more often captivating, entrancing. You’re bewitched by the art, the history and the magic that spill out at every corner. And by the atmosphere of power that imbues the air. It rises from the sampietrini that pave the streets, trodden by tourists and popes; from the buildings where our lives are decided. And this is where I spend most of my time. I’m a journalist - a chronicler, even. I report on politics for Tg5, where I’m also senior editor and correspondent, as well as former presenter of the one o’clock news. I’ve spent hours waiting outside Palazzo Montecitorio for the MP of the day. A stone’s throw away, the ultimate symbol of power: Palazzo Chigi. Tourists crowd against the barriers to marvel. “It looks bigger on TV”, I hear them say. Cabinet meetings, press conferences, interviews: it all happens here. And it’s here - more specifically under the magnificent arches of the Palazzo Wedekind opposite - that I deliver the news live on TV. Milan has the fashion quadrilateral, Rome has the power quadrilateral: Chigi, Montecitorio, the Senate and, obviously, the Quirinal. I was born in Prato, later moved to Florence for my wonderful career, and I’ve lived in Rome for the past 13 years. In spite of this, every time I pass the Quirinal - which is practically every day - I’m always awestruck. I’ve had the good fortune to go inside, and I wish everyone could do the same.
Rome is power, it’s true. But it’s also grande bellezza in every sense. Rome is dinner in extraordinary houses. It’s carbonara at midnight. It’s sitting outside, even in winter. It’s the green of Villa Borghese. It’s social life, exhibitions, art, culture and politics. It’s wonder, it’s life. It’s the view from above, over terraces senza senso (as the Romans say). And it’s the thrill of finding yourself sharing a table with a president. Which one? It doesn’t matter - in Rome everyone’s a bit of a president, even if it’s just a week in charge of the tennis club; the name sticks.
The magic of Rome is everywhere; it’s an open-air museum. For adopted Romans like me, the best way to absorb it fully is to travel by scooter. The Quirinal, then down to the Trevi Fountain. Via del Corso, with the magnificent Altar of the Fatherland. And on to Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Farnese and back via Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna. The most beautiful street? Well, all of them… but… Via Margutta and the Salita del Grillo.
A visit to the Quirinal Palace restores the spirit. And it’s the same with Palazzo Farnese, home to the French Embassy: the ambassador’s frescoed office takes the breath away. Walking up Via della Conciliazione towards the dome of St Peter’s is unparalleled. And I don’t need to remind you of the marvels of the Vatican Museums. I love dropping in at the Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, with the mirror reflecting the frescoed ceiling; I go there often. And the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi contains some utter masterpieces.
My favourite place: Il Sostegno. It’s near the Pantheon, in a tiny street called Via delle Colonnelle. The name comes from an impressive metal structure that actually supports the building. It’s troubling, but very fascinating. Plenty of politicians. And Marco’s carbonara is in another league. Not to mention Umberto, who’s brilliant front of house. Another place I love is Trattoria da Luigi in Piazza Sforza Cesarini. The owner, Gerardo, is a very dear friend and a wonderful host. The manager is his cousin, also Gerardo - so you can’t go wrong. The atmosphere is pure Rome, as is the food, with the occasional detour to Basilicata. Via Giulia is one of Rome’s most beautiful streets (as well as one of the oldest); and the location of Osteria Giulietta. Fabulous.
Camponeschi in Piazza Farnese is a timeless place. So many people, so much Rome (but not too much). And the square is breathtaking. Like Piazza di Pietra: a masterpiece. Have a glass of wine at Salotto 42. Emerald’s in Via Crescenzio is lovely, friendly, and the owner, Giada, is fantastic. Other options are the extraordinary terraces of hotels that offer rooftop gardens for aperitifs and dinners with a view. Stunning.
5 of my favorite places:
Home to the French Embassy; the frescoes in ambassador’s office are breathtaking. Near Campo dei Fiori
Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola
I love dropping in at this church, with the mirror reflecting the frescoed ceiling; I go there often. In Campo Marzio, between Pantheon and Via del Corso.
Via della Conciliazione
Walking up this beautiful street heading straight to ‘er Cupolone’ (aka St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican) is like nothing else.
Church of San Luigi dei Francesi
An unmatched place of Christian worship containing absolute masterpieces, including by Caravaggio. Very close to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon.
It’s my favourite place to eat It’s near the Pantheon, in a tiny street called Via delle Colonnelle. It’s troubling, but very fascinating. Plenty of politicians. And Marco’s carbonara is in another league.