The rich and famous in the Eternal City
Rome is an inspirational city at the best of times with such a long history and incredible heritage. It is a city that has touched countless visitors including some of the famous and historical celebrities of our time. From Lord Byron to Sophia Loren, we decided to take a look at Rome through the eyes of her most iconic visitors and explore the corners of the city that have resonated most strongly with them. These are their favourite places in Rome.
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One of the most well-known names associated with the Eternal City is English poet John Keats. Famous for his romantic poems, he fell in love with the city and lived in Rome for the final months of his life in the early 1800s. He used to take long walks through the landscaped gardens of the Villa Borghese – the third largest park and one of his favourite places in Rome – where was inspired by the peaceful natural surroundings, wildlife and flowers. He also spent time walking over the Pincian Hill, one of the most romantic spots in the city that sits above the neoclassical-style square – Piazza del Popolo – with the city sprawled below. On the outskirts of the Villa Borghese, you will find the Jumeirah Grand Hotel Via Veneto – a stunning five-star in a privileged city location.
Keats lived in an apartment at the base of the Spanish Steps on Piazza di Spagna, another of his favourite places in Rome; today this building has been converted into a popular tourist attraction, the Keats-Shelley House. Indeed, Percy Bysshe Shelley – another Romantic poet – also loved the city, and both himself and Keats are buried here in the Protestant cemetery. While this may be an unusual place to visit on holiday, it is an atmospheric and moving location that Oscar Wilde referred to as “the holiest place in Rome.”
Authors have always flocked to the city and the Caffè Greco on Via dei Condotti has been one of their favourite places in Rome, frequented by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Henrik Ibsen and Hans Christian Andersen to name just a few. Lord Byron was also a regular at what many consider to be Rome’s oldest café but it was the city’s famous Coliseum that he was moved to write about, so awed was he by its magnificence and the power it exudes. “While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand; / When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall; / And when Rome falls – the World.” Shelley was also taken with the ancient amphitheatre, as was Bond actor Sean Connery when he visited the city.
The beauty of Rome also attracted many other Hollywood A-listers including Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, who came here first to film the Roman Holiday, which would go on to win multiple Academy Awards. The Via Margutta, which is the street on which Gregory Peck’s flat is located in the film, was one of the favourite places in Rome for many and an artist’s retreat, welcomed painter Pablo Picasso, film director Federico Fellini and composer Giacomo Puccini. Fellini – director of legendary Rome-based film La Dolce Vita – lived here for decades and the flat he called home still has a marker at the door.
Hepburn was so taken with the city that it led her to state that: “I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live.” She was known in many restaurants across the city for her love of pasta, especially simple dishes like spaghetti with tomato sauce. She especially liked eating in the cafés on and around the Piazza Navona, one of her favourite places in Rome.
Another Hollywood siren, Sophia Loren, was also a big fan of the Roman food. She has been seen at the Trattoria Antica Boheme on Via Napoli and also the Antica Pesa on Via Garibaldi, which is where Quentin Tarantino attended a premiere party for Django Unchained and heaped praise on the restaurant’s spaghetti cacio e pepe. Should you wish to emulate the beautiful Loren in both cuisine and image, pay a visit to Sergio Valente – hairdresser to the stars – in his fabulous salon on the Via Condotti. His famous past clients include Loren, Claudia Schiffer and Annie Lennox. Back to the cuisine and one of celebrities’ favourite places in Rome is seafood restaurant Reef, which is a favourite of Dolce and Gabbana. Santa Lucia, near Piazza Navona, also welcomes the fashion crowd elite including Carla Fendi.
Stylish shopping and inspiring churches
When it comes to shopping, there are many celebrity favourites. Cameron Diaz was a frequent visitor to Nuyorica on Piazza Pollarola in her breaks during the shooting of Gangs of New York, and the boutique designer shopping around the Via Condotti is one of the Oprah Winfrey’s favourite places in Rome. For the best in menswear, try one of the Brioni outlets around the city – the shop has been frequented by a diverse selection of names including Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and Pierce Brosnan.
The Catholic religion is very much at the heart of Rome, and many famous names have frequented the city’s churches. Elle MacPherson had her child christened in the Basilica of Sant’Agostino in Campo Marzio, which is also the home to astounding works of art including a painting from Caravaggio and a Raphael fresco. The Romanesque Basilica on Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore has had famous figures attend their Mass including celebrated photographer Mario Testino.
When it comes to viewing the Eternal City through the eyes of the rich and famous, it just becomes even more magnificent. But the beauty of Rome is that it contains such a wealth of treasures around every corner so you can follow in the footsteps of the stars and visit their favourite places in Rome or take your own path and find your brand new favourite places.
Where to stay
When in Rome, Chic Collection recommends staying at the marvelous Jumeirah Grand Hotel Via Veneto, one of the city’s fanciest hotels with a superb location that was also one of the settings for the film La Dolce Vita. Portrait Roma, located minutes away from the Spanish Steps, was also where Audrey Hepburn enjoyed an ice cream in the Roman Holiday.