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How to Do Rome the Right Way

Hotel de Russie's rooftop terrace.

Abercrombie & Kent

With private guides, turn a few short days in the Eternal City into the coolest trip ever.

Of all the perspectives to appreciate the Roman Forum’s magnificence, my favorite is from the nave inside the off-limits Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda. Though I was stunned when my tour guide and a church custodian opened a pair of 12-foot-tall, green wooden doors revealing the Forum’s overgrown ruins below, it’s the building’s complex history, fortitude despite centuries of change, and privacy from tourists that made the moment so unforgettable. I watched heads on the street turn to look our way – I don’t think those doors get much use.

“The structure survived because the Romans adapted and breathed new life into an otherwise abandoned ruin,” says Eva Polino, my Rome-based guide. “It survived and evolved, telling the story of a city that redefined itself through the centuries.” 

Nestled in the small valley between Rome’s Palatine and Capitoline hilltop neighborhoods, the first-century church turned pharmaceutical archive is closed to the public, but not if you’re with the right people. During a tour of Rome with Abercrombie & Kent in April, I strolled the halls filled with centuries-old pharmacists’ instruments and took in breathtaking views of Rome’s most famous landmark. The refreshing, cool breeze awarded by springtime was a mere bonus.

Private guides and exclusive access translate to unexpected Roman Forum views. 

Anthony Bay/Abercrombie & Kent

While there’s never a bad season to visit the Eternal City – I welcome la dolce vita any time of the year – the best is arguably in the spring and with an experienced guide such as Polino, a Roman with a deep love of history and giving travelers a taste of the real Rome.

“On a tour, I get to see the city through different and new eyes,” says Polino, an art historian with 12 years of guiding experience, ten of which are with Abercrombie & Kent. “Private tours are especially enjoyable because they become more of an exchange, rather than just a plain explanation of facts." 

Abercrombie & Kent works with local guides to curate itineraries for its multiday, small-group tours across Europe – including London, Paris, Athens, and Rome – with city- and country-hopping transfers in a private jet. Polino took our group all over the city; she knew which restaurants to avoid, the ideal ratio of must-sees and hidden gems, and the best Roman dishes to order for the table. She also gave us free time, so I was able to reacquaint myself with the city after a decade away.

“I like to tailor each experience to show something unexpected that travelers might love,” she says. “This could be a quiet nook, a picturesque arch, a secluded church, or Via Margutta, the street of artists.”

During our short time in Rome, Polino focused on lesser-known details about the city’s rich history and architecture, including a morning tour of Castel Sant’Angelo – once the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian and the imperial family, and later a personal fortress for centuries of popes – which connects to the Vatican via a secret passage. 

In between afternoon aperitifs and coin tosses at the Trevi Fountain, our group paused for some downtime and a caffè at Rocco Forte's dreamy, 104-room Hotel de la Ville, housed in an eighteenth-century palazzo. It’s one of the cream-of-the-crop accommodations on Abercrombie & Kent’s Roman tours, along with Forte’s contemporary, 120-room sibling, the Hotel de Russie – both are within walking distance of the Spanish Steps. 

Dinner and a view at La Jardin de Russie.

Rocco Forte Hotels

A&K also works with local culinary guides who showcase the ingredients and dishes that Italian cuisine is famous for, as seen for our group on a midday walking tour of Trastevere, a trendy neighborhood known for its vine-covered buildings, food markets, wine bars, and artisan shops. I worked up an appetite and tried bites of porchetta (slow-roasted pork) and pecorino romano at La Norcineria di Iacozzilli, one of the area’s oldest cheese shops. 

Later, we made our way to the Campo de’ Fiori, an open-air market, to sample fresh mozzarella di bufala, tomatoes, and basil from a local vendor, before tackling the art of pasta making at a nearby restaurant. I learned how to make my new favorite dish, lemon-and-herbed-ricotta ravioli, silently vowing to never eat pasta from a box again. 

On her tours, Polino seeks to show travelers parts of Rome they’d never see on their own, such as Villa Farnesina, a sixteenth-century Renaissance estate, now a museum, off central Rome’s Via della Lungara. Citrus trees, roses, and manicured bushes covered the grounds, and inside, vibrant frescoes by sixteenth-century Italian painter Raphael Sanzio decorated the ceilings and walls. The best part: The estate was completely empty, as a result of A&K’s after-hours access.

Our last night in Rome concluded with an Italian-inspired chef’s tasting menu on Le Jardin de Russie’s verdant terrace. At our table in the garden, we inhaled saffron risotto, fresh burrata, beef tartare, and a hazelnut parfait while we reflected on everything we’d witnessed in such a short time thanks to Polino’s expertise. “It’s impossible to see everything,” she says – but with the right guide, you don’t need to.

Traffic jam in Kalsoy.

Visit Faroe Islands

“They have a small sheep farm, but they couldn’t live just from the sheep,” Valdimarsdottir says, explaining that travelers help make up the difference. Today, sheep graze the family’s sod roof, and chickens wander their yard, which extends to oceanside cliffs. Travelers visit the property, dine with the owners, and occasionally stick around for live music. 

If that level of travel intimacy catches some visitors off guard, insiders see it differently: To them, it’s a way to shield the region from the harms of overtourism. After all, the Faroe Islands’ authenticity is what draws travelers in the first place, says Helga Kristin Oskarsdottir, who crafts bespoke trips for Nordic Luxury. “It’s unique to have this small community with its own language and culture,” she says. “It feels untouched. That’s the beauty of it.” 

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