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The secret terraces of Rome

In the Eternal City, it matters not what you eat and drink, but where.

The view of the Coliseum from Palazzo Manfredi's terrace in Rome, Italy. (Fulvio Paolocci/GlobalPost)

ROME, Italy — The line outside the Coliseum snakes around the fence for a mile. It’s hot and your throat is parched. You could cross the street to the first kiosk reading “Drinks, Gelato, Panini,” and buy just anything, like thousands of tourists do in a panicky impulse; or you could walk a further off the beaten path and into Rome’s hidden terraces, for an afternoon aperitivo or dinner that you won’t easily forget.


The view of the coliseum from Palazzo Manfredi. (Fulvio Paolocci/GlobalPost)

Just one block east of the Coliseum is a terrace seven floors up, which most Romans know about from driving around the monument. This terrace is easily missed by tourists on foot, and with it one of the world's most breathtaking views of the Coliseum. It "belongs" to the 16th-century Palazzo Manfredi, a 5-star hotel that opened their terrace earlier this year and whose tiny entrance is found along Via Labicana.

However the view comes at a price — affordable only to those dining in the hotel’s restaurant, Aroma, where a three-course meal can cost up to 100 euros ($130) per person.


Cocktails at the Palazzo Manfredi.                          (Fulvio Paolocci/GlobalPost)

If your pockets aren’t deep enough to enjoy the sea-bass carpaccio with ginger-scented fresh tuna tartare or veal filet served on a crunchy ratatouille flower, cocktails are served in the back terrace, where there is no view of the Coliseum. But the peach-capirosca accompanied by deep-fried arancini and sushi, might be enough to cope with the loss.

Besides, the restaurant does promise value for money. “Our goal is to exceed customers’ expectations,” said hotel manager Ruggero Penza. Penza impresses patrons who find their way to Aroma by suggesting the right dishes with the tactful insight of a therapist. “I create harmony at my tables,” he said. “If I see a couple that doesn’t get along, I find ways to intervene.”


A woman  on the Grand Hotel de la Minerve terrace. (Fulvio Paolocci/GlobalPost)

The gastronomic choices on offer outside the Pantheon hardly suit the elegance of the nearly 2,000-year-old temple. Hosting the tombs of Italy's kings and renaissance great, Raphael, it's the best preserved Roman monument. Leaving behind the touristy bars and the fast food across the piazza, and walking behind the Pantheon to the smaller square with a marbled elephant with an obelisk on its back, opens up a new world of choice. There you’ll find the Grand Hotel de la Minerve, the oldest hotel in Rome, which recently turned 200.

A quick elevator ride takes you to the hotel’s L-shaped terrace overlooking the Pantheon dome on one side and Venice Square on the other.

Despite its luxurious look, no dress code is required. “I’d want for all of them to wear shorts, so I could wear them, too,” said Ezio Sacrini, the jovial hotel director.

The view from the Grand Hotel de la Minerve.    (Fulvio Paolocci/GlobalPost)

As a piano ushers you into the evening, the barkeep offers mojitos made with three different kinds of fresh mint. Or you can try a local variant of the drink, the Basiliquito, with Genoa and Greek basil picked fresh from pots along the terrace. Or better yet, surprise him or her by asking for an Angelica Martini, a cocktail invented by yours truly the night we visited the hotel. Drinks are 15 euros ($20) on average.

Dinner is as memorable as the view. For 90 euros ($116) you can try the tasting menu, an elegant parade of gourmet fish and meat dishes, such as prawns with citrus fruits or duck breast with a raspberry and olive oil dressing. The cannelloni — fresh dough rolls — with veggies and smoked scamorza cheese are something else.


The terrace of