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10 Ways to Pretend You’re in Rome When You’re Really Stuck at Home

Our Ultimate Guides have shown you all the best things to do in all your favorite cities. Now we're bringing that flavor home. Literally.

Coronavirus—it sucks (che schifo)! But maybe you’re an intrepid traveling maniac and refuse to be held down. Want to be bold but without bumping up against any °。°。°germs°。°。°? You can still experience the very best of Rome. Here’s how to recreate a trip the Eternal City in a staycation.



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Dress the Part

The first step to become Italian—nay, Roman—is to glam up your fashion. Ditch your pajamas or athleisure—this is not a city for sweats or flip flops! Think tailored and fitted outfits and glitzy jewelry. Strap on a pair of heels—never flats! For men, suit up. Don’t skip the watch. And for all Italians, a pair of oversized sunglasses is a must. Need some inspiration on where to start? Look no further than the Italian fashion houses and designers. If you don’t have the funds to drop on the luxury brands, lust over apparel from Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Fendi. Pick your favorites from Versace’s line. And if you really want to drool, window shop at Valentino’s Spring/Summer collection. Want to support the local vendors instead? Via di Monserrato is famous for its boutiques: Chez Dédé, Maison Halaby, and L’Archivio di Monserrato can’t be beat.

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Mangia! Mangia! Mangia!

If you really want to experience authentic Rome, you’ve gotta get cooking (or, let’s face it: ordering). Check out recipes for a traditional Margherita pizza to start—the superb combination of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil on a perfectly crispy thin crust. Not in the mood for bread (What is wrong with you? Don’t go to Italy.)? Try out recipes for classic Roman pastas (spaghetti alla carbonara, a creamy sauce made with raw egg yolk, black pepper, guanciale, and pecorino romano; and tonnarelli cacio e pepe, the perfect balance of pecorino romano and black pepper). No matter what you end up making, order gelato for dessert. The best flavor is pistachio, but you could settle the debate by ordering a variety of samples.


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Escape Into History

You can’t leave Rome without seeing the wonders of the city: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. But you also can’t leave your home. Don’t let that stop you from checking out the majesty, ingenuity, and horror of humanity! Take virtual tours of all the historical sites that will leave you saying, “Oh God, what is wrong with us?” But also: “Architecture, wow!” Bonus: no lines!



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Do as the Romans Do

In Rome, the best way to get around is a scooter—and by scooter, I mean Vespa. But if you want to approximate the experience and minimize your exposure to germs, hop on a Bird or Lime in your neighborhood—no human contact required! (Make sure to wear a mask, and wipe down handlebars before you ride.) Zip around and check out the sites you haven’t fully explored before. Has the bank always had that weird mural painted on its side? Is that a cat colony under your neighbor’s porch? If you really aren’t feeling going outside (who could blame you?!) or think the analog scooting just won’t cut it (also extremely valid), put a fan in your face and check out the galleries in Scooteroma, which feature videos of scootering around Rome from every angle, including a POV from the backseat. Bonus: Since you don’t have to pay attention to driving, you can really check out the scenery.



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Get Saucy

You’re going to want to imbibe like a local. But that includes some prep. Making homemade limoncello, that sweet citrus Italian liqueur, is super easy—just stir together sugar, vodka, lemons, and water. Some recipes will call for steeping that lasts at least a month, but we’re of the opinion that you can indulge sooner than that—just know that the longer it sits, the better it tastes. While you are waiting for that, make yourself one or three Aperol Spritz aperitivos. Snobs will tell you they are not good. They are wrong. If you don’t like citrusy-bittery-bubbly over ice in a jumbo wine glass, you cannot hang in Rome. Or at my house. If you really can’t take the fizz, there’s always the Roman classic: lots of wine. Cin cin!

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While Away Your Afternoon

Is there any better time of day in Rome then the golden hours of afternoon? Find a way to recreate those special hours with languid late-day activities. Pair your afternoon espresso (take it black, don’t sit to drink it, and down it quickly) with a cigarette (or light some incense if you are a non-smoker), pop on some Italian pop, like Adriano Celentano, and prepare yourself a snack of fried artichokes, antipasto, and focaccia bread before settling down for a snoozy pennichella (a lovely little nap).

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Indulge in the Fantasy

Once you’re thoroughly chill, pop into the Rome of your imagination—travel via book! Originally published as a newspaper column, Roman Tales by Alberto Moravia includes 19 short stories following the most ordinary of Rome’s proletariat. The sunny humor and common throughlines are perfect for cafe lounging (on your couch). Want to read up on celebrities instead? Movie star Annabel Christopher battles her image, her public, and her husband in Muriel Spark’s The Public Image, which sends a reader on twists and turns more tortuous than a Roman alleyway. Or, in Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, follow 11 different characters whose lives interweave via the newspaper they work for, set against the backdrop of modern-day Rome—their foibles and follies make this a terrific romp.


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Marvel the Arts

If you’re dying to get to Rome, it’s probably in part because you’re interested in the incredible and varied art scene (modern and classic, fine, industrial, commercial, and otherwise) that the city has to offer. But you can still get a taste of the goods from afar, and delight your senses while you’re at it. First, start off with the big guns. Even if you can’t make it to St. Peter’s Basilica, you can gawk at Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Pietà, and learn about all its influences and representations in Christianity and art by watching this lecture. After all that high art, get casual on a hunt via Google Maps for all the coolest street art on Vie Ostiense. Immerse yourself in the sounds of the city with recorded concerts of the Oratorio del Gonfalone, or, for something more modern, this ‘60s Italian pop playlist.

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Enjoy the Nightlife

Italians love their movies, and the best time to see a film is after dark—so why not, enjoy the nightlife on your screen. Start with classic Fellini, La Dolce Vita, which won the famed director the Palme d’Or and will take you through the days and nights of  Rome in the 1960s, searching with a tabloid journalist for the sweet life. For a more modern glimpse of nightlife in Rome, check out La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), Paolo Sorrentino’s film about a bourgeois man who reflects on a lifetime of parties and pretty girls and now looks for something with a bit more meaning. Not feeling too deep and just want to have fun? Watch Italian director Umberto Lenzi’s 1976 film Roma a Mano Armata (Rome Armed to the Teeth) about one cop’s outside-the-law attempt to nab a psychotic killer.

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Have a Spiritual Experience

Going to the Vatican is divine no matter what religion you are dedicated to, if any. But you can approximate the holy experience from home. Deck out your bathroom with a Sistine Chapel-inspired shower curtain, light some candles, say a quick prayer, and slip into the tub for your own personal baptism. Want to get up close with Michelangelo’s famous ceilings? No problem, and no lines—check out the virtual tour and zoom into whatever details strike you. Listen to Music From the Vatican while you soak, and you might just see God.