The meal started with octopus carpaccio, wagyu beef gyoza, and yellowtail sushi. After my husband and I polished that off, the waiter set down Ibérico pork marinated in soy and truffle. Seated on a snaking banquette at Seen by Olivier, the rooftop restaurant at the new Anantara Palazzo Naiadi hotel, we enjoyed dish after dish. When I first lived in Rome back in 2009, I was hard-pressed to find such globally inspired fare; though it is a major European capital, it had tended to the traditional. But the Eternal City is changing.
Anantara is one of several hotel brands imbuing the city with a more international flair. Just in 2023, InterContinental, Bulgari, Edition, and Six Senses each debuted new properties in Rome. In the pipeline: hotels by Four Seasons, Rosewood, Nobu, and more. “Rome is coming out of a crazy year full of visitors and openings,” says Elisa Valeria Bove, CEO of the private tour company Roma Experience. “Before, people stayed in Rome for two or three days. Now people stay five, six days, or even a week.”
Bove and others in the city’s tourism industry hope that the influx of top-tier hotels, with all of their amenities and culinary options, will attract more affluent travelers who spend more time and money, boosting the economy and encouraging visitors to go beyond the most famous (and crowded) attractions.
“Rome has always been a hit-and-run tourism destination for people to check off the Vatican and Colosseum,” Bove says. “But now people are more open to seeing other thing—and Rome offers so much. You would need a lifetime to explore it all.”
I have lived here permanently since 2019 and can attest to how many secrets the city holds—if visitors take the time to look. Travelers can picnic in the shadow of ancient aqueducts at the Parco degli Acquedotti; admire Renaissance-era frescoes by Raphael in the Church of Santa Maria della Pace; see how one of the city’s modern aristocratic families lives at Palazzo Colonna, part of which is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays; or visit contemporary art galleries in San Lorenzo, a neighborhood that’s become one of Rome’s artsiest enclaves.
It’s not surprising that Rome continues to change and adapt; after all, it has incorporated foreign ideas and ways of life since the days of the Roman Empire. Today there’s evidence everywhere of how the city continues to dig up its past and rebuild its present. I thought about that during a recent visit to Largo di Torre Argentina—the archaeological site where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Medieval buildings had obscured the ruins until Benito Mussolini razed the pre-Renaissance structures in the 1920s, in the name of progress. Since then, the area had languished until funding from luxury brand Bulgari helped it open to the public in June 2023. Though I had walked past these ruins countless times, seeing archival photos of the excavations in the new exhibition space was a poignant reminder that progress ebbs and flows.
About a mile north, there’s a massive, ongoing renovation at Piazza Augusto Imperatore, where Mussolini tore down more of the city in the 1930s to create a plaza paying homage to the eponymous Roman emperor (and establish himself as his successor). Since June 2023, the square has been home to the 114-room Bulgari Hotel Roma, which has two restaurants by chef Niko Romito (co-owner of the three Michelin-starred Reale in Abruzzo, a region east of Rome). The next phase of the project will see the square surrounding the Mausoleum of Augustus redesigned with paved walkways and gardens.
The way Romans think about wellness is changing, too. Before this year, I never would have imagined that I would do a sound healing meditation, but that’s just what happened when I checked into the Six Senses Rome. In the past, spa offerings have tended to focus more on beauty than on a holistic vision of health, but global brands such as Six Senses and Anantara are expanding the range of treatments available, while honoring the city’s history with the addition of Roman bath circuits.
Efforts are also being made to improve public transportation both inside and outside of Rome: As of July 2023, a new high-speed train service on Sundays links Rome to Pompeii in less than two hours. Previously, the trip required multiple trains and took nearly three hours; now, travelers can use Rome as a base to see the ruins. In the city, an expansion of metro line C is underway. The opening of a stop near the Roman Forum is projected for 2025, in time for the Jubilee year, a Catholic celebration of faith and forgiveness.
“There’s a bit more buzz, more motivation to tidy things up,” says Francesca Tozzi, the general manager of the Six Senses Rome. “Rome shouldn’t be seen as a hub to get from Fiumicino [airport] to Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast. People should experience the city for all that it offers.”
Tips for planning your trip
- Where to stay: Six Senses Rome opened in March 2023 with a sleek yet earthy design, some of the city’s best spa and wellness offerings, and a 100 percent green power supply.
- Worth a detour: Visit the nearby Tuscia region for its palaces, including the pentagonal Palazzo Farnese in the town of Caprarola. Twenty miles north is Sacro Bosco di Bomarzo, a Renaissance-era garden filled with mythical creatures carved into rock.
- Required eating: The quartet of Roman pastas—carbonara, amatriciana, gricia, and cacio e pepe—are each made with a few simple ingredients and served across the city.
For the full list of our favorite destinations this year, read Where to Go in 2024.