Crostini, calamari and cocktails are just some of the reasons to visit Italy this spring. From Rome in the south to Milan in the north, beat the summer crowds and take advantage of longer, warmer days. Our locals share ten of their favorite spots.
Just 500 meters from the Piazza della Repubblica, Art Bar is centrally located but tucked away on a quiet street. While it’s no secret that Italy is famous for its wine, Art Bar specializes in cocktails. Spotter Lisa Hammarlund likes everything from “a color exploding fruit drink to an elegantly presented Martini,” but her favorite at this spot is the Moscow Mule.
Milan has a better offering than most Italian cities when it comes to finding good seafood. People flock from far and wide to Zio Pesce, a restaurant with a guaranteed wait that serves everything from branzino to grilled octopus, shrimp and oysters. If you love pasta, Carmen Condeescu – a spotter in Milan – recommends the spaghetti allo scoglio.
At The Botanical Club in Milan, “the cocktail selection is great.” While the signature cocktails for March include the Spring Darty (Tequila Arete Blanco, mezcal Nuestra Soledad Ejutla, lime, agave, fiori di Karkadé, ginger-beer Fever-Tree), spotter Carmen stresses not to miss the food menu. “Every dish is fresh, organic and based on natural ingredients.”
With almost too many choices in Rome, spotter Livia Hengel devised an equation to find the perfect restaurant: “location, price, quality ratio and atmosphere.” Meeting all of these requirements is Zi Umberto in Trastevere. Sit outside on the cobblestones and enjoy traditional Roman cuisine like pasta with pecorino cheese and cicoria, and finish your meal with a bottle of amaro or limoncello.
Get lost in the biggest open-air market in Rome. Spotter Daniela D’Avanzo loves searching Porta Portese for vintage clothes and accessories. While “you may have to search under mountains of old clothes and objects to find something nice,” you’ll end up with something unique – clothing, home furnishings, bicycles, cameras, records, posters, books and stamps – that can’t be found anywhere else.
As a student, spotter Matteo Muller-Thies is familiar with San Lorenzo. Bars in the neighborhood are typically crowded with Roman students, spilling out from the bars and into the streets forming a giant outdoor bar scene. Il Celestino is one of those bars – so popular that its name has come to represent the entire block in which it’s located. As temperatures warm up, head here for “a drink or two or six” – always a beer or cocktail in a plastic cup – in a vibrant outdoor setting.
While not an official district of Rome, Quartiere Coppedè is a series of 18 buildings with an incredibly distinctive architectural style. Designed by architect Gino Coppedè between 1913 and 1927, the complex is unlike any other style typical of Rome – “the imperial buildings, the Colosseum, Trevi fountain and other famous landmarks” – which is why spotter Ivan Marra recommends heading outdoors to explore this unique area.
Spotter Marco Bonfante likes taking a break from the busy Turin city center at Imbarchino. Located on the shore of the River Po, this bar offers postcard-worthy views. In the distance, “the hills of Turin rejoin the skyline of the noble mansions on the other shore, while kayaks and rowboats plow the waters.” Most of the tables at this small bar are outdoors but covered, offering a shaded spot to enjoy the sunny spring weather.
There are very few seats at Osteria al Squero but that’s not a problem for Venice spotter Annamaria Bergamo – “the majority of people sit outside on the bank of the canal,” anyway. Osteria al Squero is one of Venice’s many bacari (wine bars with small dishes), and this one is known for its crotini – small slices of toasted bread with toppings. Annamarie recommends trying one of the fish options, like the salmon with pink pepper and lemon, or the tuna and olive.
Just across the Grand Canal from the tourist-packed Piazza San Marco, San Giorgio offers refuge from the tourists on the opposite bank. Enrica Pressanto, a spotter in Venice, recommends venturing out to see modern and postmodern art at the small island’s Giorgio Cini Foundation. Her favorite part is outside – “an open air architectural sculpture by the Japanese artist Sugiomoto.”