We all know the characteristic, narrow, cobble-stoned streets behind Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona quite well by now. They offer a romantic’s view of Rome, somewhat tainted by kebabs and selfie sticks, but still, quintessential Rome. I have a strange habit for seeking out primarily residential neighborhoods where families live, where I am the sole tourist, where I can observe a more ‘quotidian’ existence, and where, it goes without saying, there are plentiful boutiques, gourmet stores, and beautiful homes at which to ooh and ahh.
Enter Parioli, Rome’s most chic, upscale ‘residential’ zone just north of the splendid Villa Borghese gardens. If I were to make a comparison, I might choose a more easygoing Upper East Side, perhaps a frenetic Chelsea in London. Viale dei Parioli is my wide, tree-lined avenue of choice, from which many small side streets shoot off and guarantee magnificent palazzi and additional shops of interest. From Piazza Ungheria to Villa Gloria, I am perfectly content in a Parioli bubble. If I deign for a more compact afternoon in Rome’s center or a maze of cobble-stone, I walk straight through Villa Borghese and land in Piazza del Popolo or the top of the Spanish Steps within 15 minutes, 20 if I am distracted by the surrounding beauty. I do not feel removed nor off the track in Parioli, Due to its more calm, family-centric atmosphere, there is a sensation of being ‘at home’ amongst some of the city’s most elegant, chic, and well-to-do Romans.
My morning begins at Il Cigno, my local bar of choice with a large space for crowding around the counter and a beautiful, u-shaped display case of the neighborhoods best pastries, cookies, cakes, chocolates, danishes, and savory bites. The rear wall is covered in a mythic underwater world made of handmade tiles, immediately offering color and cheer to those rare rainy days in the ancient city. Il Cigno is a neighborhood bar with no pretense yet so much elegance and style, and I sip my morning cappuccino with shameless curiosity, looking from one Roman to the next, admiring the shoes, the hair, the sunglasses, the coats, and the way they order their varied cornetti and macchiati. I highly recommend their croissant integrale (note that in Rome, the ‘croissant’ we know in France and the U.S. is referred to as a cornetto) with honey in the center, a lighter than light colazione, and with my afternoon macchiato I am known to have an occhi di bue (or two) with divine marmellata. After my cafe, I mosey down to the small outdoor market near Villa Glori for a bunch of oranges and strawberries from Basilicata.
Gourmet connoisseurs will be more than satisfied with the neighborhoods offerings. Allow us to begin at Gargani, a gourmet store, bakery, fresh pasta maker, and tavola calda beloved by the whole neighborhood. It has been around for decades, and everyone from not-to-be-named soccer players to movie stars like Anna Magnani have shopped with Alvaro and his affable, smiling co-workers. Some customers go only for the donuts and cakes, tantalizingly displayed in the front window, others opt for the fresh pasta, while I appreciate it for its casual tavola calda, sidewalk tables, and Parioli people-watching.
As a woman on the go, I find joy in the small things like running into my favorite beauty products, make-up, and daily essentials. Parioli is a mecca for all of the above. Where to even begin? Limoni is Italy’s version of Sephora, and the location on Via Antonio Stoppani at the corner of Viale Parioli is well-stocked. Parafarmacia Parioli, a Gruppo Farmacrimi on Viale Parioli is a 24-hour upscale pharmacy and beauty store with brands such as Darphin, Rilastil, La Roche Posey, and basics such as Cetaphil, Aveeno, Klorane, and Marvis toothpaste. Farmacrimi also stocks vitamins, baby products, toothbrushes, and a few health foods like quinoa. While you are waiting for your prescription to be filled, pop next door to Libreria Manzoni, the neighborhood’s best bookstore. This is the second location of the family business; the first opened in 1965 in the city center, but it is a natural fit in this family-centric neighborhood, where it sells textbooks, books, stationary, and gifts for all ages.
Ruberto has two locations on Viale Parioli; one is mostly make-up and hair accessories from brands including Dior, Lancome, Guerlain, and Sisley. The other location is a bright-lights profumeria selling international brands such as Annick Goutal, Bond No 9, and Creed, just to name a few. Profumerie are plentiful in Parioli; there are at least three within two blocks. Profumeria Parioli 48 is another posh shop with dark wood shelves and all of the top international brands.
Boutique stores are not to be forgotten. Lucci has a solid selection of heels and boots, Bruscoli sells undergarments, socks, gloves, et al, and Ottica Sermar sells fashionable eyewear with an eye doctor on site. For the fashionable Parioli baby, Age d’or has the most darling baby clothes and first communion dresses.
So now you are a Parioli local, and you are planning a picnic or looking for something to bring to a dinner party. Head to Bulzoni for a fine selection of wine and liquor, or peak into Gay Odin for a bygone era box of artisanal, Neapolitan style chocolates. Il Cigno is as divine a choice as any for a box of cookies, chocolates, or regional Italian cake (feeling Sicilian? They’ve got the perfect choice). Speaking of Sicily, dart across the street to Le Sicilianedde for the best, most stylish Sicilian pastries and granite in town. Next door they have an all-day cafe where you can sit for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Typical fried Sicilian everything, pistachio filled croissants, and jars of regional gourmet products line the counter.
If you prefer a vegetable, fruit juice, or even a cocktail, Juice Lab is a funky, smart 4-seat bar housed in an old magazine stand that functions both as a breakfast and lunch spot as well as an oddly romantic place for a casual glass of wine. If you are looking for one of the greatest supermarkets in the entire city, it’s staring you in the face on Viale dei Parioli: Doc has a wide selection of just about everything, from bread to fish to cheese to meat to dairy products, cleaning supplies, and beauty staples. Imagine an Italian Whole Foods. It is something like that.
For restaurants in the neighborhood, there are quite a few. Splurge at Metamorfosi or Al Ceppo. Dine on fish at Pescheria Rossini or Gallura. Dig into various regional styles of pizza at Pizzeria La Pariolini, Taverna Rossini, or the super-casual Pizza al Taglio Pizzeria la Parioli where you will mangia standing up, shoulder-to-shoulder with Parolini.
On a beautiful day, choose one of the nearby parks for a long walk in the glorious Roman sun; either Villa Borghese or Villa Ada will do just fine. When you are ready to settle down and purchase your Parioli palazzo, you will not be hard-pressed to find a real estate broker, and as is the case in carissimi neighborhoods, there is no shortage of banks.
Age D’or- Via Nino Oxilia 6
Bulzoni- Viale dei Parioli 36
Il Cigno- Viale dei Parioli 16
Doc Supermercati- Via Vittoria Locchi 15 (Also an entrance on Viale Parioli)
Gallura- Via Giovanni Antonelli 2
Gay Odin- Via Antonio Stoppani 9
Gargani- Gourmet store and tavola calda.
Juice Lab- Viale Parioli 104
Antica Focacceria Siciliana Le Sicilianedde – Viale dei Parioli 35
Libreria Manzoni- Viale dei Parioli 16
Limoni- Via Antonio Stoppani 12
Lucci – Via Nino Oxilia 13
Metamorfosi- Via Giovanni Antonelli 30
Ottica Sermar- Via Nino Oxilia 12
Parafarmacia Parioli- Viale dei Parioli 16
Pizzeria La Pariolina- Viale dei Parioli 93
Profumeria Parioli 48- Viale dei Parioli 48
Pescheria Rossini- Viale Rossini 48
Taverna Rossini- Viale Rossini 60