Best things to do in Rome: Expert tips from an expat

SAMANTHA BECK

Samantha came to Rome three years ago to work with the World Food Program. Victorian born, she spent most of her life in Melbourne's east, developing mixed civic loyalties after a long stint in Sydney. She lives in Trastevere.

SEE

Villa Farnesina is a gorgeous villa with frescos painted by Raphael and has a romantic backstory. Raphael, while painting the frescos, met the secret love of his life, the baker's daughter, their class difference forbidding their love. She locked herself in a nunnery on his premature death. Her house still stands at 20 Via di Porta Settimiana. See villafarnesina.it

DO

Grano & Farina cooking school will teach you to cook Roman pastas, Italian desserts or, like the class I recently took, "Cornetto v Croissant", to unravel the difference between French and Italian pastries. It's educational: I know more about flour now than I thought there was to know. Plus, you get to keep/eat what you make. For some exercise, walk up to Fontana dell'Acqua Paola for amazing views over Rome. From there, you can walk along the panoramic La Passeggiata del Gianicolo almost all the way to the Vatican. See grano-farina.com

EAT

Gelateria La Romana is a short tram journey from Trastevere on via Ostiense. Get a cone, and fill the tip with melted chocolate. My go-to is a piccolo (two scoops = €2) with Bacio di Dama (lady's kisses) and whatever seasonal flavour looks good. Don't shy away from adding cream, Italian style, regular or coffee flavoured. Le Levain is an Italian-run French bakery. For breakfast (or whenever!), try the Croissant Gianduia, filled with chocolate hazelnut paste. At lunch they have amazing baguettes and salads/soups. See gelateriaromana.com and lelevainroma.it

DRINK

Fountain water. It's always ice-cold, so fill your bottle or block the spout to spurt water out a small hole for ease of sipping. For a change from the apparently obligatory Aperol Spritz, try Santo for cocktails. A great Melbournesque bar, I tend to have just a Moscow Mule, but if you can't choose, get the bartender to make something up. They also have creative modern food. See santotrastevere.it

AVOID

Counter-intuitively, a queue outside a restaurant, especially of English speakers, is not usually a sign of quality cuisine, but a tourist trap. Similarly, a gelateria serving huge scoops is usually soliciting tourists with quantity over quality.

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