Rome

Last fall, I asked myself where I really wanted to be.

I had just returned to L.A. after five months in China and, before that, three years in Paris. I was living temporarily in a furnished apartment near the beach in Santa Monica. Road-weary, feeling like flotsam, with most of my belongings scattered in storage units around the world, I was finally ready to settle down. I knew without deliberating where I should be.

Rome. >> Read more

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Salina
http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-salina-20100411,0,5748498.story
Western Sicily
http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-sicily21-2010feb21,0,3442161.story
Villa Farnese
http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-trw-vaux26-2009jul26,0,4020505.story
Siena
http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-trw-tuscany15-2009mar15,0,2193659.story
Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno
http://www.latimes.com/travel/printedition/la-tr-war9-2008nov09,0,3554067.story
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http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-lipari20feb20,0,7584809.story

Amalfi
http://articles.latimes.com/2004/mar/07/travel/tr-amalfi7
Castel del Monte
http://articles.latimes.com/2006/apr/02/travel/tr-castel2
Venice
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jul/13/travel/tr-venice13
Mozzarella in Campania
http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/10/travel/tr-mozzarella10
San Marino
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Susan Spano Recommends

Restaurants

Alle Carrette, via della Madonna dei Monti 95, 06 6792770, some of Rome’s best thin-crust pizza, plus delectable frittura; $15-20.
Enoteca il Gocetto, via del Banchi Vecchi 14, 06 6864268, my friend Phil’s favorite wine bar near the Campo de’ Fiori; $10-15 with nibbles like tuna-stuffed tomatoes, olives and cheese.
Scarpone, via San Pancrazio 15, 06 5814094, is a venerable old Roman garden restaurant atop the Janiculum, with one of the best antipasti arrays in town; $30-40.

Gastronomia Volpetti, via Marmarota 47, 06 5742352, www.volpetti.com, possibly the best specialty food shop in Rome, with a tavola calda around the corner (eat-in or take-out).

Hotels

Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, via Garibaldi 7, 39 06 588861, http://www.alpitourworldhotels.com, opened just last year after a long renovation in a 17th century convent designed by Baroque master Francesco Borromini, with a grand marble staircase, swagged drapery, and ornate plasterwork. This a splurge place where doubles start around $350, including breakfast.

Hotel Navona, via dei Sediari 8, 06 6864203, www.hotelnavona.com, is an old chestnut of a Roman hotel--small, homey, reasonably-priced--around the corner from the Pantheon and everybody’s favorite coffee spot, Sant’Eustachio Caffee; doubles start around $115, including breakfast.

Secret Sights

The medieval monastic garden at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Piazza Santa Croce in Gerusalemme 12, 39 06 7014769, is tucked beside a church said to have been established by St. Helen, the Emperor Constantine’s mother and finder of the true cross. Its walls describe the outline of an earlier Roman era amphitheatre. Recently restored by a friends organization, the garden cultivates organic fruits and vegetables for sale in a small shop. Call before visiting to make sure it’s open and/or arrange a tour.

The Museum of the Imperial Forums, via IV Novembre 94, www.mercatiditraino.it, is a relatively new City of Rome museum, occupying the stunningly-restored remains of what is thought to have been a 2nd century A.D. market complex above Trajan’s Column. Archaeological remains found on the site are displayed around the Great Hall, a handsome space that inspired later vaulted ceilings all around the capital.

San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, Piazza San Lorenzo, is one of the smallest of the seven great pilgrimage churches of Rome--quiet, warm and remote, next to Campo Verano cemetery. Among its glories are six ancient Ionic columns incorporated into the narthex, a 12th century Romanesque campanile and virtuoso Cosmati mosaics.

Never mind Campo dei Fiori; real foodies know that the best market in Rome is in Testaccio, the old butcher’s quarter at the southwest foot of the Aventine Hill. Go early to be amazed by zucchini flowers, baby artichokes, pomegranates and other Italian blessings.