By Eleonora Baldwin
h oh, the P-word: Parioli to be precise. Upscale and extensive, the northeast Rome neighborhood is home to acres of green parks, elegant turn-of-the-century architecture, countless embassies, and a number of distinguished museums. It's safe, quiet, beautiful and far less likely to attract the average traveler or expat than nearby Prati or Flaminio, both anointed as chic.
There are downsides. Whether it's food, lodging or apartment prices, Parioli doesn't come cheap. The few sights and monuments limit public transportation. Most of all, though, Parioli carries the burden of a bourgeois label. Much of the city sees it as nouveau riche bastion, making it the butt of jokes from Rome's sizable and very vocal working class.
Admittedly, north Rome's local fauna can seem like a zoo of 15 year-olds, most driving spiked microcars while simultaneously smoking and operating iPhones. Propping up this teen brigade are cashmere-clad, rightwing figli di papà (Momma's boys), most fans of the Lazio soccer team (working class Rome favors AS Roma). Then come silicone-enhanced ladies decked out in non-eco designer fur.
But not all those who live in the Beverly Hills of Roma are true pariolini (as fellow Romans disparagingly call Parioli locals). The population is in flux. What was a mostly residential and elderly neighborhood until the mid-1980s seen a recent surge in businesses, offices and boutiques. Sleepy, tree-lined boulevards are now packed with cars.
And business brings pleasure. Some of the city's best restaurants and bars — most of them very much white collar — are located in Parioli. And a few are well worth visiting. In that spirit, here's my shortlist of favorite quartiere stops in the neighborhood Rome loves to hate.
Enoteca Bulzoni This Parioli institution opened in 1929, selling unbottled wines, oils and vinegars to the then-budding local community. Now among the city's top-rated wine stores (enoteche), it specializes in natural wines and offers superb aperitifs from 6 p.m. to closing time at 8. In those two hours you can buy bottles over the counter or sit on bar stools at tall tables beside wine connoisseurs while pretending to know your orange wines. The daily pre-dinner drinking menu includes white, red and by-the-glass prosecco (which you can pair with charcuterie and taralli). • Bulzoni Viale Parioli, 36. Tel. +39.06.807.0494 | 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. | Closed Sunday.
Wine-centric Rome has slowly but surely climbed its way up the beer ladder.
Social drinking is making a comeback in Italy, along with cocktail culture.
The art and protocol associated with making caffè is serious business in Italy.
Unlike the UK and U.S., Italy has no great fondness for sports'n'TV snacks.
Participating in an Italian harvest, whether it's grapes or olives, is an uplifting experience.
More In Cucina