Summer in Rome (apart from the muggy heat and the ever-growing stench of dog poo and garbage) is my favorite time to be living in the city. There are plenty of things to do, and outdoor events for all preferences – from ballet and opera in the baths of Caracalla, to dancing on the beach and under Rome’s gasometro in Ostiense. Plus, summer means a whole selection of delicious food and drink, as red wine is exchanged for white (which is served cool and is therefore more refreshing), fish is eaten instead of meat, and gelato replaces any other possible desert option.
1. Caffe’ freddo
If you can’t stomach the idea of a hot cappuccino to start your summer morning, don’t make the mistake of requesting an iced cappuccino or latte. These are American inventions which are seen as destroying the sacrosanct caffeinated beverage. In Italy, coffee is god, and there are a whole set of rules that go along with how you make and drink it.
Instead, seek out a bar that makes caffe’ freddo, meaning cold coffee. When made properly, this drink is composed of a batch of hot espresso filtered multiple times, mixed with sugar, and stored in a jug in a refrigerator. Many bars may not carry it, or might run out, but once you find a place that does it well it’s worth the effort. My personal favorite is on Viale Glorioso is a small local bar where little English is spoken.
If you prefer a sweeter treat, ask for Crema di Caffe’, a creamy coffee slushy carried by some bars. This can also be mixed with hot espresso (half of each!) to make it a little less sweet.
Grattachecca is the Roman version of a snow cone, made with chunky shaved ice topped with your choice of flavored syrup. Don’t bother asking for blue raspberry – these syrups are mostly natural, and the ice is topped with fresh fruit right in front of you. There are tons of places to get this chilly treat all over Rome, but the most famous are in carts located along the Tiber river.
Us foreigners hailing from northern lands might eat ice cream year round, but gelato is a summer food in Rome, a city whose inhabitants deck themselves out in parkas and scarves when the weather dips below 70 degrees (21 C). In summertime a gelato break is a natural part of any day (and I mean every day). My favorite gelateria is the all natural Fata Morgana, where they combine fresh herbs and fruits to make delicious concoctions such as rosemary and chocolate, and lemon, chestnut honey, and fresh ginger. Gelateria Romana on via Ostiense offers more decadent treats, with three different flavors of whipped cream to top off your cone (chocolate, coffee, and classic) as well as white or dark chocolate to fill the bottom.
In summer everything moves outdoors to avoid the stuffy air of pubs without air conditioning. Plenty of bars and clubs head towards Rome’s parks, with events like Roma Vintage, Villa Ada, etc. Others towards the nearby seaside. Plus There is nothing better than a cool beer (ask for a summery IPA), crisp white wine, or a fresh icy cocktail while watching the waves lap against the shore.
With miles and miles of coast, spending time at the beach is one of the best ways to escape the stuffy humidity of Rome. If you have lunch or dinner during your excursion to one of Rome’s nearby beaches (avoid the dirty waters of crowded Ostia and make the pilgrimage to one of these beaches) you will find that most of the restaurants dotting the shore serve primarily seafood.
Try a plate of fresh mussels and clams with pasta, or in a broth served over crusty bread. Frittura di calimari or fried squid rings are also delicious, if shellfish aren’t your thing.