Rome could easily be thought of as a city of excess – the exuberant frescos, ostentatious fashions and yolky pasta dishes all add to the the mood of moreishness. But chances are the fashionistas frequenting the design giants on Via Condotti aren’t prone to overindulging. And Rome is fast-becoming a health haven, making it a cinch to keep that skin cherubic – and halo firmly intact.
As a coeliac, I had thought Italy was off-limits as a holiday destination, but it is in fact one of the best places to go gluten-free, or senza glutine. Children are routinely tested for coeliac disease, and the government has done an amazing job promoting awareness in restaurants.
A stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps, this hotel is at once understated and sexy. Its inconspicuous entrance belies its interior – impeccably designed rooms boasting Lush toiletries, Bang & Olufsen stereos and an organic breakfast in bed to start your day off on the right foot. Doubles from €170. Suite Sistina, Via Sistina 53. Tel: +39 (0) 62 036 8380
This hotel-come-hostel may be cheap, but is still surprisingly chic. Rooms are clean and bright, with simple, modern decor – choose to swarm within the hive for a budget break, or opt for the pretty private rooms. The highlight is the cafe, which offers delicious, healthy veggie daily breakfasts and dinner on selected nights. Dorms from €25; en-suite rooms from €60. Beehive Hotel, Via Marghera 8, Tel: +39 (0) 64 470 4553
This bright cafe is a breath of fresh air after a morning exploring darkened, dusty churches. A stunning array of smoothies and salads jostle for attention on the menu – and the organic carrot cake with limoncello is a surprisingly saintly dessert with a herbal tea. Via Borgognona 43/44. Tel: +39 (0) 69 603 6390
Although ice-cream can often leave me, well, cold here at home, real Italian gelato is too good to miss. The woman behind Fatamorgana, Maria Agnese Spagnuolo, is coeliac, and combines traditional methods with innovative ways to provide tasty gluten-free, lactose-free or even sugar-free options – cones and all. Plus the ice-cream has earned the ‘clean’ label – no articifial preservatives, thickeners or food colourings. Gelato without the guilt – and the natural flavours taste second to none. Try the pistachio. And the eggnog. And the basil. And the fig… Via Lago di Lesina 9. Tel: +39 (0) 68 639 1589
Voglia di Pizza
Let’s be honest with ourselves here – you won’t let a weekend in Rome pass without at least one slice of pizza passing your lips. Nestled deep in the heart of Centro Storico, Voglia di Pizza is the perfect place for a pitstop – with delicious gluten-free pizzas that easily could be mistaken for the ‘real thing’. Via dei Giubbonari 33. Tel: +39 (0) 66 87 5293
In pretty Trastevere, there are lots of little trattorias to choose from. Mama Eat is a bit special, with giant platters of tomato salads, gluten-free pasta dishes and pizzas, plus no lesss than five gluten-free beers on the menu. The selection of gluten-free cakes on offer (the Torta Caprese is particularly good) may not strictly fall into the ‘healthy’ category, but the service and quality of food will ensure you will want to do nothing but linger over dessert. Via San Cosimato 7. Tel: +39 (0) 65 80 62222
This chain stocks the sexiest cookware brands, designer gadgets and even… cooking fashion? If you enjoy stocking your kitchen with crockery as much as you do food, this is a fun place to buy some unusual souvenirs. Via Gioachino Belli 21
Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio
There is nothing quite like the bustle of an Italian market, and the New Market is particularly bustling. Locals and tourists rub shoulders as friendly vendors shout about their wares. All the ingredients for a great picnic can be found here, plus a few special vegetables you won’t find quite so easily at home. Flowering courgettes, gigantic beef tomatoes and glossy aubergines are just some of the choice picks, as well as delicate buffalo mozzarella which needs nothing more than a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar to be the perfect portable food. Foodie paradise. Via Galvani; open 6am-3pm, Mon to Sat
Widely regarded as the best deli in Rome, Volpetti is not cheap, but it is the ultimate destination for some great presents – or foodie souvenirs. Wines, vegetarian pies, home-made pasta, meats, pestos, olive oils – you name it, you’ll find it here. Via Marmorata 47. Tel: +39 (0) 65 74 2352
What better way to see the Appian Way, Rome’s queen of roads, than on horseback? A trek on the cobbled thoroughfare through ancient ruins, green fields and right to the catacombs is an unforgettable day out – and a surprisingly good workout. From €90, www.neronetoursitaly.com
For the best sunrise views over St Peter’s Basilica, time to lace up your trainers and head to Villa Borghese park. The manicured grounds and tranquil lakes make for a great running spot, and Pincio boasts some of the best views over the city – the terracotta-ed buildings are stunning in the morning sunlight. If you feel you haven’t worked up enough of a sweat, you can always then spend a few hours roaming around the park’s amazing museums – including the Museo Borghese for Caravaggio, Bernini, Botticelli and Raphael and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna for Cezanne, Picasso and Modigliani.
This pared-back, eco-conscious yoga centre is the ideal place to escape the bustle of Rome. Don’t fear the language barrier – they are extremely accommodating here, and offer classes in everything from Ashtanga to Yin. The Iyengar-inspired yoga wall is a particular draw to help even the most experienced yogis try something new. Via Servio Tullio. Tel: +39 (0) 64 202 0900
Acanto Day Spa
When in Rome, do as the ancient Romans did and have a spa day. Acanto Day Spa is right by the Pantheon and its decor reflects its more elderly neighbour with classical arches and exposed brickwork, although there are some very modern treatments on offer. Luxuriate in a hammam or ease the aches of traipsing seven hills with a massage. Piazza Rondanini 30. Tel: +39 (0) 66 813 6602
Bici & Baci
The most stylish way to see Rome must surely be from the back of a Vespa. Or, if you don’t fancy braving the Roman traffic on bike, a classic Fiat 500 car is another suitably hip option. Channel your best Audrey Hepburn, don your shades and whizz around the historic centre and Coliseum for some breathtaking views. From €35
words by Siobhan Norton