CULTURE CLUB • September 2018
Whether it’s the sensational food, world-class art or jaw-dropping scenery, Italy has all the makings of a stand-out summer destination. Flavia Lefebvre D’Ovidio, a specialist in Old Master paintings at Christie’s London and native of Rome, shows us how to savour Italy as the locals do
Life in Italy runs at a much slower pace. Lunch and dinner are cardinal points of the day, and a time when families come together. While eating out, never worry about asking to adjust your dish, or for a different table – as long as you ask with a smile, Italian waiters will always try to help. And remember, espresso is the coffee to order at the end of a meal – a cappuccino or anything similar is not allowed after 11am.
In Rome, I’ll start the weekend at the wonderful new gym at the Parco dei Principi hotel (pictured) next door to my home, before squeezing in a visit to the nearby Galleria Borghese (book in advance). I’ll either walk or cycle through the Borghese gardens to the city centre, where I get some lunch at a bright and beautiful café called Ginger. Via del Corso and Via del Babuino are lively streets to browse, but have the same stores as most capital cities, apart from GENTE, which has much of the up-and-coming fashion that Italians follow. Afterwards, I might go for aperitivo at Palazzo Dama and catch up with friends.
I always find new things to see in Rome. Recently I stumbled across the Centrale Montemartini, which, housed in a former power plant, has some wonderful sculptural displays. Besides well-trodden museums such as Villa Borghese, Galleria Barberini (pictured) and MAXXi, there are lesser-known gems – Villa Giulia, which has a fantastic Etruscan art display, and Galleria Doria Pamphilj, with works by Rafael, Titian and Caravaggio.
Sicily is perfect for a road trip – the weather is beautiful, apart from the cold months between November and January, but even then you can ski Mount Etna. Pick up a rental car in Catania and head to Taormina, where you can watch Greek tragedies with a carton of sweet cherries in the ancient amphitheatre. If you’re there overnight, check into the San Domenico Palace Hotel for a taste of classic Italian refinery, housed in an ancient Dominican monastery. South of Catania, Ortigia has a wonderful square with its own duomo – be sure to visit the Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia, home to a Caravaggio painting, and eat at glorious new restaurant Monzù. There’s also a food market that’s great for souvenirs and lunch, but, come dinner, I recommend the excellent fresh fish at Carnezzeria.
Food is incredibly varied throughout the country and the quality is better in less-travelled parts – Parma is probably close to the best you’ll get on the Italian peninsula, but my favourite city for its dining is Naples. I love freshly caught fish, plus the delicious pastas and pizzas that my partner orders and I get to pick on. The desserts are dreamy too – you must try the rum-soaked baba. I like to drive to the neighbourhood of Posillipo, where from Palazzo Petrucci restaurant (pictured), the views are sprawling. Again, there’s plenty of art to see, from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli to the Certosa and Capodimonte.