Vatican City, Reenergized

Saint Peter’s Basilica.
A bartender at Passaguai.
Danielle Calzature pumps.

The Pope Francis Effect

Vatican City gets infused with fresh enthusiasm.


By Susan Van Allen
Photography by Susan Wright

Tourism is up in Vatican City as visitors revel
 in the popular pontiff’s folksy spirit. At holiday time, Saint Peter’s Square glows with an enormous Christmas tree and life-size nativity scene, and the Basilica’s Christmas Eve mass is projected on outdoor Jumbotron screens. For an insider’s experience, your travel advisor can arrange tickets to masses, private Sistine Chapel viewings, and family-friendly tours of the Vatican Museums. All this, along with a culinary renaissance in the surrounding vias (streets), keeps the attraction of the world’s smallest independent state growing.

Line up with locals at Pizzarium (Via della Meloria
 43; 39-6/3974-5416), a storefront where legendary chef Gabriele Bonci creates innovative pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice). Trendsetters fill Romeo (Via Silla 26/a; 39-6/3211-0120), a former Alfa Romeo workshop turned high-end deli, bakery, and restaurant. Traditionalists favor Da Benito e Gilberto (Via del Falco 19; 39-6/686-7769), a family-run spot specializing 
in fish, where meals can be customized by mama according to what-a-you-like-a.

Sip wine from top Italian producers at two shabby-chic spots: Sorpasso (Via Properzio 31-33; 39- 6/8902-4554), beloved for its trapizzini (bread pockets stuffed with sauced meats), and its sister wine bar Passaguai (Via Pomponio Leto 1; 39-6/8745-1358), where artisan cheeses are accented with jams and honeys. And
if you’re looking to warm up, espresso-style, head to Sciascia Caffè (Via Fabio Massimo 80/a; 39-6/321-1580), a short walk from Saint Peter’s Basilica.

 Savelli Arte e Tradizione (Via Paolo VI 27-29; 39-6/6830- 7017) is popular for religious souvenirs and stunning floral-patterned jewelry. Bordering Vatican City is the Prati neighborhood, where you’ll find bargain designer goodies at Gente Outlet (Via Cola di Rienzo 246; 39-6/6813-5000), hand-crafted leather belts at Antica Bottega Defino (Via Sforza Pallavicini 13; 39-6/6880- 2622), and on-trend shoes
at Danielle Calzature (Piazza del Risorgimento 39/40; 39- 6/3974-4675).

Originally featured in Virtuoso Life magazine, November 2014.

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