During the winter, it’s quieter in Rome with fewer tourists than during the high season. I have been coming here for years as there is so much to see that it is almost overwhelming. On a recent visit in late February, 2015, while tourists were around, there were fewer crowds than I’ve seen in the late summer. Outside the major tourist draws, in smaller churches and restaurants, visitors can avoid the masses of visitors.
In this post, I wanted to reference two locations that tourists may miss but are highly worth a visit. Rome is one of my favorite places and it’s always nice to find places that are unexplored and memorable.
Chiesa di Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
The Church of Saint Andrew at the Quirinale is near the President’s house in central Rome and may not look like much from the street. Thanks to a recommendation by my brother, I made a stop here and liked the church so much I visited twice.
This church is a Baroque church and was built over the site of an earlier church. The rebuilt structure was constructed in 1658 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini who had the patronage of Pope Alexander VII, who wanted to use the church as a Papal chapel. For those readers who have been to the Vatican, Bernini is famous for designing the colonnade for St. Peter’s Square.
To me, what makes this church especially interesting is that on entering, visitors will note the elliptical shape of the sanctuary, which is unusual. The church’s dome is vibrant, separated into ten zones and decorated with rich golds and sculptures. The altar is framed by pink marble columns and reflects the Martyrdom of Saint Andrew.
Throughout the church are quiet chapels and for a memorable Italian experience, I lit a candle in the Chapel of the Crucifix. The sculptures throughout this church are ornate and intricate. Bernini designed many of the church’s decorations and decided where most statues would go.
The church has limited seating but with few tourists around, the sanctuary is peaceful. Be sure to pay attention to the details of the marble floor and the ceiling décor.
Behind the altar is an entrance to the first floor which will almost seem like a wrong exit. For two euros, visitors can gain access upstairs to see the rooms of Stanislao Kostka, who died in these rooms in August, 1568. Saint Stanislao Kostka is a popular Polish saint and the rooms themselves include vibrant red walls, tapestries and a sculpture of this saint. On a rainy day in Rome, I almost had the rooms to myself.
Informational guides in different languages are available for a donation in the room behind the altar. Photos are allowed as long as no flash cameras are being used.
The church is closed on Mondays and during the winter, open limited hours during the remainder of the week. To me, this church was an architectural feat as the elliptical design seems unique to fit a small space. I especially loved the dome of this church and would recommend a visit for any tourists in Rome.
Chiesa di Sant’Andrea Al Quirinale
Via del Quirinale 29
Phone: (06) 47 44 801
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe
Readers of this blog will be aware that I love coffee and sweets. For a uniquely Roman coffee experience, Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe is a must. This coffee bar has been in business since 1938, which is hard to even imagine as this is prior to World War II. Located in a hidden, quiet piazza between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, this shop is filled with locals and easy to miss. Visitors will smell the aroma of coffee as they approach the café.
I discovered this shop purely by accident as I happened to be in an antique print shop, Nardecchia, in Piazza Navona, when the very kind owner pulled out a brown paper bag and asked in English if I would like to try some chocolate-covered coffee beans. Without a doubt, these are some of the best coffee beans I’ve ever tasted. With the language barrier on both sides, I pulled out a map and the owner put an “x” of where I needed to go. From the moment I tried the coffee beans, I was on a mission to find Sant’Eustachio. Be sure to buy several bags of the chocolate-dipped Sant’Eustachio coffee beans (chicchi di caffe) as this is an incredible Italian taste sensation. I brought several bags home and am already regretting that I can’t buy these in Houston.
This coffee bar will be packed no matter what time of day. Walls are filled with coffee beans, coffee tins, vibrant yellow coffee cups and saucers with the Sant’Eustachio logo, a stag’s head, and other gifts. I had to laugh that carry bags are available in English with a slogan “If you want breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen” which I thought was funny.
Visitors to this shop will need to pay first and then approach the coffee bar with their receipt. I went several times and tried the gran caffe and cappuccino. Many choices are available including caffe d’elite (a small coffee) or moretto, which includes cocoa and milk. The shop will be filled with customers but the chaos is organized, as people move to let visitors approach the bar. I heard people mention the signora Americana and nicely move over so that I would have a spot at the bar. Drinks are served quickly and the stacks of cups and saucers behind the counter is amazing.
Sant’Eustachio is open early until very late and always seems to be filled with happy coffee drinkers. This café is packed with locals with few tourists which is also a good sign. If the weather is nice (and the timing is good), six tables are outside in the piazza to enjoy a coffee experience and soak in the history and architecture of Rome.
For me, Sant’Eustachio is some of the best coffee I’ve had in Italy and the chocolate-covered coffee beans are something I will always remember. I can’t recommend Sant’Eustachio enough and there is a reason this café has been in business for nearly eighty years.
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe
Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82
Phone: (06) 688 02048