European Travel: A Philadelphian’s Guide to Rome

Discover the city through the eyes of a fellow Philadelphian. Restaurateur and travel expert Angela Cicala gives her recommendations.

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Sunset over the Papal Basilica of St. Peter / Photograph by Nico De Pasquale Photography/Getty Images

It’s surprising how many people don’t like Rome. These people — who are wrong — usually complain about a packed 10-day itinerary where they raced through the Eternal City, Venice and Florence in the dead of summer, probably without ever exploring anything on their own. Rome requires a softer hand. It’s sprawling (and the most populous city in the country), and it can be overwhelming for tourists, who might just stick with what they know: the Colosseum, the Vatican, Roman ruins. But there’s much more  to see than just the tour-book top 10.

Enter Philadelphian Angela Cicala, who runs Cicala at the Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street with husband Joe as well as Antico Italian Culinary Travel, which leads week-long food-driven tours for everyone from you and your bestie to your family.

While I wasn’t on one of her tours for my most recent Roman holiday in November, her recommendations were key. You see, I was on a trip with my father, who is in his 50s and hadn’t visited Italy since the ’80s. He wanted bike tours and long walks; I wanted bakeries and culinary tours. And before we embarked, Cicala, a friend and frequent source of mine, offered tips to make sure we got off the beaten path. I wanted Dad to love Rome as much as I do.

Among her recs: Palazzo Scanderbeg (from $300 per night), an 11-room hotel just steps from the Trevi Fountain that’s ideal for families thanks to its spacious multi-room suites and private butler service.

Otherwise, her advice took us to Fiordiluna, a trip-topping gelato shop, for its pistachio scoop; family-run trattoria Armando al Pantheon; and the small town of Ariccia, about an hour outside the city and famous for its porchetta, where two elderly gentlemen helped us order thinly sliced rounds of pork stuffed with herbs and crowned with crisp skin.

Back in Rome, her suggestion to visit the Capuchin Museum — whose crypt is lined with the bones of 4,000 Capuchin friars — left us spooked.

Cicala has lived on and off in Tuscany  (a little over an hour by train from Rome) for the past 25 years, and her curiosity about the country has led to unforgettable experiences, like when she met a man in the village of San Miniato, where his family owned a winery that produced sparkling wine. She was invited inside to sample the bubbly — and stay for lunch. These types of connections have guided her tour company since its inception in 2017.

Her trips would appeal to anyone, but maybe a little extra to those of us from Philadelphia, who can see past the grit and fall in love with a place like Rome. Engage her services to plan your next vacation, or join one of her group trips.

Getting there
American Airlines offers direct service from Philly to Rome, though I met my father at JFK for an eight-hour flight that ran overnight.

>> Click here for more European vacations from Philadelphia.

Published as “European Vacation: Rome, Italy” in the March 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.