Welcome back to the Travels with Quigley series, featuring travel tips from my adventures with a jet-setting rescue terrier. This is our latest edition in a series of pet-friendly guides to cities around the world. In the spring, we gave readers a tour of Austin, TX, through the eyes of a pup-loving local. Now, we jump continents to share with you our dog-friendly guide to Rome.
The capital of Italy (and of the world’s most powerful ancient empires) is rated one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and is also the most-visited. With its breathtaking architecture, extraordinary works of art, world-renowned cuisine, and an equal parts bustling and leisurely lifestyle, the Eternal City is understandably at the top of every traveler’s bucket list. What many may not know, however, is that the Caput Mundi is also ready to welcome your dog!
Where to stay
Because Quigley and I were away for an extended period of time, we chose to stay in an AirBnB. Mere steps from Piazza Navona, this listing had all the comforts of home, and our host gave Quigley an extra warm welcome with treats, wet food, and a ball to play with in the apartment. The location was the best of both worlds. It was nestled in a quiet alley, but also conveniently near all the Roman highlights — the apartment was only a 10-20 minute walk to nearly every recommendation on this list. Walkability was key, as our visit was during the peak of summer heat. Each mid-day, we were happy to return our our cozy, air-conditioned apartment, ready to read, nap, and rest up for another evening exploration.
For the VIP (Very Important Pet) treatment, there is no better resort than the famed Rome Cavelieri. Here, your pup is given the same top-tier service as any human. Pet amenities move beyond beds and bowls, even including details like a drool-worthy dog menu, dog walking within the resort’s fifteen acres of parkland, or personalized shopping at the BAUtique.
While humans enjoy pampering at the Grand Spa, your pet can be transported over to a nearby doggy spa for a shampoo, massage, and stylish comb-out. During our evening visit, Quigley and I lingered on the terrace for a remarkable summer sunset. Quigley happily flirted with other guests as I sipped a selection of custom cocktails, and we wrapped up our evening with a stroll the garden.
Where to eat and drink
Let’s get real here: Italian food is exquisite, but the quality in Rome can vary. Having experienced this firsthand years ago, meals were a top priority in our trip planning this time around. Hands down, our favorite meals of this visit were the establishments that played with the staples of Italian street food.
Trapizzino believes that food is culture and that we are what we eat. Created in the heart of Rome, their dishes are an innovative way to appreciate the taste of tradition. Our favorite pizza flavor was the Pollo alla Cacciatora, but Quigley recommends also adding a Parmigiana to the order, and sneaking a bite of meatball under the table. In addition to being the tastiest meal of our visit, Trappizino also wowed us with their commitment to keeping the pricing accessible even to travelers on a budget. The restaurant is slowly expanding (with a location in NYC), but we recommend visiting the Trastevere location to take advantage of their extensive wine list.
Our other street food recommendation will bring you to Supplizio Roma. Here, each guest is made to feel right at home, as each location is designed to resemble a rustic living room. Chef Arcangelo serves supplì, an ancient traditional Roman cuisine consisting of a ball of risotto, stuffed with various sauces and cheese, and then fried. Our recommendation: trust the chef. When we visited, he chose every dish and we were literally licking our fingers — and paws — because the food was too excellent to let even a crumb reach the napkin.
When you are ready to leave the streets and take to the sky, first head to the Rooftop Garden & Bar at Atlante Star Hotel. The terrace features stunning panoramic views of Vatican City and is open daily. Share a plate of prosciutto é melone with your pooch, and toast your travel companions with at least one Aperol Spritz. While we’ve already mentioned the cocktail views at Rome Cavalieri, it’s also worth mentioning that during the cooler months you and your pup can enjoy a cozy afternoon tea.
Of course, we know your final (or maybe first) question regarding food culture in Rome – what about dessert? Thankfully, after much testing, we can happily share that our favorite sweets can be shared with your furry friend. For the most delectable tiramisu, look no further than Two Sizes. While the shop itself has no seating, your pup can stroll inside to order take away, and then enjoy fountain views at Fontana del Moro, which is mere steps from the dessert shop. We may have repeated this process on multiple nights of the trip — it’s that good. For gelato, head to Gelateria del Teatro. This long-standing favorite features both the traditional creamy flavors like hazelnut, pistachio, and stracciatella that travelers have come to expect. They also have more experimental flavors — the rosemary, honey, and lemon was my personal favorite.
Where to shop
As our readers know, we love to connect with a local pet shop in each city that we visit. Upon arriving on a sweltering summer day in Rome with dangerously hot stone walkways, we realized how necessary it would be to find shoes for Quigley. A visit to Pet IT became our very first stop in Rome. Nestled in a quiet street just off the main shopping area of the Salario Quarter, this neighborhood gem provided just the care Quigley needed for a painless vacation, plus a few treats to make his day even better. Owner Oriana was even kind enough to sneak in a few extra head pats during a quick cappuccino break at the local cafe nearby.
Close by, Rinacente Piazza Fiume is one of a handful of upscale Rinacente shopping experiences. If you are looking for high-end shopping without having to dart around the city, look no further. Ready to brave the bustling streets? Via Dei Coronari is one of Rome’s finest streets for shopping and luckily many of the shops welcome your dog inside. No matter what you’re looking for, you can find a bit of everything along the route, and it’s also a charming street for wandering and window shopping – you might even occasionally stop off for a glass of prosecco and a bowl of water.
If you are more foodie than fashionista, Mercato Testaccio is a gem. Where contemporary meets ancient, this glass-roofed market sits on a Roman archeological site and features over 100 gourmet and fresh food stalls. Additionally, local artisans feature their accessories and home goods at a variety of stalls. Of course, a visit to Rome would not be complete without wandering through the outdoor markets: a few of our favorites include San Cosimato Market of Trastevere and Fontanella Borghese Market, which are both very dog-friendly.
Where to play
There are many places for dogs to frolic off-leash, but before we get to the parks, we must mention our most unique experience in Rome — a dog-friendly Vespa tour we booked through Vespa Sidecar! This tour features professional drivers and is lead by a licensed guide. Riding through nearly every highlight of Rome in a Vespa sidecar with Quigley on my lap, I was delighted by our guide’s extensive knowledge, quick humor, and at one point, his singing chops. If your dog enjoys car rides, they will be thrilled to take in the sights and sounds of a new city from their VIP sidecar perch. Also, locals and tourists alike swoon over the unstoppable combo of a happy puppy and classic Vespa.
After your tour, it’s time to stretch those legs! In addition to taking in the city sights, we made sure to visit a handful of parks. The famed Circus Maximus chariot racetrack is now home to the city’s most scenic off-leash park. Here, dogs race with other furry friends along the beaten paths with ancient ruins as a backdrop. If you prefer a more contained space, Tiber Island is also worth a visit. After crossing Rome’s oldest original bridge, visitors can find themselves a little piece of Italian magic. On the island, you and your dog can explore the shores, admire the basilica, and even enjoy an outdoor film if you visit during the summer months.Above all, our favorite walks took place amongst the beautiful landscapes of Villa Borghese. In typical Quigley fashion, he wanted to visit every fountain we passed within the largest public park in the city. Additional highlights for both human and hound alike included the Temple of Asclepius, the Pincio Promenade, and the breath-taking viewpoints at Terrazza del Pincio and Terrazza Viale del Belvedere.
Where to pose
Every location we’ve mentioned thus far could be included in this section, but there is much more to share. Thankfully for pet owners, the top places to pose with your pooch across Rome include the sights that people wish to visit, as well. For a few locations like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and Piazza della Rotonda (home of the Pantheon), we encourage you to set an alarm and visit at sunrise. Not only will the light be beautiful, but this is your singular chance to avoid the massive crowds. While dogs are not allowed inside the Colosseum, they are welcome to walk around the grounds outside the amphitheater, so you can still take in the sights.
If you would like to pair your photo-op with a blessing, head over to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City! Traditionally, locals and tourists will lift their baby towards the apartment of the Pope for a blessing. Considering that the current Pope took the name Francis, the patron saint of animals, I believe he is just as keen on blessing pets, so why not hold up your pup?
Once you have visited the most iconic backdrops of Rome, it’s time to head into a few of the more winsome Roman neighborhoods. Our favorite is Trastevere, whose cobbled roads, adorable cafes, and colorful architecture draped with ivy are too dreamy to skip. It’s no wonder why this area is deemed one of the most picturesque areas in Rome! Quartiere Coppedè, with its mosaics and frescoes, also provides a dose of much-appreciated whimsy. Throughout the city, also be sure to look out for fabulous street art, which can be found hidden along many of the smaller alleyways.
Where to escape
The floating city of Venice is easily accessible by train, and is the perfect weekend destination when Rome is your home base. After multiple visits to this enchanting town, I am confident of one thing: the secret to a perfect visit to Venice is to get off the main island. We stayed on the quiet island of Sant’Elena, resting our heads and delighting our taste buds at newly-restored Hotel Indigo Venice. Our room was just off the garden, where Quigley was able to run and play each morning and evening. Because we stayed in a more tranquil area of Venice, we were able to meander through the nearly empty maze of canals enroute to the popular San Marco’s Square. In the heat of the afternoon, we hopped onto the water bus to visit the public beaches of Lido Island, where Quigley happily snoozed after putting his toes in the water.
Rome and its surrounding areas has a little something for everyone–including your dog! Quigley and I enjoyed a number of adventures in the Eternal City, and no doubt you will too.