Rome and the Bella Vita

Via Veneto’s reputation for elegance and glamour reaches back to the 1950s and ‘60s when the street was in its prime. Its upscale cafés and restaurants set the stage for an animated nightlife, attracting Hollywood film stars, members of the jet set, and trails of paparazzi. Federico Fellini’s portrayal of the extravagant and restless lifestyles of the elite in La Dolce Vita brought Via Veneto international fame in 1960; Via Veneto was at the heart of it all, its sidewalk cafés bustling with posh patrons as shiny luxury cars zoomed past, their drivers honking and calling out from open convertible tops.

While Via Veneto today attracts more tourists than it does VIP, its legacy of elegance and style carries on. Harry’s Bar, the epicenter of the “sweet life” of the ‘60s, sits firmly on its throne on the top of Via Veneto. Once opening its doors to royalty of the day like Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, and Coco Chanel, Harry’s Bar today remains a swanky spot for fine dining or drinking. Café de Paris, another classic featured heavily in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, lives on as well, catering mainly to tourists looking for a taste of its impressive past. And the Excelsior’s Doney restaurant, also a star of the ‘60s, hasn’t lost any of its splendor, remaining a chic and high-end place to dine. Via Veneto isn’t limited to historic venues though, and those craving a good, old American burger can feel right at home at the modern Hard Rock Café.

To add to its grandeur, Via Veneto is lined with five star hotels, including the historic Westin Excelsior and the Regina Hotel Baglioni. Shopping falls into the same category with expensive stores like Tarascio, which sells luxury watches and jewelry, and Brioni, a sophisticated clothing shop specializing in suits and evening wear. One of the most impressive buildings on Via Veneto is neither hotel nor shop, but rather the expansive American Embassy, housed in Palazzo Margherita.

You don’t have to subscribe to a lavish lifestyle to appreciate Via Veneto. Its location is unbeatable, placing you within steps of Rome’s most visited sites. The northern end of the street, just past Harry’s Bar, lies on the perimeter of the beautiful park, Villa Borghese, while the southern end spills out into the busy Piazza Barberini. From here, Via Tritone leads towards the Trevi Fountain as well as Via del Corso, the most popular shopping street in Rome. Back on Via Veneto, strollers can cut across Via Ludovisi and head to the mecca that is Piazza di Spagna, or the Spanish Steps.

(Photos courtesy of lefigaro.fr and classvenues.com)


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