Ah, springtime in Italy. Trees are bursting with fresh buds, menus are about to overflow with fava-bean everything, and the most ridiculous election season in memory is coming to a head. On the left, we have Union Party leader Romano Prodi, the avuncular economics professor and former prime minister. And in the far right corner, we have Silvio Berlusconi, the richest man in Italy, who has compared himself to Jesus, Churchill, and Napoleon. Back in January, he vowed to remain celibate until the election (April 9–10). The absurdity is not lost on the Romans. Over dinner, they’ll tell you that Rome is not Italy (sound familiar?). And they have a point: Rome itself is enjoying a 7 percent rise in GDP while the rest of the country is sinking faster than Venice. But don’t let that fool you. Rome is no booming modern metropolis, either. Romans shun the temptations that cities like Paris, London, and, of course, New York have long embraced—cosmopolitanism, immigration, Starbucks. Instead, they’ve been concentrating on the things Rome has done best for millennia: art, architecture, fashion, and food. New shops are springing up almost hourly on Governo Vecchio and Via dei Prefetti, the scaffolding is finally coming down on the first new structure to be built inside the Aurelian Wall in 70 years, and Romans have their first set of three Michelin stars for the white-glove restaurant La Pergola (39-06-350-92152). Sometimes, change is good. But don’t worry: Some things never change. Like vegetables. And right now is a very critical moment in the Eternal City. The fava beans are coming.
If you like the bed-and-breakfast feel of the Inn at Irving Place, you’ll love the Hotel Santa Maria.
If you like the glamour of the Mercer, you’ll love the Hotel de Russie.
If you like the old-school charm of the St. Regis, you’ll love the Hassler.
If you like the style quotient of the Hotel on Rivington, you’ll love the Hotel Raphaël.
Next: A Starchitecture Tour