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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Or... everything old is new again

While in Istanbul last week I picked up the May special 'Europe' issue of US Travel + Leisure with a feature on "Hidden European Neighbourhoods". The author writes: "Beyoglu is now reclaiming its status as Istanbul's favourite playground". Yet Beyoglu has always been Istanbul's commercial heart and its main pedestrianised street is the city's main shopping boulevard. Beyoglu is hardly "hidden" and it has always had a buzz about it, especially in the evening when it seems the whole of Turkey is out shopping, eating and drinking. The neighbourhoods that have experienced a renaissance in recent years are Tunel, Cukurcuma and Cihangir, considered the coolest by locals and the most interesting to explore for travellers with their cutting-edge boutiques, music stores, vintage clothes shops, antique stores, hip cafes and bars. Take a look at 'Istanbul, the Undiscovered Capital of Cool', which we published in April 2007. I'm in Rome this week, so it's amusing to read that Ponte, Parione and Regola are the eternal city's latest hot spots. These neighbourhoods are a hop, skip and a jump from Piazza Navona and their well-trodden cobblestone streets have always been the focus of tourist activity. While they're lovely, again, they're far from "hidden". Monti is much more fascinating, with its music school, funky boutiques, design stores, and laidback trattorias, while gritty San Lorenzo is the city's bohemian heart. But then the residents of Monti and San Lorenzo would probably argue their 'hoods have always been hip.


Nomadic Matt said...

trestevre is the where the real rome is. I meet some romans this weekend and we all had a nice chat about it. it is my favorite area in rome.

turkey? italy? like i said, i want your profession! :)

Anonymous said...

I was in Rome very recently and I found it very crowded and touristy, but we only had two full days so we concentrated on seeing the sights - I wish I'd had more time to check out some of those more out of the way neighbourhoods.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Matt, Hi Heather

Thanks for commenting and apologies for taking so long to get back to you - we've been on the road in Calabria and it's been busy to say the least.

Matt, i totally agree with you that Trastavere is very cool - very down-to-earth, laidback, 'real', with very few tourists around, except in the restaurant quarter in teh evening. And yet we still found many simple trattorias and pizzerias which was 90% locals only. I was therefore surprised when I read an article recently that complained about how touristy it was. It was as if the story was written about a completely different place.

Heather, you're right, some parts of Rome can be uncomfortably crowded and touristy, especially around the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona, which aren't much fun anymore. But you need to see these places once and then get off the beaten track. But regardless, Rome still holds a certain charm for me - it's one of the few cities in the world where I'm willing to tolerate the tourist numbers to experience the history and beauty.