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Rome's best restaurants for al fresco dining

Rome's best restaurants for al fresco dining

(CNN) —

The Eternal City of Rome is unquestionably one of the world's greatest cultural treasures, a beguiling mix of history both ancient and recent, architecture -- and food.

The beauty is that all three elements are often combined in dining destinations that truly take the breath away.

From humble, crumbling piazzas with easygoing charm to famous monuments that have stood for millennia, here are some of Rome's best table views for dining al fresco:

The elegant Eden Hotel, part of the Dorchester Collection, recently reopened following an 18-month renovation. One of its biggest draws has always been its hilltop location by the Villa Borghese, affording it showstopping views across the city's hills to St Peter's and the Vatican.

The vistas don't come better than from rooftop restaurants La Terrazza and Il Giardino. In the former, contemporary Mediterranean dishes join innovative Italian classics under the watchful eye of chef Fabio Ciervo.

At the adjacent Il Giardino, wraparound windows open up to give unrestricted views, while the most sought-after seats are outside, flanked by a wall of scented jasmine flowers in a vertical garden.

In a country whose cuisine is so closely linked to family, it doesn't get much more authentic than Arlù. Just steps from the Vatican and St Peter's Square, this place has been serving locals and visitors alike since 1959, with two young daughters now working alongside their parents.

The tables on the cobbled street outside are the most popular and make the perfect people-watching spot.

Dishes include an exemplary spaghetti carbonara: golden handmade pasta entwined with pancetta and egg yolk, a genuine Roman classic made from a recipe passed down the generations.

The historic Palazzo Braschi is the setting for Vivi Bistrot, a relaxed dining spot with a number of locations across Rome.

This is arguably their finest, however, as it overlooks the beautiful and bustling Piazza Navona, complete with sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or Fountain of the Four Rivers.

Vivi is open throughout the day from breakfast to lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails and dinner. They are proud of their organic cuisine and wines that touch on global influences.

As such you can order gazpacho, babaganoush or couscous alongside more familiar Italian dishes such as eggplant parmigiana or homemade lasagne.

Taking a food tour is a great way to experience some of Rome's lesser-known dining spots, and Italy4Real allows visitors to sample dishes from a number of restaurants, including well-kept secret Hostaria Costanza.

The historic restaurant lies under what remains of the Theater of Pompey, which dates back to 61 BCE. The interior features amazing vaulted dining rooms full of architectural quirks, while a quiet but charming typical Roman terrazza sits outside.

Expect perfect pasta, pumpkin flowers stuffed with ricotta, as well as carciofi alla Giudia, or Roman-Jewish fried artichokes dotted with lemon juice.

George and Amal Clooney and Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have dined at Dal Bolognese, so it's definitely a spot to see and be seen. Throw in other former diners such as Marlon Brando, Orson Welles and Maria Callas and you have the definitive A-List dining spot in Rome.

You shouldn't be looking at your fellow diners, however, because few squares in Rome are as beautiful as the Piazza del Popolo.

Their tortellini in brodo, vitello tonnato and Wagyu steaks are rightly famous. But naturally, given their name, it has to be the tagliatelle alla bolognese. Just make sure you never ask for it with spaghetti instead.

On the Vatican side of the Tiber, the cobbled narrow streets of Trastevere have in recent years become one of Rome's hippest neighborhoods. Students, artists and expats alike throng the scores of bars and restaurants in this formerly working-class district.

The charm is unmistakeable, nowhere more so than in humble local joint Da Augusto. "Del 1954" etched in glass above the door shows this is a stayer along with the constant waiting lines.

Outside piazza tables allow you to take in the unique Trastevere vibe amidst mopeds and graffiti tags on ancient walls, while bargain carafes of Chianti and no-nonsense plates of perfect pasta or tripe make you wish you could stay all night.

From local neighborhood feels to Rome's only three-Michelin-star restaurant, La Pergola lies atop the Rome Cavalieri hotel. Chef Heinz Beck oversees pricy but breathtaking dishes with views to match.

As always, the outdoor terrace features the best tables, but you'll be happy sitting anywhere when fagotelli La Pergola make their way to you. Parcels of pasta are filled with Pecorino cheese, egg yolks, salt, pepper and whipped cream in a plate of decadence, giving what Beck calls "an explosion of warm, rich flavor."

The elegant space exudes class. Classier still when accompanied by a 1922 Château Lafite Rothschild or 1945 Petrus.

The 17th-century Palazzo Manfredi hotel and its Michelin-star rooftop restaurant Aroma sit across from the Colosseum.

Here chef Giuseppe Di lorio combines Mediterranean flavors with traditional Roman cuisine. Don't even think about asking to see the view or have a quick drink, however. It's made very clear that the Colosseum terrace is strictly for diners.

Palm Court at the Hotel Hassler, another luxurious retreat near the Villa Borghese, is a romantic garden restaurant with ivy-clad stone walls.

The bar, meanwhile, looks like something dropped from a spaceship, but somehow it fits its ancient setting. Chef Francesco Apreda is at the helm in the kitchen and ensures that classics such as carpaccio and burrata are on point.

To take the romance level up a notch, there's live piano music daily in the evenings as the candles are lit.

Another neighborhood local to finish in the form of Zanzara, which is not far from the Vatican. Meaning "mosquito" in Italian, the restaurant's black and white interiors are elegant, while outside tables receive envious glances from passersby.

The plates are terrific but modestly priced. Tradition in Rome dictates that gnocchi are eaten on a Thursday, fish on Friday, tripe on Saturday and lasagne on Sunday, but the beauty of Zanzara is that you can order them any day of the week.

Elsewhere, salumi are a specialty, be they Spanish jamon or Italian prosciutto. Wines by the glass are a good deal and unsurprisingly are largely Italian in provenance.

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