The Jerry Thomas Project revives American speakeasy-style cocktail mixing in the heart of Rome. This intimate club was set up in 2010 by four skilled bartenders, Leonardo Leuci, Roberto Artusio, Antonio Parlapiano and Alessandro Procoli, who wanted to share their experience and knowledge with other bartenders as well as with curious drinkers. Leonardo Leuci shares the high points of the Trastevere neighbourhood, and some of his favourites from further afield, with Theresa Harold.
‘I love Trastevere because its tiny streets are full of great bars, bistros and cafés. There’s a constant holiday atmosphere and people always look friendly and relaxed even if they are just on their way home from work. You can also find small artisan shops or a nice vintage boutique.
‘For me, the most underrated sight is the church of Santa Maria. It’s amazing, but people seem to not notice it when they’re passing by, maybe because they’re too focused on where to go to eat. You’re most likely to find me in a bar known as Ma Che by the locals, which is the meeting point for most of the people in the neighbourhood. I also like Meccanismo in Piazza Trilussa, which is a nice cocktail bar and restaurant with a convivial atmosphere, elegant environment and friendly staff.
‘If I have friends visiting, I’ll take them to Appia Antica [the Appian Way], Castelli Romani [a group of wine-producing towns located a little way outside of the city], Ariccia [a picturesque town to the south-east of Rome] or Ostia Antica [an archaeological site near Rome’s Ostia district]. It’s a break from the frenzy and chaos of the city and these offer a perfect union between vineyards, lakes, forests, ancient art and gastronomy.
‘When I’m in Rome, my favourite walk is along Via del Governo Vecchio, in the heart of the city. The street is full of great vintage shops, organic restaurants, quirky cafés and ancient monuments, all within a five-minute walk of each other. I would strongly recommended checking out the view from the Pincio terrace, which looks out across Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo, Villa Borghese and many other main attractions.
‘In my downtime, I might well go to Ostia, especially in winter when the beach is almost deserted and you can really feel at one with the sea. I also find the Giardino degli Aranci on the Aventino, with the keyhole through which you can see San Pietro [Saint Peter’s basilica], very peaceful. It isn’t so hidden any more, but still worth a look. The Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano is one local secret. Although it’s considered a minor basilica, it’s a unique monument in the history of Rome, combining architecture, art and history in one.
‘My absolute top tip is to simply walk everywhere, walk and get lost – there’s always something to discover in the Eternal City.’