It's a pity that Rome's great monuments and museums sometimes eclipse the delights of its everyday life. But for a day away from the shuffling queues and the tour-bus crowd, head northeast out of the city center along Via Salaria so called because it was the ancient route along which salt was taken from the Mediterranean to the interior and make for the upscale streets around Villa Ada, Rome's largest park. There you will find Roman food, fashion and architecture at its very best, unsullied by checklist-ticking tourists.
After a quick morning espresso at one of the many charming neighborhood cafés on Via Nemorense, stop for a pastry fix at Pasticceria Cavalletti at No. 179-181, tel: (39-6) 8632 4814. It's home to the best millefoglie in Rome, if not Italy. Reportedly, Italian diplomats regularly ask for the ethereally light layered cake made of puff pastry alternated with barely sweetened whipped cream to be shipped in diplomatic pouches to their far-flung postings.
Fans of fresh buffalo mozzarella will want to call at MozzaRè, at No. 76, tel: (39-6) 8621 3453, for a luscious globe of the fresh milky cheese in its own bag of brine. Resist the temptation to bite into it until you can at least pick up a bottle of good olive oil and aged balsamic at L'Angolo dei Sapori (No. 45), a wonderful delicatessen stuffed with fine Italian dry goods, cured hams, cheese, excellent wines and tasty house-made antipasti.
When Via Nemorense turns into Via Tagliamento, take a short detour through the fantastical Piazza Mincio. In the 1920s, the famous Italian Art Nouveau architect Gino Coppedè unleashed his whimsical eccentricity there with a series of gargoyle-embellished apartment buildings. Take in his flamboyant creativity before exiting through the tiny Via Dora archway (making sure to look up at the overhead frescoes) and heading a few blocks over to Via Garigliano for lunch at Ristorante Il Garigliano. Located at No. 70a, tel: (39-6) 6855 1077, this local favorite has been serving Sardinian cuisine for more than 30 years. Don't miss the beguilingly simple bottarga linguini, made with dried mullet roe, or the roast suckling pig. If artichokes are in season, be sure to get a plate to share for the table. Simmered in white wine, olive oil, lemon, butter and parsley, their unctuous sweetness is a local treat not easily forgotten.
Nearby, the Viale Regina Margherita is filled with stylish boutiques that exemplify effortless Italian fashion. Blue Marlin & Co., at the corner of Via Salaria, is a typical example, stocking a selection of men's and women's clothing inspired by American casual wear, but with an Italian attention to detail. Back on Via Nemorense, at No. 39c, is the fabulous showroom of handbag designer Massimo Trulli, tel: (39-6) 8535 6500. The handmade, limited-edition purses and pocketbooks are printed with images of 20th century movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn, and make for a great souvenir.
If shopping isn't your thing, grab a gelato and head north on Via Salaria to Villa Ada for a stroll along pine-shadowed pathways, past sun-filled meadows and through ancient catacombs that rival the better-known tombs along the Appian Way. At 180 hectares in size, Villa Ada is big enough to both walk off your lunch and work up an appetite for dinner. Leave by skirting the westernmost edge of the park and walking south along its border. You'll end up near Ristorante La Scala, at Viale dei Parioli 79d, tel: (39-6) 808 3978. This cherished neighborhood institution has been serving up delicious Roman classics, from grilled calamari to delectable linguine cacio e pepe (Romano cheese and pepper), for generations. Locals would say La Scala is just as much a part of Roman life as the Forum or the Coliseum. And if you were to lift your nose out of the guidebooks for a moment, you would certainly agree.