Remember the scene in “Roman Holiday” when Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck danced on a barge anchored in the Tiber? Well, that barge still exists. It is, in fact, the cheapest, most popular spot for evening dancing in Rome. The barge is tied to a dock on the Vatican side of the river, directly in front of the Castel Sant’ Angelo.
There’s no admission, and drinks are not so expensive. All through the evening, a record-player sends slow fox-trots over the waters, and you can either dance or simply sit on soft easy chairs and enjoy the river view-no one will urge you to buy more than one drink per person. I don’t know the name of the dance-barge; I don’t even know whether it has one.
Actually, the most popular form of evening entertainment in Rome is to sit at a sidewalk cafe on the Via Veneta, and watch the passing parade-a wonderfully varied procession of chic women, tailored men, types and characters of every sort. The cafes charge not much for a coffee, and a coffee will last you an hour.
An interesting sidelight: each year on the Via Veneta, one or two particular cafes become mystically selected as the places to sit. Their sidewalk tables are then fully packed, while the cafe next door-same prices, same decor-is empty and forlorn. In any event, be sure to spend a few evening hours simply sitting there over a budget coffee; you’ll be glad you did.
One last suggestion for evening activities: go to a museum. There is at least one major museum open every weekday night in Rome, between the hours of 9 and 11:30 p.m. That permits you to keep up with your sightseeing schedule in Rome, and to do it at the best time of day. While these late-hour evenings vary-and must always be currently checked-the lovely Borghese Museum seems to stay open late on Thursday nights, and the Capitoline Museums, atop the Campidoglio Hill (one of which is devoted to art, the other to sculpture, with one ticket admitting you to both), most definitely stay open late on Saturday evenings. And check to learn the late evening schedule of the fascinating Etruscan Museum, in the Valle Giulia, on the far side of the Borghese Gardens. It also has evening hours on one night a week, but the days vary.