Lawrence Dallaglio: ‘Rome came very close to being a home fixture for me’

If things had been different Rome could have been a home match for you, right?

Ha. Yes, that’s right. Being half-Italian — my father is from Emilia-Romagna, in the north of Italy — I was eligible to play for Italy but ended up choosing England. I spent a lot of time in the country throughout my childhood. I have dual nationality. In fact, it was always a bone of contention whenever I traveled to Italy, as the country had compulsory military service until 2005 so I always had to queue at the Italian embassy to get special dispensation. It’s funny how careers change and we take different paths. But looking back on my playing career, I think I made the right call.

Main photo: Lawrence Dallaglio at the Colosseum during his playing days (Getty Images)

Lawrence Dallaglio in action against Italy (Getty Images)

Captaining England against Italy in their first-ever Six Nations campaign in 2000 must have been a huge honor?

It was a great feeling. I had a lot of family, from both sides, at the game — played in the smaller Stadio Flaminio back then, rather than the Stadio Olimpico. I remember we won by a margin (12-59) which wasn’t quite what the Italians were hoping for. We stayed at the Cavalieri, where they held the post-match dinner and reception. It was simply stunning; Rome, as everyone knows, is built on hills and the hotel has the most amazing view over most of the city. I took my dad with me and he was incredibly honored to get the role of official interpreter. But I remember that he was so nervous when I did my speech that he translated English into English!

Italy rugby fans
Italy fans enjoy the atmosphere before a match against England (Getty Images)

You must have been delighted to see Italy admitted into the tournament?

Of course. It’s a game I always looked forward to as a player and also now going there with the ITV team as a pundit. The city is just so unique. Beautiful but also ancient. Parts of it are definitely in need of an overhaul but that’s all part of the charm. The history is all around you and the people have this infectious energy. For rugby fans, the arrival of Italy on the Six Nations scene was a real treat: a bit of warmth and sunshine in the spring. The fixture tends to be around Valentine’s Day and there’s always a lot of men trying to convince their wives to come with them on a romantic break — then peeling off to watch the game. That’s generally the form.

Rome in springtime (Alamy)

You’ve got a rest day before or after a game in Rome. Where do you head for?

The Colosseum is clearly up there, particularly for a rugby player. As a gladiator, which is what rugby players are, let’s be honest — certainly not many survive — you’ve got to see it. I also love the spectacular architecture of the Pantheon; I go in there and find myself marvelling at how it was built. And the atmosphere of the area around the Trevi fountain is great. But really, the joy with Rome is that you can head down pretty much any side street and you’ll find something of interest like an ancient church of a characterful trattoria.

Speaking of which, tell us about the food…

It’s pretty much unbeatable. Rome’s got the lot. The thing about Italian food is it’s seasonal, regional, fresh and simple and in the south it’s cost-effective too; historically, people haven’t been able to afford to indulge themselves like perhaps they have in the more wealthy north of Italy. Rome is the home of carbonara, so I’ll always go for that. Seasonal artichokes too. I love saltimbocca (a dish made of veal wrapped with prosciutto and sage and marinated in wine, oil or saltwater); ossobuco (veal shanks); porchetta. You won’t go hungry.

Lawrence’s favorite Roman restaurants


A renowned veteran — 80 years and counting — focusing on traditional Tuscan dishes including cannelloni alla Nino (egg pasta rolls filled with beef enriched with a meat ragu and a light béchamel sauce); and bistecca di costa all’arrabbiata (sliced ​​rib-eye steak tenderised and cooked with oil, chilli and garlic).

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Rome Dal Bolognese
Dal Bolognese

Dal Bolognese

A third-generation restaurant in the heart of Rome specializing in traditional Emilian dishes, including tagliolini with culatello ham (from Zibello) in white sauce; and braised veal cheek with red wine sangiovese.

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Trattoria al Moro

Just a short walk from the Trevi Fountain square (Piazza do Trevi), this trattoria raids the best markets in the area for the ingredients for traditional Roman cuisine. Popular dishes include gnocchi alla romana and spaghetti with mullet bottarga.

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La Pigna

Within reach of the Campo de’ Fiori, La Pigna is authentic, packed full of locals, has an extensive wine list and it’s affordable too. The Pantheon is near by, once you’ve refueled. Must-trys include fettuccine con spigola e finnochio selvatico (fresh egg noodles with seabass and fennel).

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Rome Checco er Carettiere
Checco er Carettiere

Checco er Carettiere

First opened in 1935, the tavern is an institution for Trasteverini (Trastevere residents), and wears its history on its sleeve, with walls coated in murals, and black and white photographs from its illustrious history.

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Watch England play Italy in Rome in next season’s Six Nations (February 13) and enjoy three nights at a four-star hotel. For more details on our exclusive rugby break, see here

Click here to sponsor the riders competing in the Dallaglio Cycle Slam 2021 to raise funds for Dallaglio RugbyWorks, which helps disadvantaged youngsters.

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