Rome is a pretty compact city so you naturally come upon many of the famous sites just walking around.
This stylish city is a wonderful juxtaposition of ancient and modern, and with so much to see follow our guide to get the most out of Italian capital.
Even if you’re not interested in the religious heritage, a visit to The Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica is still worthwhile because it has artworks and sculptures collected by various popes over the centuries and the wonderful Sistine Chapel, painted ceiling by Michelangelo.
St Peter’s Basilica is home to Michelangelo’s breathtaking sculpture ‘Pieta’ and the tomb of St Peter. You can go down to the catacombs and see more of it (if you are interested in catacombs head right out of the walled part of Rome and marvel at La Catacomba di San Callisto and San Sebastian on the Via Appia Antica).
Outside St. Peter’s Square, the obelisk in the centre dates from 13th-century-BC Egypt and was brought to Rome in the 1st century to stand in Nero’s Circus nearby. Take time to check out the monumental colonnade surrounding the square and admire its 140 beautiful statues of saints.
If you are travelling as a family or a group of friends, rent an apartment instead of staying in a hotel. For example, Rent in Rome offers a luxury apartment right next to Vatican City sleeping up to six people and including a summer garden with a barbecue and a private gym for €180 (€30 per person).
If, however, you prefer the convenience of a hotel with a staffed reception and breakfast, try the Grand Master Hotel and Suites, situated in a historic building just around the corner from the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Rooms start at €120 for an ensuite double and include free WiFi, free minibar, and free breakfast.
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Must Be Seen At
The Piazza Navona is perfect for a morning cappuccino. The view of the three splendid fountains in this stunning Baroque square more than make up for the fact that the cafes and restaurants are a bit pricey.
In the first century this square was a stadium for athletics and chariot racing but more recently it has been the setting for several films. My waiter pointed out the apartment opposite where Sophia Loren’s character lived in 1964s ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’. Excerpts for Dan Brown’s ‘Angels & Demons’ and the 1970 adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel ‘Catch-22’ were also shot here.
The open-air market is held in the mornings at Campo de’ Fiori and offers great fresh fruit and vegetables. The piazza has a formidable statue of philosopher Giordano Bruno as well, who was burned at the stake there in 1600.
Shopping is, of course, a great Italian pastime so enjoy the adjoining street (Via dei Giubonnari), which has many clothing stores – and further delights await in the Via del Corso.
Try Giolitti, an ice cream shop (established 1900) in Via Uffici del Vicario, just north of the Pantheon, which was recommended to me as the most popular place to have a gelato.
The magnificent Pantheon which was built between 27 and 25 B.C. by the consul Agrippa, Prefect of the Emperor Augustus, is reportedly the most complete ancient building in the city. The tomb of the great artist Raphael is here and it’s still an active church.
You haven’t seen Rome if you don’t make at least a short visit to the ruins of theColosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. You have to pay to enter the Colosseum and the Forum but you can see a lot standing just outside.
Must See The View
The Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome, offers splendid views overlooking the Forum. Also, head to the top of Il Vittoriano museum complex, for stunning panoramas of the Piazza Venezia and beyond. Piazza Venezia is dominated by the ‘Altar of the Fatherland’ to honour Victor Emanuel II, unified Italy’s first king. This monument contains the tomb of the First World War’s unknown soldier; a museum of Italian Reunification and a cafe.
The cool, green Tiber river offers a wonderful setting in which to enjoy the odd glass of Prosecco, whether on a boat or in a bar. Outside, you can catch an exquisite view of St Peter’s Basilica from the Ponte Sant’Angelo, which is adorned by statues of angels and completed in 134 AD by Roman Emperor Hadrian – or the nearby Ponte Umberto. Watching the sun go down on these particular bridges and pondering how so many incredible sights can be squeezed into such a small area is for incurable romantics and the rest alike – there’s something for everyone.
Must Get Around
The bus and metro services in Rome are frequent, inexpensive and easy to use. The Metro currently has just two lines named A and B. The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Spanish Steps have Metro stations next to them and you can get within five minutes walk of the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Square. I got a 100-minute integrated ticket for €1.50, which got me around when needed. The Foreign Office website advises to “Take care on public transport and in crowded areas in Rome, especially around the main railway station ‘Termini’ and on the number 64 bus, which goes to and from St Peter’s Square”, due to bag-snatching and pick pocketing. Ignazio Marino, the mayor of Rome, has rebuffed claims as being unfair and says London is worse!
The OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card is a sightseeing pass that gives holders entry to top attractions in Rome and the Vatican City, as well as a Fast Track Entry, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, free guidebook and travelcard.