Rome, the “eternal city”, is so called because it is a place of great beauty, contrast and life. Rome is an ecletic city: the religious world centre of Catholic Church, the fabulous ruins of the centre of the Roman Empire, and modern, bustling Rome. All three seem incongruous, yet they live inside and beside each other with great ease. You will soon realise Rome was build to rule and dominate the world. Everything is on a massive scale, solid and “eternal”.
The biggest amphitheatre ever built and the ultimate symbol of imperial Rome. It’s every tourist’s rite of passage to stroll through the crumbling stadium, once sheethed in marble, and imagine the blood-spattered gladiatorial combats, the lions that once prowled the stadium, the roar of the crowd.
This former temple, now a church, is a must for any first visit to Rome – all granite Corinthian columns, colured marble and bronze doors. The centrepiece is the coffered concrete dome, with an oculus (circular opening) in the middle, where the light streams in.
The world’s most famous fountain, a Baroque explosion of tritons, winged horses and drinking snakes, gleams bright as the teeth of the Cheshire Cat. The water glitters with thousands of coins that tourists have tossed in (it racks up to €2000 each week; the coins are collected to fund a supermarket for the poor).
Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
Once most important meeting places in the world – where temples rubbed alongside brothels; streets tremored with triumphal processions and heaving markets; and squares thronged with spectators of fervid political debate and criminal trials. Despite its slightly sad, neglected state, the well-preserved ruins make it the most memorable attraction for many visitors to Rome.
Vatican City Part I: Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums
The world’s smallest city state and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is mind-blowing and blister-inducing in equal measure. The Sistine Chapel ceiling and the Roman sculpture-and-sarcophagi-stuffed Vatican Museums are normally top of a first-time visitor’s bucket list.
Vatican City Part II : St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square
The Basilica is one of the largest churches ever built, an Italian Renaissance beauty all papal tombs, neoclassical sculptures and frenziedly detailed reliefs. Those with the energy can climb the 871 steps to the top of the Basilica’s dome for 360-degree views of Vatican City. Fronting the monument is St. Peter’s Square, perhaps the most famous piazza on the planet.
If you only visit one art gallery in Rome, make it the grand daddy of all private art collections, crammed with classical antiquities, Baroque sculptures and paintings by Titian and Raphael. Admission is at two-hourly intervals; book a tickets with specific time slot in advance.
After a day’s sightseeing, head across the river Tiber to this cobblestoned, ivy-twined neighbourhood with slow-food trattorias, bare-brick microbeweries and graffiti-tattoed bars. Head over for for dinner and drinks as the sun sets to enjoy the street tambourine players and violinists, and enjoy an aperitivo on one of the terraces.
The Jewish Ghetto
Faded tangerine façades studded with memorial plaques; locals nattering in Giudeo-romanesco dialect fusing Italian and Hebrew; greasy, sugared smells wafting from Jewish bakery Boccione run by two rather curt sisters. No wonder that many visitors insist this is their favourite Roman neighbourhood.
This magnificent square decorated by a fountain by Benini is built on what was once the Stadium of Domitian, dating back to the first century AD; today it’s a popular gathering point for Romans with its bustling terraced cafés and seasonal fairgrounds.