Rome Destination Guide
While other cities have museums, Rome is a museum in itself. This famed centre of the Roman Empire – with its chaos, history and charm – is also a modern city of fashion and frescos, romance and pride. A typical itinerary may include a visit to the Vatican, Trevi Fountain and Colosseum. Drink in the grandeur of the ancient architecture, bask in the Mediterranean climate and lose yourself in the wonder of the unexpected finds. Your senses will be enticed by the colourful flower boxes on cobbled streets, laundry drying overhead and the aroma of fresh bread floating on the breeze.
Rome is not a city to see in a weekend. It’s best explored on foot, and the best way to soak up the City is to wander through the winding streets from piazza to piazza. Start at the bustling Piazza Navona, then head south through Campo dei Fiori, where you’ll find cafés and daily food and flower markets, to the beguiling Piazza Farnese, with its pair of fountains and Renaissance palace. Take in the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Emperor Hadrian’s Roman Pantheon before ending your day with the magnificent frescoes of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
From family run trattorias and pizzerias to fine dining restaurants, you’ll see Italian food in a whole new light. Traditional Roman fare is based on vegetables, particularly artichoke, and less expensive cuts of meat. Olive oil, garlic, chilli and mint feature often in seasoning and of course there’s pasta aplenty. Pizza is more a southern specialty so you might be disappointed if you come with high expectations on that front. Breakfast usually consists of a cappuccino or an espresso and it’s consumed while standing at the bar. Although Italians frown upon drinking cappuccinos after 11 am, it’s acceptable to have an espresso after dinner. Bread is served in restaurants, but not as a pre-dinner snack. Rather, it’s used to scoop up the delicious leftover sauce after a meal.
As it has a fine history of accommodating luxury, top hotels in Rome continue to cater to the well-heeled. There are international chains in grand historical buildings and fusions of the upmarket and informal in boutique hotels. There's no shortage of guesthouses, pensione, bed and breakfasts or mid-range properties either. Most visitors traditionally stay near the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, the Vatican and Trastevere. There's a concentration of cheap accommodation around Termini station but this can get a bit seedy at night, so take care.
In the Eternal City, shopping is elevated to an art form. The famous Via dei Condotti is home to most of the best-known Italian designers, and downtown you can visit vintage stores and boutiques on Via del Governo Vecchio. If you fancy taking home a marble bust (or a marble anything) Maurizio Grossi, on Via Margutta, is the place to be. Breathe in the smell of leather at the new Saddlers Union boutique – where artisans make bags, belts, wallets and briefcases. At My Cup of Tea, a delightful studio tucked off Via del Babuino, a changing roster of designers, artists, jewellers and milliners collaborate and sell their wares in a uniquely creative space. Stretch your credit card at Society if you love fine fabrics for your home.
When in Rome…
- This is the birth place of gelato. Enough said.
- Don’t be alarmed if the dress in the store seems a little tight (even if you have eaten all the gelato you can bear). Italian sizes are different to what you may be used to.
- The locals may drive, but this doesn’t mean it’s wise for the first time visitor.
- Romans aren’t likely to get their photo taken with a costumed gladiator at the Colosseum, so if you do, be aware that you’ll be expected to pay for the privilege.
- Many locals shut up shop (literally) for a couple of weeks in August to take their annual leave, so Rome won’t be entirely open for business if you come during this time.