Saturated with fine art, architectural genius and delectable food, it’s easy to see why millions of tourists flock to Rome every year. Based on the banks of the River Tiber, the city was founded in 753 BC according to Roman tradition, with thousands of years of ancient history providing a rich backdrop to the Italian capital. There’s so much to discover in just a short mini break that unlocking the secrets of the city can feel like a challenge. Luckily, Wowcher has the key!
Architecture and Art
Tourists always congregate at the Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world and home to some seriously impressive architectural and artistic feats (plus Pope Francis, of course). Whilst marvelling at Michelangelo’s ceiling is a must, there’s much more to see than just the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museums showcase tapestries, ceramics, mosaics, Renaissance masterpieces and much more, including the famous frescoes of the Raphael Rooms and a striking tapestry of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. You can also scale the heights of St Peter’s Basilica for views inside the Cupola and out across Rome.
If you fancy heading off the beaten track instead, take a trip to San Clemente. Tucked away on Via Labicana, the 12th century Basilica sits over a 2nd century pagan temple, with its initial foundations dating as far back as the Roman Republic. Visit the lower levels to peel back the layers of Roman history and you’ll be surrounded by the sounds of an ancient aqueduct filtering water from the Tiber, with a fountain of spring water bursting out of the wall. Forget the Trevi Fountain – throw a coin in here and make a wish!
Tip: If you want to beat the queues at the Vatican City, make sure you book tickets online before you go. There are lots of tour guides offering their services outside the gates, but be aware that some of the tours can be quite lengthy if you’re short on time.
The Heart of Rome
A trip to Rome wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Colosseum. Constructed in approximately 70 AD and used for gladiatorial competitions, dramatic public spectacles and grisly executions, the extraordinary arena emanates a sense of grandiose history and forgotten glory. To the east lies the ruins of the Roman Forum, the heart of ancient Roman life and home to the remains of the Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, Arch of Septimius Severus and much more. The Palantine Hill offers a great vantage point for panoramic views of the site – a combined ticket to see it all costs just €12, so buy yourself a selfie stick and get snapping!
Tip: Nip into the Altare della Patria (the big white building on Piazza Venezia) and take the elevator to the very top. For just €7 each you’ll get 360° views across the entire city, including an amazing view of the Colosseum and beyond.
Escaping the Crowds
If you fancy a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre, take a leisurely walk up the Spanish Steps to visit the landscaped gardens of Villa Borghese. The parkland features a beautiful lake, surrounded by willow trees and presided over by the majestic 18th century Temple of Aesculapius. It’s the perfect spot for an Italian-style picnic (think antipasti and wine) or a romantic boat ride for two. If you’re an art fan, finish your afternoon in the Galleria Borghese and explore the stunning selection of sculptures, paintings and antiquities from the 1st-3rd centuries AD.
Tip: Segways, bikes and pedal karts are available to hire if you want to explore the park during the summer months. You can also rent roller blades if you’re feeling really flash.
Dining and Nightlife
For a truly magical dining experience with one of the best views in Rome, the rooftop restaurant of Aroma is located directly opposite the Colosseum and boasts a gorgeous vista of the historic monument at night. The restaurant serves a delicious (if slightly pricey) menu of classic Italian dishes with a gourmet twist. If you fancy something a bit more down to earth (literally), there are hundreds of options elsewhere in the city – cross the Tiber to get lost in the maze of cobbled streets and charming piazzas in Trastevere, renowned for its vibrant array of bars, cafés and boutique shops, or wander the backstreets around the Pantheon to find a tucked away trattoria. If you’re hoping to fulfil your lifelong quest for the perfect pizza, you can have a good go at Li Rioni, a classic pizzeria that serves up its dough the traditional way – thin, crispy and topped with plenty of fresh tomato and mozzarella. Delizioso!
Tip: You can’t leave Rome without gobbling down at least one gelato (yes, they will probably stop you at the airport if you don’t). We recommend the creamy treats from Il Gelato Di San Crispino, a local legend that you can find just behind the Trevi Fountain.
If you’re planning an extended holiday, hop on a train from the central Termini Station in Rome to any number of hidden destinations on the Amalfi Coast. A 2-hour trip will get you as far as Naples, where you can take a scenic boat ride to the beautiful island of Capri. Sip on a glass of wine in La Piazzetta, the bustling square at the heart of island, or ascend the Belvedere Cannone for breath-taking views of the famous faraglioni rock formation. Naples is also an ideal gateway for trips to Sorrento, Positano or Pompeii, the ancient Roman town near the base of Mount Vesuvius. The possibilities are endless!
Tip: Termini Station also runs international train services to destinations such as Paris, Munich, Geneva, Basel and Vienna if you fancy going even further afield!
However you choose to spend your time in Rome, make sure you take some time to wander the old streets, soak up the relaxed atmosphere and experience the unique character that makes the city so special. After all, when in Rome, do as the Romans do…
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