Rome's ultimate 'must-sees'
Dive into the world of gladiators, artists, and popes
Experience the Eternal City
Fall in love with the ancient architecture or visit Rome's wonderful museums
Get to know Rome
Central European Time (CET)
Rome's metro is laid out in a north-south, east-west cross, and they intersect at Termini Station. They're quite handy if you're staying near a stop, but if not... well, get to know the buses.
The system can seem complex at first, but routes are laid out in an easy-to-understand manner at stops. Buses are frequent, but subject to the low-level chaos that is Roman traffic!
Transit tickets are valid across all modes of public transport and readily available at vending machines at metro stations, major bus stops and at some bars and tobacconists. Don't forget to validate them after boarding the bus!
Rome has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry. Don't forget to pack sunscreen and hats too. If you happen to have a hand fan, throw that in too. Winters are cool, and it can even get a little cold - though it is still a Mediterranean climate. The mid-seasons of spring and fall tend to be pleasant and balmy, and are perfect times for al fresco dining in short-sleeved shirts.
Rome doesn't tend to get a lot of rain, but when it does it can be torrential. Check the weather report in the morning, just to be safe. Also, note that the plentiful fountains around town are fed by the aqueducts. Bring a water bottle and fill it up with the free, spring-fed cool water.
La Dolce Vita
This phrase (literally: "the sweet life") entered English parlance when the classic film of the same name debuted in 1960, and fans of Federico Fellini's film took to using it. But even before then, it’s been a part of Italian lingo. It refers not just to an enjoyment of life, but to actively savoring the lived experience. It's worth using your time in the Eternal City to really get to understand the concept. Make like a local and go for a passeggiata (stroll) in the evening air after your meal. Sip a morning cappuccino with friends at a table on the sidewalk. Get an extra scoop of gelato at the gelateria. Open a second bottle of Chianti. And of course: throw a coin in the Trevi to ensure your return to the Eternal City.
Life in Ancient Rome was pretty tough. And when the ancients needed entertainment, they got it in epic proportions at the Colosseum. Finished in 80 AD, it's the largest amphitheater ever built - it could hold up to 80,000 cheering spectators. They came to watch animal hunts, the recreation of famous battles and, of course, gladiators battling lions (and each other).
Today the Colosseum is a magnificent ruin. To quote Lord Byron, it is, "A ruin,—yet what ruin!" Enter and you can explore its vast interior, gaze up at the raked seating where the Roman masses sat, and look down on the floor area where the famous battles and hunts took place. Underneath the floor, there was a complicated system of hoists, ramps and trapdoors, allowing for beasts, men, and scenery to be raised into the arena.
Rome is rightly famous for its compelling history, but you’ll also find it to be a vibrant, dynamic European capital. Many of the ancient areas have become modern meccas for the young and hip. Creative cuisine, designer cocktails, and beautiful, smartly dressed people abound. Take some time to experience some of that famed dolce vita. Rione Monti, Trastevere, Testaccio and Pigneto are all great places to rub elbows with the capital's creative class.
If the ruins seem too ruined for your tastes, there's some incredible modern architecture. Highlights include MAXXI, a new museum that looks like a bent collection of oblong tubes, designed by the wonderful and recently deceased Zaha Hadid. And Renzo Piano's Auditorium Music Park, that resembles a futuristic space beetle on the move, is a sight to behold.
Squares and Fountains
Rome is famous for its charming squares. From the pleasantly self-contained Piazza della Rotonda in front of the ancient Pantheon, to the clamor of Piazza Navona, from the unrivaled people-watching of the Spanish Steps, to the fresh food and flowers on offer in Campo de Fiori, meandering from square to square is a great way to spend an atmospheric afternoon.
And as for fountains: you may find yourself turning corners and stumbling upon some of the most exquisite marbles waterworks you've ever seen. Piazza Navona's Fontana de Quattro Fiumi is awe-inspiring, and the Spanish Steps has its Barcaccia. But the hands-down favorite is the Fontana de Trevi – tossing a coin towards Neptune is said to ensure your return to the Eternal City. That's why an estimated €3,000 is launched into its waters every day (!)
Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
The art collection in the Vatican is truly unique because it defines not just an era or a region, but an entire civilization. Amassed over two millennia by the Popes, it's a truly historic (and unrivaled) collection of riches. It features artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo and Caravaggio, as well as the Collection of Modern Religious Art and works by more obscure, earlier painters.
The collection is laid out over 54 sale or galleries, in a one-way route. The final stop is the Sistine Chapel. Look above you and witness the fresco in the ceiling. Michelangelo changed the course of Western art when he worked on these from 1508-12. Unbelievably, he'd never worked in the medium before. Look behind you and you'll see his The Last Judgement on the wall above the altar, which he completed many years later.