My Top Ten Things You Must Do In Rome, Italy
Whether you're interested in art, architecture, history or shopping and eating, there's something to suit you in Rome, the Eternal City. Here are ten of the things I most enjoy about the city. Steeped in history, the historic centre is surprisingly compact and many of the important sites are within easy walking distance of each other. There's also a great subway system that will take you close to many of the places you'll want to visit.
Throw a Coin into the Trevi Fountain
You'll need to fight your way through crowds of eager tourists to get a clear glimpse of this Baroque masterpiece. The central figure of the fountain, Oceanus, is flanked by two Tritons, who symbolise the contrasting wildness and calmness of the sea. Construction on the fountain was begun in 1732 and following the death of Nicolo Salvi who designed it, work was completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762.
Tradition has it that if you throw a coin in the fountain, it is guaranteed that you will return to Rome. Fans of Fellini's film La Dolce Vita should beware that emulating Anita Ekberg and jumping into the fountain is likely to get you arrested.
Visit the Villa Borghese
Originally, a garden of earthly delights, designed for the pleasure-loving Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the early 17th century, the Villa Borghese offers many different attractions for modern visitors, including the Galleria Borghese which houses an impressive collection of sculptures by Bernini as well as paintings by Titian and Caravaggio. There's also a modern art museum, a zoo and extensive gardens for walking, enjoying a picnic, or boating on the lake. A fantastic spot for a break from the bustle of the city.
Go to the Colosseum
Built for the Emperor Vespasian in AD 72, the Colosseum held up to 50,000 people, eager to see the spectacle of the games. Despite the passing of almost two millenia, the structure remains impressive and a visit to the arena will not disappoint.
The centre of politics, trade and gossip, the Foro Romano was part of the day to day lives of many in ancient Rome. Some of the highlights for visitors are the Senate House, the elegant columns which had once formed part of the Temple of Castor and Pollus and the Arch of Titus. Although many of the buildings are now in ruins, you still get an incredible sense of the scale and grandeur of the Forum in its prime. Plus, there's no admission charge, and you can't really argue with that!
The Palatine Hill overlooking the Roman Forum is one of the seven hills of Rome. It is also one of the most ancient parts of the city and was where the elite built their magnificent palaces and villas. For a modest fee, you can gain entrance to the Palatine Hill and wander around the ancient ruins of the Imperial Palace and other buildings. At the top of the hill is a 17th century Pavillion which affords amazing views of the Forum.
Visit the Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museum houses some of the most incredible art works and archaeological treasures. You may have to queue for some time to get in and as you move through the first few rooms, you might feel as though you're being swept along with the throng, but take heart, the herd does thin out after a while. Be sure to look at the spectacular paintings on the ceilings and then soak up the serenity as you enter the Sistine Chapel. Being part of the crowd, staring in silent awe at the ceiling, one of Michelangelo's masterpieces is a genuinely moving experience.
A visit to St Peter's Basilica is well worth it, no matter what your religious beliefs. Admission to the church is free but if you want to go up into the dome, there is a fee. Stand in St Peter's square and soak up the atmosphere and whatever you do, don't forget to look up to see some of the impressive features of the architecture and the magnificent statues of the saints looking down on you.
Books About The Vatican
Shop on the Via Condotti
Leading off from the Piazza di Spagna is the Via Condotti, Rome's chicest shopping street where all the major designers have their stores. The best of Italian fashion is available here and famous Italian design houses such as Armani, Gucci and Ferragamo can be found here. Great for shopping if your budget stretches to the luxurious and great for window-shopping if it doesn't.
Navigate past the young lovers cuddling on the steps and make your way to the top of the Spanish Steps for a fantastic view over the piazza below. At the top of the steps is the beautiful Trinita dei Monti church and at the bottom, you'll find the Keats-Shelley Memorial House where the poet John Keats died in 1821.
Guidebooks for Rome
Babingtons Tea Room
Founded in 1893 by two English ladies, Babingtons is a great little tea room,at the foot of the Spanish Steps. It's not cheap, but you can recharge your batteries after a morning of sightseeing, with a very nice afternoon tea. When you walk through the door, you feel like you've stepped back into a more genteel time, and it's well worth a visit.