Next Stop: Rome
One of the most romantic and charismatic cities in the world, Rome is a vibrant mix of architecture, art and exciting street life. Three thousand years of urban development are apparent in world-famous landmarks like the Colosseum, Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica and the Castel Sant’Angelo. Elsewhere, formal gardens and ornate piazzas with beautiful fountains are perfect places for gelato and people watching.
Climate: Average temperatures range from a low 3℃ in January to highs 31℃ in July.
The great gladiatorial arena is one of the city’s most ancient sights and most recognisable attractions. The 50,000 seat Colosseum was inaugurated in AD 80. Originally clad in travertine limestone and covered by a huge canvas awning the inside tiered seating gave a fantastic view from every angle. The 80 entrance arches, known as vomitoria, allowed the spectators to enter and be seated in a matter of minutes to watch the fights unfold!
One of the best preserved buildings of the Roman era, the Pantheon has, quite amazingly, been in continuous use since it first opened as a temple (to all gods, hence the name ‘pan – theon’) in around 125 AD. It’s now a Catholic church, officially known as the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres and still holds the record for the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, almost 2,000 years after its construction.
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican boasts one of the world’s greatest collections of art, archeology and ethno-anthropology. With over 4 miles of halls and corridors filled with displays, exhibits range from Egyptian mummies and truscan bronzes to ancient busts, old masters and modern paintings. If you have limited time in Rome, don’t miss the Museo Pio-Clementino, a suite of rooms frescoed by Raphael or the world-famous Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo.
St Peter’s Basilica
Considered ‘the greatest of all churches in Christendom’, St Peter’s is also the largest church in the world with one of the most lavishly decorated interiors you are likely to see anywhere. Though it’s not the mother church of Catholicism, it is an important place of pilgrimage with the pope presiding at a number of services. There have been plenty of secular pilgrims too. American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson called St Peter’s “an ornament of the earth … the sublime of the beautiful”.
Borghese Gallery and Gardens
The Borghese Gardens are perfect for a relaxing stroll in the shade. There are a number of villas here, including the Villa Borghese which houses one of the city’s premier art collections. More manageable than the Vatican Museums in terms of size, the collection here includes paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian, along with sculptures by Bernini. You will need to pre-book tickets for a 2-hour slot.
Instantly recognisable, the Trevi Fountain crowds the square it occupies with typical Baroque flourish. It’s believed that around €3,000 is thrown into the fountain every day. One coin safeguards your return to the Eternal City, two means you’ll return and fall in love and three guarantees a return, love AND marriage. There are, of course, no guarantees but the money is used for a good cause – to support Rome’s poorer communities.
What to eat: Artichokes – Due to the demand from both tourists and locals, you can find artichokes sold in markets and served in restaurants all year-round. ‘Arciofi alla giudia’ (a fried style of artichokes) are a popular dish.
Gelato – you can’t visit Rome without trying gelato. There are thousands of gelaterias selling scoops of classic flavours and whimsical originals, but look out for places like Otaleg, Fatamorgana, and Fior di Luna who are the most revered in the city.
What to drink: Coffee – Located on opposite sides of the Pantheon there is a rivalry between two long standing cafes, La Tazza d’Oro and Caffè Sant’Eustaccio. Having both been around for over 70 years, each has their own distinct style. Give them both a try and decide your favourite.
Per favore, potrei avere una pallina di gelato – please may I have one scoop of ice cream. Per favore, potrei avere un caffe macchiato e un caffe schiumato – please may I have one Macchiato coffee and one frothy coffee!