Rome is a global epicentre of art, history and architecture, a byword for culture and one of the most fascinating capital cities on the planet, or as some would say, the Caput mundi (capital of the world). As a city break you’ll struggle to squeeze the main sights in over just one weekend. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, allow yourself plenty of time to visit this Italian masterpiece.
Historically, it was once the centre of an Empire for almost 1,000 years; its ancient past evident in its monuments such as the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, the Baths of Caracalla and the Castel Sant’Angelo. From the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican city to the National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome’s artistic legacy as a city is almost without rival. Expect to be dazzled by works of Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and Botticelli.
The Mediterranean climate and location of the city in the Lazio region, boardering the Tiber river make it perfect to explore anytime of year, but expect crowds in the summer, particularly around the Vatican city.
Getting there, getting around Rome
Ryanair and easyJet fly to Ciampino airport, from where it’s easy to catch a bus to take you to Termini station in the city. A single ticket on the Terravision bus will cost you about eight euros. The journey is about 45 minutes. BA and Alitailia flights fly to Fiumicino airport and to reach the city from there, hop on board the express train.
To get around the city go by foot or tram or take the metro. Trams operate around the edge of the city while the metro has two lines and is often very crowded.
Rome’s roads are legendary congestion traps, and drivers regularly fail to stop at red lights, so make sure you move with caution.
Beaches in Rome
The closest beach to Rome is Lido di Ostia which is located about 30 minutes away by train. Catch the train from Trenino station, close to Piramide. The beach is dotted with ice cream parlours and gets very busy in summer.
Alternatively Sperlonga beach is an hour away from Rome with trains running from Termini station to Fondi-Sperlonga in the south. Aim to get beyond the harbour and you’ll discover a huge sandy stretch of beach with a more peaceful atmosphere than that around the north of the headland.
Sightseeing in Rome
Roman ruins such as the Colosseum, the Forum and the Pantheon will jostle with other highlights including St Peter’s Square, the Trevi Fountain and the Sistine Chapel, for your attention.
Begin with a tour of the Colosseum, a gladiatorial amphitheatre which has stood the test of time, after which head to the Palatine and explore the ruins of this former majestic palace complex. The Roman Forum is the central area of ancient Rome, whose temples, including the Temple of Vespasian, and the Arch of Septimius Severus will leave you spellbound.
The Pyramid of Cestius and the Pantheon are also must-sees, as too are St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City and the Castel Sant’ Angelo, at one time a mausoleum, a prison and a papal residence.
If this wealth of sights leaves you breathless, relax with a gelati or expresso in one of the city’s main squares: the Piazza Navonna, Piazza di Spagna and St Peter’s Square, all of which are tourist attractions themselves.
Family attractions in Rome
Enjoy a wander through the Villa Borghese gardens. They can be reached by heading up the Spanish Steps and are home to some impressive villas such as the Borghese Gallery, with its collection of paintings and sculptures.
The Trevi Fountain is a Baroque wonder which attracts crowds of coin throwing tourists in the Quirinale district. Chuck one in and legend dictates you will return once again to Rome. This may explain why nearly 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain daily.
For a break from all the culture, the children should enjoy a trip to Luna Park; a five minute walk from the EUR Fermi stop, at Via delle Tre Fontane. It’s an old fashioned amusement park open on weekends.
Day trips in Rome
Allow yourself a whole day to explore the Vatican city, the papal residence which is the smallest state in the world. Here you’ll discover the Vatican museums where in lies the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms as well as St Peter’s Basilica.
The Sistine Chapel’s frescoes by Michelangelo are five hundred years old and are truly awesome, as too are Raphael’s decorative art works in the rooms which originally were used as Pope Julius II’s apartments.
St Peter’s Basilica, at 186 metres high, was constructed around 320 AD under the orders of Emperor Constantine. It’s possible to enter this bastion of Christianity, which houses 11 chapels and over 40 altars, and ascend to the dome, from where you’ll have a stunning perspective of St Peter’s Square and beyond.
To get away from Rome for a while, head out to the beautiful seaside town of Sperlonga or to Palestrina, originally an important Etruscan town, in the hills built on the ruins of a gigantic temple.
Eating out in Rome
Typical Italian meals can last eight or more courses. From antipasti starter delights including parma hams, bruschetta and buffalo mozzarella to the various pasta dishes made with rich tomato sauces and italian olive oil to some lip smackingly tasty deserts like Tiramasu and a huge range of ice creams, you won’t go hungry.
Traditional Roman cuisine can be found in the Trastevere area and between Piazza Navona and the Tiber. Antipasto dishes are particularly good and many restaurants allow you to make up your own selection. Artichokes, quinto quarto and zucchini are among the favourites in this Italian city. Expect to pay a lot more when earting out in central tourist locations like Piazza Navona and around the Pantheon though, compared to the Trastevere and Campo dei’ Fiori areas.
Make sure you try a good Italian wine with your meal such as a Barolo from the Piedmont region or a Chianti from Tuscany and expect a limoncello liqueur to finish off your meal.
Nightlife in Rome
Head out to the Trastevere area and while away the first part of your evening with a drink in one of the many cool bars in this area, like Bar San Callisto, or Ombre Rosse close to the Tiber river. The heart of this area is the Piazza di Santa Maria from which many alleys lead out like a small maze, and are a joy to explore or get lost in.
Opera and theatre-lovers will not be disappointed. Teatro Argentina is considered one of the most important theatres in Rome and dates back to 1732. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville was first performed here and today the theatre offers a variety of programmes. Teatro dell’Opera at Piazza Gigli has its own orchestra and ballet company and regularly puts on extravagant productions.
For nightclubbing, the area around Piramide metro station and the Via Ostiense is the place to be with a number of clubs.
Shopping in Rome
You’ll be in designer heaven if you head down the Spanish Steps to the Via del Coroso and Via dei Condotti. Expect to find Armani, Gucci, Prada and Versace among other big name stores in this area, whereas more boutique type stores can be found in the Centro Storico along theVia del Governo Vecchio.
Alternatively around the Vatican you can find any number of gift stalls offering souvenirs.