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Rome Travel Guide

flights to Rome

Rome; the eternal city. The place of legends. A city so steeped in history you can virtually taste it. 21st Century Rome has lost little of its awesome splendour, the concessions to modern times tucked respectfully between the domineering ancient architecture. The drama, the tragedy, the heroism and the romance have left and indelible mark on both the city and its inhabitants who somehow manage to unite Italian coolness with pride in their illustrious heritage. First time visitors could be forgiven for roaming the streets in a permanent stupor such is the magnificence and awe-inspiring splendour of the surroundings. There are many reasons to visit Rome - to find love, solace, redemption, enlightenment; to walk where our ancestors walked, to marvel and feel humbled whatever the reason for coming it will inevitably be a journey of discovery.

If you were to visit only one of Rome’s splendid landmarks it would have to be the Colosseum. Immortalised in a dozen Hollywood epics, the world’s most famous amphitheatre still manages to take your breath away in an age where 88 storey buildings reach for the skies. Built in AD 72 by the Emperor Vespasian for gory gladiatorial combat and wild animal fights, the 55,000-seater stadium remains a stunning piece of architectural innovation. Even the throngs of visitors and mock-up legionnaires vying for photo opportunities cannot dilute the uneasy stillness that pervades every nook and cranny of the great arena. Walking through the cold shadowy silence of the passages and entrances is a profound experience that resonates with the memories of thousands of violent deaths. And, in the shadow of the mighty Colosseum, past the Arch of Titus stand the remains of Rome’s ancient heart The Roman Forum.

As a contemporary observer once wrote of the Forum: I can show you the place where you could easily find every kind of man. It is true. Once a bustling market place at the centre of the city, filled with stall and brothels, it was transformed in the second century BC into a grandiose ceremonial centre. Today it is strewn with the remains of some of the most important buildings, temples and monuments in the City, from the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Temple of Venus and Rome to the magnificent Basilica of Constantine and the House of the Vestal Virgins. Wherever you are in the City centre it is impossible to escape Roman relics the 98ft Trajan’s Column, The Baths of Diocletian and the unbelievably well preserved, sublime architectural masterpiece, The Pantheon. You can follow The Appian Way to Circus of Maxentius, once the venue for the most spectacular of Roman entertainment, the Chariot Race, which regularly pulled crowds of up to 200,000. Along the road you’ll also find the catacombs miles of tunnels carved into volcanic rock that served as both refuge and burial place for early Christians.

Whatever you religious views, the Vatican City is also one of the prime places to visit, if only to post a letter franked from the world’s smallest sovereign state. Covering a tiny 106 acres, it sits across the Tiber, its myriad treasures virtually dripping into majestic water. Prepare to be truly amazed. It is impossible not to be moved by the artistic and spiritual wonders of this most holy of places. Within the City you’ll find the most famous church on the planet, St. Peter's Basilica, countless museums brimming with the cream of the Renaissance art, and of course, the Sistine Chapel adorned with some of Michelangelo’s most famous work. The lengthy restoration of the past few years has revealed that the Sistine Chapel ceiling, instead of being quite dark and gloomy is actually awash with vibrant bright colours and is a definite ‘must-see’ when popping in to see the Pope. Be aware though, the Vatican has a strict dress code and you will definitely be turned away in short trousers, short skirts and dresses and anything without sleeves or deemed inappropriate (use your common sense).

Back on the east side of the Tiber, the Piazza Navona, in the area of Rome known as the centro storico, is one of the city’s most beautiful meeting places. Inhabited for at least two thousand years, it was built on top of the ancient Domitian Roman Stadium, which seated even more than the Colosseum - hence it’s unusual shape. Against an exquisite backdrop of three baroque fountains and intricate buildings are antique shops, suave restaurants and cafes. Performance artists and musicians entertain passers-by whilst stallholders and painters endeavour to sell their wares. This is the ultimate place to meet up with friends before heading off to find one of the hundreds of trattorias in this historic area. The maze of narrow streets around the Piazza Navona is filled with countless fairy-lit restaurants nestling in dark corners where you would least expect. Meals can be as cheap or as expensive as you want them to be, but a cheap good size pizza with red wine wouldn’t set you back too much more than 15,000 lire/£5.

Rome is also one of the top destinations in the world for shopping, from the designer stores of the Piazza di Spagna and the surrounding Via del Babuino to the more mainstream shops on the Via Nazionale and Via del Corso. Vintage second hand clothes can be picked up in abundance on Via del Governo Vecchio or in San Giovanni`s Via Sannio market or failing that, check out the Via Appia Nuova - the longest shopping street in Europe. Romantics should check out the Piazza Campo de` Fiori, the place where Julius Caesar was murdered and is now one of the trendiest places to live in Rome. The colourful markets held here range from clothes and jewellery, to fresh food and books.

As classical writers noted, when Roma is spelt backwards it becomes amor and it that respect the City certainly lives up to its name. Whether it is love you seek or a return visit everyone should take time to cast those coins in the Trevi Fountain or rest a while on the Spanish Steps immortalised by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory peck in Roman Holiday. Stroll up to Capitoline Hill and gaze at the Victor Emmanuel (Wedding Cake) Monument or simply kick back outside one of the plethora of cafes and watch the world go by. Above all the City is a celebration of three thousand years of culture and as such it remains unrivalled. Pay a visit and you will realise that all roads really do lead to Rome.

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