The Eternal City of Rome, the second most photographed city in the entire world next to New York, became Italy’s capital in 1870. Before that, the honor was bestowed upon Florence and Turin.
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Founded around 753 BC, metropolitan Rome is now home to more than four million people. Located on the western side of the Italian Peninsula, this “city with two capitals” includes the autonomous Vatican City, which serves as the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
You’ll find some of Italy’s most revered art and artifacts, such as Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican Museums.
Ancient Roman sites, such as the Colosseum and Forum still stand today. The striking remains of these centers of gladiators and government continue to stir visitors’ imaginations.
What To Do
Experience the enduring majesty of the nearly 2,000-year-old Roman Colosseum, once used for chariot races and other spectacles. Feel like a gladiator in ancient times when you visit the largest amphitheater ever built.
Visit the nearby remains of the Roman Forum’s government buildings and palaces, which once witnessed the rise and fall of a nation.
Walk through history in Vatican City’s St. Peters Basilica and the remarkable Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo’s renowned 16th-century paintings remain on its ceiling. These Renaissance paintings portray scenes from the Bible’s Book of Genesis, including the most famous, The Creation of Adam. Go on an exclusive tour and skip the lines.
There’s so much to do and see in this magical city. You may want to throw coins into the Trevi Fountain, where, as legend has it, you can ensure a return visit to Italy’s remarkable capital of Rome.
What To See
Be sure to visit the Roman Colosseum and Roman Forum, ancient centers of sport and government.
For a more modern view of the city, visit the renowned Scalina Spagna, or Spanish Steps, an excellent spot for people-watching and experiencing the city’s air of romance. The steps were initially named for the Renaissance church, Santissima Trinità dei Monti, located at the top of the stairs. During the 17th century, the area was considered Spanish territory, and its adjacent square was called Spanish Square (Piazza di Spagna). The steps were later renamed to honor the Spanish Embassy. Note the house on the right corner where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821.
Visit the legendary Trevi Fountain, designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732, and immortalized by Italian film director, Federico Fellini in La Dolce Vita. No matter where you go in this lively city, you’re sure to discover the good life.
It is believed that world’s first “shopping mall” was built by Emperor Trajan in Rome, where its remains exist to this day. Today, you’ll find an array of modern shops, such as the stores along via Condotti and via Borgognona, at the foot of the Spanish Steps.
In Rome, you’ll also discover stores showcasing of the world’s foremost designers.
Soak up the ambiance of Rome at night with a tour of the illuminated Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon.
See and be seen in the lively plazas of Campo de Fiori and Piazza Navona. Sample some of Rome’s magnificent wine and cuisine, night or day, at their many bars and restaurants.
Rome with Kids
Sample some of the world’s best gelato at one of the many gelaterias.
Teach the kids about ancient Roman history at the Roman Colosseum and Circus Maximus, built in 6th century BC, where ancient chariots raced. The remodeled structure today serves as a favorite location for rallies and concerts.
Visit the Borghese Gardens, an urban oasis, where kids of all ages can stretch their legs and enjoy the sunshine. Activities abound in this expansive park, and you can rent bikes or paddle boats. These beautiful gardens are also home to the city’s zoo.
Off the Beaten Path
Visit a cat sanctuary called Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome, where feral felines have an ancient temple-complex all to themselves.
Stroll along cobblestone streets and dine in romantic cafes in the delightful Piazza Santa Maria in this enchanting Trastevere neighborhood.
Travel a little further afield with a day trip to Pompeii or the picturesque Amalfi Coast.
Food and Drink
The Slow Food movement was inspired by Italy’s Arcigola Association in response to a fast food restaurant’s rumored opening at the base of the Spanish Steps. The campaign hopes to preserve traditional, sustainable regional cuisine, a perfect manifesto for both Italy and France, where it originated.
Italy’s fertile, sun-blessed fields and surrounding seas provide vacationers and citizens with a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, handmade pasta and local meats.
Try some focaccia-style pizza bread, called pizza bianca, or white pizza, for a molto delizioso treat.
Pasta lovers (and who isn’t?) must try pasta carbonara, made with eggs, guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino Romano (sheep’s milk cheese), and white wine. Refresh your palate with some sweet and salty prosciutto e melone.
And cool off with some creamy gelato, believed to have been created by Bernardo Buontaleni for the court of Catherina dei Medici in 16th century Italy.
When to Go
Spring and fall are the best times to visit Rome. Summers can be uncomfortably hot and humid, and much of Italy goes on vacation in August.