As Italy’s capital, Rome is at the heart of politics and culture, and millions of tourists flock to see its historic sights, soak in its cultural offerings and spend hours exploring its boutiques, markets and spectacular scenery. Built on the Tiber river and surrounded by the seven hills, Rome is not far from Italy’s west coast, and its beauty really cannot be overstated.
There is much to appreciate here, and many modern attractions to complement the historic centre. Rome is well known as an excellent shopping destination, where designer brands rub shoulders with artisanal products on the city’s famed shopping streets. Its vibrant nightlife owes much to the diverse mix of venues and vibes Rome has to offer, from elegant restaurants to trendy bars and clubs where the dancing carries on to sunrise and beyond.
Other unmissable attractions include the Trevi Fountain (made famous by Anita Ekberg in a classic scene from 'La Dolce Vita'), the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, world-famous churches such as Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano and Il Gesu and of course the Vatican City, boasting the awesome St. Peter's Basilica and vastly opulent Vatican Museums (open daily, except Sundays).
One of Rome's best collections of ceiling frescoes is housed at Palazzo Barberini on the Quirinale, while the Galleria Borghese hosts a collection of phenomenal art. The privately owned Galleria Doria Pamphilj is always worth a visit, featuring paintings, furniture and statuary dating back to the 16th century, assembled through the years by the princely Roman family Doria Pamphilj. Housed in a palazzo in the Villa Borghese park, the National Gallery of Modern Art contains 19th- and 20th century works by artists such as Monet, Cezanne and the Macchiaioli - the Italian Impressionists. The gardens contain many sculptures, among them several Canova masterpieces.
At night, Rome's monuments take on an even more imposing aspect, seductively lit for an incomparable backdrop when dining al fresco in the city's famous piazzas, walking its romantic streets or stopping atop one of the city's famous hills. For an equally memorable experience, take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the beautiful Villa Borghese Gardens, offering wonderful panoramas of the city.
There is also much to see below ground: Rome's collection of subterranean churches, burial grounds and grottos are renowned, the most famous being the Coliseum where archaeologists are still digging up gladiator and animal bones secreted below. Take a look beneath the Vatican City, Nero's Domus Aurea and the Basilica of San Clemente.
Appealing excursions from Rome include the baths and temples at Ostia - the ancient port of Rome - the ancient medieval town of Tivoli and the Roman castles (Castelli Romani) hilltowns south of the city.
Cool, Hip and Trendy Rome
For a taste of modern Rome, visit Freni e Frizioni in Trastevere. A former garage, this bar’s eclectic interior attracts a young crowd, who tuck into mojitos and abundant aperitivo snacks. For something more bohemian, try Bar del Fico, near Piazza Navona. This brightly lit bar gets its name from a fig tree in the piazza; regulars often pop in for a game of chess and late night drinks. A cut above the rest is Antico Caffe della Pace, a rather glamorous 19th century bar which attracts Rome’s beautiful people. At Cafe Rosati in the pretty Piazza del Popolo, artists, actors and the Italian literati gather for late night drinks.
If you prefer to dance, join Rome’s bright young things at Ex-Magazzini, a hyper-trendy disco in Testaccio with a glass floor/ceiling dividing the upper and lower bars. The music is a mix of rock and drum 'n bass. Another must-see is Goa, a techno-disco club in the Ostiense area whose steel decor, bright colours and jungle, hip-hop and electronic sounds combine to give a sharp industrial feel. It features a gay night every Tuesday. If jazz, funk and soul is more your bag, try the Micca Club, which is located in a converted wine cellar and attracts an arty crowd. Salsa lovers will find a home at Caruso Café de Oriente, playing Cuban and Latin American dance music. Akab in Testaccio is another popular avante garde club, featuring subterranean VIP lounges and drawing in the crowds with house, hip-hop and commercial beats.