“Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city,” renowned writer and literary critic Anatole Broyard once wrote, and as far as Rome travelogues go, this one’s pretty hard to beat. No place in the world stirs up emotions quite like the Eternal City. Stand in awe in front of the divine beauty of the Pietà in St Peter's Basilica, a celebration of both Michelangelo’s genius and the Italian High Renaissance. Give in to the joy of la dolce vita while you idly wander the streets of bohemian Trastevere with a gelato, as if you were on a never-ending Roman holiday. Admire the sweeping views over the bustle of Rome from the top of Gianicolo Hill and watch as the setting sun slowly turns the city golden. Imagine the rush gladiators felt when they stepped into the arena ready to meet their death in the robust Colosseum. And fall in love with a city that never stops, never changes and, as you’ll see, never lets you go.
For a former capital of an empire whose armies and ambitions once ruled over most of the western civilised world, Rome’s beginnings were quite humble. And for some, unfortunate: legend has it that twins-cum-demigods Romulus and Remus founded the city together in 753 BC but got into a fight over who should rule it. The former won, the latter got killed, and the rest is history. By 117 AD, the minor city-state turned into the mighty Roman Empire, which at its pinnacle stretched from the Scottish Highlands in the northwest to the Sahara Desert in the southeast. The empire eventually fell and yet, the might of Rome has never really dimmed. It has retained its hard-earned Caput Mundi (Capital of the World) status for centuries to come, having emerged as the spiritual and physical seat of the Roman Catholic Church, the birthplace of Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassicism, and following the unification of Italy, the country’s capital in 1870.
If there’s one piece of advice we can give you before your Rome city break, let it be this: book ahead to skip the lines. Snatch a combo ticket online for the triumvirate of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. The most iconic shape of Rome’s cityscape, the Colosseum was a gift from Emperor Vespasian to the Roman people, where 50,000 of them could watch the carnage of gladiator fights from the comfort of their seats. Climb up the Palatino (Palatine Hill) to walk around atmospheric ruins and look down to take in the Roman Forum in all its glory. Descend to where it all began: the Forum Romanum saw Romulus’s victory and the birth of an empire, and was the beating heart of Ancient Rome’s spiritual, political and social life.
The world’s smallest country, Vatican City (population: 594), is home to some truly grandiose sights, such as St Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums. The latter is a vast, sumptuous collection of 20,000 masterpieces, from Roman sculpture to Renaissance art. Prepare to get utterly floored but while you’re at it, take a good look at the ceiling. The Sistine Chapel’s frescoes by Michelangelo and Raphael’s frescoes in Stanze di Raffaello are the epitome of High Renaissance painting. Throw your own change among the €1.5 million worth of coins in the Trevi Fountain, the majestic Baroque fountain that co-starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Anita Ekberg in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Unwind after a culture-packed day at Piazza Navona, a buzzing medley of tourists, locals, street artists and more Baroque marvels.
Overall, Rome is blessed with a gentle Mediterranean climate with rare continental mood swings. Winters are mild and wet with chilly nights, while summers bring plenty of sunshine, interrupted by the occasional afternoon thunderstorm. Bear in mind that Roman holidays involve quite a bit of walking so late summer temperatures are not exactly prime weather for an action-packed city break. Time your trip between mid-April and mid-June or September and early October instead.
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