Each year, thousands of tourists fall in love with the wonders of the Eternal City – so the old adage must be true: all paths do lead to Rome. The Italian capital can be observed under many different lenses: art and culture, cuisine, history, design and fashion. Turning over each of its cobblestones, we uncover the sights and sounds you’re bound to fall in love with, no matter your reason for visiting this charming destination.
Kick-start your trip with a delightful Italian coffee
To start the day as a true Roman, take a pit stop in one of the centre’s many bars for a classic croissant and cappuccino. The best coffee is from Sant’Eustachio il Caffè, established in the 1800s in the historic Palazzo Cenci, a stone’s throw from the Pantheon. Ranked among the top 70 historic shops in the city, this bar retains its traditional decor and that goliardic savoir-faire typical of the Roman bartender. Do not miss the “Gran Caffè”, served in a large cup – a mouth-watering speciality!
Make tracks for the must-see Colosseum
Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, and then renamed for its proximity to the Colossus of Nero, the Colosseum is a destination in its own right, that millions of tourists will flock to without fail. Past and present merge beautifully here: robust gladiators stand guard over this historic landmark, a real starting point for a journey back in time to the origins of Roman civilization, when it served as the largest amphitheatre at the time, capable of holding up to 80,000 spectators for a day of unrivalled entertainment.
Tuck into casual and honest trattoria fare
If there were an icon of Roman cuisine par excellence, it would undoubtedly be Trattoria Sora Lella. The Roman clapperboard of the big screen, Elena Fabrizi (commonly known as Sora Lella) was the spokesperson for home-made Roman cuisine, and the restaurant that takes her name is still located on Tiber Island – the city’s only island, located in the epicentre of Rome. Only once you’ve tried the Nonna Lella stewed meatballs, tasty Giudia artichokes, amatriciana gnocchi and popular oxtail, can you safely say that you’ve sampled all the flavors of Rome.
Visit key landmarks – from the sacred to the profane
Rome is a city of opposites. It holds the Vatican City and incomparable Sistine Chapel in its urban heart, as well as temples scattered amongst the ruins of the Imperial Forums, alongside archaeological evidence of the many faiths that co-existed within its walls. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also in Rome that you’ll find the Alchemical Door, which served as the entrance to the esoteric laboratory of Massimiliano Palombara – known in the 17th century for his passion for occult practices. And, for those charmed by the Da Vinci Code, a mysterious epigraph is still yet to be deciphered in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.
Uncover secret Rome
Wander to the top of the Aventine Hill, one of the famous Seven Hills on which Ancient Rome stands, and you’ll find a magical site that many locals keep secret: a door to the palace of the Knights of Malta, where you can spy on the city from its keyhole. An ancient children’s game, peeking through it will reveal spectacular views of St Peter’s Basilica and the city’s rooftops. Located near municipal orange and rose gardens, it’s the perfect place for an afternoon of romance.
Seek out the trendiest shops
The hippest neighbourhood of the moment in Rome is Rione Monti, a central area just a few steps from the Colosseum. Amongst historic alleys paved with cobblestones, you’ll find a series of original clothing and leather goods boutiques. On weekends, the neighbourhood is also full of vintage fashion enthusiasts who flock to the colourful Monti Market, the most famous urban market in the city. From indie vinyls to vintage polaroids, you’ll find many a treasure here. After some retail therapy, do not miss an aperitif at one of many outdoor wine bars on the famous Piazza della Madonna dei Monti square.
Settle down in the city’s most romantic corner
One of the most-loved destinations in the heart of the city is Villa Borghese, from where couples and romantics at heart can observe breath-taking sunsets with San Pietro and the Tiber Island as a backdrop. You’ll find more than 80 hectares of Italian and English-style gardens here, including historic buildings used as museums, a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe and the Casa del Cinema. In the heart of it all, hidden amongst luxuriant greenery, are also a pond and Neoclassical-style temple where you can rent a rowboat and let yourself be lulled by the soft waters and fairy-tale atmosphere.