Your Rome holiday
A weekend in Rome—the capital of Italy and, for a long time, the western world—is something everyone has to experience in their lifetime. As you pass from one historical monument to another, you’ll feel as though you are wandering around a giant open-air museum. But modern Rome is also full of chic bars, eclectic restaurants and stylish designer shops.
Don’t hesitate to jump on a flight to Rome and discover for yourself why it is known as the ‘Eternal City’.
The city of Rome has existed for more than two and a half millennia. As a republic from around 500 BC, Rome developed and adapted a culture and society based on Greek civilisation. At the same time, the efficient military machine was expanding the territory administered from Rome at a frightening pace.
By the time Julius Caesar overpowered the Senate in 59 BC, the Roman Empire had spread through much of the Mediterranean region. Caesar continued to conquer new lands, but measures to increase his personal power over Rome were unpopular, and he was assassinated after just a short period as leader.
A string of sometimes visionary, sometimes erratic emperors over the next few centuries built many of Rome’s most famous monuments. But internal disputes continually threatened the stability of the Empire, which eventually split into east and west at the end of the third century.
After many years in decline, Rome was overrun by German tribes at the turn of the fifth century. The city became a battleground for various empires, and beset by war and disease, the urban population dwindled. The Catholic Church increased its influence at this time, with the powerful popes leading as Holy Emperors of Rome. The next most important period in Roman history was the Renaissance, which began in the 15th century. Artists like Michelangelo and Raphael were heavily involved in the city’s comprehensive makeover, when some of its finest cultural treasures were created.
In 1871, after Italy had been reunified, Rome was named as capital of the new state.
Best time to take a vacation to Rome
The weather in Rome is pleasant throughout the year. The coolest months of the year are January and February, when temperatures are between 4Â°C at night and 12 to 13Â°C during the day. July is the hottest and sunniest month, with 11 hours of sunlight per day, highs of 31Â°C and lows of 18Â°C. July and August are the peak tourism months, and Rome offers a quieter atmosphere in warm and sunny May or slightly rainier October. Ebookers has great deals for air tickets as well as hotels and rental cars no matter when you want to visit Rome.
Insider tips for Rome travel
The Park of Aqueducts
Dating back to 312 BC, the ancient Roman aqueducts in this historical park supplied the city with water.
Baths of Caracalla (Termi de Caracalla)
In the summer, you can watch operatic performances at the site of public baths that were built by the Roman emperor Caracalla.
The Protestant Cemetery and the Pyramid
Poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried here, and Keats' grave lies not far from the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius.
A cat sanctuary amid the Torre Argentina ruins houses 400 of the most fortunate of Rome's 300,000 stray cats.
This neighbourhood is a must-see for those who enjoy a bohemian, avant-garde atmosphere that is dominated by inexpensive student bars and cafÃ©s.
Experience an al Fresco Opera
What better place to listen to opera than the country in which it was invented? The Teatro dell’Opera is where the big productions are held, though you’d be forgiven for focusing your attention on the impressive collection of frescoes as much as the singers. During the summer months, shows are often held outdoors, with the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla providing an achingly attractive backdrop.
Become a Gladiator
Get handy with a sword and sandals with Gruppo Storico Romano, an independent history group that offers the chance to train at a modern gladiator school. Tourists will like the casual one-day option, though the centre also offers two-month training courses for those who really want to release their inner Russell Crowe.
Shop for Style
Make the most of your Italian holiday to improve your fashion credentials. From household names to up-and-coming local designers, there are stylish outfits to be found all over the city. The area near the Piazza di Spagna is where the top-end stores are clustered, while the Via del Governo Vecchio and Via del Corso offer a less expensive path to elegance.
Soak in Traditional Baths
After visiting some of the ancient Roman baths, you might be tempted to try the modern version. The AcquaMadre Hammam, in the Jewish quarter, is a monument to relaxation and well-being; a mixture of hot and cold baths and massage therapy will invigorate the body before the next round of sightseeing.
Take a Day Trip to Pompeii
Rome has more than enough to keep its guests entertained, but the drive through rolling vineyards towards Mount Vesuvius is a tempting alternative activity. Near the base of the infamous volcano is Pompeii, the town buried by a giant eruption nearly 2,000 years ago. Though the population was wiped out, the excavated remains of the city are beautifully preserved, and offer a great insight into day-to-day life when the Roman Empire ruled the world.
Top Rome attractions
One of the world’s most recognisable monuments, this colossal stadium was where Roman emperors would curry favour with the masses by providing bloody entertainment on an epic scale (one bout of ‘games’ lasted over 100 days and involved around 10,000 gladiators and wild beasts fighting to the death). The crumbling ruins are breathtaking, and since mid 2010 visitors have also been able to tour the Colosseum’s underground chambers, where gladiators and ferocious beasts were held before a fight.
The ‘Temple of the Gods’—as it was known until it was converted into a Christian church—is arguably the top architectural triumph of the Roman Empire. From the sturdy, commanding columns at the entrance to the remarkably well-preserved marble interior, the building is magnificent. But the true testament to its visionary leaders is the mighty dome, which remained the world’s largest for almost 1,500 years. Even today, there is no other dome of similar dimensions built without reinforced concrete.
This enclave of the city is actually the smallest country on the planet, though its widespread influence as the heart and soul of the Catholic Church more than makes up for its size. But you don’t have to be religious to marvel at St. Peter’s Basilica— the burial spot of the first pope—and the world-beating collection of fine art and sculptures in the vast Vatican Museums.
Though relatively modern at barely 300 years, this world-renowned staircase, which connects the Piazza di Spagna with the Trinità Church, is one of the city’s most popular spots for tourists and locals alike. The photogenic structure is especially attractive in spring, when adorned with white and pink azaleas. And for some trivia: the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant near the steps in the mid 1980s inspired the slow food movement, which promotes sustainable gastronomy throughout the world.
The remains of the historical centre of ancient Roman social and political life include the Arch of Titus and the Temple of Saturn.
Church of San Luigi dei Francesi
This church features the famous depiction of the life of St. Matthew by the great 15th-century artist Caravaggio.
The building in which the art collection of Cardinal Borghese is housed is as much an artistic monument as the sculptures and paintings inside.
Experience the special flavours of the wines, cheeses and smoked meats of Italy in this family owned wine cellar.
This square dates back to the Baroque period and features the Bernini fountains and the Church of Sant'Agnese.
Fontana di Trevi
This is the legendary fountain of Rome where whoever throws a coin into it will supposedly return to the city.
The Sistine Chapel
Located within the Vatican City, this church is the site of the famed ceiling paintings by Michelangelo.
This ancient stadium was built for 55,000 spectators, who watched gladiators and wild animals fight to the death.
This historical museum has served as a prison and a papal residence, although it was originally built as a mausoleum.
Piazza di Spagna
This 18th-century square features the renowned Spanish Steps, which lead to the 15th-century Trinitadei Monti church.
Where to stay in Rome
Almost falling under the shadow of the Colosseum, the charming Inn at the Roman Forum Hotel is nicely placed for discovering ancient Rome’s historic treasures. In fact, the hotel itself houses some ruins of its own, in a stone gallery. There are only a handful of rooms at this boutique lodging, but each is finely furnished and equipped to five-star standards.
Close to Vatican City, the Grand Hotel Palazzo Carpegna is set among pleasant gardens a little away from the hectic city centre. The grand building has recently been renovated, and rooms now have a cutting-edge design and are decked out with the latest technology. The hotel also boats a decent in-house restaurant and some rooms have special features for wheelchair users.
If you’d rather forgo luxury and find a no-nonsense, good value place to stay while you explore Rome, the Impero Hotel is an excellent option. The location by the opera house means most major sights and activities are reachable on foot, while the petite rooms are surprisingly comfortable.
In the middle of one of Rome’s most fashionable districts, the Romanico Palace Hotel is infused with Italian art and culture. The hand-painted frescoes on headboards of deluxe beds are a constant reminder of where you are, while the stack of Roman literature in the hotel bar is a good accompaniment to a long cocktail.
As a major tourist destination Rome offers thousands of sleeping options, so, no matter what your requirements, you’ll easily find the right hotel in Rome for you.
How to move around in Rome
Your flight to Rome will land at the Fiumicino ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ Airport, around 30 kilometres away.
The smooth Leonardo Express train runs from the main terminal to the centre throughout the day, with the journey costing €11 (£9) and lasting around half an hour. There is also a shuttle bus that is a little cheaper but takes twice as long, while a taxi will set you back around €40 (£35).
Getting around Rome
Between the numerous buses, trams and underground, the public transport systems cover Rome very well. Standard tickets, which start at €1 for a single journey, have to be bought from ‘Tabacchi’ shops and are compatible with the different types of public transport. You can also get a different view of the city during a cruise along the River Tiber.
If you are staying for at least three days, consider buying a €25 (£20) Roma Pass, which entitles you to free use of public transport, as well as admission into some museums.
There are plenty of taxis in Rome, though flagging them down can be tricky as most use designated taxi ranks. Be careful not to use unlicensed taxis, which generally will not use a meter. Also note that if you book a taxi by phone, the meter will start running as it comes to collect you, and not when you get in.
You might consider Rome car hire to give you added flexibility during your stay, and enable you to explore beyond the city. If you plan to remain in the city, though, chaotic traffic, poor road signs and parking difficulties might put you off.
The near constant queues outside pizzeria Da Baffetto (Via del Governo Vecchio 114) are the clearest sign that this is a great spot to try one of Italy’s best culinary creations. The ramshackle interior, noisy clatter and brusque table service are all part of the authentic experience here, while the perfectly cooked and well-priced pizzas keep the punters coming back time and time again.
Da Lucia (Vicolo del Mattonato 2b) is another Roman stalwart serving simple home-cooked Italian classics out of a charming trattoria not far from the banks of the Tiber. The fresh pastas are the main draw, and attract so many people that patience, and a reservation at weekends, is a must.
For a creative twist on traditional Italian recipes, head to Babette (Via Margutta 1), right in the city centre. Some of the more sophisticated dishes include fettuccine with lobster and a carpaccio using tender Argentine beef. The venue has a trendy, urban feel, with exposed brickwork and exhibitions by local artists, and an inner courtyard that enables al fresco dining without the street traffic.
Gelato ice cream is another of Italy’s delicious exports, and the Gelateria della Palma (Via della Maddalena 20) is a great spot to sample some authentic produce. Indecisive people might not fare well though—there are around 150 flavours to select from, including some delectable meringue varieties. Although the parlour is just a stone’s throw from the Pantheon, the prices here are surprisingly agreeable.
Health & Safety
Health and Hygiene
There are no mandatory vaccinations for travelling to Italy, and the country is largely free of disease. However, make sure your typical booster injections are up to date several weeks before you travel, and also get yourself a European Health Insurance Card before you leave home.
Tap water is safe to drink everywhere in Rome, but there are plenty of inexpensive bottled options too.
Medical facilities are of the highest quality in the capital—call 118 for emergency medical services. The number for the police is 112. There are also several 24-hour pharmacies in the centre of Rome.
Safety and Security
Rome is not dangerous, but the sheer number of tourists means that pickpocketing and scams are relatively common. If visiting some of the main attractions, only take what you need for the day, and make sure you keep a tight hold of all your belongings. Also try not to walk around late at night, especially in quieter areas or places you don’t know very well.
Road safety is a problem in the capital, and pedestrians can be vulnerable when crossing a busy road as some drivers do not respect red lights at crossings.
Churches are likely to feature heavily on your sightseeing itinerary, so make sure you wear respectful clothing—no shorts or miniskirts—as otherwise you might not be allowed in to some holy sites.
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