The Eternal City isn't just a throwaway title – Rome's nickname was coined 3,000 years ago; testament to its genuinely universal appeal.
The city has more A-list attractions than most whole countries, but there's much to it than tourist hotspots – the pasta alone is worth the trip.
For a whistle-stop tour of some of Rome's main attractions, stick to the historic centre. Start at the Piazza Navona before popping into the Pantheon nearby. From there make your way south, passing the gothic St Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica and Piazza Venezia, before wandering through the Roman Forum ruins to the Colosseum.
If you have two days there's no reason why you can't see much of what Rome has to offer – on the surface, at least. Spend a morning visiting the Colosseum, then make your way through the Roman ruins to the heart of the historic centre. Throw a penny into the Trevi Fountain (passing the Pantheon on your way), then enjoy a relaxed dinner in one of the surrounding side streets.
On day two, you'll want to do the obligatory climb of the Spanish Steps, before hitting the shopping streets that span out from the Piazza di Spagna. Cross the river to eat lunch with the locals in Trastevere (if it's Sunday, go early to catch the huge flea market, which closes at 1400), then go north to visit the Pope in Vatican City.
Start your week visiting the big hitters in the Centro Storico, but also spend some time finding some of the lesser-known landmarks, such as the columned Adriano Temple, just steps from the Pantheon, and the baroque Church of St Louis, not far from the Piazza Navona. When you get hungry, seek out the Campo de' Fiori market and taste your way around the various stalls.
Art is the order of day two, which you can spend in some of Rome's best museums and galleries. The National Museum of Rome is spread across multiple city locations, including the Palazzo Massimo and the Palazzo Altemps. Or, for fine art, head to the pretty Villa Borghese, which houses a good collection of renaissance pieces, and is surrounded by gorgeous gardens.
Day three takes you to the Roman Forum and Colosseum, with a visit to the unusual Basilica of St Clement, which is a mishmash of a pagan temple, 4th-century church and 12th-century basilica, thrown in. If you found yourself inspired by the bloody history of the Colosseum, you could spend the afternoon enrolled in the gladiator school on nearby Appian Way. Or make your way up Esquiline Hill, which sits just behind the infamous amphitheatre.
Time to cross the river now, and enjoy a visit to Vatican City and its highbrow attractions. Then spend a leisurely afternoon exploring charming Trastevere, letting day turn to night over an inexpensive dinner, then watching as the bars and clubs of the area come alive.
The hills of Rome provide the challenge for day five. See the ruins on Palatine Hill and the palaces on Capitoline Hill and Quirinal Hill, before visiting the Baths of Caracalla on Caelian Hill. Finally, elegant Aventine Hill gives a relaxing look at residential Rome and one of the best views of St Peter's Basilica from its hilltop park.
For something a little different on day six, visit the Catacombe di San Callisto. If you're feeling adventurous, hire a moped for a fun way to get to these ancient burial tombs that sit just outside the city.
You can't leave Rome without indulging in a little retail therapy (or window-shopping – depending on your budget). Hit the designer shopping streets near the Spanish Steps, then head to nearby Via Margutta, where the artist's studios and galleries seem a world away from the shiny designer boutiques you've just left.