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Rome guide

Italy’s mighty capital is like nowhere else. There are the magnificent ruins of ancient empires, fantastical baroque buildings, romantic piazzas and burbling fountains. But it’s also fantastically alive, a frenetic whirl peopled by the coffee-slurping, scooter-driving, easy-on-the-eye Romans.

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In Rome there are many moderately priced, but charming places that rub shoulders with sublime-feeling palaces. At the more wallet-friendly end of the scale, some excellent choices include Albergo Abruzzi (Piazza della Rotonda 69), which has simple rooms but with stunning views over the Pantheon. More expensive and up several notches in style, there are places such as Hotel Barocco (Piazza Barberini 9), with smart rooms, many of which have great views. Hotel Columbus (Via della Conciliazione 33) is on St Peter's doorstep, and is a splendid hotel, with a sumptuous arched and frescoed dining hall. 
At the top end, you have a wealth of places to luxuriate, from discreet and sumptuous little townhouses, such as the Inn at the Spanish Steps (Via Dei Condotti 85) to grandiose edifices like the Rome Cavalieri (Via Alberto Cadlolo 101) with its famous three-Michelin-starred restaurant, La Pergola, overseen by Heinz Beck. 
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Getting around

The best way to get around the historic centre of Rome is to walk – it’s not particularly large. But for longer hops you can take the bus, of which there are many, though they can get busy during rush hours. The tram network is useful for certain destinations, such as Trastevere. There’s also the metro, with two major lines, and stops close to major sights including Colosseo, Spagna and Vaticano. 
Taxi ranks, with official yellow and white taxis, are located at various points around the city centre. If you call a taxi, please note that the meter is turned on immediately after the call and not on pick-up. Tipping is not expected.
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Top 10 sights

Top 5 sights for first-timers 
This ancient stadium is such an iconic sight you may feel you’ve seen it already, but nothing prepares you for the impact of this majestic amphitheatre, still standing 2,000 years on, in the heart of the modern city. Here Romans bayed for blood as they watched the free shows that featured gladiator fights and wild beasts versus slaves and Christians. 
Piazza del Colosseo
Once an ancient Roman temple, this breathtaking building remained amazingly well preserved because of its conversion into a church in the seventh century. Its age apart, it’s an incredible piece of architecture, and still has the world’s largest unsupported dome, which is open to the sky via its remarkable oculus. 
Piazza della Rotonda 
St Peter’s Basilica
The world’s second largest church and the mightiest in Christendom, St Peter’s Basilica not only resonates with the power, splendour and significance of the Catholic Church, but is filled with masterpieces, from Michelangelo’s Pietà to his dome (which you can climb for great views). 
Piazza San Pietro 
Vatican Museums
Bursting with treasures, this collection of museums shows the wealth of the collections of the Church, with its most famous splendours including the Sistine Chapel, featuring décor by Michelangelo, and a suite of rooms painted by Raphael. 
Viale Vaticano 
Galleria and Villa Borghese
The bijou art collection of the Galleria Borghese is nevertheless one of the city’s finest, with works by Caravaggio, Titian, Bernini and more. The rococo palace is also surrounded by bucolic parklands, perfect for summer picnics under dappled sunlight. 
Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5 
Top 5 sights for old hands
Museo Nazionale Romano: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
A wonderful, yet off-the-beaten-track museum filled with superlative ancient sculpture, mosaics and frescoes, including completely frescoed ancient Roman rooms. 
Largo di Villa Peretti 1
Basilica San Clemente
This 12th-century church stands above the cavernous rooms of a fourth-century one, its frescos dimly visible. Descend deeper into the earth and on the floor below is second-century pagan temple, with its carved altar. 
Via di San Giovanni in Laterano 
Galleria Doria Pamphilj
A superb private collection of art, with works by Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian and more. The paintings are housed in a lavish rococo gallery that provides sumptuous surroundings decked in gold leaf and mirrors. 
Via del Corso 305 
Rome was famously built across seven hills. This peak is not one of the seven, but nevertheless is one of the highest in the city and offers the finest views across Rome’s gleaming domes, church spires and tiled rooftops. 
Basilica di Santa Sabina
Up on the Aventine Hill, this is a wonderfully graceful and atmospheric church, simpler than the city’s many fussily decorated baroque concoctions. It dates from the fifth century, incorporates ancient Roman columns and stands alongside a fragrant orange-tree garden, Parco Savello, with views down over Rome and the Tevere River. A short walk away from here is the remarkable peephole in a mysterious door on Piazza Cavalieri di Malta – go and take a look. 
Piazza Pietro d’Illiria 1
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Top 5 activities

Wine tasting
There are several companies offering wine-tasting courses, where you can try local wines from Lazio, and all over Italy, and learn about wine from highly trained sommeliers.
With Rome’s long hot summers, finding a place for a dip is a must, and as well as hotel pools, you can swim in the surrounding lakes in Lazio or head to the nearby seaside. 
Rome has several urban spas, where you can relax and enjoy pampering treatments, in a kind of update on the ancient Rome experience. 
Several companies offer boat trips along the river, a great way to take it easy and spot the riverside sights, including Castel Sant’Angelo, once Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum.
Cooking courses
Several outfits offer cooking lessons, where you can learn how to make pasta and pizza just like mamma, and specialise in local Roman dishes. 
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Top 5 events

Estate Romana
This is an umbrella summer festival encompassing many different events and running from around June to September. Events include theatre set amid ancient monuments, open-air cinema, dance and music events. 
Date: June-September
Venue: Various
Outdoor Opera Season
In summer, the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma Opera moves outdoors to the Terme di Caracalla, a most spectacular setting: the grand hulking ruins of ancient Rome’s largest public baths. 
Date: Summer
Venue: Terme di Caracalla
Roma Incontro il Mondo
The beautifully set World Music Festival takes place in a park, by a lake, and features local and international artists. 
Date: Summer
Venue: Villa Ada
Invito alla Danza
International dance companies perform in the lovely parkland setting of Villa Doria Pamphilj during the summer. 
Date: Summer
Venue: Villa Doria Pamphilj
Rome Cinema Festival
The Festival Internazionale del Film di Roma is now a major annual event, taking place at the wonderful Auditorium Parco della Musica designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. 
Date: November
Venue: Auditorium Parco della Musica
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Rome is a great place to explore individual boutiques and buy handmade products, such as leather goods (for gloves, try Sermoneta, Piazza di Spagna 61, to have a bag made, try Armando Rioda, Via Belsiana 90), decorated writing paper (try Vertecchi, Via della Croce 70), and chocolates (try Confetteria Moriondo e Gariglio, Via del Piè di Marmo). 
For big-name designer shopping, as well as small high-end boutiques, head to Tridente, the area running from the Spanish Steps down to Via del Corso and across to Piazza del Popolo. For high-street clothes shopping, there’s bright, brash Via del Corso and Via Cola di Rienzo close to the Vatican. If you like vintage shopping, the best place is Via del Governo Vecchio, with shops such as Luna e l’Altra (Via del Governo Vecchio 64).
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Rome has the Italian tradition of neighbourhood trattorias. These restaurants, with mamma in the kitchen, and other relatives meeting, greeting and waiting on front of house, are great places to eat reasonably priced, delicious Italian cooking. To eat as the Romans do, try restaurants such as da Sergio (Vicolo delle Grotte 27), Alfredo e Ada (Via dei Banchi Nuovi 14), Dino e Tony (Via Leone IV 60) and Sora Margherita (Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30). 
There are plenty more upmarket places too, also favoured by the locals, for those with larger pockets. Among the many highlights are the wonderful La Rosetta (Via della Rosetta 8-9), Glass Hostaria (Vicolo dè Cinque 58) and Metamorfosi (Via Giovanni Antonelli 30). There has also been a spate of recent openings in Rome, including the mall-style temple of food Eataly Roma (Piazzale XII Ottobre 1492), which includes numerous restaurants, Baccano (Via delle Muratte 23), with its dark wood ambience, booths and all-day dining, and ladies-who-lunch organic hotspot Ginger (Via Borgognona 43-44).
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Rome has various areas that come alive after dark. Buzzing with a younger crowd is the Historic Centre’s Campo de’ Fiori, while picturesque Trastevere is popular with locals and tourists. Bars to try here include Freni e Frizioni (Via del Politeama 4-6) for great aperitivo (evening buffet), and Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà (Via di Benedetta 25) for its many artisanal beers. 
The suburb of Pigneto attracts would-be bohemians and artists to its pavement cafés and bars – a favourite bar is Il Tiaso (Via Ascoli Piceno 20), while nearby Circolo degli Artisti (Via Casilina Vecchia 42) is Rome’s best place to catch alternative gigs.
For Rome’s hippest nightclubs, head to Ostiense, where top addresses include super-club Goa (Via Giuseppe Libetta 13) and the more alternative-hipster joints Rashomon (Via degli Argonauti 16) and La Saponeria (Via degli Argonauti 20). There are more mainstream clubs in Testaccio. For great live music of all genres, from classical to hip hop, go to the Renzo Piano-designed Auditorium (Viale Pietro De Coubertin 30). 

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