No other city comes close. It may no longer be caput mundi (capital of the world), but Rome is an epic, bubbling-over metropolis harbouring lost empires. One visit and you’ll be hooked. Rome has a glorious monumentality that it wears without reverence. Its architectural heirlooms are buzzed around by car and Vespa as if they were no more than traffic islands.
The city bombards you with images: elderly ladies with dyed hair chatting in Trastevere; priests with cigars strolling the Imperial Forums; traffic jams around the Colosseum; plates of pasta in Piazza Navona; sinuous trees beside the Villa Borghese; barrages of pastel-coloured scooters revving up at traffic lights as if preparing for a race.
People in Rome encapsulate the spirit of the city. Pass a central café and the tables outside are animated with people, downing fast shots of espresso and sporting big black sunglasses. They are neither posing nor hung over. Nuns flutter through the streets, on the trip of a lifetime, bustling across the road before treating themselves to an delicious ice cream. Churches fill during Mass, and the priests, dressed in purple, cream or red silk (right down to their socks), read the rights to a hushed congregation (mostly from out of town).
Here the national preoccupation with the aesthetic fuses with incredible urban scenery to make Rome a city where you feel cool just strolling through the streets, catching the sunlight on your face outside a café, or eating a long lunch. It’s a place that almost encourages you to take things easy. Don’t feel like going to a museum? What’s the need when it’s all outside on the streets?
Top five of things to see:
1. Fontana di Trevi
Tradition has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain guarantees a swift return to the world's most beautiful city. Anita Ekberg's dip in it was immortalized in Federico Fellini's
No visit to Rome is complete without seeing its magnificent Colosseum, a vast amphitheatre with seating for 55,000 that was designed as a horse racing circuit and arena for animal fighting and gladiatorial battles. After its completion, spectacular 100-day celebrations were organized as part of the opening ceremony in 72 BC. Its name is believed to come from Nero's enormous statue of Colossus that stood close by.
Commissioned by Marcus Agrippa, restored by Domitian, and subsequently rebuilt by Hadrian (who added the dome), the Pantheon was turned into a church in the early 7th Century by Pope Boniface IV. The building's sole source of light is the opening at the dome's apex (the oculus); according to popular legend, this formed the base for the bronze pine cone that is now in the Vatican's Pigna courtyard, where it is used as a fountain. Many famous Italians are buried in the Pantheon, including Renaissance painter Raphael and King Vittorio Emanuele I.
4. Piazza Navona
During the Christmas season Piazza Navona is packed with stalls selling toys, sweets and decorations for the Nativity scene or Christmas tree, making it a favorite spot for children. Its unusual shape recalls the time of Domitian, who built a stadium for equestrian displays here. The Fountain of the Rivers, with the obelisk, and the Fountain of the Moor , with the God of the Sea, at the center of the square, are both sculpted by Bernini.
5. The Vatican
The Vatican is among the most important historical sites in the world. The seat of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, The Vatican is also the home of the Pope. As the smallest state in the world, the Vatican has figured in key events throughout history. Occupying about one half kilometer of Rome, The Vatican is further significant because of its fabulous architecture, religious, and artistic treasures.
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