Saturday, 13 January 2007

Sightseeing in Rome

Rome is the bustling heart of Italy. A modern capital in every sense of the word yet steeped in history, with a wealth of art, architecture and religion to suit every holidaymaker, traveler, academic or pilgrim.

Over 2,000 years of history have left their mark in all parts of this stylish metropolis. Tradition has it, that the city was founded by Romulus on Palatino one of the 7 hills on which Rome is built. The city stands near the Tevere river, which guarantees that wherever you are, you are never far from a stunning view of the city.

The most essential thing in Rome is good shoes! Good comfortable ones for your walks around the town and a few stylish pairs for evening promenades. Rome is one of the best places in Europe to buy some great designer shoes.

The whole place is like a huge, vibrant, open-air museum. Italians are a friendly people. Expect to be offered help if you are standing on a street corner with a map in your hand and a puzzled look on you face. Style is the order of the day when out in Rome. Good strong, but not bright colors, a scarf flicked fashionably over and a smart bag over your shoulder. No fanny packs please, they do spoil the line of your Gucci you know!

Avoid eating in the tourist cafes around the main spots such as St.Mark’s square as they are overpriced and very often with poor food and service. Go back a couple of streets to the small cafes frequented by the locals and you will get better, cheaper food and also get to dine and chat with the real Romans.

Here are the tops spots for sightseeing in Rome:

  • Colosseum - this is probably the most famous landmark in Rome is a huge open-air stadium that could hold up to 50,000 Romans. Built by the Emperor Titus in AD80 it hosted games, gladiatorial combats and even could be flooded with water to provide a setting for reconstructions of famous navel battles.

  • Sistene Chapel - Situated at the far and of the Vatican museum, which is a day out in itself. The chapel was in need of a little decoration so in 1508 Michelangelo was brought to paint the 10,000 sq foot ceiling, single-handedly! The resulting work took over 4 years to complete and is considered to be on of the finest works of art in the world.
  • Trevi fountain - this is a huge and stunning eighteenth century fountain designed by Nicola Salvi. It is said that if you throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder you will one day return to Rome.
  • Pantheon - a huge temple built by the Emperor Hadrian around AD120 it had, until 1960, the largest dome in the world. It also still has the original doors, now nearly 1,900 years old. A fascinating and magnificent building.

  • Piazza Navona - this square takes its strange shape from the original arena built there for displays of horsemanship. It is now a busy, fun place packed with stalls and eateries in the daytime and portrait and caricature artists at night.
  • Trastevere - although this is not the main tourist center of Rome, it a fascinating area full of winding lane and small shops selling interesting and unusual things. Great nightlife, food and a huge Sunday market. It is also home to what is said to be the oldest church in Rome. The beautiful Santa Maria the oldest part of which is said to date from the 3rd century AD.

  • Villa Borghese - this is the largest area of parkland in Rome, it is a wonderful place to get away from the noise of the city for a while. It has wonderful trees, quiet walks, a lake where you can rent a boat, and a wonderful art gallery. It also holds outdoor concerts of classical music every July.

There are also many walking tours on offer and these are a great way to see the highlights of the city with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide. Beware of over enthusiastic street traders in popular tourist spots such as the Trevi fountain.

AlthoughRome is a fairly safe city it is best to avoid the back streets at night. Stick to the main thoroughfares, which are usually a sight in themselves, as the stylishly dressed inhabitants go out for a stroll and a good meal. This can be a great time for “people watching”, especially if you are at one of the pavement tables that many restaurants and cafes have.

But the main focus of any holiday in Rome should always be on the architecture and history which is like nowhere else in the world.

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