Rome is the capital city of Italy. It lies in the Lazio region, and is located on the river Tiber at 20 meters above sea level. Originally, it was established on the left bank of the river on the 7 surrounding hills. Today, Rome is the largest city in Italy and has an incredible number of sights you simply must see. To list just a few - St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and that is only the start.
Rome is truly a unique city. It has been the capital of the greatest and most acquisitive empire in the ancient world, the home of the Roman Catholic Church, and now the capital of Italy. Consequently the relics of two millennia of civilisation are all squeezed within its boundaries. Here the ancient world coexists hand-in-hand with the modern. The Roman Forum and the Pantheon lie next to Baroque palaces, Renaissance villas sit next to modernistic Mussolini’s redesigns. It is a strange feeling to drive along a busy Roman street and see the Colosseum – a symbol of Imperial Rome – right in front of you.
But the modern Rome is vibrant with life among all this history. It is famous for terrific restaurants, pizzerias, trattorias, bars and clubs. You will find chic designer stores, traditional street markets and, even totally unchanged places such as Trastevere, where you can still find the old shops and trattorias popular with Romans themselves.
The origin of this city is wrapped in mystery. Popular legend has it that Romulus and Remus, abandoned by their mother, were raised by a she-wolf and grew up under the protection of the gods. When the brothers laid out the boundaries of the new Rome on the Palatine Hill they quarreled; Romulus killed Remus and became the first of six kings of Rome.
There are so many sights in Rome, you could stay here for a year and still would not be able to see everything, however there are some essential must-see's: The Pantheon - the most complete remnant of ancient Rome, and the Colosseum – for which Rome is most famous, and the Forum which was the centre of ancient Rome, and the hub of the Mediterranean world.
The Vatican is a whole state in itself, a spiritual pilgrimage for many Christians, and home to the largest and most diverse collection of art and sculpture on the planet. Then, there is the Piazza Navona, the most beautiful square in the capital, and the Capitoline Museums, home to some of Rome’s best ancient art and sculpture. Renaissance buildings are thickly clustered around the historic centre between the Via del Corso and the River Tiber. Then there is the romantic face of Rome: the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, where Fellini's 'Dolce Vita' was filmed.
The best advice is to plan your stay. You won't be able to take in everything this magnificent city has to offer, but do not despair. Find a good tourist guide, visit the tourist offices, and buy one of the weekly or fortnightly ‘what’s on’ guides and you’ll be well on your way.
Rome has a classic Mediterranean climate: rather mild and rainy winters (September to mid-May), and very hot, dry, long summers (May to September). The best time to visit is spring and autumn, with mostly sunny weather and mild temperatures, whereas July and August can be unpleasantly hot. The period between December to February can be quite cold (around 8 deg Celsius) but it is never grey or gloomy. January is the average coolest month and July is, on average, the warmest month. Average maximum rainfall occurs in November.
January average temperature 8 deg Celsius, 79 mm rainfall February average temperature 9 deg Celsius, 73 mm rainfall March average temperature 11 deg Celsius, 77 mm rainfall April average temperature 14 deg Celsius, 47 mm rainfall May average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 34 mm rainfall June average temperature 22 deg Celsius, 20 mm rainfall July average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 7 mm rainfall August average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 35 mm rainfall September average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 76 mm rainfall October average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 83 mm rainfall November average temperature 713 deg Celsius, 127 mm rainfall December average temperature 9 deg Celsius, 109 mm rainfall
The main airport for flights to Rome is Leonardo da Vinci Airport, also known as Fiumicino, situated 30 km southwest of the city. The other airport is Ciampino, 15 km south of downtown.
From Fiumicino there are regular train services to the city, leaving every 30 minutes to Trastevere Station and the Stazione Termini. A taxi from Fiumicino will cost you about €45 – 50.
From Ciampino you can catch a COTRAL bus that connects with a subway to Stazione Termini, or you can drive down the Via Appia Nuova. You can also reach the center by taxi, which will cost you about €40.
The entire Lazio region is covered by an extensive network of bus lines operated by COTRAL (PHONE: 800/150008, Consorzio Trasporti Lazio). There are several main bus stations. Long-distance and suburban COTRAL bus routes terminate either near Tiburtina Station or at outlying Metro stops, such as Rebibbia and Ponte Mammolo (Line B) and Anagnina (Line A). Bus fares are reasonable.
There are regular train connections to all major cities in Italy and Europe from Termini station. Trains are fast and comfortable.
The main access route from the north is Autostrada del Sole (A1), and from the south A2.
Public transport in Rome is quite efficient and inexpensive, but overcrowded at peak hours. An integrated transportation system includes buses and trams (ATAC), Metro (subway) and suburban trains and buses (COTRAL), and some other suburban trains (Trenitalia) run by the state railways. A ticket (BIT) is valid for 75 minutes on any combination of buses, trams and the Metro.
Tickets are sold at tobacconists, newsstands and some coffee bars. Automatic ticket machines can be found in Metro stations, some bus stops. ATAC and COTRAL ticket booths can be found in some Metro stations and at a few main bus stops.
The city's Metro service is convenient for many of the sights you may want to see. It has two lines, both of which go through Termini. The above-ground rail network isn't much use to most visitors.
There is also a private network of J buses. Most of the main buses terminate at the bus station outside Stazione Termini where you can pick up a map of the bus routes.
You can pick up a cab from one of the city's many taxi ranks or phone one any time of day. However, taxis are notoriously expensive, and if you call a cab, the meter starts on as soon as you call, rather than when you are picked up.
Driving in Rome is unpleasant, and parking is a nightmare. Only drive if you absolutely have to.
In Rome, mopeds are everywhere. To rent one, you need your country's driver's license and it is required to wear a helmet. If you're not sure how to ride a moped, reconsider your decision, or at least ask the assistant for a detailed demonstration.
This is a pleasant way to get around when traffic is light. But remember: Rome is hilly. Rental rates for standard bikes are about €3 for four hours to €20 for a full day. There are rental concessions at the Metro stations at Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna, at Viale del Bambino on the Pincio, and at Viale della Pineta in Villa Borghese park.
The historic centre is relatively small and it is quite possible to manage it on foot. Wear comfortable shoes.
Palatine Hill is one of the 7 hills of Rome. Of all the 7 hills, this one is most abundant in reminders of the ancient city. It is the cradle of the old Rome. It is 52 m high (40 m above the level of the Forum).
The saying goes; Rome wasn’t built in a day. This becomes evident as soon as you start exploring its countless attractions: from streets, parks, squares, churches, basilicas, temples, museums and fountains to the Vatican!
Address: Piazza del Colosseo Campitelli, Via dei Fori Imperiali Web: http://ww.colosseumweb.org Phone: 06 700 5469 Open: summer from 9:00 am - 7.30 pm; winter 9:00 am - 4.30 pm; daily
The Colloseum is the strongest symbol of Ancient Rome. The vast marble amphitheatre was 190 meters long and 150 meters wide, it had 80 entrances and could seat between 55,000 and 73,000 spectators who watched bloody contests and the slaughter of wild beasts.
Address: Via dei Fori Imperiali Phone: 06 39967700 Open: 9:00 am – 1 hour before sunset Admission: free
The Forum was built in a span of almost 900 years, from about 500 BC to 400 AD and was once the commercial, political and religious center of ancient Rome. It features the Arch of Septimus Severus, Temple of Saturn, Arch of Titus and the House of the Vestals. Excavation of the area begun in the 18 th and 19 th centuries, and you can still see archeologists at work.
Address: Piazza della Rotonda Pigna Phone: 06-68300230 Open: Monday - Saturday 8:30 am – 7:30 pm, Sun 9:00 am – 6:00 pm; Admission: free
The Pantheon is the best preserved monument of Ancient Rome and is one of the city’s most memorable and impressive architectural marvels. Originally it was a temple dedicated to all the Roman gods. Later it was converted into a church, in 609 AD, which saved it from being torn down.
THE SPANISH STEPS
Address: Piazza di Spagna
Situated in the lively shopping district of Tridente, the sweeping stairs combine with the two towers of the church of Trinita dei Monti on top of the square with its unique fountain to create one of the most distinctive Roman scenes. The stairs are crowded with visitors all the time. At the bottom of the stairs is the square with the fountain by Pietro Benini.
Address: Piazza di Trevi Quirinale
Fontana di Trevi is Rome's largest and most famous fountain. It was completed by Nicola Salvi in 1762. Its name refers to the three roads (tre vie) that used to meet here. It depicts Neptune's chariot being led by Tritons with seahorses - one wild and one docile - representing the moods of the sea.
It is customary to throw a coin into the fountain over your shoulder, facing away. L egend has it that whoever throws a coin into the pond will return to Rome.
SAN GIOVANI IN LATERANO
Address: Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano Esquilino Phone: 06/69886464 Open: basilica: 7:00 am - 6:00 pm, summer to 7:00 pm; cloister: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, summer to 6:00 pm; baptistery: Monday - Thursday 9:00 am - 1:00 pm, 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm, Friday - Saturday 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
San Giovani was the first Christian basilica constructed in Rome and founded by Constantine in the 4 th century. It is Rome's cathedral (and not St Peter's) where the pope officiates in his capacity as bishop of Rome. The building is immense. The towering facade and Borromini's cool baroque interior emphasize the majesty of its proportions. The cloister is one of the finest in the city, with beautifully carved columns surrounding a peaceful garden.
Address: Junction of Via della Cuccagna, Corsia Agonale, Via di Sant'Agnese.
Piazza Navona is the most outstanding squares of the Baroque period in Rom. It was built on the site of Domiziano Stadium (86BC) and the Roman ruins are still visible in the crypt of the Sant’ Agnese in Agone Church (one of the famous baroque masterpieces of Rome). The square is now a pedestrian area and features 3 baroque fountains. It is a lively place with many stylish restaurants, café’s and ice-cream bars where musicians and artists perform.
ST PETER'S BASILICA
Address: Piazza di San Pietro Web: http://www.stpetersbasilica.org Phone: 06/69883462 Open: October - March 7:00 am - 6:00 pm, April - September 7:00 am - 7:00 pm Admission (dome): Elevator €5, stairs €4. No bare legs or shoulders allowed.
St Peter's Basilica is one of the world's most glorious displays of papal wealth, as well as a monument to some of Italy's greatest artists and architects, including Michelangelo and Raphael. The most outstanding features are Michelangelo's dome and La Pieta. The first church was built on the site of St Peter's tomb. The work on the current basilica began in 1506 and took more than 150 years to complete. You can also visit Michelangelo's dome (119m), or take a tour of the excavations of the original church, an early Christian cemetery and the tomb of St Peter.
Address: Viale del Vaticano Web: http://www.vatican.va Phone: o6 69884947 Open: Monday - Friday 8:45 am - 4:45 pm (last admission 3:30 pm), Saturday 8:45 am - 1:45 pm (last admission 12:45 pm), Sunday closed Admission: full price €18, concession €12
The Sistine Chapel is best known for Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling and his Last Judgment on the end wall. Be sure to not only look up though, since the walls of the chapel were painted by important Renaissance artists including Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio and Luca Signorelli.
Address: Viale del Vaticano Web: http://www.vatican.va Phone: 06-6988 3333 Open: in summer Monday – Friday 8:45 am – 3:45 pm, Saturday and last Sunday of month 8:45 am – 1:45 pm. In winter: Monday – Saturday and last Sunday 8:45 am – 1:45 pm; Last admission 90 minutes before closing. Closed on Catholic holidays Admission: free
The Vatican museums are comprised of several museums and galleries. The complex is home to Syrian, ancient Greek, ancient Roman and Egyptian relics, ancient and Renaissance sculptures, and much more. It is truly an awesome collection. Even more impressive is the fact that a vast amount of the Vatican's art treasures are kept away from the public sight.
Eating hours in Rome are later than in northern Europe. Lunch is usually around 2:00 pm, and dinner from about 9:00 pm. Most places, however, will happily cater to visitors who prefer to eat earlier.
Legendary delis for Roman and Italian specialties are Volpetti in Testaccio and the charmingly old-fashioned Innocenzi in Trastevere.
Address: 47 Via Marmorata
Thi is probably the best delicatessen in Rome.
Address: 31 Via Natale del Grande
This old-fashioned deli is a real gem. They sell rice and grain out of big canvas sacks, and offer many organic products and ethnic foods from all over the world, as well as regional Italian delicacies.
La Bottega del Vino da Bleve
Address: 9 Via Santa Maria del Pianto. Phone: 06-6865970. Open: Lunch only Tuesday - Saturday
A typical Roman place whose buffet offers dozens of local delicacies. There is a good selection of wine and the staff is very friendly.
Address: 14 Via di Ripetta. Phone: 06-3211468. Open: Lunch and Dinner daily
Famous for their thick and crusty Neapolitan variety of pizza, Pizza Re is one of the best in town offering a wide range of pizzas, always reliable, appetizing and well-made. Set-price menus include pasta and grilled meats at lunchtime.
Da Franco ar Vicoletto
Address: 1-2 Via dei Falisci, San Lorenzo. Phone: 06-4957675. Open: Lunch and Dinner Tuesday – Sunday.
A real neighborhood, down-to earth trattoria serving lots of good food, the seafood is especially good. Pick the set-price menu; it is fresh seafood served with pasta or salad, or simply grilled, roasted or fried.
Address: 45 Vicolo del Bologna. Phone: 06-5880516. Open: Lunch daily
This pizzeria's trademark is special dough, which easier to digest. Dar Poeta's pizzas are made with a blend of yeast-free flours which creates an incomparably fluffy base that is delicious and allegedly healthier than the normal pizza base. No smoking and no reservations.
Address: Vicolo del Mattinato 2 Trastevere
This traditional restaurant serves fabulous antipasto and pasta and some Roman specialties: ‘ pollo con pepperoni’ (chicken with peppers) and ‘ trippa all romana’ (tripe with ragù or tomato sauce).
This international celebration of jazz kicks off at the Parco della Musica and runs until mid-November featuring artists from around the world.
PIAZA NAVONA CHRISTMAS MARKET
A Christmas market with Santa Claus and nativity scenes takes place at Rome’s Piazza Navona.
NEW YEAR’S EVE CELEBRATION
On the final day of the year, Romans drink champagne all over town, especially at the Piazza del Poplo where the program includes fireworks, rock and classical music concerts.
GREAT AUTUMN MARKET (Antiques)
It is held at the Autodromo di Vallelunga, 18 miles outside of Rome. This is the largest antique fair in the region. You will find not only period pieces, but also simpler relics, paraphernalia of Roman life, unusual gadgets and other goodies.
Date: June/July Location: between Sant'Angelo Bridge and Cavour Bridge
This annual festival takes place between Sant'Angelo Bridge and Cavour Bridge, and remains open from 6:00 am until 1:00 am. The primary goods for display and sale are handcrafts, but you can also find jams, jellies, sauces, wines, liquors and all kinds of indigenous goods at better prices than in the trendy shops.
Date: January 5 Location: Piazza Navona
A fair of toys, sweets and others delights takes place in the open air among the beautiful Bernini fountains.
Nightlife in Rome is laid back. People usually go sitting out at cafes and restaurants, to enjoy food, wine and coffee. Popular areas include Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona and Trastevere.
Join the locals in a totally free night-time ritual known as "la passaggiata", or the evening stroll. After dining in one of Rome's fine restaurants, tourists and residents alike promenade the piazzas. Two of the most popular hangouts are the Via Condotti from Piazza di Spagna to the Via del Corso, and the Piazza Navona.
There are a number of productions by Italian (and other) troupes to choose from.
Located on St. Peter's square in the centre of Rome, the Ghione Theatre was renovated in the early 1980s and has brought new life not only to the building, but to the theatre scene in Rome. The 600-seat venue is now the home of not only classical productions, but also musical concerts and other guest performances. The theatrical offerings include Pirandello, Ibsen, Molière, Feydeau and Euripides.
The Miracle Players are an entertaining troupe of English speaking players, who put on comedic performances at historic locations around the city, during the summer. At the Forum you can see Rome In A Nutshell, and 200 Years of Roman History, presented in 40 minutes. These are great fun for the whole family.
Italy is the ancestral home of opera, offering visitors a rich choice of operatic seasons throughout most of the year.
The opera season lasts from December to June. Be sure, to dress for the occasion, because the patrons often look even more glorious than the magnificent opera building.
Other classical music and opera venues are the Auditorium - Parco della Musica, Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Accademia Filarmonica Romana, and Il Tempietto.
In the summer months of July and August spectacular open-air opera is presented at the Terme di Caracalla in Roma.
Address: Via Ostia 9
A local jazz club with a fine list of performers which makes it one of the most popular in Italy.
Address: Via Crescenzio 82A
This club offers a wider variety of live music every night, ranging from jazz, blues, rock, Dixieland and funk. The club is not open in July and August.
There are always major musical concerts playing in Rome throughout the year, and you can find them if you check with your travel agent, the hotel where you stay, or simply pick up one of the many entertainment guides at newspaper stands.
According to the legend, Rome was founded on April 21 in 753 BC by the twins Romulus and Remus, sons of Mars, god of war, and Rhea Silvia, a Vestal Virgin. The twins were abandoned on the shores of the Tiber and brought up by a she-wolf. Romulus killed his brother in a battle over who should govern the city and then established the city of Rome on the Palatino. Non-mythically speaking, the city was ruled by the Etruscans until 509 BC, when it became a republic. The Roman Republic gradually extended its territory and influence, and officially became an Empire during the rule of Julius Caesar's nephew Octavian, who renamed himself Augustus in 31 BC.
The next 100 years saw the Roman Empire reach its greatest success both at home and abroad, and this glory prompted a frenzy of building in Rome. Each emperor wanted to leave his mark on the city and outdo his predecessors. Nero built the Domus Aurea, Vespasian the Colosseum, Trajan - the famous column situated to the left of the Via dei Fori Imperiali, and Hadrian's mausoleum (it later became the Castel Sant'Angelo) and his beautiful villa outside the city at Tivoli (well worth a day trip).
In the 4 th century Rome lost much of its secular power with the rise of Christianity and eventually became the center of Christendom. Many large basilicas were built during this time: Santa Croce, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Pietro and San Sebastiano. The Visigoth king Alaric I conquered the city in 410 AD, leading to a lengthy period of invasion by barbarian tribes causing the population to diminish to a few hundred.
Between the 9 th and the 12 th centuries the city revived, the popes gained more power but were under constant attack by various aristocrats. In the 14 th century the pope was exiled to Avignon, however, by the 15 th century papacy once again held a firm grip on the city. This was time of lavish excess. The papacy worked with Rome's top artists - Raphael, Bernini, Borromini - and their rich patrons - the Medicis, Farneses and Borgheses and Rome became a magical place full of Renaissance and Baroque squares, churches and fountains.
However, the combined efforts of Charles V's sack of Rome in 1527, the rise of the Protestant church, the Counter-Reformation, the French Revolution, Napoleonic invasion and the 1848 revolutions greatly reduced papal authority. Political instability did not deter visitors though, and Rome became a regular stop on the 'Grand Tour' of wealthy young men throughout the 18 th century. During the mid-19 th century Rome was held at various times by the French until it finally became the capital of a unified Italy in 1870. The pope no longer held political power and moved to the Vatican.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
In the 20 th century Rome grew even bigger. However, the new administration was more interested in offices and housing than churches, and during the following decades the city expanded immensely. The pope was made sovereign of the Vatican City in 1929. Former journalist Benito Mussolini became dictator in 1922. In trying to re-create the glory of Ancient Rome in his capital, he built Via dei Fori Imperiali, bulldozing over half of the Forum. Once he was removed from power in 1943 the city was briefly occupied by the Germans: the local citizens put up stiff resistance, but little physical damage was actually done. Italy became a republic in 1946 and in the post-war period Rome continued to expand outwards.
Today, Rome remains an administrative and tourist centre, (Italy's industrial heartland lies further north), with the Vatican City an independent enclave within the city.
Many churches in Italy contain significant works of art, however, they are still places of worship and care should be taken with appropriate dress and behavior. Short pants, skirts, sleeveless shirts, etc are taboo at St. Peter's in Rome, and in many other churches throughout Italy. When touring churches, especially in the summer when you are not wearing long sleeves, it is advisable to carry a sweater or a scarf to cover bare skin while inside. Do not eat or drink in a church. Do not go in if a service is in progress and if you have a cellular phone, turn it off before entering.
The main problems tourists encounter in Rome is pick-pocketing, bag snatching, and theft from parked cars. You can reduce the possibility of theft by taking some precautions:
Don't wear a money belt or a waist pack – if you do, anyone can tell you are a tourist. Instead, distribute your cash and valuables, your credit cards and passport between a deep front pocket, a pocket on the inside of your jacket, and a hidden money pouch. Do not reach for the money pouch once you're in public.
Use the hotel safe! Leave your money and valuables, including airline tickets there. Always keep a separate record of credit-card and check numbers just in case. A photocopy of your passport is also a useful precaution. Carry your camera out of sight and always be discreet with your money or wallet (don't put it in your back pocket). Backpacks, while convenient, make easy targets: take them off or sling them under your arm in crowds.
If you are carrying a handbag, keep it on the side away from the road. When sitting at a sidewalk café or restaurant, don't rest your bag or camera on a table or chair . Motorbike snatch is Roman specialty: Purse snatchers work in teams on a single motorbike or scooter. One drives and the other grabs.
On the streets and especially near the main tourist attractions, keep an eye on beggars, particularly the small children who crowd around you with boxes in their hands. While you are distracted they fish through your pockets.
Take extra care on crowded buses and the Metro and on bus routes frequented by tourists, such as the No. 40 Express and the No. 64. Be careful when walking through subways and when making your way through the corridors of crowded trains. Pick-pockets may be active wherever tourists gather, including the Roman Forum, Piazza Navona, and Piazza di San Pietro.
Parked cars, especially with foreign number plates or rental company stickers, are prime targets for thieves. Remove or cover the stickers, leave a local newspaper on the seat to make it look like a local car. Park your car at supervised car parks during the day and leave it in a garage overnight. Take your radio out and don't leave any items visible in the car. Beware of snatch thieves! When you pull up at traffic lights keep the doors locked and, if you have the windows open, keep valuables out of sight.
Women traveling alone in Italy have to sometimes deal with a lot of unwanted male attention. Especially younger women have to put up with this, but it is rarely dangerous or hostile. The best way to handle it is to ignore whistling and questions.
Do be careful of gropers on the Metro and on Buses 64 (Termini-Vatican) and 218 and 660 (Catacombs). They are known to take advantage of crowded places. React like the locals: forcefully and loudly.
Emergency phone numbers: Police: 112 General Emergency: 113 Medical Emergency: 118
If you get robbed, report the theft to the police as soon as possible:
Central Police Station - Questura Centrale
Address: 15 Via San Vitale Phone: 06-46861 or 06-46863401 .
The main tourist season in Rome begins at Easter and lasts until October. You will get the best weather in spring and autumn, when it is neither too hot nor too cold. However this is also the peak tourist season and the city can be packed with busloads of tourists.
In the summer you can expect the city to be less crowded, and the traffic lighter, since many Romans go on holiday (especially around the Feast of the Assumption on August 15) .
In the past few years the city council has held numerous outdoor festivals and concerts so the city is less deserted than it used to be. During August many shops and restaurants close. If you decide to come during the summer, be sure to ‘do as the Romans do’: get up early, seek shadow during early afternoon heat, go for a long lunch and take a nap, and continue with your activities late in the afternoon and then stay up late and enjoy the evening breeze.
Winters are usually mild with some persistent rainy spells. During January through March you can expect the least amount of tourists and the shortest lines for major attractions and some fun events around Christmas time.