The sheer imperial scale of Rome is sure to knock you out.
It’s hard to say what you’ll find most breathtaking about the Eternal City – the arrogant opulence of the Vatican, the timelessness of the Forum, the top speed of a Fiat Bambino, the gory resonance of the Colosseum, trying to cross a major intersection, or the bill for your caffe latte.
Make like the locals and souse your senses in the glut of pleasures the city has to offer, from the grandiose thrill of feeling centuries of turbulent history under your feet to the small but potent intoxication of eating chestnut gelati on a hot day.
The main tourist season starts at Easter and runs until October; peak periods are in spring and autumn, when the tour buses pour in and tourists are herded around like cattle. Numerous outdoor festivals and concerts and the fact that Romans desert the city for the beaches and mountains, which means very light traffic and a less-crowded city centre, makes summer almost worth the heat. If you do visit in summer, try to hit the sights early, take a long lunch and a nap, and then head out again around 18:00 to take advantage of the cooler evening. Be aware some restaurants and shops close for the month of August. Winters are usually mild with few tourists and some fun events around Christmas time.
Rome boasts one grand tourist attraction after another, but the Roman Forum and its neighbor, the Colosseum, stay with you forever. True, most of these ancient archways, temples and aqueducts are little more than ruins, but the grandeur that was ancient Rome never fails to humble modern visitors. A very different but no less popular era of history resides within the Vatican City. Walk through the cool, imposing sanctuary of St. Peter’s Basilica before admiring the masterpieces of the Vatican Museum.
At the base of the Spanish Steps, Via Condotti is Rome’s most fashionable address, and while it’s possible to buy Gucci and Armani around the world, there’s nothing like buying those exquisite handbags and suits in the city that originated them. For younger shoppers, Via Del Corso sells hip jeans and Italian soccer shirts near the Piazza del Popolo. If you’re interested in buying Italian chocolates and wine — and who isn’t? — you’re in luck. Those items are sold throughout Rome.
Nightlife and Entertainment
After-hours entertainment doesn’t get any lovelier — or more romantic — than wandering Rome’s meandering streets after dark, when the Roman Forum, for instance, or the Trevi Fountain are bathed in moonlight. Rome has a thriving nightclub scene, but when in Rome why not do as the Romans and choose a table in a sidewalk café on the Piazza del Popolo or the Via Veneto. There locals talk long into the night over Campari or wine.
Restaurants and Dining
The Sapori del Lord Byron is romantic Italy at its finest. White lattice-work, bold colors and masses of cut flowers make this restaurant the place to pop the question, and the kitchen serves arguably the finest Italian cooking in Rome. Trattorie across Rome prepare traditional favorites like pasta and saltimbocca, but you can’t beat a stop at a street market for a picnic of blood oranges, fresh bread and prosciutto. Then cap it off with a luscious gelato for dessert.