Like a giant open-air museum with pagan ruins, historic churches and archaic heirlooms, Rome, Italy is a real-life history lesson with the unmistakable buzz of modernity amplified from all corners. In recent years, many restaurants, hotels and shops have adopted a more current, international aesthetic, promoting accessibility throughout the city. Whether it’s the flood of grandeur that the Colosseum emits into the Mediterranean air or the casual sophistication that Romans have while they sip espresso in their dark sunglasses at sidewalk cafés, there is just something truly luminous about Rome. Even while strolling down the streets with a fanny pack, camera and your first authentic gelato dripping down your arm, you still somehow feel cool.
Central Rome is home to the majority of the city’s tourist activity and traveler accommodations. Ancient Rome is home to beautiful plazas, cathedrals and archaic sites which let you get close to awe-inspiring landmarks like the Pantheon, Colosseum and Piazza del Campidoglio. The Modern Center is where several hotels, restaurants and shopping areas are located. Via Veneto is chock-full of high-end hotels and hotspots like the renowned Café de Paris and Harry’s Bar, which were immortalized in the film La Dolce Vita. This area is also home to the Repubblica and Quirinale neighborhoods, which are famous for the beautiful Trevi Fountain and Rome’s National Museum. Vatican City is its own papal city-state within Rome. Between St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the pope himself, there is enough religion, history and art in the 0.44-square-kilometer area to last a lifetime.
The Northern Center is a large area of Rome which many travelers frequent to visit the Villa Borghese, a palatial villa, art gallery and garden. The famed Spanish Steps are also in the northern district. This monumental 138-step staircase, leading from the base of Piazza Trinita dei Monte and its adjoining church, is the longest and widest staircase in Europe. Trastevere, a section of Rome just south of Vatican City and along the west bank of the Tiber River, is full of artist-inspiring plazas and cobbled streets. Considered one of the hubs of Roman nightlife, Trastevere is rich is pubs, clubs and restaurants. The Jewish Quarter and ghetto are also in this area, as well as the ancient synagogue and museum.
Though Rome has some of the most beautiful and historically relevant museums, monuments and churches in the world, just stepping outside of your hotel and looking around can be the preamble to an on-the-spot tutorial in ancient history. Many of Rome’s sights are well beyond elderly -- but don’t call this city old and tired. The streets are teeming with vibrant young people who are expressing themselves through art, music and design. Taste the best pasta and Chianti of your life at a dimly lit trattoria like Maccheroni near the Pantheon, or go shopping on Via Conditti (think 5th Avenue) for some exclusive Italian designer duds. For some of the best gelato in town, try one of Il Gelato San Crispino’s three locations. For an authentic slice of Roman-style pizza, check out Da Baffeto on via del Governo Vecchio.
Rome has two main international airports. Fiumicino, also called Leonardo da Vinci Airport, is the most widely used with its large, modern structure and accessibility to public transportation. Ciampino International Airport is the best choice when taking one of the discount airlines that serves Europe. This smaller airport is closer to the center of Rome, but has no direct train connections for travelers. For traveling throughout Italy, Termini Station is the city’s main train station and is easily accessed by the Leonardo Express line from Fiumicino Airport. The least-expensive mode of transportation in Rome (besides walking, which is recommended in the city’s center) is the public transport, or ATAC. The Metro, buses and trams are all a part of the ATAC and tickets, ranging from a single “bigletto” to annual passes, should be purchased ahead of time from a Tabacchi shop or station kiosk.
Typical of much of Western Europe, Rome enjoys a Mediterranean climate with its dry, hot summers and wet winters. The late summer months can bring temperatures exceeding 90° F, and traditionally many businesses close in August for a resort holiday. The best times to visit Rome are from April through June, and September to November. Ultimately, October and May are said to be the most beautiful and comfortable times of the year to visit.