Roma
Roma

Roma

Italy
The fall of Rome is greatly exaggerated: much of the ancient Roman imperial forum and the Colosseum is still standing, pilgrims are lining up at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City for a glimpse of the pope and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Centro Storico counters are packed for afternoon espresso and aperitivi before vast dinners in Testaccio. And Valentino-clad fashionistas stomp the bar-lined cobblestone streets of Trastevere in stilettos without even a wobble.
Getting Around Roma
The best way to get around Rome is by using the Metropolitana and by walking. The metro runs approximately every 7-10 minutes, from 5:30 a.m.-11.30 p.m. Sunday-Friday and until 12:30 a.m. on Saturday. Fare is €1 for a single ride or €4 for a 24-hour pass. 3-day passes are available for €11 and 7-day passes for €16. Driving in Rome is possible, but not for the faint-hearted. Walking is an excellent alternative to the metro in the city's historic center.
Nearby Airports
  • Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport-FCO
Airport Taxis
  • €48 (Check for SPQR, which will tell you it's a licensed Roman taxi.)
Things to Do and See in Roma
TrastevereTerminiTestaccioVatican CitySan LorenzoGhettoVilla BorgheseTridenteTreviCentro StoricoVia dei Fori ImperialiColosseum
In ancient times, Romans crossing the Tevere (Tiber) River entered an unruly encampment of ungovernable Etruscans, foul-mouthed traders and bawdy serving wenches. Happily, some things never change. Trastevere is home to Rome's liveliest bars, fiercest street fashion and on Sundays, its best flea market at Porta Portese. Everyone complains about the tourists, including the tourists, but that doesn't stop Romans from strapping on lethal stilettos and clomping down Trastevere's twisted cobblestoned alleys for a weekend passegiata (evening stroll). Follow all-age crowds meandering past pubs, boutiques and gelato shops toward the glittering medieval mosaic faade of Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Across Viale di Trastevere are the neighborhood's hidden gems: Porta Portese, with live blues and jazz clubs, and Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, where recent excavations revealed stunning 13th century angel frescoes. Savvy foodies skip Trastevere tourist menus and assemble picnics from bakeries and San Cosimato market stalls.
Romans are conflicted about Termini station and its surrounding working-class neighborhood, which is home to Rome's most diverse community. The area immediately around the hulking, Fascist-era station is gray with pollution and notorious for prostitution. But venture farther west of the station, and you'll discover a vibrant cosmopolitan neighborhood with affordable boutique hotels, friendly neighborhood bars, and authentic Bengali, Somali, and Szechuan restaurants. East of the station lies San Lorenzo, a laid-back, tree-lined neighborhood that wakes up around noon, just in time to welcome Rome's university students and starving artists into excellent pizzerias, cafes, and mom-and-pop pasta joints. For a taste of the local life at a bargain price, San Lorenzo is a draw for international hipsters, but keep your city smarts sharp around Termini, day or night.
City planners gave Rome's market quarter an industrial-neoclassical overhaul in the 19th century, but the flavors of ancient Rome remain remarkably intact in Testaccio. Romans and adventurous eaters flock here for such classic Roman dishes as trippa alla romana (tripe with mint and tomato) and coratella (entrails), dishes made from animal parts left over after Roman legions took their prime cuts of meat. Meat is major in Testaccio, where Rome's official slaughterhouses sliced and diced daily until 1975. Today the hulking slaughterhouse complex houses university architecture programs, art galleries, cultural centers, and major music festivals in summer. Testaccio is Rome's outpost of edgy industrial cool and foodie authenticity, especially now that the local train station office has been converted into Eataly, a three-story Slow Food emporium featuring regional specialty foods, gourmet classes with star chefs, pasta, and espresso galore.
At the heart of Rome is the world's smallest sovereign state, with its own post office, spear-wielding Swiss guard, and priceless Michelangelo masterpieces: Vatican City. This is the home of the Catholic Church, where pilgrims from across the globe come to pray under the vast Michelangelo-designed dome of St. Peter's Basilica, and receive blessings from the Pope himself on Sundays at noon in St. Peter's Square. Inside the neighboring Vatican Museums is a parade of wonders that starts with Egyptian mummies and ends 1.2 miles later at the sublime Sistine Chapel, frescoed floor to ceiling by Michelangelo and other Renaissance masters. Though Vatican City is only 0.44 square kilometers, distances between locations often seem vast, especially when looking for a bathroom or a decent pizza. Secular Romans usually avoid the Vatican, except for rare morning museum visits and strolls at sunset, when flocks of starlings form a halo over St Peter's.
Romans are conflicted about Termini station and its surrounding working-class neighborhood, which is home to Rome's most diverse community. The area immediately around the hulking, Fascist-era station is gray with pollution and notorious for prostitution. But venture farther west of the station, and you'll discover a vibrant cosmopolitan neighborhood with affordable boutique hotels, friendly neighborhood bars and authentic Bengali, Somali, and Szechuan restaurants. East of the station lies San Lorenzo, a laid-back, tree-lined neighborhood that wakes up around noon—just in time to welcome Rome's university students and starving artists into excellent pizzerias, cafes, and mom-and-pop pasta joints. For a taste of the local life at a bargain price, San Lorenzo is a draw for international hipsters, but keep your city smarts sharp around Termini, day or night.
Rome's Jewish residents have shaped the city's history since imperial times, serving as political advisors, working in key trades, constructing the Colosseum and inventing Roman dishes like carciofi alla giudia (Jewish-style fried artichokes). But in 1555, Pope Paul IV revoked their rights, requiring Roman Jews to relocate near the fish market at Rome's ancient Teatro Marcello. Napoleon lifted the restrictions in 1798, but Roman Jews only gained full rights as citizens after Rome joined the independent Kingdom of Italy in 1870. The community celebrated by commissioning the art nouveau Great Synagogue, which now houses Rome's Jewish Museum. But with the rise of Italian fascism and the Nazi occupation of Rome, more than 1,000 Ghetto residents were deported to Auschwitz death camps. Yet the community stood its ground, and the Ghetto remains a center for study, culture and Roman Jewish cuisine, including the city's signature fish stew and potato pizza. Security has been tight in the Ghetto ever since politically motivated attacks on the synagogue in the 1970s, so bring your passport and expect bag checks on religious holidays.
Shaggy-haired poets like Keats and Shelly were once the toast of Tridente, but carefree Bohemian style doesn't make the signorinas swoon like it used to along Tridente's famous Spanish Steps. Today there's no excuse for shagginess in Rome's most fashion-conscious neighborhood, where Italian designer flagship boutiques brush Valentino-clad elbows against new Gap superstores. Along its broad store-lined boulevards, Tridente can seem all dressed up with no place to go, but the backstreets are lined with swanky velvet-clad bars and plush boutique hotels. Once the site of public executions, Piazza del Popolo is now the stomping ground of street artists, protestors and art history classes headed for classical masterpieces at Santa Maria del Popolo church and Villa Borghese. Dashing new arrivals on the scene are the Zaha Hadid-designed MAXXI museum for contemporary art and Richard Meier's controversial minimalist Museo dell'Ara Pacis, which hosts contemporary art shows alongside Rome's 13 B.C. marble Altar of Peace.
Shaggy-haired poets like Keats and Shelly were once the toast of Tridente, but carefree Bohemian style doesn't make the signorinas swoon like it used to along Tridente's famous Spanish Steps. Today there's no excuse for shagginess in Rome's most fashion-conscious neighborhood, where Italian designer flagship boutiques brush Valentino-clad elbows against new Gap superstores. Along its broad store-lined boulevards, Tridente can seem all dressed up with no place to go, but the backstreets are lined with swanky velvet-clad bars and plush boutique hotels. Once the site of public executions, Piazza del Popolo is now the stomping ground of street artists, protestors and art history classes headed for classical masterpieces at Santa Maria del Popolo church and Villa Borghese. Dashing new arrivals on the scene are the Zaha Hadid-designed MAXXI museum for contemporary art and Richard Meier's controversial minimalist Museo dell'Ara Pacis, which hosts contemporary art shows alongside Rome's 13 B.C. marble Altar of Peace.
Sensory overload is the theme of Trevi, with Neptune kicking up a tempest in its signature fountain, Quirinale Palace fit for popes and kings and baroque masterpiece churches by Borromini and Bernini facing off across Via del Quirinale (San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and Sant'Andrea, respectively). The people-watching at Trevi's sidewalk cafés is arguably Rome's best, and that's saying something. Every romantic in town shows up here around sunset, starry-eyed and shamelessly smooching. Cavorting in Trevi Fountain is technically off-limits since Fellini filmed La Dolce Vita here, but night-time visitors still hope for a glimpse of the notorious D'Artangan, who's been caught twice stealing thousands of Euros thrown into the fountain for good luck. But the real treasure of Trevi is Palazzo Barberini, a 17th century palace packed with Renaissance and baroque masterpieces and capped with Pietro da Cortona's Triumph of Divine Providence ceiling. Fair warning: divine providence may be necessary to find an affordable hotel in the area.
Finding action in Rome is easy, because it's been in the same place for millennia: Centro Storico (historic center). Kids drag parents past performance art protests outside the ancient Pantheon to backstreet artisan gelato boutiques. Politicians plot overthrows over killer espresso at Caff Sant'Eustachio. Caravaggio scandalizes crowds with censored paintings of Roman hustlers posing as saints inside San Luigi dei Francesi church. Tourists who crowd the touristy cafŽs and caricaturists of Piazza Navona are missing out on the vibrant local scene at nearby Campo de' Fiori, where the central farmers' market is ringed by well-priced osterie and raucous bars. Retreat from the hubbub under the starry ceilings of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the seat of the Inquisition built atop a pagan temple. Explore the frescoed salons of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, the private palace of Rome's most influential family. Except for daredevil scooter drivers, the Centro Storico is mostly off-limits to traffic.
Via dei Fori Imperialimore on Via dei Fori Imperiali »
Getting stuck in Vespa traffic has its upside along Rome's Via dei Fori Imperiali, a boulevard lined with the glories of ancient Rome. On one side are the stately ruins of millennia-old market forums and Trajan's exquisitely carved column. On the other flank is the Capitoline Hill, with its museums and a path worn by emperors commuting to the Roman Senate. Along Via dei Fori Imperiali, the Roman skyline is still defined by triumphal arches, crumbling ancient palaces and temples whose fires were once diligently stoked by Vestal Virgins upon pain of death. But the grand finale of this route is the Colosseum, where trained gladiators, ferocious beasts and hapless political prisoners fought to the death unless granted an imperial reprieve. On a good night, gladiatorial physiques can be glimpsed at the gay bar scene that's sprung up in the former fascist stronghold behind the Colosseum. Otherwise, Romans tend to scoot right past this area, avoiding the tourist menus and petty crime in the deserted area at night.
Getting stuck in Vespa traffic has its upside along Rome's Via dei Fori Imperiali, a boulevard lined with the glories of ancient Rome. On one side are the stately ruins of millennia-old market forums and Trajan's exquisitely carved column. On the other flank is the Capitoline Hill, with its museums and a path worn by emperors commuting to the Roman Senate. Along Via dei Fori Imperiali, the Roman skyline is still defined by triumphal arches, crumbling ancient palaces and temples whose fires were once diligently stoked by Vestal Virgins upon pain of death. But the grand finale of this route is the Colosseum, where trained gladiators, ferocious beasts and hapless political prisoners fought to the death unless granted an imperial reprieve. On a good night, gladiatorial physiques can be glimpsed at the gay bar scene that's sprung up in the former fascist stronghold behind the Colosseum. Otherwise, Romans tend to scoot right past this area, avoiding the tourist menus and petty crime in the deserted area at night.
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