Uncover Rome's ancient treasures, grand piazzas and tasty gelaterias while roaming the city’s cobbled streets and you’ll be hurling coins in the Trevi Fountain to ensure a return visit
Rome is bold and beautiful, with so much to see and do. From the grandeur of St Peter’s Basilica and the beautiful park at Villa Borghese to the sweeping views from the top of the Spanish Steps the city is alive with history and impressive architecture. You’ll find a church, fountain or statue around every corner and whether they are polished or decaying they are always majestic.
What to do
For a view of the city from above head straight for the Spanish Steps. Overlooking the bustling Via Condotti the grand staircase was built in 1725 and leads to an attractive French church. Visit at sunset for a breathtaking view of the city’s red roofs and dome-studded horizon. Alternatively, head up Pincio Hill next to the vast Piazza del Popolo, once the city’s northern entrance, for a sweeping city vista from Piazzale Napoleone I and access to the sprawling Villa Borghese.
Allow plenty of time to explore Vatican City; the world’s smallest sovereign state is home to the vast public space of St Peter’s Square, encircled by four rows of columns, the cavernous St Peter’s Basilica (www.stpetersbasilica.org) and the Vatican Museums, which include the Sistine Chapel (join the queue to witness Michelangelo’s frescoes that grace the barrel-vaulted ceiling and walls).
Even history novices will be able to appreciate the crumbling beauty of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine – an atmospheric jumble of columns and ancient rubble. Having checked out the major sights, discover a more ‘authentic’ side to Rome in Trastevere, a picturesque district filled with lively bars and cafés.
Where to stay
Situated on Via Archimede, The Duke Hotel is set in Rome’s chic residential district and is a great place to stay if you’re looking for somewhere quiet and classy. For the ultimate in Roman style it has to be the Hotel de Russie. Having been transformed by esteemed hotel designer Olga Polizzi’s delicate touch, it occupies a great central location next to the Piazza del Popolo. Built in 1925, the charming Hotel Locarno on Via della Penna retains many of its original features. Alternatively, set up camp in a stylish private apartment; try Crossing Condotti (00 39 06 699 20633; www.crossingcondotti.com).
Where to eat and drink
For top-notch dining you can’t beat Hostaria dell’Orso (00 39 06 683 01192; www.hdo.it), an ornate medieval dining room and piano bar serving delicious home-made tortelli stuffed with seasonal vegetables and seriously succulent caramelised pork. The best place for dinner with a view is at La Terrazza in the fashionable Hotel Eden (00 39 06 478 121; Via Ludovisi 49). It serves delicious food in a romantic setting; make sure you sample the different pandoro sweet breads.
Hidden down an alleyway near the Spanish Steps is Fiaschetteria Beltramme (Via della Croce 39). With only seven shared tables and a small menu, this is a friendly affair serving tasty pasta dishes and creamy mozzarella and tomato salads. For hearty Italian grub head to Osteria del Rione (00 39 06 855 1057; Via Basento 20). The fixed menu – antipasti of fresh, grilled vegetables and cheeses, appetising pasta and rustic meat dishes – includes all the wine and grappa you can handle.
Aroma del Palazzetto (00 39 06 699 341000; Vicolo del Bottino 8) has a huge range of wines and is home to the International Wine Academy (www.wineacademyroma. com). The restaurant is set in a stylish library room and chef Martucci uses the finest and freshest of ingredients – try the tagliolini (fine egg noodles) with cuttlefish.
For lunch on the run, Forno di Campo de’Fiori (in the noisy and colourful Campo de’Fiori square, which is home to a busy produce market) is one of the city’s most famous bakeries. Queues regularly stretch out of the doors for a slice of their crispy stone-baked pizza or fluffy panettone.
Time running out?
Hire a bike and whiz around any sights you may have missed with TopBike Rental (bike and scooter hire): Via Labicana 49; www.topbikerental.com; open 9.30am-7pm daily. Bikes from €15 per day.
Pick up a Roma Pass (www.romapass.it). For €22 the card entitles holders to free admission to the first two museums or archaeological sites visited, full access to the public transport system and discounts at many of the city’s cultural attractions.
Currency is the euro. Rome is one hour ahead of GMT and a two-hour 30-minute flight from London.
Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) has several flights a day to Rome from Stansted. Alitalia (08714 241424; www.alitalia.com) flies direct from Heathrow to Rome and from London City via Milan.
Enjoy Rome: Via Marghera 8 (00 39 06 445 1843; enjoyrome.com). Just north of the main train station, Termini.
This guide first appeared in Food and Travel magazine.