A city that was once the heart of the Roman Empire, and now contains an entire tiny country (and the center of Catholicism) within its borders, Rome doesn’t stop there: a mammoth artistic heritage, two of Europe’s biggest football teams and a penchant for high-class fashion are also just waiting to be uncovered.
The Vatican is the place to start, where artwork and shapely architecture seems to appear round every corner. You won’t meet the Pope, but you can climb to the platforms of St Peter’s Basilica and explore the dusty archives of the astonishingly vast Vatican Museum. To get there you’ll walk the cobbled streets from the Tiber, passing old Roman houses before arriving amongst the expansive, symmetrical courtyard in which the Pope waves to the masses from a balcony after first being sworn in.
Try a magnificent climb to the Cupola to see the perfect view of the St. Peter's Square. Roam down the underground Grotto to see the tombs of the Popes and other Roman royalties.
Grab an ice cream, and head over to the sites the other side of the Tiber, which include the magnificent but crumbling Colosseum, the small but beautiful pools of the Trevi Fountain (take some small change to throw in), and the Roman grandeur of countless uncovered ruins and crumbling yet exquisite churches. Think ‘Angels and Demons’ on a far grander scale.
It’s not all about history, though: Rome’s streets are coated with designer brands, while the residents shoot around the streets on stylish motorbikes, pausing only for super-strength coffee and to chomp on slices of perfectly made pizza straight from a window on a street corner. Sitting outside in any one of the many plazas and simply absorbing the vibe, cold beer in hand, is enough to feel at the heart of it.
For the large part Rome is loud and brash, but every bit as charming and invigorating as its reputation would lead you to believe. Try to catch an evening soccer game at the magnificent Stadio Olimpico, or spend your days watching the abundant priests drift down crumbling cobbled streets in their swaying robes amongst nude statues, tiny fountains and perfectly formed buildings. Rome might no longer be the capital of the world, but it is an essential travel experience.
Both a country within a city and a city within a country, the Catholic heartland of the Vatican lies entirely within the boundaries of ancient Rome, and is guarded by the heavily trained and …