Introduction to Rome

The Eternal City, Italy's capital, and cradle of Western civilisation, Rome (Roma) and its suburbs is home to 3.7 million inhabitants. The city is as ancient or as modern as you want it to be. From crumbling ruins to the trendiest modern bars, there is always something to see, something happening, and - of course - something to eat or drink.

Whatever you do, don't miss:


  • Rome: The Colosseum
  • Rome: The Colosseum
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The Colosseum (Piazza del  Colosseo)

Fast Facts:

  • The Colosseum, completed in AD 72, is in the centre of ancient Rome.
  • Seating 50,000 spectators, it was the venue for bloodthirsty Gladiatorial combat and slaughter of Christians and wild animals.
  • The tunnels beneath the Colosseum, where the contestants and frightened prey once awaited their fate before the Roman public, is again open to the public, for the first time in decades.
  • Open year-round, and within walking distance from Rome's central railway station (Stazione Centrale)
  • Watch out for touts, scams, pickpockets around this area.

Eat nearby at: low-cost cheap and cheerful ethnic bars and cafes nearby.

Extra time: spend a day wandering the ruins of the ancient temples of the Roman forum, almost 2000 years old.

Trivia: This ancient building is depicted on Italy's five-cent euro coin. It is truly an amphitheatre as it is oval, and is really TWO theatres facing each other. Amphi means 'both' in Greek.

More information: Wikipedia 

  • Rome: St Peter's Basilica
  • Rome: St Peter's Basilica
  • Rome: St Peter's Basilica
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St Peter's Basilica

Fast Facts:

  • The basilica, built by order of  Constantine in AD324, is said to be the burial site of St Peter.
  • Michelangelo's famous sculpture the Pieta was damaged by a tourist with an axe in 1972. It is now shielded by glass.
  • The richly decorated Sistine Chapel is used by cardinals when a new pope is being selected. Michelangelo's 16th-century frescos were restored last century using 20th-century technology.
  • Each Sunday when the Pope is in residence, hundreds gather in St Peter's Square (designed in the 17th century by Bernini) in  front of the basilica as he appears at the library window at noon to bless the faithful.
  • Castel Sant'Angelo, was originally Hadrian's mausoleum. A secret corridor links it to the Vatican Palace. Think, da Vinci Code.

Eat nearby: Cross the Tiber to the Piazza Navona area for any number of restaurants and cafes.

Extra time: Explore the Vatican museums housed in palaces once built for former popes during the Renaissance.

Trivia: The Vatican is a sovereign state, ruled by the Pope, and is the world's smallest country, almost 52 hectares (0.2 square miles) with a population of around 700.

The Basilica can hold 60,000 people.

More information: Wikipedia 

  • Rome: The Spanish Steps
  • Rome: The Spanish Steps
  • Rome: The Spanish Steps
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Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Triniti dei Monti)

Fast Facts:

  • This is the universal 'meet you in Rome' spot.There are 138 steps  leading from the via Condotti and Piazza di Spagna at the bottom to the viale Triniti dei Monti at the top.
  • The English poet, Keats died in his house here in 1821, aged 25. The house is now a museum which also commemorates poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.
  • The fashionable via Condotti is filled with elegant boutiques and small cafes.

Eat nearby: In autumn buy a paper cone of hot, freshly roasted chestnuts from a street corner vendor. Babington's Tea Rooms are close by on the Piazza. Founded by English sisters in 1893, it still serves good pots of English tea.

Extra time: Go shopping, of course! The via Condotti has Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Bruno Magli, Giorgio Armani, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Ferragamo, Christian Dior and many more designer outlets.

Trivia: Marconi, inventor of radio, lived in Via Condotti until he died in 1937.

More information: Spanish Steps 

  • Rome: The Pantheon
  • Rome: The Pantheon
  • Rome: The Pantheon
  • Rome: The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Fast Facts:

  • Campo de'Fiori is now a bustling market, but it was the spot in 1600 where Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for having the temerity to suggest that the earth moved around the sun.
  • The Pantheon, commissioned in AD 126, is a cylindrical building with a strange open oculus at the top.
  • Its name means 'all gods', but it has been a Roman Catholic church since the 7th century.
  • The 15th-century Italian artist Raphael is buried here.

Eat nearby: at many cafes and pizzerias in  the vicinity.

Extra time: Take the short walk to the bridge across the Tiber. Isola Tiberina, a doll-sized island said to be the smallest inhabited island in the world, is linked by the Ponte Fabricio and Ponte Cestio to either bank.


  • Legend says that it was on Isola Tiberina that a miracle-dispensing snake, meant to save Rome from plague, jumped ship in the third century BC.
  • Romans have a historical connection with salt right from the times when the Via Salaria - still so-named today - was the beginning of the salt-route from ancient Rome.

More information: Wikipedia



foodromeROME'S FOOD:

  • Dishes called alla romana usually are served in a simple tomato sauce.
  • Agnello di latte (or abbacchio romano) is suckling lamb, and pagliata is the roasted intestines of milk-fed veal.
  • Saltimbocca alla romana is very thin slices of friedmilk-fed veal.
  • Gnocchi alla Romana are discs of semolina dough, baked with cheese and ragú.
  • Suppli are small balls of rice moulded around cheese and deep-fried, similar to arancini.
  • Also look for spaghetti alla carbonara and risotto alla Romana.
  • Coratella can mean a dish has been prepared from heart, lungs, and kidneys. 
  • Look for rich guanciale (pig's cheek) and bacon. 
  • Although  all sorts of smallgoods such as coppiette, cured strips of pork and mortadella di Amatrice or salsiccie (sausages) are used, vegetables are popular in many Roman dishes. 
  • Pasta shapes include fettuccine (a Roman form of tagliatelle) penne and bucatini. Look for the latter served alla amatriciana.
  • Ethnic influences show in mammola alla giudia, a Jewish dish using artichokes, and a Middle Eastern-inspired oxtail dish, coda alla vaccinara. Stracchiatella soup is similar to a Greek dish.
  • Woodfired breads include round pane casareccio di Genzano, and baguette-shaped soccie.

Kiwi fruit, strawberries, table olives and good olive oils, chestnuts and hazelnuts come from Lazio, the region in which Rome lies. There is also locally-grown garlic, onion, basil, rosemary and other herbs, artichokes, capsicum, beans and peas, and lentils. One lettuce, Romana (aka cos or romaine), bears the capital's name. Black truffles are found too, and there's seafood from the nearby coast.

Sheep's milk cheeses include pecorino romano, fiordilatte, and ricotta romana and buffalo mozzarella is also made in the region.

foodrome2WINES OF THE REGION: Local drinkable wines are ideal for trattoria meals. Look for whites such as Colli Albani, and Frascati, and the red Torre Ercolana.

A PLACE TO EAT: For a trendy new dining area, with markets, bars, restaurants, and cafés, head for Pigneto, a little away from the centre of the old city, 10 minutes by taxi, and will be less expensive to access once Metro Line C, opens in 2011.

Or locate an enoteca (a wine bar) for a glass of wine and some bar snacks. Go to a café at breakfast for a cup of coffee (while standing, of course), and at lunchtime, a trattoria - preferably away from the tourist areas - for good meat and pasta dishes.

A popular snack is a slice of cheesy and wonderful pizza al taglio from little hole-in-the-wall places.

Or discover some of the country's best gelati

FOOD AND TRAVEL'S CHOICE OF A PLACE TO STAY: Hotel Aldrovandi Palace, Via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 15 - 00197, Rome. Sumptuous, elegant and ideally situated, a little distance from the hub and buffered by the lovely Villa Borghese Gardens opposite.



INSIDER'S TIP: Trastavere


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