When in Rome

June 11, 2015

"A thousand roads lead men [and women] forever to Rome." This Latin proverb still holds true two and a half thousand years later, as millions of enthusiastic travellers continue to flock to the Eternal City, relishing in its rich history, vivacious spirit and striking visual atmosphere.

Rome is a treasure trove of ancient splendors, its epic story written on every stone that shapes its legendary past. Historical sites such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill, Castel Sant’Angelo, Circus Maximus, the Pantheon, and the Aventine Hill - where Rome’s mythical birth and legacy began -continue to draw thousands of spectators millennia later.

Dotted with ruins both above and below ground, the former caput mundi (capital of the world) is an open-air museum with celebrated works displayed at every turn. Beneath Palazzo Valentini and steps from Piazza Venezia, history enthusiasts can explore the archeological remains of Le Domus Romane - two ancient Roman houses that provide a refreshing glimpse into underground Rome. At the Centrale Montemartini museum, a collection of sculptures representative of the spoils from several excavation campaigns are yours to enjoy.

The capital of Italy, famed for “La Dolce Vita”, is lined with cobblestoned paths that lead to picturesque piazzas filled with cafès and trattorias that spill onto its atmospheric streets. When in Rome, do as the Romans do! Sit back with an aperitivo, and take in the artistic marvels displayed in Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Campo dei Fiori and Piazza del Campidoglio. In Piazza del Popolo, you can even gaze at two Caravaggio paintings that hang on opposing walls in the Cerasi Chapel. The majestic Fontana di Trevi takes on breathtaking heroic proportions when illuminated by night - don’t forget to throw a coin into the fountain, as legend believes it will ensure your return to Rome!
In Rome, the old mingles seamlessly with the new - a concept Pope Francis has embraced with inspiring ease, reinvigorating interest in the Roman Catholic Church and Vatican City State; an enclave nestled in the heart of Rome, where you can take in the rhythm, rituals and splendor of the Church. Recently, his Holiness made headlines when he invited the homeless to admire the beauty of the Vatican museums and the breathtaking Sistine Chapel – home to Michelangelo’s fresco ‘The Creation of Adam.’ 

While admiring the glorious beauty of Bernini’s colonnade in St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica, one cannot help but reflect on the past and the ambitious popes who left behind great artistic treasures, among them the spectacular Farnese Palace. Now the site of the French Embassy, it is one of Rome’s most impressive Renaissance Palazzi and home to the Carracci Gallery which houses marvellous frescoes. It reopens to the public this spring after undergoing an extensive restoration.

Built during the height of the Renaissance, arguably the Golden Age of Italian Art and Architecture, many of Rome’s stately palazzi are now the home of government buildings such as Palazzo Chigi, Palazzo Barberini, Palazzo Spada and the Palazzo del Quirinale; named after the hill on which it sits overlooking Rome.  

The city’s fabled seven hills provide magnificent panoramic views, though Rome is home to many glorious hills and landscapes. Postcard-worthy spots include the Giardino degli Aranci on the Aventine Hill that looks out to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Janiculum Hill is the perfect place to overlook the city at sunset, while the Capitoline Hill offers two impressive vantage points. On the Alban Hills, in the Castelli Romani, visit the town of Frascati to sit at a picnic table restaurant and dine on delicious porchetta and wine, while looking over the valley towards Rome.  

When seeking respite from the city chaos head to the enchantingly beautiful Villa Borghese – Rome’s most celebrated park. This beautiful oasis in the heart of Rome stretches from above Piazza del Popolo to the end of the fashionable Via Veneto, crowning Rome in a magnificent canopy of green. Art lovers will delight in the collection of paintings and sculptures displayed in the Galleria Borghese, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna and the Museo Nazionale Etrusco all located within the park. There is also an amphitheatre, cinemas, a bio park, a lake and numerous fountains dotted throughout.

One of the nation’s most important private art collections is housed in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj which includes masterpieces by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian and Velázquez. Admission includes a charming audio guide narrated by Prince Jonathon Doria Pamphilj that brings this 17th century splendour alive with intriguing tales of his family’s history.  

With so many sights and things to do, Rome is truly a global city. It is also one of the fashion capitals of the world, with some of Italy's oldest jewellery and clothing establishments founded here. A stroll along Via Condotti and the Spanish Steps will reveal celebrated Italian designer boutiques. For affordable finds, head to Via Cola di Rienzo or Via del Corso that leads all the way to the bustling Piazza Venezia with its impressive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king to rule a unified Italy. If you get the chance, be sure to visit the market in Campo dei Fiori.   

West of the Tiber River, across the picturesque Ponte Sisto, Romans and tourists flock to the lively and ancient quarter of Trastevere. A walk along its labyrinth of colorful streets will reveal flailing laundry and religious shrines, as well as some of the city’s best bars and restaurants. Here you will find the authentic soul of the Eternal City. The heart of this neighbourhood is Piazza Santa Maria Trastevere where you can relax on the steps of the fountain and enjoy Roman’s go about their daily lives.  

Not to be outdone by its historical treasures, one cannot overlook the delicious food.  The best and most enjoyable way to emerge yourself into the local Roman culture is by eating and drinking, so when in Rome, eat as the Roman’s do! From pizza al taglio (sliced), to classic pastas such as Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara, to Saltimbocca alla Romana and braised artichokes - Rome is bursting with great eateries with both traditional and creative cuisine. When it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth, nothing beats a delicious gelato artiginale (homemade)! Try the gelaterie Giolitti, I Caruso or Come Il Latte. For a typical Roman dessert, try a Maritozzi.  

Rome is a magical city, both magnificently mesmerizing and undoubtedly chaotic; yet it is so seductive that one’s final thoughts are surely, Arrivederci Roma… until we meet again!” 

Look for my article in the new issue of Panoram Italia Magazine.  

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