All roads lead to Rome, and with a history spanning 28 centuries and the only city in the world with a country inside a city, it’s hard to know where to start. As a contemporary capital, there is nowhere like Rome, and for a city with so much history, a weekend won’t do it justice.
Experience this exhilarating, sophisticated capital with a vibrant cultural atmosphere in a unique environment rich in displays of globally influential art, architecture and culture spanning 3,000 years. Settled on the banks of the Tiber River in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, the hot-blooded Italian capital is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. It’s easy to see why when you get here. Rome is a heady mix of awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping art, romance, charisma and nostalgia with a cityscape made of the stuff of legends. Its monumental history contains so many ancient icons such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Pantheon. Impressive basilicas testify to the history of Rome as the seat of the Catholic Church, while the granddaddy of Catholicism St. Peter’s Basilica lords it over Vatican City.
The complicated geometry, drama and tension of the Italian Baroque architectural style is on display throughout the rest of Rome and incorporated into other momentous structures. Italian Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini has left his legacy all throughout Rome – you’ll encounter his masterpieces everywhere such as Piazza Navona, home of the Fontana di Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of Four Rivers).
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How do you get to Rome from the airport?
Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, also called Fiumicino (FCO), is approximately 26 km (16 miles) southwest of Rome. FCO is connected to Rome by two airport train services. The ultra-modern Leonardo Express is a direct train to the central Roma Termini Station and makes the 30-minute journey between the city and the airport every half hour. The airport is also serviced by a regional commuter train that makes several stops along the way, but does not stop at the central Termini Station. Terravision shuttle buses also operate 7 daily services that make 5 stops and run between FCO and the Termini Station on journeys of approximately 70 minutes. There are also always plenty of the ubiquitous white Rome taxis outside the airport terminals.
What about getting around the city?
There are multiple options for public transportation in Rome. The underground Metro train service is one of the smallest in Europe, however it has stops at most of the major tourist attractions. More than 350 bus lines run in the city, but due to heavy traffic, bus journeys can take some time, but can also be a good way to see the city. Rome also has a tram network, but as it does not run to the city center, it is less attractive to tourists.
What else is good to know?
Tickets are valid for all city public transport including buses, trams, Metro and rail services within the Rome urban area. When taking public transport in Rome, ensure you validate your ticket before using it. Monthly passes don’t require machine validation, so if you are planning to use public transportation, it might be a good idea to buy a travel card, available for durations of 24, 48 or 72 hours, seven calendar days or one month.
Rome: home of la dolce vita
Central to the experience of Rome is la dolce vita lifestyle, whiling away hours at a cafe on the piazza, marveling at the beauty and detail of centuries-old masterpieces while strolling around picturesque streets and, of course, people-watching. As the sun sets over the piazza, the tempo increases as Rome’s beautiful people emerge to descend on trattorias for aperitivo before heading to the terminally hip cocktail bars and late-night clubs that come alive after dark.
- The Vatican City
- St. Peter’s Basilica
- The Vatican Museum
- Borghese Gallery
- The Villa Borghese Pinciana
A visit to the Eternal City would not be complete without entering the 44-hectare (110-acre) country encircled within its boundaries: Vatican City, Catholic Church HQ, home to the Pope, Pontifical Swiss Guard and a trove of iconic architectural, cultural and artistic treasures. The monumental Italian Renaissance St. Peter’s Basilica is centerpiece of Bernini’s expansive St. Peter’s Square with its massive Doric colonnades designed to “embrace visitors in the maternal arms of Mother Church”. Its interior is luxuriously embellished with marble, reliefs and gilding including Bernini’s 29-meter (95-foot) baldachin in bronze over the Papal Altar. The niches and chapels of St. Peter’s also house masterpieces including the first in Michelangelo’s series in marble Pietà. Visitors can climb to the top of Michelangelo’s dome for expansive and sweeping views across Rome or descend into the Grottoes where the tombs of saints, popes and monarchs lie.
The Vatican Museums are one of the most impressive collections of art, sculpture and treasures in the world, containing approximately 70,000 pieces, of which 20,000 are on display at any given time. On the visitor route to the Vatican Museums are the Stanza di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) and famed Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s breathtaking ceiling fresco The Last Judgment.
Art lovers should not miss visiting the Borghese Gallery, home to the collection started by Bernini’s patron, Pope Paul V’s nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese. The Villa Borghese Pinciana provides an elegant backdrop to revered masterpieces such as Bernini’s The Rape of Persephone and Apollo and Daphne sculptures, Antonio Canova’s sculpture Pauline Bonaparte, Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love oil painting, Raphael’s The Deposition and other works by Rubens and Caravaggio.
More attractions of Rome
Embark on a central Rome mini walking tour in the heart of the city and take in several major tourist attractions over approximately 1.5 km (less than 1 mile) at your own pace. Start at Salvi’s iconic baroque Trevi Fountain, where legend has it that you should toss a coin over your shoulder with your back to the fountain. Then head down Via delle Muratte and into Via di Pietra until you reach the Pantheon, resting place of Raphael and the most complete ancient building in Rome, dating back to 125 AD.
Rome protects the heart of the Catholic faith and the papal residence within its city boundaries and there are few cities in the world that can rival its extraordinary artistic, cultural and architectural heritage. Stroll through the historic center of Rome and you’ll find classics by the titans of European art without even trying – sculptures by Michelangelo, paintings by Caravaggio, frescoes by Raphael and, of course, the work of Bernini.
Our guide has further information about all of Rome's attractions.
Culinary delights in Rome
One of the great pleasures in Rome is eating out and great memories and good times are guaranteed by the combination of romantic alfresco settings and outstanding food. When in Rome, feast like a Roman – head to a cheerful neighborhood trattoria for flavorful pasta dishes or a lively pizzeria for a super-thin base pizza paired with a glass or two of chilled white wine from the nearby Castelli Romani hills. Round it out with gelato followed by a shot of legendary Italian espresso – not for the faint hearted.
The Eternal City's food markets
Food markets are a great way to experience the culinary culture of a city and mingle with locals. Just south of the ancient center of Rome is Campo dei Fiori, home to the oldest market in Rome and the Ghetto area, with its tangle of cramped streets opening onto small squares that are in stark contrast to the slickness of the nearby Piazza Navona. The market has been at the same site since 1896 and specializes in local produce including local favorite the Roman artichoke. After dark, Campo dei Fioro morphs into a rowdy, cosmopolitan rendezvous point for Roman youth, students and tourists as the cocktail bars, pubs, restaurants, outdoor cafes, cinemas and theaters come to life.
Discover tips for a Roman feast in our guide about eat and drink in Rome.
Shopping tips for Rome
If you’ve come to Rome for some retail therapy, you won’t be disappointed. The ever-bustling Via del Corso is the equivalent of the Rome high street and home to all major brands. If money is no object and you prefer a high-end retail experience, Via Condotti awaits. Leading directly to the famed Piazza di Spagna, Via Condotti provides an elegant Roman shopping experience amongst premium luxury brands. Take a left when you reach the Spanish Steps and your high-end luxury shopping experience will continue down Via Babuino.