- Elegant neo-Baroque apartment
- Chic Condotti side-street
- Sleek suite sanctuary
- Spanish Steps bohemia
- Caesar’s palace
- Fringed by the Forum
- Chic renovated palazzo
- Bustling Via del Babuino
- Refined Roman retreat
- Vibrant Via Condotti
- Grandeur with gardens
- Between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo
- Wine-lovers' world
- A stagger from the Spanish Steps
- Roman fashion house
- Spanish Steps shopping streets
- Super-luxe palazzo
- Fashionable Via Condotti
- Archaeological eye-candy
- City life
- Piazza people-watching
It’s true: Rome wasn’t built in a day – and almost every moment of its lengthy and splendid history is still visible in some form.
Parts of the city are perfectly mediaeval; Renaissance and Baroque buildings soar skyward, and breathtaking sculpture sits on every corner. With the Vatican in town, Easter and Christmas are highlights on Rome’s calendar, but pilgrims of an artistic persuasion flock to the tiny city state all year to adore Raphael and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes. Rome is also about the art of life – food, fashion and fun are enjoyed with religious zeal in this most sensual of capitals. Live la dolce vita as the locals do: colonise a café in the Campo de’ Fiori; linger longer over rustic pasta in a traditional trattoria; let your feet wander and your eyes roam.
Think of Rome and chances are you’ll imagine Italy’s gilded youth zipping around astride hornet-like mopeds. Do asFellini’s dashing journalist Marcello did and scoot the sights aboard a vintage Vespa or polished Piaggio with Happy Rent (+39 06 4202 0675; www.happyrent.com). Hire one and wobble wherever your wheels take you, or let their drivers ferry you on a city tour. If bikes just ain’t your thing, you can also hire cute-as-a-button mini motors, including Smart cars and Fiat 500s.
- You can hail them everywhere, and taxi ranks display numbers to call. Avoid the many unofficial and unlicensed taxis, especially for airport rides – if in doubt, ask your hotel to arrange transport.
- Tipping culture
- 15 per cent is usually added in restaurants, but anything extra does not always go to staff; leave your small change for drinks.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Romans holiday in August, so some shops and restaurants will be closed – ring to check before you set off without reservations. However this does mean you may find great-value hotel rooms in August. Some businesses also close from about 1pm till 3.30pm.
- Packing tips
- Rosary beads; a pick and shovel to unearth the ancient artefacts lurking beneath the streets (the reason Rome's metro system has never been completed); flat shoes; plenty of blister-soothing plasters.
- Recommended reads
- Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon; Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley is set mostly in Rome; Anthony Capella’s The Food of Love; Open City: Seven Writers in Postwar Rome, edited by William Weaver.
- The foundation of Roman food is cucina povera (rustic cooking); much of it focuses on offal and working-class staples, such as trippa all Romana (tripe with tomato ragù) and baccalà (fried salt cod), but there are plenty of less challenging delicacies, such as saltimbocca (veal rolls with sage) and rigatoni all’amatriciana (pasta with tomato and pancetta sauce). Thursday is gnocchi day, when dumplings are a special on many menus.
- Regional specialities
- Head to the Testaccio district, where the city’s stockyards once were – it’s still the preserve of Rome’s butchers, and there are dozens of fantastic trattorias and delis, including Volpetti at 47 Via Marmorata (+39 06 574 2352; www.volpetti.com). Rome has a fantastic café culture, so join the locals for an espresso in one of the piazzas. Tasting note: no self-respecting Roman would order a milk-laden cappuccino after mid-morning; go for a high-octane ristretto instead.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Italy: +39. Rome: 06 (don’t forget to retain the initial ‘0’ of the area code when dialling from outside Italy).
- Do go/don't go
- In summer, the city gets sweaty; you may prefer spring or autumn, but winter is the quietest. Any time of year, one of the pleasures of a visit to the Eternal City is to simply dive off the busy tourist routes and explore its countless lesser-known treasures at random. Rome’s museums are often surprisingly uncrowded.
Don't go home without...
… taking a stroll round the lively farmer’s market in Campo de’ Fiori near Piazza Navona – its colourful stalls of flowers, fruit and veg set up every morning.