Rome, Lazio Travel Guide
- Home to tons of iconic structures: the Vatican, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum, just to name a few
- Numerous museums and tons of cultural sites
- Gorgeous architecture and sculptures, including the Trevi Fountain
- Very pedestrian-friendly city
- Famous cuisine: pasta, chocolate, gelato, and coffee
- A relatively safe city, with friendly, helpful people
- A range of hotels
- Popular nightlife and shopping scene
- Not particularly kid-friendly
- Frequent pickpocketing
- Streets can be confusing (and crowded during peak season)
- Many shops and restaurants closed during part of August
What It's Like
The "eternal city," Rome boasts a history that dates back two-and-a-half-thousand years. Stunning Renaissance architecture stands alongside ancient ruins, and iconic structures such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon are some of the world's most-visited sites. In fact, Rome is the third most-visited city is Europe, coming in just after Paris and London. Already a bustling city, Rome can become almost innavigable during peak season. However, Rome at least is a very pedestrian-friendly, with many streets closed to traffic, and a solid metro and bus system. But be sure to bring a map along -- the winding, narrow streets can be confusing.
Rome is a mecca of culture, shopping, and dining. Let's start with culture: Rome has innumerable museums and historic sites. Take, for example, the ancient Roman Forum -- just ruins now, but still an impressive look back at one of the birthplaces of Western civilization. Or the impressive Vatican City, where visitors can take in the splendor and the power of the Roman Catholic Church depicted through St. Peter's Basilica and Michelangelo's astounding work in the Sistine Chapel. Visitors are never at a loss for things to do; except, perhaps, for kids. While adults may enjoy museum after cultural site after museum, there are few kid-friendly attractions and kids often get bored, so some parents may want to leave the kids with their grandparents for this trip (unless you have extremely sophisticated and cultured tots, of course).
If your itinerary isn't packed enough with all of the sights to see, you should also check out Rome's shopping avenues. Though the shopping in Rome doesn't quite compare to that in Venice and Florence, there are still tons of designer shops, as well as less expensive boutiques. Via Condotti is known as the "Madison Avenue of Rome," and Via Borgognona is lined by high-end shops housed in beautiful Baroque and Classic buildings. Via del Corso, on the other hand, may have more of a tourist-y vibe, but offers fun and cheaper wares.
And finally, there's the food. And it's fabulous. Rome is known for just about everything: pasta, gelato, chocolate, coffee...the list goes on. And you'll be amazed how quickly carafes of table wine can disappear over dinner (not all visitors realize that Italian table wine has lower alcohol content, and wind up drinking quite a lot of it). Meals can be expensive, particularly in the tourist-y sections of Rome, but cheaper food (and often the best food) can be found in quieter neighborhoods just outside of the hustle and bustle of the city center.
Where To Stay
Rome is broken up into about 10 neighborhoods, each spilling over into the next. For those on a budget, Termini is a nice option close to the central train station. There are a few hotels near the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, and they tend to be inexpensive, as the location is a bit removed from other popular tourist areas (such as the neighborhood around the Spanish Steps.)
One of the most desirable (and thus most expensive) places to stay is near Piazza Navano and the Pantheon, a central area situated between the Spanish steps area to the north and the ancient ruins to the south. Though the streets and alleys can be confusing, they are lined by beautiful buildings, and there is an active nightlife around the Pantheon (as well as the Campo dei Fiori to the south, which is within easy walking distance).
Some of the city's best hotels are also located in Parioli, an elegant residential area with fabulous restaurants and clubs. The location is not central, however, and so it can be hard to find public transportation in the area.