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Rome, the Eternal City, is the capital and largest city of Italy and of the Lazio region. It's the famed city of the Roman Empire, the Seven Hills, La Dolce Vita (the sweet life), the Vatican City and Three Coins in the Fountain. Rome, as a millenium-long centre of power, culture (having been the cradle of one of the globe's greatest civilisations ever) and religion, has exerted a huge influence over the world in its roughly 2800 years of existence.
The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With wonderful palaces, millennium-old churches, grand romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains, Rome has an immensely rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere, making it one of Europe's and the world's most visited, famous, influential and beautiful capitals. Today, Rome has a growing nightlife scene and is also seen as a shopping heaven, being regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world (some of Italy's oldest jewellery and clothing establishments were founded in the city).
With so many sights and things to do, Rome can truly be classified a "global city".
Situated on the river Tiber, between the Apennine mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea, the "Eternal City" was once the administrative centre of the mighty Roman Empire, ruling over a vast territory that stretched all the way from Britain to Mesopotamia. Today, the city is the seat of the Italian government and home to numerous ministerial offices. Rome has 2.6 million inhabitants while its metropolitan area is home to around 4.2 million.
Architecturally and culturally, Rome has some contrasts - you have areas with pompously huge majestic palaces, avenues and basilicas which are then surrounded by tiny alleyways, little churches and old houses; you may also find yourself walking from a grand palace and tree-lined elegant boulevard, into a small and cramped Medieval-like street.
The abbreviation "S.P.Q.R" - short for the old motto of the Roman Republic Senatus Populusque Romanus ("The Senate and People of Rome") - is ubiquitous in Rome, being also that of Rome's city council; a humorous variation is "Sono pazzi questi romani" (these Romans are crazy).
For two weeks in August, many of Rome's inhabitants used to shut up shop and go on their own vacations; today, however, things have changed - many shops and restaurants (especially those located in the historical centre that cater to tourists) are open in summer. On the other hand, the ones located in residential areas do close. The temperature in the city at this time of year is not particularly pleasant: if you do travel to Rome at this time, you might see chiuso per ferie (closed for holidays) signs on many establishments. Even in these weeks the city is very beautiful and you will always be able to find somewhere to eat.
Get in Rome
By cruise ships
Most cruise ships dock in Civitavecchia, and advertise this in their itineraries as "Rome". The reality is Civitavecchia is an hour and a half away from Rome and a bit of a pain to get from the pier to the City if you are travelling without a tour. Some ships begin or end cruises here, some stay a full day to allow passengers to "day-trip" to Rome.
For "day-trippers", many ships arrange shuttle buses to and from the pedestrian port entrance. From there you can walk 10-15 minutes along the shore to the Civitavecchia train station. A B.I.R.G. round trip train ticket for Rome costs approximately €12 (as of 2014), and also entitles you to unlimited use of Rome's Metro, tram and bus lines. Trains for commuters leave every hour or so - more often during rush hours - and take about 80 minutes. For Rome, you can get off either at the Roma Trastevere train station, Roma San Pietro (for the Vatican) or continue to Roma Termini right downtown, where countless buses, some trams and the Metro await.
If starting or ending a cruise using the train, you'll likely want to take a taxi between the ship and the train station. Because some train platforms can only be reached by underground walkway/stairs, plan ahead for transferring your luggage. At certain times of day, there may be porters to help. See also "About luggage" in "By train" above.
It is now possible for modest-to large-sized yachts to dock in the new Porto di Roma at Ostia, a district located 20km from the city centre and linked by the Roma-Lido light railway (whose stations, however, are not within practical walking distance of the marina or riverside boat facilities).
Driving to Rome is quite easy; as they say, all roads lead to Rome. The city is ringed by a motorway - the Grande Raccordo Anulare or, simply, the GRA. If you are going to the very centre of the city any road leading off the GRA will get you there; if you are going anywhere else, however, a GPS or a good map is essential. Signs on the GRA indicate the name of the road leading to the centre (e.g. via Appia Nuova, via Aurelia, via Tiburtina) but this is useful only for Romans who know where these roads pass.
One thing to watch out for is the free parking spaces in deserted areas. As car theft is very common in Italy, you should always watch out for them.
Rome's main railway station is Roma Termini, which is closed between 00:30 and 04:30. Most long-distance trains passing through Rome between these times will stop at Tiburtina station instead (see also the "By boat" section below).
Other main stations are Roma Tiburtina, Roma Ostiense, Roma Trastevere and Roma Tuscolana.
About luggage: when travelling between major cities or to/from another country, trains will be designed for passengers and luggage. Most others (e.g., between nearby towns and cities) are often designed to serve commuters.
For stations en route, they stop for only 1-2 minutes.
Most cars have a middle platform close to the station's boarding level, but with a significant gap. Seating areas may be at levels different from the middle platform, with narrow/clumsy steps for moving large luggage and little space to store them. Large pieces must often be left on the middle platform; have someone guard them... as thieves might try to grab them just before the doors close.
Rome (IATA: ROM for all airports) has two main international airports:
Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino International Airport (Fiumicino, IATA: FCO, ☎ +39 06 65951) - Rome's main airport is modern, large, rather efficient and well connected to the city centre by public transport. However, late-night arrivals may limit you to an irregular bus into town unless you can afford a taxi.
G.B. Pastine/Ciampino International Airport (Ciampino, IATA: CIA, ☎ +39 06 794941) - Located to the southeast of the capital, this is the city's low-cost airline airport, serving Easyjet, Ryanair and Wizzair flights, among others (see Discount airlines in Europe). This small airport is closer to the city centre than Fiumicino but has no direct train connection. There are plans to move the low-cost airport much further out of Rome, but this is unlikely for some years. Note that at Ciampino cash machines are available only in the departures area. This is a relatively small airport and it closes overnight; you'll be locked out of the airport until it opens again for the first check-in around 04:30 or 05:00. Flying into Ciampino, try to sit on the right of the plane - it will fly just to the east of the city centre. While the plane's reaching Rome, you can see the Tiber and then the Olympic stadium, Castel Sant'Angelo, St. Peter's and the Colosseum.
From the Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino airport, there are two train lines that will get you into Rome:
The Leonardo Express leaves every 30 minutes to Roma Termini, Rome's central train station (35 min trip). Tickets cost €14 and are available (within 7 days of departure) online (you must create an account and enroll in Trenitalia's Cartafreccia program before you can purchase online tickets). Tickets sold at the departure platform are €15. So if there are three of you it is cheaper to take a taxi and you get delivered to your door. You can't buy a ticket for a specific train; it's just a general ticket for a specific route (Termini), but it's good for any time. Get your ticket stamped in a yellow validation machine just before boarding the train: it will expire 90 minutes after the validation. It is important to validate the ticket: otherwise, the train conductor could fine you a substantial sum. At Termini, the Leonardo Express stops at platform # 24.
The suburban train (FL1 line) does not stop at Termini. Get off at Tiburtina or, before that, at the Ostiense train station, where you can connect to line B of the Metro; alternatively, you can get off at the Roma Trastevere train station and from there take the # 8 tram line (direction: "p.za Venezia") to go to Trastevere, Campo de' Fiori, largo di Torre Argentina and piazza Venezia. Tickets are €8, plus €1.50 for a bus-tram-Metro ticket. The extra cost of the Leonardo Express is for the convenience of a direct ride to Termini. If you are going somewhere else close to a Metro station, Tiburtina and Ostiense stations are as convenient. Get your ticket stamped in a yellow validation machine just before using it.
From Ciampino airport the cheapest way is a combination of bus and train. For the first part you can take the Atral/Schiaffini bus  (roughly every hour or 30 minutes on weekdays) from the stop located outside the terminal building to either Ciampino train station (5min) or to the Metro line A Anagnina stop (10min or more) for a cost of €1.20 to either way. From the Ciampino train station you can take the train to Termini station (20min) for €1.50. Because Ciampino is the first or second train stop on the way to many destinations from Termini, there are around 5 trains per hour and this is probably the overall fastest way (if you are going from Termini to Ciampino by train, you can enter "Ciampino" in the automated ticket machines and it will offer the different destinations/times). From Anagnina Metro station the ticket costs €1.50 (good for any public transport for 100 minutes, see single-ride ticket) and this should be the best way if your destination is near a Metro line A stop, but not Termini station. It's not possible to walk the 4km to the local train station, as there are no footpaths. If you miss the train station to airport bus and can't wait for the next one, a taxi ride will cost you €15-20.
There are a few direct bus services from Ciampino, all of which arrive at Termini station in downtown Rome:
Sit Bus Shuttle. They run a bus line whose ticket costs €6 one-way (€10 round-trip); the ride takes approximatively 40 minutes and there are about 25 rides a day.
Terravision. This is a dedicated airport-city transfer that takes approximatively 40min, with a service every 30min, provided just for the major low cost airlines. The price is €4 one-way or €8 round-trip. You can book on-line, inside the airport or outside near the bus stops (look for the employees with fluorescent vests writing "€4 city transfer"). Passengers should, on their return trip from Termini, board the bus three hours before their flight's departure time.
COTRAL. This carrier's ticket costs €5 one-way (the ride will take some 40min), but has far fewer departures than Terravision. These buses are not mentioned on the airport website yet, but you can find them on Schiaffini's own site. This bus line may come in handy if you arrive at a time when the Metro is closed.
Once you're in the centre, you are best off on foot. What could be more romantic than strolling through Rome on foot holding hands? That is hard to beat!
Crossing a street in Rome can be a bit challenging, though. There are crossings but, sometimes, they aren't located at signalled intersections. Traffic can be intimidating, but if you are at a crossing just start walking and cars will let you cross the street. While crossing watch out for the thousands of mopeds: as in many European cities, even if cars and lorries are stationary due to a jam or for another reason, mopeds and bikes will be trying to squeeze through the gaps and may be ignoring the reason why everyone else has stopped. This means that even if the traffic seems stationary you need to pause and look around into the gaps.
Beware that unlike in other countries where a lit "green man" indicates that it is safe to cross the road, in Italy the green man is lit at the same time as the green light for traffic turning right, so you can often find yourself sharing the space with cars.
What to see in Rome
Italians are very fond of their landmarks; in order to make them accessible to everyone one week a year there is no charge for admittance to all publicly owned landmarks and historical sites. This week, known as the "Settimana dei Beni Culturali", typically occurs in mid-May and for those 7 to 10 days every landmark, archaeological site and museum belonging to government agencies (including the Quirinal palace and its gardens, the Colosseum and all of the ancient Forum) is accessible and free of charge.
In general, Rome's main attractions are free - for example, while it doesn't cost anything to enter the Pantheon you'll have to pay to visit the museums and so forth.
There isn't one pass that provides entry to all paid sights and museums. There are however several tickets that provide entry to a group of sights. You can for example buy a Roma Archeologia Card for €27,50 (concessions €17,50) that is valid for 7 days. This is not for sale online, get it at any of the included sites or at the Rome Tourist Board Office (APT) on via Parigi 5. This pass gets you in to the Colosseum, Palatine hill, the Baths of Caracalla, and the catacombs as well as the Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, the Crypta Balbi, Palazzo Altemps, the Villa dei Quintili and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella. Find all combination tickets listed on Rome.info
It is recommended to buy your tickets in advance, either online or at a quiet ticket booth, to avoid having to wait in line for a very long time at popular attractions. Pre-booked tickets allow you to skip the queues. Online tickets are cheapest at the official site of CoopCulture. Tickets for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel can be bought in advance at the Vatican's online ticket office.
The main area for exploring the ruins of ancient Rome is in Rome/Colosseo either side of via dei Fori Imperiali, which connects the Colosseum and piazza Venezia. Laid out between 1924 and 1932, at Mussolini's request, the works for such an imposing boulevard required the destruction of a large area of Renaissance and medieval buildings constructed on top of ruins of the ancient forums, and ended forever plans for an archaeological park stretching all the way to the Appian Way. Via dei Fori Imperiali is a busy throughfare, but it has been partially pedonalised in August 2013; said boulevard is also the location of a grand parade held every 2nd of June in occasion of the Italian national holiday (see the "holidays and events" section). Heading towards the Colosseum from piazza Venezia, you can see the Roman Forum on your right and Trajan's Forum and Market on the left. To the right of the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine and the beginning of the Palatine Hill, which will eventually lead you to ruins of the Flavian Palace and a view of the Circus Maximus (see Rome/Aventino-Testaccio). To the left, after the Colosseum is a wide, tree-lined path that climbs through the Colle Oppio park. Underneath this park is the Golden House of Nero (Domus Aurea), an enormous and spectacular underground complex restored and then closed again due to damage caused by heavy rain. Further to the left on the Esquiline Hill are ruins of Trajan's baths.
In Old Rome you must see the Pantheon, which is amazingly well preserved considering it dates back to 125AD. There is a hole constructed in the ceiling so it is an interesting experience to be there when it is raining. If you are heading to the Pantheon from piazza Venezia you will first reach largo di Torre Argentina, on your left. Until 1926 the area was covered in narrow streets and small houses, which were razed to the ground when ruins of Roman temples were discovered. Moving along corso Vittorio Emanuele II and crossing the Tiber river into the Vatican area you see the imposing Castel Sant'Angelo, built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian. This is connected by a covered fortified corridor to the Vatican and served as a refuge for Popes in times of trouble.
South of the Colosseum are the Baths of Caracalla (Aventino-Testaccio). You can then head South-East on the old Appian Way, passing through a stretch of very well-preserved city wall. For the adventurous, continuing along the Appian Way (Rome/South) will bring you to a whole host of Roman ruins, including the Circus of Maxentius, the tomb of Cecilia Metella, the Villa dei Quintili and, nearby, several long stretches of Roman aqueduct.
Returning to the Modern Centre, the Baths of Diocletian are opposite the entrance to the main railway station, Termini. The National Museum of Rome stands in the South-West corner of the Baths complex and has an enormous collection of Roman scultures and other artifacts. But this is just one of numerous museums devoted to ancient Rome, including those of the Capitoline Hill. It is really amazing how much there is.
There are more than 900 churches in Rome. Probably one third would be well worth a visit!
St. Peter is said to have founded the Church in Rome together with St. Paul. The first churches of Rome originated in places where early Christians met, usually in the homes of private citizens. By the 4th century, however, there were already four major churches, or basilicas. Rome had 28 cardinals who took it in turns to give mass once a week in one of the basilicas. In one form or another the four basilicas are with us today and constitute the major churches of Rome. They are St. Peter’s, St. Paul Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni. All pilgrims to Rome are expected to visit these four basilicas, together with San Lorenzo fuori le mura, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and the Sanctuary of Divino Amore. The latter was inserted as one of the seven at the time of the Great Jubilee in 2000, replacing San Sebastiano outside the walls.
Take a look inside a few churches. You'll find the richness and range of decor astonishing, from fine classical art to tacky electric candles. Starting with several good examples of early Christian churches, including San Clemente and Santa Costanza, there are churches built over a period of 1700 years or so, including modern churches constructed to serve Rome's new suburbs.
Churches in Rome deny admission to people who are dressed inappropriately; you will find "fashion police" at the most visited churches ("knees and shoulders" are the main problem - especially female ones). Bare shoulders, short skirts, and shorts are officially not allowed, but long shorts and skirts reaching just above the knee should generally be no problem... however, it's always safer to wear longer pants or skirts that go below the knee; St. Peter's in particular is known for rejecting tourists for uncovered knees, shoulders, midriffs, etc. (you also generally won't be told until right before you enter the church, so you will have made the trek to the Vatican and stood in a long security line for nothing) etc. The stricter churches usually have vendors just outside selling inexpensive scarves and sometimes plastic pants, but relatively few churches enforce dress codes and you can wander into most wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, or pretty much anything without problems. It is, however, good to keep one's dress conservative, as these are still churches and houses of prayer for many people (older Romans might comment on your attire if it is particularly revealing).
What to do in Rome
Take in a show. There are lots of theatres, but you will need to know Italian to enjoy them. The main concert venue is the Auditorium in viale Pietro de Coubertin in the northern part of Rome. The Auditorium at Parco della Musica is a large complex composed of three separate halls whose shapes are inspired by musical instruments. These are positioned around an open air amphitheatre, that is used nearly every night in the summer for concerts. The Parco della Musica hosts a constant stream of classical, popular, and jazz music, featuring national as well as international musicians and groups. Really big names perform outdoors in the summer; usually in either the Olympic Stadium or in the Stadio Flaminio, which is next door to the Parco della Musica. In winter the Palalottomatica in EUR is an important pop concert venue.
To get full details of what is on, buy a copy of the La Repubblica newspaper on Thursdays, when it has an insert called TrovaRoma. There are a couple of pages in English but even with no Italian you should be able to decipher the main listings. This is not published in late July and August, when half of Rome heads to the beach. Both La Repubblica and Il Messaggero have daily listings.
Learn some authentic Italian cooking with local Italian chefs at their own homes. Learn from the locals themselves, eat great food, enjoy the company of new friends and see a different side of the city. BonAppetour is a great site to discover unique dining experiences in Rome.
Walk and feel the energy of Rome; sights are everywhere waiting to be discovered.
Explore the Trastevere district for some great cafes and trattorie, and a glimpse at a hip Roman neighbourhood.
Take in a game of football at the Olympic Stadium. Rome has two teams, A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio and they both play there.
Cinecittà Shows Off, Via Tuscolana 1055, Rome. Cinecittà Shows Off is a tour of the legendary Cinecittà Studios in Rome, revealing cinema secrets from the history of the famous studios. Original sketches by celebrated set designers, costumes worn by international stars, and monumental sets: it’s a journey into what was dubbed the "Dream Factory". The exhibition also offers the option of a guided tour through the monumental sets that are still used today for shooting films as well as national and international TV shows. If you love movies, don't miss it. edit
Food and Wine Tour. Take in some of the best food in the world with a professional tour. Crazy4Rome offers food and wine tours among other walking tours and workshops.
Museum Tours. Rome has some of the best museums in the world, so museum tours are often very popular. Walks Inside Rome offers popular tours that features the notable museums of Rome.
Underground Colosseum Tours. You haven't truly seen the Colosseum unless you've explored the tunnels beneath the amphitheatre. Through Eternity offers fascinating walking tours of Rome, including all the most important ancient sites such as the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine.
Cooking Classes and Food Tastings Travelling to Rome means also discovering one of the most ancient and well known culinary culture in the world. Learning how to cook pasta, pizza and exploring the traditional markets of Rome will make your trip unforgettable. During the cooking classes professional chefs will guide you in cooking amatriciana, carbonara and so on, having a lot of fun at the same time.
Tours on wheels Have a ride with a Fiat 500 or a Vespa will let you enjoy the eternal magic of Rome. Tours will give you the chance to