Rome is a heady blend of artistic and architectural masterpieces, classical ruins, and extravagant baroque churches and piazzas. The places evoke the people -- Roman emperors concerned with outdoing their predecessors in grandeur, powerful prelates enmeshed in intricate scandals, geniuses summoned by popes to add to the Vatican's treasures, a dictator who left his mark on the city before his imperial dreams were shattered, and the contemporary Romans, full of the earthy energy that makes this a city of unique vitality.
Today Rome's formidable legacy is upheld by its people, their history knit into the fabric of their everyday lives. Students walk dogs in the park that was once the mausoleum of the family of the emperor Augustus; Raphaelesque Madonnas line up for buses on busy corners; a priest in flowing robes walks through a medieval piazza talking on a cell phone. Modern Rome has one foot in the past, one in the present -- a delightful stance that allows you to have an espresso in a square designed by Bernini, then take the Metro back to your hotel room in a renovated Renaissance palace.
Weather & When to Go
The main tourist season runs from April to mid-October. For serious sightseers the best months are from fall to early spring. The so-called low season may be cooler and inevitably rainier, but it has its rewards: less time waiting in line and more time to enjoy closer-up, unhurried views of what you want to see.
Tourists crowd the major art cities at Easter, when Italians flock to resorts and to the country. From March through May, busloads of eager schoolchildren on excursions take cities of artistic and historical interest by storm.
Weatherwise, the best months for sightseeing are April, May, June, September, and October -- generally pleasant and not too hot. The hottest months are July and August, when humidity can make things unpleasant. Winters are relatively mild in most places on the main tourist circuit but always include some rainy spells.
Attractions & Excursions
Rome was famously built on seven hills -- Capitolino (commonly known as Campidoglio), Palatino, Esquilino, Viminale, Celio, Quirinale, and Aventino. Two of these historic hills, the Campidoglio and the Palatine, formed the hub of ancient Rome, the center of the civilized world. The Campidoglio has always been the seat of Rome's government; its Latin name is echoed in the designation of national and state capitol buildings.
On the Palatine the earliest recorded inhabitants of Rome lived in modest mud huts; later, its position made it Rome's most exclusive residential zone, site of the emperors' vast and luxurious palaces. Between the hills, in the Forum, the Romans worshipped, discussed politics, and carried on commerce. Between the Palatine and the Tiber were the markets where livestock and produce arrived by boat. Though it remained the heart of monumental and religious Rome, the Forum was later dwarfed by the Imperial Fora, built by a succession of emperors to augment the original overcrowded Forum and to make sure that the people would have tangible evidence of their generosity.
More than any other, this part of Rome is a perfect example of that layering of historic eras, the overlapping of ages, of religions, of a past that is very much a part of the present. Christian churches rise on the foundations of ancient pagan temples. An immense marble monument to a 19th-century king of a newly united Italy shares a square with a medieval palace built by a future pope. Still, the history and memory of ancient Rome dominate the area. After a more than 27-centuries-long parade of pageantry, it is not surprising that Shelley and Gibbon reflected on the sense of sic transit gloria mundi (thus pass the glories of the world) they felt here. The ruins and monuments, the Colosseo and the triumphal arches have stood through the centuries as emphatic reminders of the genius and power that made Rome the center of the Western world.
Shopping in Rome is part of the fun, no matter what your budget. If you're bent on buying, you're sure to find something that suits your fancy and your pocketbook. If you have something specific in mind, like Missoni or Benetton knitwear, Bruno Magli shoes, or Laura Biagiotti perfume, make a note of prices before you leave home, so you'll know whether you're getting a bargain by buying it in Italy. The best buys here are still leather goods of all kinds -- from gloves to bags to jackets -- and silk goods and knitwear. Boutique fashions may be slightly less expensive in Rome than in the United States.
Some worthy old prints and minor antiques can be found in the city's interesting little shops, and full-fledged collectors can rely on the prestigious reputations of some of Italy's top antiques dealers. Genuine Italian handicrafts aren't so easy to find in these days of Asian imports, but some shops stock pottery and handwoven textiles made in Italy. Designer perfumes, from Versace to Armani to Moschino.
Rome's luxury hotels are located in the central part of the city. The Hotel Eden is to the Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese. The St. Regis Grand is only a short walk to the Trevi Fountain. Many of the hotels are on or near the famous Via Veneto. Enjoy a Rome vacation package at the top luxury hotels!
Hotel De Russie
The Westin Excelsior Rome
St. Regis Grand
Regina Hotel Baglioni
Splendide Royal Rome