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Overview: Rome, Italy
Hotels in Rome

Coming off the Autostrada at Roma Nord or Roma Sud, you know by the convergence of heavily trafficked routes that you are entering a grand nexus: All roads lead to Rome. And then the interminable suburbs, the railroad crossings, the intersections—no wonder they call it the Eternal City.

As you enter the city proper, features that match your expectations begin to take shape: a bridge with heroic statues along its parapets; a towering cake of frothy marble decorated with allegorical figures in extravagant poses; a piazza and an obelisk under an umbrella of pine trees. Then you spot what looks like a multistory parking lot; with a gasp, you realize it's the Colosseum.

You have arrived. You're in the city's heart. You step down from your excursion bus onto the broad girdle of tarmac that encircles the great stone arena of the Roman emperors, and scurry out of the way of the passing Fiats—the motorists behind the wheels seem to display the panache of so many Ben-Hurs.

The excitement of arriving here jolts the senses and sharpens expectations. The timeless city to which all roads lead, Mamma Roma enthralls visitors today as she has since time immemorial. More than Florence, more than Venice, this is Italy's treasure storehouse. Here, the ancient Romans made us heirs-in-law to what we call Western Civilization; where centuries later Michelangelo painted the Sistine Ceiling; where Gian Lorenzo Bernini's baroque nymphs and naiads still dance in their marble fountains; and where, at Cinecittà Studios, Fellini filmed La Dolce Vita and . Today, the city remains a veritable Grand Canyon of culture: Ancient Rome rubs shoulders with the medieval, the modern runs into the Renaissance, and the result is like nothing so much as an open-air museum.

Little wonder Rome's enduring popularity feeds a gluttonous tourism industry that can feel more like National Lampoon's European Vacation than Roman Holiday. As tour buses belch black smoke and the line at the Vatican Museums stretches on into eternity, even the steeliest of sightseers have been known to wonder, why am I here?

The answer, with apologies to Dorothy, is: There's no place like Rome. Yesterday's Grand Tourists thronged the city for the same reason today's Expedians do. Majestic, complicated, enthralling, romantic, chaotic, monumental Rome is one of the world's great cities—past, present, and, probably, future.

And today Rome is a future-forward city. In 2010, the Eternal City is outdazzling many of its Italian rivals with a newly unleashed vitality. Move over hip and chic Milan: Rome is moving up in the rankings ever higher to becoming the next posh metropolitan "It" city.

Romans are ready to show the world that its old-world ways—slow pace, antique-flair, and everything mini—are ancient history. Romans are changing gears and starting to live life in the fast lane.

Mega-shopping malls, tech-savvy sumptuousness, fusion food, and even gas-guzzling SUVs have made their way to the ancient home of the popes. Romans are more "connected" than ever before: even Pope Benedict XVI can't do without his Facebook.

Though resistance is bound to come with change, Romans seem to be embracing these tumultuous changes with open arms. Arriverderci, Three Coins in the Fountain—the Eternal City is busy leapfrogging into the 21st century.

Where to stay

Our Suggestions
• Albergo Santa Chiara
• Casa di Santa Brigida
• The Beehive
• Hassler
Where to eat

Our Suggestions
• Agata e Romeo
• Il Sanlorenzo
• Taverna Angelica
• Trattoria Monti
What to see

Our Suggestions
• Arco di Settimio Severo
• Cappella Sistina
• Galleria Borghese
• Musei Capitolini
Rome Top Attractions »
The Pantheon
Constructed to honor all pagan gods, this best preserved temple of ancient Rome was rebuilt in the 2nd century AD by Emperor Hadrian, and to him much of the credit is due for the perfect dimensions: 141 feet high by 141 feet wide, with a vast dome that was the largest ever designed until the 20th century.

The Vatican
Though its population numbers only in the few hundreds, the Vatican—home base for the Catholic Church and the pope—makes up for them with the millions who visit each year. Embraced by the arms of the colonnades of St. Peter's Square, they attend Papal Mass, marvel at St. Peter's Basilica, and savor Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling.

The Colosseum
Legend has it that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand; and when Rome falls, so will the world. One of the seven wonders of the world, the mammoth amphitheater was begun by Emperor Vespasian and inaugurated by Titus in the year 80. For "the grandeur that was Rome," this obstinate oval can't be topped.

Piazza Navona
You couldn't concoct a more Roman street scene: caffè and crowded tables at street level, coral- and rust-color houses above, most lined with wrought-iron balconies, street performers and artists and, at the center of this urban "living room," Bernini's spectacular Fountain of the Four Rivers and Borromini's super-theatrical Sant'Agnese.

Roman Forum
This fabled labyrinth of ruins variously served as a political playground, a commerce mart, and a place where justice was dispensed during the days of the emperors (500 BC to 400 AD). Today, the Forum is a silent ruin—sic transit gloria mundi (so passes away the glory of the world).

The Campidoglio
Catch a bird's-eye view of the Roman Forum from Michelangelo's piazza, atop one of the 77highest spots in Rome, the Capitoline Hill. Here you'll find the Capitoline Museums and beloved Santa Maria in Aracoeli.

Trevi Fountain
One of the few fountains in Rome that's actually more absorbing than the people crowding around it, the Fontana di Trevi was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732. Immortalized in Three Coins in the Fountain and La Dolce Vita, this granddaddy of all fountains may be your ticket back to Rome—that is, if you throw a coin into it.

The Spanish Steps
Byron, Shelley, and Keats all drew inspiration from this magnificent "Scalinata," constructed in 1723. Connecting the ritzy shops at the bottom with the ritzy hotels at the top, this is the place for prime people-watching. The steps face west, so sunsets offer great photo-ops.

Castel Sant'Angelo
Originally constructed as a mausoleum for Roman emperor Hadrian, this cylindrical fortress, which towers over the city's skyline, has great views and opulent Renaissance-era salons.

Located just across the Tiber River, this time-stained, charming neighborhood is a maze of jumbled alleyways, traditional Roman trattorie, cobblestone streets, and medieval houses. The area also boasts the oldest church of Rome—Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Romantic Rome »
Whether you're looking for love or hoping to rekindle the romance, there's no better place to do so than the Eternal City. Ah yes, it certainly seems that love lurks behind every street corner, park bench, and monument. And if you don't find the abundance of public displays of affection off-putting, you'll be sure to find scores of places to steal both that first and ultimo bacio.

The hopeless romantics should start their rendezvous through Rome with a horse-drawn carriage ride that begins at the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) and continues through the streets of the centro storico. Make a stop for some aphrodisiacal treats, such as the decadent, mouthwatering chocolates made by Moriondo e Gariglio (Via Piè di Marmo 21), off the central Corso near Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.

When you're through, ask the driver to drop you off at the famous Villa Borghese park. Whether it's a picnic in the park, a cruise on the lake, or just a hand-in-hand stroll up to the Pincio—the park's terrace that boasts the city's most breathtaking views—you will find amore everywhere.

If the hopelessly romantic can spare the time, a trip up to Tivoli's Villa D'Este (a half hour outside Rome via bus) is definitely worth it. Its seductive garden and endless array of fountains (about 500 of them) is the perfect setting to put you in the mood for love and it won't be long before you hear Frank Sinatra warble "Three Coins in the Fountain" in your head. For extra brownie points, during the summer months, take her or him to the Villa D'Este at night for a spectacular candle-lit setting.

That's your cue to return to Rome and make a beeline for the luminous Trevi Fountain, even more enchanting at night than in the daytime. Make sure you and that special someone throw a coin into the fountain, for good luck. For your wish to come true, you must toss the coin over your shoulder with your back to the fountain, left hand over right shoulder (or vice versa). Legend has it that those who do so are guaranteed a return trip back to Rome.

A great way to lift the curtain on a night of romance is a serenaded dinner cruise along the Tiber, where dessert includes views of some of Rome's jewels by night: Castel Sant'Angelo, St. Peter's, and the Janiculum (Gianicolo) hill. See for more details.

If you prefer to stay on terra firma, at sundown head to the Hotel Hassler and its rooftop garden-restaurant, Imàgo, perched just over the Spanish Steps, for unforgettable views of the city's greatest landmarks, best viewed through a glass of prosecco. Dinner here will set you back a pretty euro-cent, but you may get to rub shoulders with celebs and VIPs at this exclusive locale, whose past visitors included Princess Diana and Hollywood diva Audrey Hepburn.

For an after-dinner stroll, head to north Rome and wander over to the illuminated Ponte Milvio bridge, known as "Lovers Lane" in Roman circles. Inspired by a scene in the recent hit Italian movie, Ho Voglia Di Te (I Really Want You), prove your eternal love to your inammorata by padlocking him or her to one of the bridge's chains—the city specifically erected 24 columns with chains here so that lovers can do just that. Remember that part of the charm is throwing the key into the river!
Rome Restaurant Reviews »
In Rome, wonderfully simple, traditional cuisine reigns. Most chefs prefer to follow the mantra of freshness over fuss, simplicity of flavor and preparation over complex cooking methods. So when Romans keep on ordering the old standbys, it's easy to understand why.

And we're talking about some very old standbys: some restaurants re-create dishes that come from ancient recipes of Apicius, probably the first "celebrity chef" (to Emperor Tiberius) and cookbook author of the Western world. Today, Rome's cooks excel at what has taken hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to perfect. This is why the basic trattoria menu is similar wherever you go.

Still, if you're hunting for newer-than-now developments, things are slowly changing. Talented young chefs are exploring new culinary frontiers, with results that tickle the taste buds: potato gnocchi with sea urchin sauce, artichoke strudel, and oysters with red onion foam are just a few recent examples. Of course, there's grumbling about the number of chefs who, in a clumsy effort to be nuovo, end up with collision rather than fusion. That noted, Rome is the capital city, and the influx of residents from other regions of the country allows for many variations on the Italian theme. Sicilian, Tuscan, Pugliese, Bolognese, Sardinian, and other Italian regional cuisines from the Alps to the northern reaches of Africa, are all represented. You'll also find a number of good-quality foreign food outposts here, particularly Japanese, Indian, and Ethiopian restaurants.

Most Romans don't care about the fanfare of decor in a city where you can sit outside on a glorious piazza and dine in a virtual baroque painting. Still, Rome has its fair share of both slick interiors, which are slowly starting to catch on, and historic settings that offer amazing views or gorgeous settings. In any case, if you can look beyond the trappings, as Romans do, you can eat like an emperor—or at least a well-fed member of the Roman working class—for very little money.
Rome Nightlife »
As the famous Italian film director Federico Fellini showed us over and over again, Roman nightlife has been setting trends since time immemorial—and being a native son, he would know. Fellini Satyricon focused on those Lucullan all-night banquets (and some more naughty entertainments) of the days of the emperors; La Dolce Vita immortalized the nightclubs and paparazzi of the city's Hollywood-on-the-Tiber era. And as the director lovingly showed in Fellini Roma, the city streets sometimes offered the best place for parties and al fresco dinners. Many visitors would agree with Fellini: Rome, the city, is entertainment enough.

The city's piazzas, fountains, and delicately colored palazzi make impressive backdrops for Rome's living theater, with a fortissimo of motor vehicles. It has learned to make the most of its spectacular cityscape, transforming its most beautiful places into settings for the performing arts, outdoors in summer and in splendid palaces and churches in winter. When performances are held at such locations as Villa Celimontana, Piazza Trinità dei Monti, the Baths of Caracalla, or the church of Sant'Ignazio, the venue often steals the show.

Of all the performing arts, music is what Rome does best to entertain people, whether it be opera or jazz or disco. The cinema is also a big draw, particularly for Italian-language speakers, and there's a fantastic array of other options. Toast the sunset with Camparis while overlooking a 1st-century temple. Listen to authors read excerpts in the Roman Forum and actors recite Shakespeare in the recreation of the Globe theater in the Villa Borghese park. Or get down at Rome's many bars and discoteches, where celeb-spotting remains a favorite sport (recently spotted were Owen Wilson grabbing drinks in Piazza Navona and George Clooney enjoying a table at the glam Hotel de Russie). When all else fails, there's always late-night caffè-sitting, watching the colorful crowds parade by on a gorgeous piazza—it's great fun, even if you don't speak the language. Little wonder Rome inspired Fellini to make people-watching into an art form in his famous films.