Tuscany and Umbria Visited

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Take the wonderment of Renaissance beauty in Florence (four-hour's drive from Rome, three hours by train), couple it with thousands-of-years-old architecture, add in an urban vibe nonpareil, and you've got Rome. Quite simply, a visitor could spend a lifetime in Rome and only ever scratch the surface.

To put things in perspective, even to Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, the Colosseum was an ancient relic. Stand in front of this mesmerizing building on a sunny day as orange light cuts through fracturing clouds and reflects off the pock-marked façade of a building once packed to the brim, and you're entranced. Then start moving—circle the stadium's exterior, and then do it again. You can practically hear the crowd's chants reverberating off the nearby Palatine—the mythical founding place of Rome. Then go inside and be truly amazed.

Additional awesome Roman displays are showcased at the must-see Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world. The papal country has its own currency, newspaper, and postal system—and perhaps the world's most heavenly collection of art. From La Pieta to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican tempts even non-believers. The cavernous interior of St. Peter's Basilica is an amazing (and free) sight to behold, but the view from the top is downright inspiring.

Rome is packed with astounding works of wonder, from the Spanish Steps to Trevi Fountain. Visitors almost do themselves a disservice by not walking, for via subway so many fantastic sights go unseen. For example, the Pantheon, burial site of Renaissance artist Raphael, is nestled in a piazza easily missed even by ambulation. Basically, as you explore and get to know your version of Rome, you'll spend literally minutes slack-jawed in trying to comprehend the rich meld of antiquity, Renaissance, Roman Catholicism, and bold modern influences that make up this most remarkable of places.

Traversing the many via of Rome tires, so note that when it comes refueling, the neighborhoods of San Lorenzo and Trastevere are renowned for delicious home cooking at reasonable prices. Try La Montecarlo for pizza (vicolo Savelli 12; +39.066.861.877), near piazza Navona or queue with the locals at Cantina Cantarini for traditional Roman food (piazza Sallustio 12; +39.064.855.28). Designer shopping is found at the piazza di Spagna, close to the Spanish Steps.

Staying in Rome ain't cheap; space is at a premium so you pay for every inch. The retro Hotel Locarno is worth checking out, with rooms from around $280 (via della Penna 22), while you won't forget a stay in the funky boutique Casa Howard, where rooms run around $230 in two locations on capo le Case and via Sistina. If space and centrality are priorities try the Abruzzi, quite basic but close to the hot spots (piazza della Rotonda 69). Wherever you go, it's always wise to book in advance if you can.

Published: 13 May 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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