1. Ancient rome
Begin at the beginning, with a whistlestop tour of the ruined remains of the might of the Roman empire. Tramp among the crumbling temples, ornate friezes and broken columns of the forum, which was the city’s political, judicial and commercial centre. A short walk from here is the city’s most recognisable monument, the Colosseum. Famous for bloody gladiatorial combat – it was even flooded on occasion to re-enact great sea battles – it is an awe-inspiring reminder of the colourful history of the Italian capital.
The Palatine Hill is supposedly where Rome was founded. According to legend, it is where twins Romulus and Remus were brought up by a she-wolf. Centuries later, Emperor Tiberius built a grand palace here, the remnants of which now lie beneath the Farnese Gardens. If you do have time to visit, buying a ticket at the Palatine first will cover entry into the Colosseum, and allows you to jump the queue when you get there. Open daily 8.30am-6pm, €11 for the double ticket.
2. Piazza di campo dei Fiori
Make your way into more modern surroundings and take a walk through the cobbled streets lined with shuttered houses to Campo dei Fiori. This square used to be the site of public executions. In the 16th century, Giordano Bruno, “the first martyr for science”, was burned alive here by the Roman Inquisition because his ideas were seen as an attack on the religious ideologies of the time. A statue in the centre commemorates him.
Since 1869, the piazza has been home to a vibrant market. The sight of beautifully arranged figs, pears, chillis, tomatoes and olives, the aroma of roasted garlic and fresh focaccia bread, and the sound of energetic Italian voices provide a feast for the senses. Bordering the market are colourful palazzi and numerous cafés, which are perfect to slip into for a quick shot of syrupy espresso. Alternatively, if you fancy al fresco dining there are many restaurants to choose from.
3. The Pantheon
A short distance away in Piazza della Rotonda is the Pantheon, the most complete ancient structure in the city and a work of architectural genius even by today’s standards. The dome of this church appears unsupported by arches or columns and in the centre is a great hole, nine metres wide, through which shafts of sunlight fall to illuminate the dim interior. It was rebuilt in 125 AD by the Emperor Hadrian and was also the first temple in the city to be Christianised. Among those buried inside is Renaissance painter Raphael. Entry free, open Mon-Sat 8.30am-7.30pm and Sun 9am-6pm.
4. Trevi fountain / Via Condotti
Following the route taken by Marcello and Sylvia in Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita, find your way to the Trevi fountain, which lies tucked away at the back of a palace near Via del Tritone. Unfortunately, that is as far as you will get with your pastiche of one of the most famous scenes in cinema, as bathing in the fountain is forbidden. But you can join the rest of the tourists by tossing coins into the glittering pool to ensure your return to Rome. Not only that, but your contribution will find its way to the Red Cross. The white baroque marble fountain with polished, trident-wielding Neptune, Tritons and rearing horses, was completed by Nicolo Salvi for Pope Clement XII in 1762.
If your idea of the good life is shopping in high-class boutiques and designer stores, it is worth meandering your way up to Via Condotti. Armani, Gucci, Bulgari, Valentino; in a country famous for its elegance and aesthetic sensitivity, this street offers fashionistas the epitome of quality. Whether you are after Italian leather shoes, silk ties or gifts to take home, this is the place to come.
5. Spanish Steps
At the far end of Via Condotti, this great flower-festooned flight of steps leads up to a rose-coloured church from Piazza di Spagna (so named because the Spanish Embassy is nearby), which has been the main meeting point for Romans for nearly 300 years. Beyond the boat-shaped Barcaccia fountain in the middle, sweeping upwards, are the famous Spanish Steps. If you are not too exhausted after all the walking, climb the 137 steps to the top and you will enjoy one of the most romantic views in the city. In the evenings, young Italians congregate here to drink and flirt, and street-sellers carry armfuls of red roses.
6. Capuchin Crypt
There’s nothing like the reminder of death to make you appreciate life more fully, so the next stop on our tour is the macabre Capuchin crypt in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione. From the Spanish Steps it is a short walk down Via Sistina, through Piazza Barberini and up Via Vittorio Veneto. The interior is decorated in rococo patterns with human bones belonging to 4,000 16th century Capuchin friars. Their remains were collected over the years and some have been preserved as complete skeletons dressed in brown robes. Don’t miss the crypt of skulls, the crypt of pelvises, and the crypt of leg and thigh bones – and don’t bang your head on the ribcage lampshades… Entry free but donations are welcome, open daily except Thursdays from 9am-12pm and 3pm-6pm.
7. Harry’s Bar and La Terrazza dell’Eden
In the 1950s, Via Vittorio Veneto was one of the most glamorous streets in Rome. In La Dolce Vita paparazzi hounded the beautiful, famous and wealthy as they ate dinner outside Via Veneto’s exclusive restaurants. Although you are unlikely to spot quite so many stars here these days, the high-end bars, restaurants and hotels are still here. At number 150 is Harry’s Bar, which was recreated in Italy’s Cinécitta film studios for Fellini’s movie. From Monday to Saturday it is an ideal place for a business lunch (12.30pm-3pm) or dinner (7.30pm-1am). Tel +39 6 484 643; harrysbar.it.
Another option is La Terrazza at Starwood’s Hotel Eden, off Via Veneto at 49 Via Ludovisi. This Michelin-starred restaurant has a rooftop terrace on the sixth floor, with panoramic views of Rome’s seven hills, and serves gourmet Mediterranean cuisine created by chef Adriano Cavagnini. From Monday to Saturday, lunch is served 12.30pm-2.30pm and dinner from 7.30pm-10.30pm. Bookings are essential. Tel +39 6 478 121.
Ciampino Airport (South); tel +39 06 7934 0387
Fiumicino International Airport; tel +39 06 6501 0879
Sheraton Via del Pattinaggio; tel +39 06 541 0252
Piazza Francesco Vivona 3; tel +39 06 592 5020
Via Appia 666 A/B; tel +39 06 7834 4240