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City guide to Rome - one of the world's great port stops

Author: Nicole Carmichael

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Renaissance painter Giotto described Rome as ‘The city of echoes, the city of illusions and the city of yearning’. It’s all this and more – as you’ll discover on one of the world’s great port stops.

Drop anchor at the cruise port of Civitavecchia and you’ll soon be heading to Rome – the centre of the ancient world’s mightiest empire, home to the Catholic church and backdrop to countless classic movies.

The Eternal City is a place that simply overflows with cultural riches, and there are echoes of its 28-century history in iconic buildings, fountains and sculptures on every street corner.

Yet this is also the city of La Dolce Vita, where visitors can taste the very best Italian cuisine, including the finest pasta in the world and hand-made gelato to make your mouth water.

There’s so much to see, do and savour here that one trip will never be enough. But here’s a selection of the finest experiences beautiful Roma has to offer.

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Must see in Rome

The Colosseum

The world’s largest amphitheatre, and possibly the most iconic emblem of the city, this remarkable oval structure was completed in the year 80AD at the peak of Roman imperial power.

Here the people came to watch free events such as bloody gladiatorial combats, animal hunts, battle re-enactments and even executions (it’s estimated that around 400,000 people perished within its walls).

Thankfully the Colosseum is a more peaceful place today, though we still recommend an organised tour for the full gory details of its history.

The Pantheon

Built on the orders of Emperor Hadrian, this 2,000-year-old Roman temple was converted into a Christian church during the 7th century.

Continuous use has preserved it, and today it’s regarded as the best-kept ancient monument in Italy. The domed roof, made of Roman concrete and 43 metres in diameter, was unique in the ancient world and is still deeply impressive today.

At the apex is an open ‘oculus’ allowing light into the building. Rain falls through too, but a sophisticated drainage system in the marble floors prevents flooding.

Trevi Fountain: Throw a coin over your shoulder and you’re sure to return. Credit: Shutterstock

The Forum

Here was the beating heart of the Roman empire, a venue for politics and processions, criminal trials and public speeches.

First excavated in the 18th century, the Forum is now an enormous open-air museum.

Get an overview from the terrace at Palazzo Senatorio, then stroll down the Via Sacra to the Arch of Severus – and feel the presence of ancient Rome so close that you could reach out and touch it.

Trevi Fountain

A baroque fantasy standing 26 metres high, this famous landmark is also one of the city’s most romantic. Throw a coin over your shoulder and you’re sure to return.

A second coin means wedding bells – and if couples drink from the little basin to the right of the fountain, it’s said their love will be everlasting.

135 steps make up the famous Spanish Steps. Credit: Shutterstock

Snap & go

Spanish Steps

This famous stone stairway, connecting the Spanish embassy with the church of Trinita dei Monti, is believed to be the widest in Europe.

The view from the top is stunning but it’s forbidden to sit on the steps themselves, so make sure you have enough puff to climb all 135 at once (you can fall into an espresso bar for a pick-me-up at the top).

Vatican City

Covering just 120 acres and with fewer than 500 inhabitants, the world’s smallest country offers the Vatican Museum, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel – together the ultimate tick-list for lovers of Renaissance art.

The Pope appears in St Peter’s Square most Wednesdays at 10.30am, and you can see him for free with an official ticket.

Borghese Gardens

Located above the busy Piazza del Popolo, this large public park is home to several villas, a museum and a zoo.

Don’t miss the stunning Temple of Aesculepius and the charmingly ornate water clock, and take your pick from numerous open-air eateries.

Enjoy the best Italian cuisine in Rome. Credit: Shutterstock

Best places to eat in Rome

Trattoria Della Stampa

If you’re after the true flavour of Rome and you happen to be visiting the Trevi Fountain, call here for lunch. The chefs shop daily, cook a few dishes and then tell you what’s on the menu that day.

It’s nothing fancy – just delicious local food and pasta classics.

Il Vero Alfredo

This family-run restaurant near the Piazza di Spagna is the birthplace of the celebrated dish known as fettuccine Alfredo.

An apparently simple concoction of pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese, it was first created in 1908 and is once tasted, never forgotten.

La Pergola

For a push-the-boat-out, hang-the-expense culinary experience you’ll remember forever, book
a table at La Pergola.

It’s the only restaurant in Rome with three Michelin stars, and while newer establishments may capture more headlines, the flawless presentation and unrivalled flavours that emerge from these kitchens are justly famous throughout the world.

Galleria Alberto Sordi in Rome in a must-do. Credit: Shutterstock

Where to shop in Rome


The cluster of streets between Via Garibaldi and Viale di Trastevere is a treasure trove of little shops, packed with unique gifts.

There are clothes and shoes galore, antique watches and all things timely at the Polvere di Tempo (Dust of Time) curiosity shop, while at RomaStore Profumi you can even create your own fragrance.

Galleria Alberto Sordi

In an elegant 1920s building on Via Cristoforo Colombo, one of the city’s smartest shopping arcades offers an enticing mix of high-end brands and more affordable labels, plus plenty of good places to eat and drink.

Fausto Santini

Italy has a reputation for manufacturing the world’s finest leather goods, and you’re promised the best of the best here.

Prices are high – a pair of shoes starts at €350 – but if you’re after a genuinely handmade classic, this shop at 120 Via Frattina is the place to come.

Luckily there’s also a Fausto Santini discount outlet at 106 Via di Cavour.

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