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ROME

WELCOME TO ROME, ITALY: THE ETERNAL CITY

There is a bus tour direct from Festival Venue 

Top attractions & things to do in Rome:

History, facts and travel tips about Rome

Rome is without doubt one the most beautiful cities in the world; every year millions of tourists come from around the world to admire the treasures and masterpieces of Roman art and architecture.

But a trip to the Eternal City can be eternally confusing for first-time visitors. This guide will make it easier to uncover Rome, offering lots of practical advicethat will help you discover and enjoy the city in all its glory.

Because Rome is such a huge tourist draw, choose the date for your trip carefully. The best times of the year to visit are April, May, and late September through October. In the depths of summer, the heat and the crowds make the city nearly unbearable. August in particular should be avoided because this is the month that the entire country of Italy seems to go on vacation. Traveling too late or too early in the year can also be risky because the opening hours for many attractions are shorter, and some are closed completely.

Airfares typically drop quite a bit when “shoulder season” begins in the early autumn, making this the optimal time to visit in my book. The days are still warm, the nights are slightly cool, and the tour groups and student mobs have mostly disappeared.

If you can plan to stay as long as a week, you won’t run out of things to do and you’ll still feel like you’re leaving too soon. But if your time is limited, allow at least four days to see all of Rome‘s major attractions. If you try to cram the entire city into a two-day span and do nothing but run from place to place furiously snapping pictures, you’ll only be cheating yourself. After all, Romewasn’t built in a day and it can’t be seen in one, either.

Know before you go

 source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Essential information

Tourist office & information: there are Tourist Information Points all over the city. As well as the two airports, you’ll find useful ones at Termini Station (platform 24, open daily 8am-7.30pm), Castel Sant’Angelo, near the Vatican (daily 9.30am-7pm) and Piazza delle Cinque Lune, near Piazza Navona (daily 9.30am-7pm). For English tourist info ring 0039 06 0608 (daily 9am-9pm, charged at local call rate) or go to 060608.it

Visitor passes

The Roma Pass (romapass.it) discount card, currently priced at €36 (three day) or €28 (two day) and available online or from tourist information offices, gives free entry to two museums of your choice and reductions for many others, plus unlimited use of citywide public transport.

Local laws & etiquette

Drinking alcohol in the street (unless it’s the spillover area of a bar or pub) and going bare-chested are no-nos.

Dress code in churches is: shoulders and midriffs covered and ‘modest’ dress or skirt length for women, while for men vests and really short shorts are frowned on – though these rules are only rigorously enforced in major basilicas like St Peter’s. Italians always say hello and goodbye in social situations – including when entering or leaving shops, bars etc.

A simple ‘buon giorno’ in the morning or ‘buona sera’ in the afternoon or evening goes a long way. ‘Ciao’ is for friends, family or young people. If somebody thanks you by saying ‘grazie’, it’s polite to say ‘prego’ (you’re welcome) in return.

Rome attractions

 Half circus, half sports arena, Rome’s most famous classical ruin is unmissable
Half circus, half sports arena, Rome’s most famous classical ruin is unmissable

The challenge is deciding what not to do: there are so many churches, archaeological sites, piazzas and paintings to see that a lifetime is hardly enough. Don’t try to cram too much in: Rome moves at a slower pace than many northern cities, and to enjoy it you should take time out in pavement cafés as well as shuffle round the Sistine Chapel.

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Borghese Gallery

One of the world’s great art collections, the haul that Cardinal Scipione Borghese assembled in the early 17th century in his Roman garden villa includes Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, a gaggle of Caravaggios and Bernini’s sublime sculpture Apollo and Daphne – perhaps my single favourite work of art in the whole of Rome. Later generations made some bad mistakes (allowing Napoleon, for example, to make off with 154 statues and countless other artefacts) but also some worthwhile additions, such as Canova’s risqué statue of Pauline Bonaparte. The extensive collection continues in storerooms which can be visited on guided tours (be sure to book) at 3pm and 4 pm. Flanking the villa are a magnificent 17th-century aviary (uccelliera) and a series of ‘giardini segreti’ – secret gardens which are rarely open but can be appreciated through the fence. Note that visits to the gallery have to be booked, and run on designated timeslots – though if you turn up at a quiet time of year, there may be still be spaces that same day. You should be at the gallery to pick up your ticket 30 minutes before your entry time.

Borghese gallery
The Borghese Gallery is one of the world’s great art collections

Address: Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5, 00197
Contact: 00 39 06 32810; galleriaborghese.beniculturali.it
Getting there: Bus to Villa Borghese (160), Via Pinciana (53, 910) or Via Po (multiple services)
Opening times: Tue-Sun, 9am-7pm
Price: €15; EU citizens aged 18-25, €7.50; children under 18, EU citizens over 65, free. Price varies during special exhibitions
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: essential

Colosseum

Half circus, half sports arena, Rome’s most famous classical ruin is unmissable – especially now that they have extended the visitor route to the underfloor passageways through which gladiators and wild beasts made their entrances. The massive arena – officially called the Amphiteatrum Flavium – was inaugurated in 80 AD, and seated well over 50,000 people in its neatly arranged stands: emperor, aristos and Vestal Virgins down the front; plebs, slaves and all the other women up the top. Some 5,000 wild beasts were killed for the gory opening event. By the time the last man vs beast fights took place in 523, the wild animal population of north Africa had been decimated. Occasionally though, the felines were fed too: any malefactor handed down a sentence of damnatio ad bestias was simply ushered unarmed into the arena and left there to make a lion’s lunch. The ticket office queues can be daunting: those in the know purchase tickets at the quieter Palatine entrance (Via San Gregorio 30). In high season, I also recommend purchasing tickets in advance, through coopculture.it.

Rome Colosseum

Address: Piazza del Colosseo, 00184
Contact: 00 39 06 3996 7700; coopculture.it
Getting there: Metro Colosseo; bus to Via dei Fori Imperiali or Via Labicana (multiple services); tram 3
Opening times: Daily, 8.30am-sunset
Price: €12; EU citizens aged 18-25, €7.50; children under 18, free; ticket also covers the Roman Forum and Palatine. Price varies during special exhibitions
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: recommended

Domus Romane

Beneath the offices of the Rome provincial council lies a treat for anyone frustrated by the uncommunicative nature of many of the city’s ruins. This recently excavated swanky home of a well-heeled late Roman is impressive in itself for sheer dimensions, but the computer graphics which transform the gloomy spaces into bright reproductions of a frescoed, peopled Roman dwelling, complete with indoor water features, put the ancient masonry into fantastically lively context. The 75-minute visits, with a thorough but entertaining narration, set off once an hour on the half hour (every 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays). Booking is recommended, especially at weekends. There are three or four visits in English each day:check the booking area of the Domus’ website for details. The excavations are not the only attraction in the provincial council office. Nip around the back to the Enoteca Provincia Romana to sample the excellent wines, cheeses and other products of the area around Rome.

Domus Romane
This recently excavated swanky home of a well-heeled late Roman is impressive in itself for sheer dimensions

Address: Via IV Novembre 119a, 00187
Contact: 00 39 06 32810; palazzovalentini.it
Getting there: Bus to Piazza Venezia or Via IV Novembre (multiple services)
Opening times: Mon, Wed-Sun, 9.30am-6.30pm
Price: €12; children 6-17, €8; children under 6, free. Extra €1.50 fee for advance online booking
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: recommended

Doria Pamphilj Gallery

The art collection of the aristocratic Doria Pamphilj (or Pamphili) family – now headed by two half-British siblings – is truly magnificent, as is the palazzo where the works are still displayed according to a 1760 inventory. Artistic highlights of the place include a striking portrait by Velázquez of the Pamphili pontiff Innocent X: this was the inspiration for Francis Bacon’s 1953 ‘screaming pope’. There are also masterpieces by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Bernini, Breughel the Elder and Hans Memling. The ticket price includes an excellent audioguide narrated by Prince Jonathan Pamphili himself – I love the bit about how he and his sister used to roller-skate through these august halls. For a multi-sensoral experience, join the Saturday (11am) ‘Sounds and visions of Caravaggio’ tour accompanied by an art historian and a live early music ensemble; full price €35, booking essential.

Doria Pamphilj Gallery
Artistic highlights of include a striking portrait by Velázquez of the Pamphili pontiff Innocent X

Address: Via del Corso 305, 00186
Contact: 00 39 06 679 7323; dopart.it
Getting there: Bus to Piazza Venezia or Via del Corso (multiple services)
Opening times: Daily, 9am-7pm
Price: €12; young people aged 6-26, €8; children under 6, free
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary

MAXXI

Back off, naysayers – I love this daring piece of contemporary architecture in the newly hip northern Flaminio district, designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid. Sure, the contents of the Museum of 21st Century Arts (MAXXI) don’t always live up to its eye-catching exterior, but although the permanent art collection (now visitable for free Tuesday-Friday) is not the world’s most exciting, MAXXI stages very good exhibitions and retrospectives, especially on architectural themes. Locals have taken to the place too – perhaps more for the space than for the contents, as testified by the crowds of cappuccino-sipping loungers at café tables and their scootering or tag-playing offspring in the piazza outside on any sunny weekend. Right around the back of the museum, you’ll find Neve di Latte, one of Rome’s truly great new-generation ice-cream shops.

MAXXI
MAXXI stages very good exhibitions and retrospectives

Address: Via Guido Reni 4a, 00196
Contact: 00 39 06 320 1954; fondazionemaxxi.it
Getting there: Bus to Piazza Mancini (multiple services) or Via Flaminia (M, 910); tram 2
Opening times: Tue-Fri, Sun, 11am-7pm; Sat, 11am-10pm
Price: €12; anyone under 30, €8; children under 14 or anyone on their birthday, free
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary

Vatican Museums

It’s tempting to think of this vast repository as “the rooms full of papally collected or commissioned art that you have to schlep through to get to the Sistine Chapel”. But in fact there’s plenty to enjoy along the way, from stunning classical statues such as the Laocoon, to Pinturicchio’s delightful Borgia Room frescoes, from magnificent decorations by Raphael to an Egyptian museum complete with mummies. However, there’s no denying that Michelangelo’s masterpiece, vibrant after its end-of-millennium restoration, is the big draw here – it’s just a shame it’s so crowded (if you’re first in at 9am and rush straight through to the Chapel, you might buy yourself a few minutes’ peace). I won’t mention here that I once had the privilege of going up on the scaffolding while they were restoring it, as it wouldn’t be fair. The dress code for St Peter’s (no bare shoulders or midriff, no very short shorts or skirts) applies to the museums too: cover up, or you risk being turned away at the door. This is one Roman sight that benefits from a little forward planning: you should book a timed slot via the website, or be prepared for a long queue. Note also that last entry is a good two hours before closing time, and be aware that the Vatican Museums close on Vatican holidays, which don’t always coincide with Italian public holidays – check the list on the website.

Vatican Museums
CREDIT: ALEX SEGRE / ALAMY

Address: Viale del Vaticano, 00165
Contact: 00 39 06 6988 3145; museivaticani.va
Getting there: Metro Ottaviano; bus to Via Leone IV or Via Candia (multiple services)
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm (last entry 4pm); last Sun of month, 9am-2pm (last entry 12.30pm)
Price: €16; children 6-18, students with ID under 26, €8; children under 6, free; online booking fee €4. Museums are open and free for all visitors on last Sunday of every month
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: recommended

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Appian Way & Catacombs

Constructed from 312 BC to move troops and goods swiftly between the metropolis and the south, the Appian Way was also the well-off ancient Roman’s burial venue of choice. Few of the impressive mausoleums remain above ground (the tall round tomb of Cecilia Metella, and the Mausoleum of Romulus – reopened in 2014 after a 20-year restoration – being the exceptions): their decorations and masonry were too tempting for future generations seeking building materials. But beneath what is now a pleasant, semi-rural lane – some of it with the original basalt paving slabs still in place – lie many miles of catacombs where early Christians were laid to rest under the watchful eye of the pagan authorities. Largest and most rewarding of all the catacombs are those of San Callisto, where nine popes and dozens of martyrs were among those stacked in 18 miles of tunnel.

Appian Way & Catacombs
The Appian Way was also the well-off ancient Roman’s burial venue of choice

Address: Via Appia Antica 110/126, 00179
Contact: 00 39 06 513 0151; catacombe.roma.it
Getting there: Bus to Appia Antica (118, 218)
Opening times: Mon, Tue, Thu-Sun, 9am-noon, 2-5pm
Price: €8; children 6-15, €5; 6 and under, free
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not possible

Ara Pacis

In 13BC the Emperor Augustus marched home from three years of imposing peace on his formerly fractious empire, and the Senate promptly commissioned a monument to mark his achievements. Four years later, the Ara Pacis Augustae – the Augustan altar of peace – was inaugurated: a simple altar at the centre of four marble walls gloriously carved with friezes hailing the emperor, his family, piety, peace and the prosperity of the pacified Empire. The altar didn’t originally stand here: it was pieced together in the early 20th century from scattered fragments. Now housed in a hyper-modern (and widely unloved) outer shell designed by US architect Richard Meier, the Ara Pacis museum also doubles as an exhibition venue. Next door, the church of San Rocco has a fine Baroque interior. In October 2016, ‘L’Ara com’era’ an evening-only augmented-reality experience was launched. Thanks to special AR visors, small groups of visitors are led through a 45-minute historical diorama that culminates in a view of the altar with its (surprisingly garish) original coloration. From mid April to the end of October this happens daily from 8pm to midnight, the rest of the year only on Fridays and Saturdays from 7.30pm to midnight; check the website for details and booking information.

Ara Pacis
Ara Pacis houses a monument to Emperor Augustus’ achievements

Address: Lungotevere in Augusta, 00186
Contact: 00 39 06 0608; arapacis.it
Getting there: Bus to Lungotevere Marzio or Via Tomacelli (multiple services)
Opening times: daily, 9.30am-7.30pm (last entry 6.30pm)
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary

Baths of Caracalla

It took rampaging Goths to close down this massive thermal bath complex (they severed the water supply in AD 537). Founded in AD 217, the baths could host up to 1,500 people at any one time. As well as two huge gyms, an open-air pool, and steam-bath rooms of varying temperatures – including a vast, domed extra-hot calidarium – ancient clients could enjoy a library, shops and landscaped gardens. Still today, the towering ruins are impressive, though the sculptures that littered the place are now in the Vatican Museums and Naples’ archaeological museum. Part of the six-odd miles of tunnels beneath the baths through which slaves scurried to keep the fires fanned were re-opened to the public in 2013; these are not visitable on Mondays. In summer, the Baths become an atmospheric open-air opera venue (operaroma.it).

Baths of Caracalla
Founded in AD 217, the baths could host up to 1,500 people at any one time

Address: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 52, 00153
Contact: 00 39 06 3996 7700; archeoroma.beniculturali.it
Getting there: Metro Circo Massimo; bus to Via delle Terme di Caracalla (118, 160, 628)
Opening times: Mon, 9am-2pm; Tue-Sun, 9am-sunset
Price: €6; EU citizens aged 18-25, €3; children under 18, free
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary

Capitoline Museums

By the time the public was given access to the Capitoline Museums in 1734, popes had been amassing this peerless collection of artworks for some 250 years.The gems are now spread through two palazzi on opposite sides of the Michelangelo-designed Piazza del Campidoglio. In Palazzo dei Conservatori, the courtyard is home to pieces of colossal statues. Inside are works ancient and modern, including Rome’s emblem, a bronze Etruscan (or perhaps medieval) she-wolf suckling twins Remus and Romulus, Bernini’s remarkable statue of Pope Urban VIII, a picture gallery with paintings by Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Titian and others, and the second century AD equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (the one in the piazza outside is a copy). Accessed via the Tabularium, with its view along the Forum, the Palazzo Nuovo is home to a superb collection of ancient statuary. On entry you have the option of paying €1 more for a ticket that includes access to the wonderful Centrale Montemartini, which I highly recommend visiting if you have time.

Capitoline Museums
Capitoline Museum is home to a superb collection of ancient statuary

Address: Piazza del Campidoglio 1, 00186
Contact: 00 39 06 0608; en.museicapitolini.org
Getting there: Bus to Via del Teatro di Marcello or Piazza Venezia (multiple services)
Opening times: daily, 9.30am-7.30pm
Price: €11.50; non-residents aged 6-25, €9.50; children under 6, free. Price varies during special exhibitions
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary

Centrale Montemartini

One of the more unlikely – and arguably most satisfying – venues in Rome’s panoply of ancient offerings, this decommissioned power station has had its huge turbines, boilers and cogs polished up to provide a dramatic backdrop for choice pieces from the Capitoline Museums’ storerooms. What counts as a ‘minor’ ancient artwork or architectural decoration in Rome, of course, would be a major centrepiece elsewhere: the dreamy muse Polymnia and a towering statue of the goddess Fortuna are cases in point.  The Centrale is visitable on a joint ticket (€12.50/€10.50) with the Capitoline Museums. Visit the museum’s website for updates on kids’ activities and the occasional jazz concert.

Centrale Montemartini
The decommissioned power station provides a dramatic backdrop for the museums’ collection

Address: Via Ostiense 106, 00154
Contact: 00 39 06 0609; en.centralemontemartini.org
Getting there: Metro Garbatella; bus to Via Ostiense (23, 769)
Opening times: Tue-Sun, 9am-7pm
Price: €7.50; non-residents aged 6-25 or over 65, €6.50; children 6 and under, free
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary

Crypta Balbi

In the 1980s, archeologists got to work in this centro storico site, digging down through Renaissance and medieval layers to the crypta itself – not a crypt in the modern sense but the courtyard and lobby of a theatre built by the wealthy Spaniard Cornelius Balbus in 13 BC. The result is a fascinating small museum that I always recommend to friends, as it’s the only one to show a slice through a vertical timeline of Roman life. Tours of the crypta ruins in the basement depart at intervals from the ticket office. Upstairs, intelligently presented displays (with interactive graphics to keep children absorbed) show how street levels rose though centuries of building, scavenging and restoring. They also make clear how little the basic equipment of an average household has changed: there are pots, cutlery, ceramics and tools here, plus a wonderful view across Rome’s rooftops from the top floor. The crypta ticket also covers Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo and the Baths of Diocletian.

Crypta Balbi
Displays show how street levels rose through centuries of building, scavenging and restoring

Address: Via delle Botteghe Oscure 31, 00186
Contact: 00 39 06 3996 7700; archeoroma.beniculturali.it
Getting there: Bus to Via delle Botteghe Oscure or Largo Argentina (multiple services); tram 8
Opening times: Tue-Sun, 9am-7.45pm
Price: €7; EU citizens aged 18-24, €3.50; children under 18, free. Price varies during special exhibitions
Payment type: credit cards accepted
Reservations: not necessary