On first arrival in Rome, the city’s pulsating energy is clear as Italians buzz by on Vespas and polizia direct traffic. But once you dine out, you’ll soon realise the Romans also like to linger. You’ll rarely be rushed to settle the bill, and more often than not you’ll be persuaded to sip a celebratory glass of fizz on a sultry afternoon – simply because there’s always time.
Romantic people-watching spots include the glorious Baroque Piazza Navona, the main square in Rome’s historic centre; and 17th-century Via Margutta, a beautiful cobblestoned street once home to Italian filmmaker Frederico Fellini and American novelist Truman Capote (nos. 110 and 33 respectively), which today is lined with art galleries and restaurants.
Whilst on foot, make your way along Via di San Giovanni in Laterno, which features the 18th-century Roman Cathedral at one end and the iconic Colosseum at the other. Dating back to AD 80, the ruins of this great gladiatorial amphitheatre are testament to an ancient civilisation where warriors fought both wild animals and each other. The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill lie adjacent to the Colosseum and it’s worth touring all three archeological sites on the same day, beginning with breakfast overlooking the Colosseum at the elegant Palazzo Manfredi’s rooftop restaurant.
Dedicate a day to visiting the immense Vittoriano, the Catacombs of San Castillo and San Sebastiano, the Baths of Diocletian and the 2,000 year-old Corinthian columns of the well-preserved Pantheon. Whilst here, have a delicious bite to eat at local favourite Armando del Pantheon. Then make your way to the grandiose Piazza di Spagna for a well-deserved gelato and photo opportunity on the famed 18th century Spanish Steps, before throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain for good luck.
A day off from ancient sites brings a walk along Via del Corso, where upscale high-street stores sit alongside luxurious boutiques and the flagship Ferrari store. From here you’ll find Via del Babuino, home to Jo Malone and Tiffany & Co. Head to Mercati Monti Market for vintage finds or peruse Via Condotti for high-end designer goods. If you want to relax, picnic in the gardens of Villa Borghese or cycle up Via Appia Antica, a beautiful straight road stretching out south of Rome which is lined with monumental structures and ancient tombs.
No first-time visit to Rome is complete without visiting the smallest independent state in the world, Vatican City (pre-booking recommended). Headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and guarded by the colourful Swiss Papal, inside you’re privy to Saint Peter’s Basilica, the spellbinding Vatican Dome, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and his mesmerising pieta. Don’t forget to stop off at the Post Office and send a postcard home, complete with a Vatican City stamp – the perfect keepsake of your trip.