What are the best things to do in Rome?
1. Step off the Metro at Colosseo and it’s right there in front of you: enormous and almost suspiciously well-preserved – the biggest amphitheatre ever built. The Colosseum has several areas you shouldn’t miss, including the panoramic upper levels of the stands, the arena floor, and the hypogeum (where wild animals were kept before being lifted up to arena level). Many Colosseum tickets include access to the Roman Forum, and you should allow enough time to walk this amazing archaeological park.
2. Once inside The Vatican you shouldn’t miss the formidable art collection: follow signs to the Pinacoteca – a treasure trove of Da Vinci, Raphael and Caravaggio canvases (look out for famous sculptures, too, like one of Laocoon wrestling some fearsome serpents). When you’re ready, get ushered into the Sistine Chapel. In this extraordinary sacred space, let the art do the talking. The guards ensure that everyone keeps to an awed silence as they stare up at Michelangelo’s spectacular painted ceiling – featuring depictions of the nine books of Genesis, including the creation of Adam right in the middle.
3. The famous Trevi Fountain, a Baroque tangle of gods, animals and waterjets, was built when Pope Urban VIII declared that the current fountain that stood in Piazza di Trevi wasn’t dramatic enough. The Trevi Fountain was duly built by the architect Nicola Salvi, who died before it was finished in 1762. The legend goes that if you throw a coin (tossed over your left shoulder with your right hand) and it lands in the fountain, then you will one day return to Rome. The jettisoned change is all scooped up at the end of the day to help the local homeless – so be generous. Book a panoramic tour of Rome by night – ending up at the fountain for an atmospheric dinner.
4. St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world, but its still nearly dwarfed by the enormous colonnades that flank it and encircle the enormous St Peter’s Square. If you were looking for an audience with the Pope, you would have the best chance here. Many people make special pilgrimages to this spot from all over the world. It’s free to enter the cathedral, though there’s often a queue – and there’s a charge if you want to be adventurous and climb the cramped staircase up into its capacious dome. Don’t miss a chance to poke around the grottos, where many of the past Popes have been buried – it’s said that Saint Peter himself is buried below the High Altar.
5. Behold, the Pantheon, Rome – evidence that Rome’s ancient engineers really might have been a bunch of geniuses. Just walk through the enormous open door of this church (which was once a Roman temple) and look up. You’ll see a gigantic freestanding dome soaring above you. The walls are a massive 6.4 metres thick in places, and an oculus in the roof provides the only source of light. The Pantheon was the largest freestanding dome in the world for 1,000 years – right up until 1496, and never fails to impress; its echoing, cloche-like interior giving a real feeling of space. It’s now a church – meaning its name, of Greek origin and meaning ‘for all the Gods’, is a little less fitting than it used to be.
Which holiday type in Rome is right for me?
Rome’s five star hotels will really put the razzmatazz in your Roman holiday. If you’re after the high life, there’s plenty of choice. Stay at the Gran Melia Rome, an urban resort with an impressive outdoor pool. If you want traditional glamour, the magnificent St. Regis Rome has received a multi-million pound facelift and has very special butler service. Once you’ve seen to your suitcases, head out to the boutiques on Via dei Condotti, followed by cocktails around Tridente. Crank up the romance by staying at the boutique H'All Tailor Suite, where you can raise your glass to your other half at Champagne breakfasts and dine in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
With its winning combination of gelato and gladiators, Rome is a great place for a family holiday. Your little ones will love learning about the Colosseum and the Roman Forum (and some places in the city even offer ‘gladiator lessons’). Dare older kids to descend into Rome’s catacombs, or to place their hand in the ‘Mouth of Truth’ in the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. Hop-on, hop-off bus tours can help save little legs – and after a day of city adventures everyone can cool off in the pool at Crowne Plaza St Peter’s Hotel.