Melbourne (MEL) to Rome (FCO)Round trip | Economy
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The bulging, cosmopolitan capital of Italy has one foot firmly rooted in the past, while the other dabbles joyfully in the future. Studded with some of the world’s most mighty ancient buildings such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon, as well as Renaissance palaces and neoclassical works, Rome has been wowing visitors for thousands of years – a claim few cities can make.
Rome is a big, chaotic city, and it's difficult to walk all of it. There only thee lines on the metro, which is best avoided during the morning and evening rush hours, but they manage to cover most of the principal sites and are generally reliable. Taxis are best hired at taxi stands, and be sure to take official yellow or white vehicles with metres.
Rome's landmarks are the stuff of dreams. Half-eaten by time, the two-thousand-year-old Colosseum remains utterly jaw-dropping, especially at night when artful lighting makes it glimmer with ghosts of the past. Enclosed within aged walls, the Vatican City's magnificent San Pietro's basilica and Sistine Chapel are almost as impressive.
The Centro Storico, with its tangled streets, beautiful Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and Pantheon – a mysterious temple completed by Hadrian in the 2nd century – is perhaps the most interesting part of the city for visitors. Other sights that can't be missed are the Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Roman Forum.
With such a fabled past stretching back some 2,500 years, practically every centimetre of Rome exudes history, and the likes of the Musei Capitolini have sought to preserve precious artefacts dug up over the centuries, especially since the development of the post-unification years.
Precious art can be found in almost every church and palace of Rome, but as dedicated galleries go, Museo e Galleria Borghese is the finest. Brace yourself for works by Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian, with the original collection dating back to the 16th century. It's best to pre-book tickets.
Be sure to cross the right bank of the river Tiber and visit Trastevere, the old artisan quarter of Rome. Non-Romans historically settled in the area, being beyond the old city walls, and it retains its distinctive character, with narrow streets and enclosed squares combined today with busy bars and clubs. Also, head to Monti whose 18th-century streets may seem nothing remarkable for Rome but are filled with hip and alternative vibes.
Hidden behind the Roman Forum, the Palatino boasts wondrous ruins and fantastic views. A hill with many trees, it offers a glimpse of what Ancient Rome was like, and it's even believed that Romulus founded the city here, back in the 8th century BC.
Surprisingly perhaps, Roman food is not the most typical of Italian cuisine, if such a thing exists. The Romans love their lamb, especially chops such as alla cacciatora cooked with garlic, anchovies and rosemary. Local-grown artichokes are much loved here, with two notable recipes: carciofi alla giudea, whereby the petals are deep-fried; and alla romana, stuffed with garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs. Pasta dishes include bucatini, thick but hollow spaghetti, served in amatriciana sauce, and rigatoni con la pajata, hollow tubes in a sauce of intestines and veal. It's worth seeking out traditional restaurants serving authentic Roman fare to try these local favourites. Wines from all over Italy can be easily found and enjoyed across the city.