Some say Rome is like someone earning a living by showing off the bones of his dead granny and though the city certainly capitalises on its ancient history, it's impossible not to be seduced by its splendour and its zest.
Taking in the sweep of its architecture – from the Roman ruins of the Forum and the Colosseum, through the Renaissance grandeur of St Peter's to Bernini's Baroque fountains – can be a fairly dizzying experience but the city never gets too much. Like a seasoned entertainer, it always leaves you wanting more.
Much of the old centre, between the Pantheon and the river Tiber, has been pedestrianised in recent years and has therefore become a great place to wander around, despite the constant throng of tourists. The elegant Piazza Navona and the Campo de Fiori, the site of the flower market, are popular places to while away the evening with drinks, dinner or an ice cream. The once working-class (but now expensive) district of Trastevere, just across the river, is also major area for bars and restaurants.
For clubbing, most Romans head for the Testaccio neighbourhood a little further south. The Vatican is a little island unto itself and you'll need more than a day to make the most of its museums, which include the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Stanze.
Even if you're not religious, and don't speak Italian, you'll get a better idea of what St Peter's basilica is all about by attending a Mass there. Consider the difference between being in a football stadium when it's empty and returning when the faithful have amassed.
MEET THE SIDES
Speaking of which, the capital's football clubs are two of the only three to have broken the Juventus-AC Milan duopoly in the last two decades (Inter are the other). AS Roma won the league in 2001 under Fabio Capello, but have wobbled since, including being so skint that for a spell FIFA blocked the club's transfer activity. In iconic local boy Francesco Totti, though, the club still has the most gifted Italian player of his generation.
Rivals SS Lazio won the title under Sven-Göran Eriksson a season earlier, but the cost of doing so nearly bankrupted them and the club was saved only when new president Claudio Lotito cut an extraordinary deal with the government to pay off back taxes over the next 23 years.
The club has an image problem due to the right-wing leanings of many of its ultra fans, a gallery to which striker Paolo di Canio unashamedly, if controversially, played with Fascist salutes. It's a pity because in recent years, especially before coach Roberto Mancini left for Inter, Lazio have played some marvellous football.
Whatever the form of the two teams, the biannual derby at the Stadio Olimpico is one of the most spectacular and deeply-felt occasions on the Italian sporting calendar. But beware: in recent seasons the rivalry has turned a bit septic and you'll need to keep your wits about you.
CITY GUIDE: ARRIVAL
Rome has two airports: Leonardo da Vinci, better known as 'Fiumicino', and Ciampino. Taxis to the city centre from either airport cost 45-60 euros and take 30-45 minutes. Fiumicino airport is connected to the centre of Rome by trains every half-hour. They take 30 minutes to get to the central hub, Stazione Termini, and cost 8.80.
Ciampino airport has no direct train connections but if you're travelling with a low-cost airline you can take one of their shuttle buses (8 euro single, 12 return) to Termini. Travelling by train from the rest of Italy or elsewhere in Europe you will arrive at Termini, which has a left-luggage facility. Buses arrive at a variety of places around the city but the main bus station is Tiburtina, the city's second railway station.
There are tourist information booths at Fiumicino (daily 8.15am-7.15pm, tel: 06 6595 6074) and at Termini (daily 8.15am-7.15pm, tel: 06 4890 630). The main tourist office at 5 Via Parigi (Mon-Sat 9am-7pm, tel: 06 3600 4399), is five minutes' walk from Termini. They have free maps that should be ample for finding your way around. The privately run Enjoy Rome at 8a Via Marghera (Mon-Fri 8.30am-7pm, Sat 8.30am-2pm, tel: 06 445 1843) has friendly English-speaking staff.
The best idea is to walk but main train station Stazione Termini is centrally placed for all parts of the city and is the meeting-point of the two metro lines and the many city bus and tram routes. Flat-fare tickets on all forms of transport are currently 1 euro or you can get a day pass for 4 euros.
Rome is a paradise for perambulating sightseers, and most of the attractions are within easy walking distance of each other. So go for a consciously touristy amble, start at the Forum, the very heart of ancient Roman society, before crossing to the Colosseum, one of ancient Rome's most impressive and world-famous monuments.
Make your way over to the Pantheon, the most complete ancient Roman structure in the city, then take a break in the city's most beautiful square, the nearby Piazza Navona. Cross the Tiber to St Peter's, the home of the Catholic Church, then check out the Vatican Museums – which include the Raphael Stanze and the Sistine Chapel.
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
Treat your other half to a trip to the fashion district, situated between the Via del Corso and the Via Tritoneim. Then, why not try the Spanish Steps and the (always crowded) Trevi fountain for a spot of romance? You've never loved 'til you've loved in Rome.
Tivoli, an hour by bus east of Rome, is famous for the landscaped gardens and parks of its Renaissance villas. It makes for a lovely retreat from the city. Buses leave for Tivoli every 20 minutes from Ponte Mammolo metro station.
Alternatively, Anzio, 40 km south of Rome, is a likeable seaside resort, depending as much on fish as tourists for its livelihood. The restaurants alone are worth the trip and the beaches are clean and not overly busy in the summer. Trains runs frequently from the capital and COTRAL buses also provide a service from Fermi and Cinecitta stations.
Explore Rome with the interactive map below. Click a club badge to get a club guide.
For regular updates on the crazy world of Italian football, see our blog Serie Aaaargh!
FourFourTwo.com: News • Features • Interviews • Videos • Forums
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010