Rome, the eternal city, the city on the Seven Hills, the city by the Tiber, once capital of a mighty empire that stretched from the deserts of Iraq to the Bay of Biscay and from Hadrian’s Wall to the wastes of the Sahara. When the empire receded, in its place came Christianity and Rome was, and remains, the headquarters of the Catholic Church. Technically the Vatican City is separate from Rome, but you will surely be visiting it as part of your Roman holiday.
You do not have to be a history buff, or a student of architecture, or a pilgrim of any sort to get a great deal out of a visit to Rome. You might just like to spend some time in a bustling city full of stylish people. You might just like the food, or if you are the same as me, the wine that goes with the food [Frascati is a particular favourite with many Romans] or the shopping. You might enjoy the night life, which is what you would expect in a bustling Metropolis full of Italians. In short you will probably have a great time while in Rome by simply enjoying the Dolce Vita. You should stop well short of frolicking in the Trevi Fountains, though. Leave that sort of thing to movie stars.
If you are interested in history, then Rome is certainly the place for you. History is not a separate, sequestered thing in Rome, it’s all around you. The past and the present sit happily together. For example, on my first visit to Rome, which is longer ago than I care to remember, I had a bite of lunch at an open air cafe in the Piazza del Campidoglio. As I enjoyed my pasta, I was most struck by a statue of a man on a horse which stood nearby. I asked our then tour guide about it [we were lunching in a restaurant owned by his cousin, which was not, I suspect, coincidence]. He explained that it was a copy of a statue of the second century emperor Marcus Aurelius, the original of which now stood in the Capitoline Museum, which was nearby and which we were due to visit that afternoon.
So I saw the copy and the original. They are both superb, but the original was made in 175 AD. It is made of bronze and stands of four metres tall. The emperor has his arm outstretched and many think that he was originally forgiving a bound barbarian chieftain. That would have been typical of Marcus Aurelius, who wanted to be a peacemaker. I knew that because I had read his Meditations. Now I felt like I had met him, twice, during and just after lunch. Oh, and the plinth below the statue was designed by Michaelangelo.
That is Rome. There is something astonishing round every corner.
… written by Max Stamford - a freelance writer. He recommends visiting the Italian capital after going on a number of Rome breaks with Citalia.