Think of Rome and you think of ancient history. But these days Italy’s capital is primed to conquer a whole new army of pleasure-seekers.
Let’s start with a health and safety warning: Walking through Rome is liable to give you whiplash. However sophisticated you are, you’ll still be straining your neck to see what lies around the next corner. Strolling around the Palatine, with its palaces and frescos, is like stumbling into a film set. Standing in the shade of the olive trees in the Aventine’s Parco Sevalto, looking out over the city, you’ll be waiting for a director to shout: ‘Cut!’
But Rome hasn’t always enjoyed la dolce vita. For a sobering reminder, visit the EUR district, designed by Mussolini to celebrate twenty years of fascism. Now the city’s business and financial district, its stark minimalism is just as striking as some of the city’s more ancient quarters.
While the tourists clog up the pretty cobbled streets of the Trastevere, locals head out to the Pignato district, to drink their morning cappuccinos, buy their vegetables and drink outside until the small hours. Here the ristoranti and enoteche reflect the international flavour of the neighbourhood, where families from Senegal, Colombia and Bangladesh live alongside southern Italian immigrants, and glossy media types jostle for space with chain-smoking old-timers.
Being in Rome is all about joining the party, not just watching from the edges.
Whether you’re staying on the exclusive Via Veneto or couch-surfing in the suburbs, you’ll be able to partake in the city’s most affordable luxury: the world-class gelato. Grab a cone, lean against the ancient sun-baked stone and wonder why it took you so long to realise that all roads lead to Rome.