There are many reasons why Rome is called The Eternal City. Indeed it once was the capital of a vast empire that spread across Europe and Northern Africa and laid the foundation of modern Europe. There’s no more important city in the world when it comes to the history of Western Civilization. You can see Roman ruins in places as far flung as England, Jordan and Morocco. But Rome is the epicenter, the source and the granddaddy of them all. (Pictured above: Rome's Trevi Fountain.)
Rome is one of the oldest inhabited cities. No place embodies a broader span of history and culture than Rome. And while it is one of the oldest cities, it’s also sparkling new, always displaying the latest styles and technology. This cornerstone of Western Civilization remains at the vanguard of the international march of culture, with the finest of everything Italian located in place.
In Rome you can see the most spectacular ruins of the Roman Empire, such as the Colosseum, the Forum and the Pantheon. You also can visit the monuments and relics of all the rich periods of history there since the fall of the Roman Empire. The Vatican Museums, part of the vast complex around St. Peter’s Cathedral, the heart of Catholicism, house many of the world’s finest works of art, including more than 400 of the world’s finest paintings by the likes of Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Perugino and Caravaggio. The museums also exhibit many pieces from ancient Egypt and early Rome and Greece. On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is Michelangelo’s incomparable fresco, one of the most breathtaking pieces of art ever created.
Rome's Piazza Navona
Rome in the 21st century is teeming with exciting restaurants and nightlife, iconic centers of the living city, and architectural icons from the last 2,000 years, from the Arch of Septimius Severus, built roughly in 203 A.D., and the Arch of Constantine, dating from 312 A.D., to the 18th century masterpieces of the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps.
On top of endless fascinations within the city itself, Rome also can serve as a great base for exploring southern Italy. As with the rest of Italy, the principal points are all linked together by Italy’s comprehensive, efficient and fast train system, as well as many other forms of transportation, including rental cars, buses, trains and boats. Here are some of the best places to explore if you are basing yourself in Rome.
The third largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan, Naples is located across the bay from Mount Vesuvius on Italy’s west coast overlooking the Tyrrenian Sea. Naples is an ancient city that has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. Today it’s a humming metropolis with a population of more than three million, and a dynamic urban center that offers a multitude of culinary treasures and thrilling nightlife.
Bay of Naples
There is no end of things to do in Naples, including climbing Mount Vesuvius or attending a wine tasting on the slopes, or visiting the ruins of Pompeii, the legendary Roman city that was engulfed in volcanic lava and petrified in time. There’s the Naples National Archaeological Museum, the San Gennaro Catacombs, the ruins of Herculaneum, Castel Nuovo and Castel dell’Ovo, Cappella Sansevero and the district of Santa Lucia.
The Amalfi Coast is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Naples. It’s only a little more than an hour’s drive to one of the most splendorous coastlines on the planet, chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 30-mile strip on the southern coast of the Sorrento Peninsula on the Gulf of Salerno is a scene of staggering natural beauty, with giant cliffs jutting out of the seaside, picturesque villages with closely packed houses and terraces built intricately into the steep landscapes. Every view is spectacular, whether from the water below or from the windy roads hugging the cliffs above, the Road of a Thousand Bends. From almost any town on the Amalfi Coast you can take a short boat ride to the legendary island of Capri.
Villa D'Este in Tivoli
This commune east of Rome in the greater metropolitan area of the city was founded in Roman times. It was an important settlement under Emperor Hadrian because of its strategic location on the River Aniene. In the Middle Ages, under the dominion of the Papal States, Tivoli was fortified with city walls, which are still standing today. It thrived during the Renaissance, and all the great historical periods left their marks, leaving a rich range of architecture such as the Rocca Pia, the San Lorenzo Cathedral, Villa d’Este and an ancient Roman Amphitheatre. The surrounding landscape, with its exquisite waterfalls, is full of natural wonders. Tivoli also has an abundance of colorful and high-quality restaurants and bars.
This rocky peak jutting out over the Gulf of Gaeta on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the southwestern coast of Italy is the heart of a national park known for its rich flora. Since ancient times, the mysterious spot was associated with the legend of the sorceress Circe. It features traces of Stone Age settlements and Roman colonial ruins, as well as the lively present-day village of San Felice Circeo.
This region of southern and central Italy has been called the greenest part of Europe. It stretches from the heart of the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic Sea on mountainous and wild terrain. Half of it is protected in national parks and nature reserves, making it a sanctuary for rare species such as the golden eagle, the Apennine wolf and the Marsican brown bear. In fact, Abruzzo is home to 75 percent of Europe’s animal species. It is a land of many ancient paths, sandy beaches and small villages.
This ancient city at the foot of the Cimini Mountains in central Italy is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Rome. The capital of the province of the same name, the city dates back at least to the 8th century A.D. It’s still surrounded by medieval walls from the 11th and 12th centuries. Its historic center is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Italy, with a rich legacy of classic architecture, including the magnificent Palazzo dei Papi, or Pope’s Palace. The weather is paradisiacal with a borderline subtropical climate.
Civita di Bagnoregio
This unique hill town seems to grow right out of the top of a steep, rocky hill. Accessible only by a footbridge, Civita di Bagnoregio is a bubble that contains a perfectly preserved city from the Middle Ages. Its main entrance was originally a path cut by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago. The city life, still unblemished by the world outside, can be best observed from the main piazza, where locals congregate. It’s the place where festivals and processions begin, and a perfect place to enjoy a meal in an outdoor cafe while watching the passersby.