No other city comes close. It may no longer be caput mundi (capital of the world), but Rome is an epic metropolis harbouring lost empires. One visit and you'll be hooked.

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Rome has a glorious monumentality that it wears without reverence. Its architectural heirlooms are buzzed around by car and Vespa as if they were no more than traffic islands.

The city bombards you with images: elderly ladies with dyed hair chatting in Trastevere; priests with cigars strolling the Imperial Forums; traffic jams around the Colosseum; plateloads of pasta in Piazza Navona; sinuous trees beside the Villa Borghese; barrages of pastel-coloured scooters revving up at traffic lights as if preparing for a race.

People in Rome encapsulate the spirit of the city. Pass a central café and the tables outside are animated with people, downing fast shots of espresso and sporting big black sunglasses. They are neither posing nor hung over. Nuns flutter through the streets, on the trip of a lifetime or secondment from the Philippines, bustling across the road before treating themselves to an ice cream. Churches fill during Mass, and the priests, dressed in purple, cream or red silk (right down to their socks), read the rites to a hushed congregation (mostly from out of town).

Here the national preoccupation with the aesthetic fuses with incredible urban scenery to make Rome a city where you feel cool just strolling through the streets, catching the sunlight on your face outside a café, or eating a long lunch. It's a place that almost encourages you to take things easy. Don't feel like going to a museum? What's the need when it's all outside on the streets?

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    This is our best of Rome: unmissable museums and galleries, top tours and places to rest your head, plus itineraries to make the most of the Eternal City.

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  • Gourmet Rome

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