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Rome City Trip

The Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy
The Spanish Steps

72 Hours in Rome

by Annie Shapero and Mike Dunphy

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Rome's legendary seven hills are located in Italy's Lazio region, which borders the Tyrrhenian Sea. Threading the valley, the wild and winding Tiber River stitches together the ancient and modern parts of the city. Most of the famous sights are in the Centro Storico and Colosseo districts, but that doesn't mean there are no treasures to be found beyond.

In terms of accommodations, the "Eternal City" offers every level imaginable, from prince and pauper. But be prepared to pay top dollar for even moderate quality. For pure style, The Portrait Suites Hotels by the Spanish Steps offers luxurious townhouse-style rooms inspired by fashion designer Salvatore Ferragamo.

Hotel Art in Rome, Italy
Hotel Art

Also nearby, the legendary nineteenth-century Hotel Eden wins guests with its peaceful location and fine rooftop dining. Lovers of the boutique experience should check into the colorful Hotel Art near Piazza del Popolo, while those seeking something simpler and more affordable best reserve a room at the cozy Hotel Gregoriana.

Most budget hotels are clustered around the Esquilino and San Lorenzo neighborhoods, which flank the main train station and cater to the backpacking set. The youthful Beehive Hotel is a favorite with its yoga classes, complimentary Internet access and fun design. In the under 100-euro category, it's hard to find anything in the high season, but off-season try centrally located Hotel Paba.

While it may seem daunting to cover Rome in 72 hours, it is indeed enough time to get the flavor of this ancient metropolis. Just bring comfortable walking shoes and a hearty appetite.

ROME DAY 1: Centro Storico and Colosseo

Inside the Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon

Breakfast in Italian hotels is usually included with the room, but if you feel like doing as the Romans do, the classic choice is a cappuccino and a cornetto, a croissant-like pastry filled with either marmalade or with a hazelnut chocolate paste such as Nutella or Gianduia, at a neighborhood bar like coffee mecca Tazza d'Oro, near the Pantheon.

The Pantheon is also the ideal spot to begin a tour of ancient Rome. Its heavy bronze doors open to a huge, cylindrical interior illuminated by the open oculus in the center of the vast dome. Built under the Emperor Hadrian as a Roman temple during the second century, the Pantheon was later transformed into a Catholic church.

Ancient Rome fans can find ruins in the Roman Forum, a spectacular, sunken mass of archeology that extends from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. Highlights include the Arch of Constantine, House of the Vestal Virgins and the Senate building.

Across from the Roman Forum you'll find the elevated Imperial Forums, which include Trajan's Market, a remarkably well-preserved section of commercial structures that afford a glimpse of everyday life in ancient Rome.

At the east end rises Rome's most famous ruin, the Colosseum. This great elliptical amphitheater is an architectural and engineering wonder for its clever design and efficient use of space. Erected under Emperor Vespasian in A.D. 72, the arena was home to some of the greatest and most gruesome spectacles of ancient Rome.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy
The Colosseum

Not far north of the Colosseum, just near Cavour metro stop, a great lunch can be had at Urbana 47, an organic eatery and concept store that sells food and locally designed sofas.

Or try Al Cardello, which is wedged in the medieval patchwork of streets between the Colosseum and Via Cavour and serves specialties from the neighboring Abruzzo region.

For dinner, it's hard to do better, especially in value for money, than Le Grotte along Via Della Vite in the Centro Storico. Most people come for its thin crust pizzas but end up returning for steak with balsamic vinegar or veal cooked in butter and sage. The best place for sipping the Chardonnay, though, is on the outdoor, street-side patio. 

For a night cap, enjoy quintessential Roman cool at Antico Caffè della Pace, near Piazza Navona. For more than a century, it was the hangout of writers, artists and poets. Today it is a glitterati affair.

Or for a simple but intimate wine bar, try the tiny Mimì e Cocò a few blocks south.

Continue to Day 2

MORE ROME INFORMATION

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* Images courtesy of A.P.T. of Rome. Hotel Art image from www.plh.it

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