With so many distractions vying for attention, it's easy to miss that. Until, suddenly, you've walked past your tenth ancient church and you realize, holy crap, this is Rome. Rome, as in, Julius Ceasar, the Vatican, gladiators, and aqueducts. That Rome. Everywhere you turn there is humbling evidence of this city's history and its impact on much of society as we know it. Very cool indeed.
So, where should you go to explore the soul of this place? Where should you go to discover its hidden gems? To plunder its many fantastic offerings and see its best sights? Read on...
The Vatican - Even recovering Catholics can appreciate the magnitude and history of this place. Word to the wise: register for a tour with Walks of Italy or Dark Rome. The Vatican Museums have 9 miles of galleries and welcome 30,000 visitors a day. A 3 hour guided tour will help you skip the hours long lines to get in and short cut the ADD-inspiring detail in this colossal place.
The Roman Forum - A guided tour (or podcast) probably would have been a good idea here because without context, it's just a lot of arches and crumbling ruins. And, frankly, the view is better from street level than it is inside the Forum and costs $30 less.
The Colosseum - Okay, you've got to admit, this place is cool. And huge. Like the Roman Forum, it'd probably be worth scheduling a tour with Walks of Italy or Dark Rome to get the full scoop on what went on here. Lions, tigers, jesters, and archers. Awesome.
Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Campo dei Fiori, etc. - Rome's best sights are best appreciated by simply walking the city. And as cliche as they might seem, these landmarks are truly spectacular. Rick Steves maps out some great walks that string together the do-not-miss sights.
The shopping in Rome is spectacular, whether you're looking for the latest fashion or something handmade you won't find anywhere else, this city has it all. Via del Corso is to Rome what Fifth Avenue is to Manhattan (Prada, Nike, Gucci, H&M, etc.), and Via Nazionale is like Broadway (a million smaller store fronts mixed in with some national chains). But get into the neighborhoods and discoveries abound.
Neck Ties - Anywhere in the vicinity of the Spanish Steps, especially the closet-sized shops east of the Piazza Sagnola and up the hill.
Leather - Great prices and selection of locally made bags/wallets at T Nobile. On the right after you cross the Ponte Sisto from Trastevere.
Women's Clothes - Taba just north of Camp de Fiori. Super cool clothes, reasonably priced. Piazza Campo De Fiori 13
Men & Women's Hip Clothing - Fuori Orario in Trastevere. Via del Moro 29
Via Margutta - You cannot miss this magical stroll down a narrow residential lane just up the street from The Spanish Steps. Long, flowing vines of broad leaf ivies hand from overhead wires, sunlight splashing through old growth wisteria, and a respite from the chaos just a block away.
Monti - Very cool stretch around Via del Boschetto from Via Nazionale almost down to Via Cavour. Independent shops, cools little bodegas, and a slightly bohemian flavor.
Trastevere - This is where all the cool kids hang out. Just on the other side of the river from Centro Storico, Trastevere retains some of its grittiness, though it's clearly going through a bit of a transformation. Wandering alleys dotted with vintage clothing stores and tiny bars make this a great hood to explore leisurely.