Inland of the Mediterranean coast, along the Tiber River
Key AttractionsThe city of Rome covers over 40 square miles, its landscape studded with monuments to nearly 2,700 years of history. Founded on seven hills, the city is traversed by the Tiber River, which winds north to south on its route to the sea. The majority of the city's major sights are located in a fairly small area known as the centro. At its heart lies ancient Rome--Palatine and Capitoline hills--where the Forum and Colosseum stand. Just to the north and west rises the historic district of Centro Storico, where the city's classical, Baroque and Renaissance histories overlap in a fascinating mix. South of Centro Storico is where the Romans of today live, in the lively neighborhoods of campo dei Fiori and Trastevere. Farther to the north lies Rome's largest park, Villa Borghese, with the nearby Spanish Steps, and, to the west, the awe-inspiring dome of St. Peter's and Vatican City.
Capitoline Hill is a good place to begin exploring. Rome's first sacred temples stood here; today, the hill is home to the Palazzo Senatorio, seat of Rome's City Hall. Here, too, you can admire the symmetry of Campidoglio Square, whose ramp, pavement and buildings on three sides were designed by Michelangelo. Nearby is the extraordinary archaeological complex that is the Forum, the governmental heart of Republican Rome. From its ruins, you can catch a glimpse of the remarkable metropolis it once was. Memorable sites include the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the round Temple of Vesta, where the goddess' flame was kept burning by carefully selected daughters of Rome, the Vestal Virgins.
From the height of Palatine Hill, you can survey the Circus Maximus, Rome's great chariot track. Today, all that is left are fragrant meadows and a scattering of pine trees. Leaving Palatine by way of Via di San Gregorio, you'll pass the imposing Arch of Constantine.
Just beyond is the Colosseum, its huge red-brick bulk easily identifiable. Although some of the structure is in ruins, four stories are intact on one side. The Pantheon was commissioned in 27 B.C. by Marcus Agrippa. Built in the Hellenistic style, the building displays perfect grace and balance. The space inside is circular, leading the eye upward to the dome, said to be the largest in the world.
The winding Spanish Steps, near the Villa Borghese park, are climbed by nearly every visitor to Rome. At the top, an inspiring view of the city awaits. Another treasured attraction is the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that anyone who tosses a coin into the fountain's waters is ensured a return visit to Rome. Centro Storico offers a charming, cobblestoned journey through Rome's past. The main attractions are the Palazzo Venezia and the Palazzo Doria Pamphili, the Basilica of San Marco and the ancient Gothic Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. At less than 100 acres, Vatican City is the smallest state in the world. Here you can visit St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in Christendom. Also contained within this tiny principality are the priceless collections of the Vatican Museums, among them the Vatican library and the Sistine Chapel. Highlights include the Pieta, sculpted by Michelangelo when he was just 25 years old. The recent controversial restoration of the Sistine Chapel frescoes has revealed a bright new palette, its colors still vivid after 400 years.
Great BuysThe city's most elegant shopping district is in the Piazzi di Spagna area, especially along Via Condotti. Here you'll find all the big names in Italian fashion and jewelry--Armani, Versace, Missoni and Bulgari. Handbags, shoes and leather goods are still one of Italy's best buys. While rarely on sale, the superior quality and workmanship make these a lasting investment. Famous names include Gucci, Ferragamo, Fratelli Rossetti and Bruno Magli.
Delicacies handmade by monks in monasteries throughout Italy make an unusual gift to take home. Look for bottles of liqueur, jars of jam or bars of chocolate made by the Cistercian and other orders. Vatican City also offers unique shopping opportunities. Take time to browse the wonderful Vatican museum stores; outside, street vendors offer papal souvenirs.
For a listing of possible SHORE EXCURSIONS which may be offered in Rome during your Mediterranean Cruise, check out the article Princess Rome Excursions.
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