Guidebooks tend to overdo the 'littered with ancient monuments' line but the Eternal City is one place that can stand up to its' claim. Not content with resting on her historic laurels, Italy 's capital corrals together arguably the best collection of museums, galleries, shopping and nightspots in the country.
One of the most photogenic cities in Europe, Rome has provided the backdrop for some of cinema's defining moments; from Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi Fountains in La Dolce Vita to Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck cavorting around the city in Roman Holiday - not to mention Russell Crowe's recent gladiatorial stint in the Coliseum. Rome established her reputation as romantic city break more than 200 hundred years ago when a trip to the city was an essential part of every young poets education, and today Keats and Shelly's house (just off the Spanish Steps) has been turned into a museum.
For a city with such a big reputation many are surprised at the historic center's relative compactness, which makes it ideal to explore on foot. Even the most culturally ravenous will find Rome's extensive 'to do' list daunting, with the big hitters including: Hadrian's Pantheon (still complete after nearly 2000 years), the Vatican (which boasts not only St Peter's Basilica and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, but also the Trivial Pursuit winning statistic of having the world's lowest birth rate), and the Foro Romano (an impressive collection of ruins running from the summit of Rome's most important hill, the Capitoline, down to the Coliseum). However, for many Rome 's charm lies in leaving their guidebook in the hotel, fuelling up on espresso and discovering the myriad of plazas, fountains and statues for themselves.
Rome's trattorias are the envy of the Italy and draw their culinary influences form across the country, so there's something to suit every palate. Nightlife is something of a relative term in Italy , while most of Europe is safely tucked up in bed Rome 's is just starting to get warmed up. Culture buffs head for the crop of operas and theatres, café tables spill out over the piazzas and, if you've got the stamina, there are plenty of nightclubs to keep you going till dawn.