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Don't miss a visit to the Vatican.
Don't miss a visit to the Vatican.
The Colosseum.
One of the many statues in Palazzo Poli.


Thursday, May 1, 2003
Whatever your reason for visiting this holy city, you'll be soaking up the atmosphere, throwing lire in the fountain and strolling along the narrow streets with a gelato in no time.

In 2000, the Roman Catholic Church is celebrating a holy year — 2000 years of Christianity — and 30 million tourists are predicted to visit the city. With so many visitors expected, millions of lire have been spent across Italy and Rome in particular has never looked more beautiful.

Yet nothing seems to improve the manic traffic of Rome. However, that's the perfect reason to walk around the city and absorb its sights in your own time. Rome has around 900 churches and 280 fountains and each corner you turn presents something special.

The Colosseum was built in the first century and was the arena for gladitorial combats and animal fights. Few of its limestone seats remain; most were taken and used in other Roman buildings and the timber floors have rotted, but the view from the upper level is great.

The Pantheon is the largest intact building from Roman times and was rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in AD118. The 40cm-thick walls ensure it's always cool and the hole in the dome lets in natural light.

In the 1600s the Spanish ambassador took up residence by a piazza near a set of beautiful stairs — that's how the Spanish Steps were named. The busy, buzzing area is full of artists, shoppers and tourists.

A wander along narrow streets will eventually lead to Palazzo Poli and the Trevi Fountain. Packed with tourists during the day, this is where Italians gather to meet friends in the evening. It's hard to resist throwing in a couple of lire, just in case the legend is true.

In AD86 the Piazza Navona was a stadium for events such as javelin and discus throwing, wrestling matches and foot and chariot races. The centre of the piazza is dominated by Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers — Ganges, Danube, Nile and Rio de la Plata — and at its ends are the Fontanas del Moro and di Nettuno.

Rome's Jewish quarter is the oldest in Europe. It is eclectic and charming, with businesses dating back centuries and restaurants serving Roman kosher meals. In the 16th century Pope Paul IV erected the high-walled enclosure and at night Jews were locked in. This rule was abolished in 1848.

The people who live in the Trastevere area consider themselves the most authentic Romans. The pretty town of winding cobblestone streets lures people to its restaurants, clubs and cinemas and its piazza — Piazza di Santa Maria Trastevere — is where people meet to chat and parade.

One rather macabre place to visit is the Capuchin Crypt in the counter-Reformation Church of Santa Maria della Concezione on Via Veneto. Four rooms downstairs contain the bones of 4000 Capuchin friars — the angels decorating the halls have human hipbones for wings and even the hanging lights are made of bones. It's possibly not an attraction for everyone, but it is part of the city's colourful history.

Going to the other extreme, if you're looking for an inexpensive and serene place to stay in one of Rome's best locations, we can recommend the Suore di Nostra Signora. The guesthouse is run by gracious nuns and is in a quiet street in the centre of Rome. Shopping, restaurants, the Borghese Gardens and the Spanish Steps are nearby, all rooms have bath facilities, heating, balcony and antique furniture and breakfast is included in the tariff. There is a curfew and alcohol is not permitted, but a big plus must be being woken in the morning by the gentle sound of nuns praying and singing.


The region of Lazio, on Italy's west coast.


Suore di Nostra Signora rooms start at around $55 per person.

Qantas flies three times a week to Rome starting at $2063 from Perth, $2195 from Darwin, $2196 from Melbourne and Brisbane, $2203 from Adelaide and $2207 from Sydney, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.

More information

Suore di Nostra Signora
Del Buon Soccorso,
Via degli Artisti 38, Rome
Ph: (06) 488 5259

Italian Government Tourist Office
Ph: 02 9262 1666
Fax: (02) 9262 1677

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