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I love all Italian cities, after all they are a living museum, but Rome, home of La Dolce Vita, is the one I can't quite get enough of! There is so much to see, do, and soak up in this great city that no matter how long I go for, I want to stay longer. Everywhere you turn there seems to be a wonderful monument or building to gaze at which instantly transports me to ancient Roman times.
I love Rome, not only for its amazing art and historical sights, but for its atmosphere and lifestyle. On the one hand the capital city is all hustle and bustle, with the sound of motorini and crazy traffic, but that is beautifully contrasted by its friendly people, laid-back attitudes, leisurely lunches and late-night suppers. It's so easy to strike up a conversation with a local wherever you might be - a bus, shop, café or trattoria.
I like to stroll in the quaint neighbourhood of Campo dei Fiori with its narrow streets, ancient churches and the main square with its exquisite daily food market. This is where I like to buy fruit - wherever I go anywhere in the world, I always buy fruit to snack on.
Slightly off the beaten track, but within walking distance to Campo dei Fiori, is Rome's Jewish quarter - a ghetto built in the 16th century which has, over time, been reconstructed, and nowadays is where Romans flock to eat in the many Jewish trattorias. I like to eat at the family run Trattoria da Giggetto for their honest home cooking and their artichoke speciality, carciofi alla giudea.
Roman cuisine is robust, and offal dishes such as tripe are quite common, which I personally like. However, fear not, there are lots of other tempting dishes to look out for. Pasta dishes such as bucatini all'amatricana, spaghetti alla carbonara or Gnocchi alla Romana (made with semolina) are Roman classics which you will find on menus everywhere in Rome. Pecorino cheese is often served in place of parmesan, and lamb and pork are main course favourites. When in Rome you must try their famous street food, Porchetta, spit-roasted suckling pig with lots of herbs served in slices in a panino. If you love ice cream, and let's face it, Italian ice cream has to be the best in the world, then a visit to Giolitti is a must. And before you leave and you want to take back a little taste of Rome, go to Volpetti for the most amazing cured meats, cheeses and more.
For me, no trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Vatican, the world's smallest sovereign state, with its impressive square, and if it's a Sunday I like to be there for the Papal blessing at noon.
As with any visit to an Italian city, shopping is a delight, so in Rome a stroll along Via Condotti, Via Frattina and Via del Babuino until you reach Il Corso is a must, even if only window shopping.
Trastevere is a delightful area across the River Tiber where I like to spend the evening, enjoy an aperitivo and find a trattoria for dinner. For a treat, I recommend Michelin-starred La Pesa. On warm summer evenings, for a more casual bite to eat, I like to pick a trattoria with tables spilling outside to enjoy a hearty plate of pasta and a glass or two of cool Frascati together with what seems like the whole of Rome!
And before I leave, along with every other tourist, I have to toss a coin or two in the Fontana di Trevi to make sure I return, of course!
I confess I haven't taken the girls to Rome yet, but they are dying to go and visit all the famous sights they have been learning about at school. So I think this year might just be the right time to visit the Eternal City. Perhaps we'll combine it with a trip to Umbria with its rural charm and quaint medieval hilltop villages. Or perhaps during the summer holidays with a trip to the Amalfi Coast. To visit Rome itself, I recommend any time of the year, even winter is fairly mild and Christmastime is wonderful with the amazing display of Presepi (cribs) in beautiful Piazza Navona.
Liz loves Rome too, but her favourite Italian city is Venice for the fact there are no cars and there isn't, I suppose, another place like it in the world! One of the things she likes best is to have afternoon tea at the famous and historical Caffe Florian in St Mark's Square. Venice, like Rome and Florence, is not restricted to any particular time of year, however, if you come at Carnival time, just before Lent begins, you will be in for a treat. Combine Venice with Lake Garda or Verona for a perfect romantic getaway.
You could combine the three major Italian cities, Venice, Florence and Rome, all in one holiday. With comfortable, high-speed trains linking all three and Citalia taking care of you all the way, there is no better way of seeing these Italian gems.