I can’t believe it’s taken me 58 years to discover Rome. Bursting with history, fashion and restaurants, it’s a magnet for geeks, trend-setters and foodies alike. Most towns can offer history but nowhere is it so evident as in Rome. It’s all around you. I saw chunks of Roman masonry stacked away in an old stone arch (itself probably as old) counting the centuries while patiently awaiting a place in the catalogs of the next generation of tired archaeologists.
The town is big enough to offer huge variety (the backstreets of Trastevere vs. opulence of The Vatican) yet small enough to be largely navigable by foot. We walked from The Bee Fountain in Piazza Barberini (1625) to the Colosseum (AD 72) via the relatively modern (1925) but no less impressive Altare Della Patria – two millennia in less than an hour. Warpspeed.
The top-line attractions however are victims of their own popularity and can be mobbed by selfie-stick wielding turisti and a swarm of multi-lingual, self-appointed VIP guides whose ecclesiastical knowledge could be written on a bible marker. Premium “skip the line” tickets are available which are a good idea, but like Easyjet early-boarding they attract the wrong type of tourists and earn scorn from the 3-hour queue-ers. No doubt soon there will be skip the skip-the-line tickets and skiptheskiptheskiptheskiptheline tickets too – I could go on.
Italy’s economic position is shaky and it’s future is uncertain but Rome seems healthy enough with plenty of premium retail going on. We sampled a little of it with a cocktail on the roof terrace of The Sofitel Hotel whose sunset views over The Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese are pretty much unsurpassed. Then we ate Truffles and lobster at Ad Hoc in Via di Ripetti. I can only hope that the exorbitant cost of these luxuries staves off the Italians’ fiscal collapse for a little longer.