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Rome is definitely among the world's most intriguing cities, a place where vestiges of ancient history sit alongside icons of stylish modern Europe. Around every corner there's a glimpse into the past: The ruins, cathedrals, churches and statues make it a fascinating and inspiring place to explore.
You're probably already planning to visit the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Read on for our favourite lesser-known Rome experiences to round out your itinerary.
Step into history when you stand before unparalleled historic treasures at the Vatican Museums. With everything from the Etruscan, Egyptian and Capitolino Museums to the Hebrew Lapidary and Galleries of Maps and Tapestries, there are never-ending galleries and halls to explore.
Then, of course, there is the unforgettable experience of standing beneath the iconic frescoed ceiling of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. And don't miss a chance to look up at the awe-inspiring St Paul's Basilica: Its stunning Byzantine decor, shimmering with gold and brimming with sculptural masterpieces and colourful frescoes, is sure to impress.
Visit the grounds of the Villa Borghese and discover ancient Roman ruins dating back as far as the second century AD. You'll also get to wander through more than 85 hectares of what is now carefully maintained public parkland. Stop by the Galleria Borghese and see an inspiring collection of paintings and an incredibly true-to-life replica of London's Globe Theatre.
Torre Argentina is a fascinating place for history buffs and animal lovers. A site of ruins dating back to 400BC, it was also recently revealed by historians as the suspected site of Julius Caesar's stabbing. Creepy! The spot inexplicably doubles as a cat sanctuary and houses at least 200 felines with volunteers to look after them. Visit and greet the fur balls while soaking up a little history.
There's nothing like a scoop or two of delicious creamy Italian gelato, particularly during a hot day of exploring. We recommend breaking for a sugar rush.
Perhaps Rome's most famous gelateria is Giolitti. It's got a history that dates back to 1890, when the Giolittis opened their first creamery. Visit the original store at the Via del Vicario nearby the Pantheon to taste unique flavours like champagne and meringue.
One of the 'seven hills of Rome,' it holds an important place in mythology as the birthplace of the founders of Rome. (That would be Romulus and Remus, if you slept through History.)
Stroll the grounds and get close to the remains of walls and monuments, all the while getting a fantastic view of Rome from the top of the hillside. While you're there, grab a delicious lunch at Unique al Palatino, which offers beautiful outdoor dining and fresh, innovative takes on traditional Roman cuisine.
Earn that gelato when you tackle The Spanish Steps. Completed in 1726, they sit alongside the gorgeous Barcaccia Fountain of Piazza di Spagna. The French Church Trinita dei Monti towers regally over the whole show.
While Rome is full of impressive churches, it's pretty tough to get tired of admiring them. One of our favourites is the gorgeous Basilica of St John Lateran, also known as the Basilica of San Giovanni in Lateran.
The original structure was built between 311-314AD and was at one point the residence of popes. Today you can marvel at the building's impressive white facade, and inside, ogle gorgeous mosaics and even a fresco by Renaissance artist Giotto. You'll find impressive relics as well. Make sure to find the table fragment from Jesus' last supper and astonishingly, what the faithful believe to be a trace of his blood.
They say the way to Rome's heart is through your stomach...Wait, is that right? It goes something like that!
Nothing compares to Italian food enjoyed in situ, and it's truly unforgettable to dine al fresco as Rome bustles around you. Sidestep the tourist traps in favour of a true Roman restaurant. Locals turned us on to the friendly trattoria Settimio All'arancio, down a quiet side street not far from the Trevi Fountain. With excellent pasta and seafood, not to mention a drool-inducing wine list, it's everything you could want from dining in Italy!
Piazza Navona is hands down one of Rome's most bustling local squares. It's fringed with lively cafes where you can take in the scene with an espresso. You'll find buskers, street performers and artists alongside the day and night markets bursting with crafts, souvenirs and all sorts of delicious foods. All this, plus the Fountain of the Four Rivers and the Church of St Agnes in Agony too!
Experience Rome's oldest market at the Campo dei Fiori, which serves up fresh seafood, vegetables, fruit, spices and homewares daily from Monday to Saturday. For an even more unique experience, head to the Underground Market, which is open on the second Saturday and Sunday of every month. It's a flea market that features all sorts of trinkets and treasures, and you never know just what you'll find.
There's always a reason for Italy!
Read more about Italy here.
Fly from Auckland with a connection in the Middle East or Asia and arrive in about 26 hours.
Italy is lovely year round, but the best time to visit is probably in the shoulder seasons of April to June and September to October when there is nice weather, moderate temperatures, fewer tourists, and lower prices. July and August are very popular times and the weather is at its warmest.
New Zealand citizen holders with a valid New Zealand passport are not required to obtain a visa to enter Italy, as long as you stay no more than 90 days.
The regional train system is globally regarded as providing a world-class service. Taxis and Uber are available in Rome.
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VIDEO FROM HOUSE OF TRAVEL