Saturday, 14 November 2009

Roma: Numero Uno

Ah, Rome. This is my second visit here and about Lauren's fourth, and we have decided that is (against a lot of tough competition) our favourite place to be tourists in. We don´t count London, as somewhere you have lived is different. You don´t think of things like a tourist. You value things like parks, supermarkets and movie theatres a lot more, for a start.

We were thinking about how to rank cities as places to visit. For us, it comes down to five things.

1. Coolness of sights
St Peters. The Vatican Museum. The Forum. The Pantheon. Some of the most amazing buildings, ruins and museums in the world are here. Including this little feat of engineering:
Stephen at the Colloseum

2. Range and number of things to do and see
After two years in London, in which we saw something every weekend we were in the city, there's still a few things I've not seen that I'd like to. Rome's like that. There are more wonderful churches and fountains than you can shake a stick at, and you can't walk without falling over a Roman ruin. Our Western Europe Lonely Planet doesn't even mention the huge city walls, or the aqueducts running through and far beyond the city, or the extraordinary Theatre of Marcellus. These would be among the must-see sights of most cities.

Part of the Theatre of Marcellus complex.

3. Atmosphere
That X factor. The vibe, the feeling in the air, the people. Glasgow on a Saturday night, Paris in the spring. Rome, with its piazzas, rust-red apartments and gelataries, has atmosphere in spades. It´s a mix of chic, chaotic, historic and modern.

4. Transport
Boring but important. Rome´s public transport is only okay, but the beauty of the city is that almost all of the major sights are in a very walkable area from Piazza del Populo in the north, to the Vatican City in the west, to Termini in the east, to the Circus Maximus in the south. Pretty much the only time we left this was to see some fascinating catacombs just south of the city where the early Christians secretly buried their dead.

The Palatine Hill, where the emperors has their palaces.

5. The food
It´s Italy. Pizza. Pasta. Gelato. Salads. A hundred tasty deserts. Enough said.

of course, other people would have different ways of rating a place. Nightlife or shopping, say. But what about you? What´s your favourite city to be a tourist in?

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