Since Roman times the focus of the city has moved north to the centro storico. The area between via del Corso and the river is tightly packed with many of the city’s essential sights: the well-preserved Roman Pantheon; the Baroque fountains of piazza Navona; the market and cafés of Campo di Fiori, and the shops of the via del Corso. Just beyond the historic centre, don’t miss the gardens and excellent gallery at the Villa Borghese, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the extravagant Trevi Fountain.
Across the Tevere river, the awesome hulk of St Peter’s Basilica is the focal point of the Vatican City, a separate state within the city. Home to the Pope, its huge museums incorporate two of the great works of Western culture: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms. To the south, Trastevere is a pretty area of cobbled streets filled with bars and restaurants.
Recently, Rome has shaken off its conservative image and increasingly rivals Milan for stylishness. But while the city’s bars and restaurants become slowly hip, the city’s inward-looking traditions mean that local identities are proudly retained. There is a sense that Rome is a city beginning to look to the future, while, of course, still living with the past.