There's no better way to get around Rome than by scooter.
Many of the Roman monumental sights are familiar from films and television
You'll probably be slightly stunned at first by the sheer volume of traffic, but once you've got the hang of it, there you'll be, like Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, weaving through the streets of the Eternal City. "Turisti en motorino?" The locals may look startled by the tourists on a scooter when you pull up and ask for directions to St Peter's, but it doesn't really matter what they think: the tide of traffic will carry you inexorably away to yet another enchanting plaza, architectural gem or ancient monument.
It's clear that in the Italian capital chaos and harmony have achieved a balance; it'll soon be clear, too, that all roads lead to one of Rome's hills – far more than seven and all ideal destinations for the tourist with wheels who wants to get a panoramic view of the city. The sights that unfold before your eyes may be things and places you've never seen before, but so many are familiar from films and television – and even your school text books! – it's like coming home.
At the centre, there's the most famous hill of all, the Palatine, looking down over the Forum on one side and the Circus Maximus on the other. Less famous, is Gianicolo, which rises from the Trastevere district and is home to such treasures as Bramante's Tempietto, the Palazzo Corsini, whose gardens form part of the Botanical Gardens, and the seventeenth-century Villa Doria Pamphili set in the largest landscaped park in Rome. Riding up the winding roads that climb the hills of Rome brings to mind Nanni Moretti on his scooter in Caro Diario (Dear Diary), when he said how he liked to examine a city's houses – a hobby part sociological and part voyeuristic.
Having your own wheels makes it simple to take a trip to another famous hill, the Aventine. En route you have the perfect opportunity to stop at the Caracalla Baths, a monument notable not only for its hedonistic beauty, but also for how few of the less-mobile tourists make their way this far out from the centre.
Down from the heights, you can't miss the Coliseum – particularly at night when it's illuminated and serves as a great beacon of light. A ride along the banks of the Tiber is a must, too, and a visit to the Ara Pacis – the altar of Augustan Peace – an ancient monument now housed within a highly controversial modern building. Lovers may remember that in Roman Holiday Hepburn and Peck first kissed alongside the river. If you get caught up with the passion and romance, you may want to park the bike and take a trip on one of the boats that ply the Tiberian waters.
Back on land again, it's time to explore the streets, discovering squares and plazas brimming with charm, markets, cafes and romantic corners of all types. Admire the sculptures by the rivals Bernini and Borromini in Piazza Navona, and take a turn round the food market in Campo di Fiori; don't forget to toss a coin in and make a wish at the Trevi Fountain and why not sample a real Italian gelato at Giolitti, near the Pantheon, or a cappuccino in the traditional El Greco Cafe?
With so many distractions, it's easy for a tourist to get lost in Rome, but that's simply an opportunity to discover lesser known but equally fascinating squares, such as San Ignacio, or the trendy shopping area around the Piazza di Spagna, where boutiques and stores abound, including the Calzature Marini, where Robert De Niro has been known to buy his shoes.
The bohemian districts of Trastevere and Ghetto offer the charm of dilapidated stone walls and second-hand stores alongside family-run trattorias juxtaposed with fashionable establishments such as Freni and Fizioni (on the riverbank in Trastevere), an ideal stopping point for a sophisticated aperitif. Later, it will be time to sample the city's brilliant, piquant and eternal night, immortalised by Fellini in La Dolce Vita.
There are plenty of places that rent motorbikes of all types and sizes, but nothing can compare to exploring the Italian capital on a classic Vespa scooter. Happy Rent and Bici & Baci also organise vintage tours on classic scooters.
Where to stay
The Hassler offers classic five-star luxury with incredible views over the city. In the very centre of Rome, the sumptuous Palazzo Raphael is hidden behind a cloak of ivy. The historic Eden, frequented by Ingrid Bergman, has recently undergone renovation, and the Boscolo Aleph – the architect Adam D Tihany's personal interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy – is a treat for spa lovers and followers of fashion.
Where to eat
Rome is a top gourmet destination, as confirmed by the acclaimed Antonello Colonna, the sophisticated Trattoria St. Teodoro, the traditional Sora Lella and La Rosetta, specialising in seafood. Of course the ciy is also home to countless irresistible pizzerias that won't break the bank, such as La Monte Carlo and Baffetto, and traditional family-run restaurants with red and white checked table cloths such as Aristocampo at Via Della Lungaretta 75, in Trastevere.
Rome Tourist Board
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