Rome, much like the rest of Italy, is predominantly Roman Catholic, and has been an important centre of religion and pilgrimage for centuries. Pilgrims and visitors alike flock to see St.Peter’s Basilica, St.Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel all of which are located within the Vatican City, home of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. This area is always filled with visitors all year round and there are numerous religious and souvenir shops lining the Via della Conciliazione, Via di Porta Angelica and the surrounding streets. Rome is not just for sightseeing, the night-life is is fast growing and popular, as are the many shops which make it a shopping paradise, and is regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world. Be aware that for two weeks in August many of the shops and businesses close and the owners go off on their own holiday. This is the hottest time of the year in Rome, be prepared to see the sign “Chiuso per ferie” on the doors, meaning “closed for holiday”. The main shopping areas are situated around the Via del Corso, Via Condotti and the surrounding streets. There are some very good quality leather goods, such as shoes and handbags, to look out for. If you want to shelter from the heat outside take a trip to the Euroma2 shopping mall. It has over 200 shops, restaurants, toilets and air conditioning. Take Metro B line from Termini to EUR Palasport station, cross the road and take the frequent free bus (ride takes 5-15 minutes) to the mall. Street vendors (without stalls), sell a variety of goods from fake ‘Louis Vuitton’ handbags to umbrellas, hats, ornaments, etc. these are actually illegal and police do impose severe fines, but if you do take your chances and buy from them then make sure to haggle, a lot! Many of Rome’s attractions are free of charge, such as the Pantheon and St.Peter’s Basilica, but museums etc do charge. It is well to note that each year a week is set aside, usually in mid-May, which is known as “La settimana dei beni culturali” and for the 7-10 days, admittance into all publicly owned landmarks and historical sites is free. At other times it is advisable to purchase a pass, either one-day or three-day passes are available. These passes will allow you access into the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Baths of Caracalla, the Catacombes,Terme di Diocleziano, Palazza Massimo alle Terme, Crypta Balbi, Palazzo Altemps, Villa dei Quintili, and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella. Get a good map of the city as this will be of help as you try and locate where everything is that you want to see. Mark out the places that are of interest to you and that way you can concentrate on each area in turn. Much of the charm of Rome can be found in wandering off the main roads and exploring along the old cobbled side streets where you can believe that you are in a small town and not a vast capital city. Here you will see into some of the beautiful courtyards that lie behind archways and gated entrances. Lovely gardens with statues and fountains, and from certain vantage points you will be able to see some of the amazing roof gardens which are dotted all over the city ( a good place to view a few of these is from the top of the National Gallery). Take a stroll in the area between Piazza Navona and the Tiber river in Old Rome where artisans continue to ply their trade from small shops. Also in Old Rome, take a 1km stroll down Via Giulia, which is lined with many old palaces. Film enthusiasts will want to visit Via Veneto (Via Vittorio Veneto) in the Modern Centre, scene for much of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
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