Christmas Markets in Rome

By Go City Expert

There’s no better time to visit the Eternal City than during the festive, winter months. As the city is lit up from the decorative street lights and shop windows, there’s an unbeatable sense of festive cheer throughout the city. Although not famous for its Christmas Markets as a tradition, you can still celebrate in the streets of Rome, find those last minute gifts and stuff yourself full of seasonal delicacies. The best places to go to get in the Christmas spirit when in Rome are; 1) Piazza Navona Piazza Navona is the only dedicated Christmas Market in Rome and pops up annually at the beginning of December and runs until the 6th January, the Epiphany. Attracting thousands of locals and tourists alike, the Navona market is family friendly with games and rides, including a carousel for children. You can walk through the stalls admiring handcrafted goods and savour roasted chestnuts and porchetta sandwiches for a true taste of an Italian Christmas. Other activities include fortune telling and the traditional La Befana, who arrives on the final day of the market to hand out gifts for the children. Piazza Navona, 00186 Rome 2) Campo dei Fiori This market isn’t entirely Christmas-themed, as it runs throughout the year, but it is Rome’s oldest serving market – founded in 1861. Open every morning except Sundays, Campo dei Fiori market is famed for its local produce, artisanal knick-knacks and funny shaped pasta. At Christmas you can find festive-inspired gifts and goods and it’s the perfect place to shop for foodies. Nestled in the heart of the historic centre, and only a short walk from the Coliseum, you can walk through the cobbled streets and get a true sense of Rome in all its festive celebrations. Piazza Campo Dei Fiori, 00186 Rome 3) Porta Portese If you’re after a real bargain-hunting Christmas market and bartered down Christmas gifts, head to Porta Portese in the Trastevere district to sort through the stalls of vintage clothing, handbags and novelty items. Best for the practiced shopper, this flea market is extensive and stretches through the old gate walls that date back to 1644. It’s the only market in Rome open on a Sunday and is a great place for any last minute gifts. With an undeniable Christmas feeling, you’ll be sure to snap up a discount and have fun in the process! While you’re near, why not stop off at the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum and queue jump to the front with free entry. Via di Porta Portese, 00153 Roma Make the most of your trip to Rome over Christmas with an OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card. Not only can you tick some of the most iconic historic monuments off your bucket list, but you can travel around Rome for free making all these things to do that bit easier!

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Rest & Relaxation in Rome

If you crave some sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Rome there are plenty of places where you can seek some quiet solitude and enjoy a moment’s meditation and reflection. Or just to escape from your present company... Even if you’re the outgoing party animal sometimes it’s nice to appreciate a bit of down time. For some, they might seek refuge in a local cafe, sitting over a coffee and newspaper, for others it might be with a glass of fine Italian wine and close friend. But you’ll be surprised, among the vibrant Roman life, there are actually a number of hideaways for you to enjoy a bit of R&R and some all-important ‘me time’. So where are the best places to go in Rome to seek a bit of peace and quiet? Villa Borghese: for your green oasis Without a doubt Villa Borghese is probably on the top of every Roman’s list as a go-to haven for a bit of time-out. Nestled in the heart of the city, this lush pocket of green provides that oasis of calm among the chaos. Spanning across 148 acres, it’s the third largest park in Rome, but probably the most visited. Linking the Piazza del Popolo to the famous Via Veneto, Villa Borgese is home to private gardens, the Borghese Art Gallery, manicured piazzas and temples inspired by classical English architecture. Our advice: take a picnic and indulge in the serenity of Villa Borghese with your loved one. Blessed with good bus and metro links to right within the park there’s no excuse not to visit. Stop off at the Pincio on your way in and admire the view over the city, but beware, once you’ve stepped into this verdant oasis, time stands still and you’ll forget entirely where you are... Gianicolo : for sweeping views If you’re more of the brooding type, head to the Janiculum Hill, or Gianicolo as it’s known locally, for breath-taking views over the city. Hidden up the top of one of the highest hills in Rome, snaking around a windy back road from the trendy Trastevere district, is a relatively unappreciated viewpoint visited only by Romans and a few lucky travellers in the know (and with good stamina). The best time to go is after dusk where you can watch the sun set over the city and get an unparalleled view of this stunning panorama. To reward yourself for the steep(ish) climb, theres a small kiosk at the top selling snacks and drinks. So if you want to make your quiet time a bit more relaxing, there’s no harm in toasting the view with a chilled Peroni. Come on, it would be rude not to. Museum of Doria Pamphilij: for urban escapism You’d never think but Palazzo Doria Pamphilij, a stunning baroque villa turned museum, is actually fronted onto Rome’s busiest shopping street, Via del Corso. Lined with high street shops, this street is probably one of Rome’s most stressful as tourists dodge locals, who dodge buses, which dodge vespas; so it’s ironic to find such a quiet hideaway in the midst of this animated atmosphere. Owned and lived in by the Doria Pamphilij family since 1505 this Palace is one of the most treasure-filled palaces in Europe and is still inhabited by the family to this day. Look out for endearing photos of the current generation dotted around the place. The four wings look onto a tranquil courtyard, and the rooms are hung with masterpieces from classic Italian artists over the years. A quiet sanctuary, this museum is one of Rome’s best hidden secrets and you’ll be pushed to ever find it crowded. It’ll definitely take your mind off the fact you’ve left a swarm of people at the front door, completely unaware the place even exists... Radisson Blu: for poolside posing If you’re visiting Rome in the summer we’ll let you into a little secret. The Radisson Blu, by Termini Station, has two rooftop pools (two of the very few that actually exist in Rome). In the high summer months visitors are allowed to pay for a day at the outdoor pool, to relax alongside the guests, while indulging in the impeccable poolside service and all round luxury. The minimal and modern glass-surrounded roof oozes contemporary chic and you can’t help but fall into a sense of calm. Up from the busy traffic below, you can lie back, have a dip and swim your stresses away. It’s best to arrive early and avoid coming as a big party as it can be a first come first serve basis. Which is probably for the better, you wouldn’t want to spoil the serenity after all... So whether you’re a culture vulture, one in need of a sprawling landscape to clear the mind, or if you’re most happy in a secret garden, Rome offers it all. Don’t forget there’s more to the city than meets the eye.
Go City Expert
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Five Facts: Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is one of the most visited sites in Rome. Did you know around 25,000 people a day visit the esteemed landmark to marvel at the Renaissance masterpiece? Crazy, isn’t it. (But don't sweat it, with the OMNIA Vatican and Rome Card you can jump straight to the front of the queue, VIP style). Among these 5 million people a year are Italians and tourists alike, dedicated pilgrims and art buffs dying for a glimpse of the high rise frescoes. So before you visit, why not go armed with some facts just in case you miss the guided tour – or in case anyone tests your knowledge. Get down to the basics The Sistine Chapel, or Cappella Sistina, was named after Pope Sixtus IV, Sisto in Italian. It was he who commissioned the Chapel in 1473; probably never imagining it would be a world famous landmark. Intending the chapel to be for private use for the Papal palace, it’s ironic now to think that such a place was ever destined to stay a quiet religious sanctuary. Home to one of the most recognised frescoes in art history, the Sistine Chapel paintings cover an impressive 12,000 sq ft – that’s nearly two rugby pitches of Renaissance pièces de resistance under one roof. The fame game Although the Sistine Chapel is most famous for Michelangelo’s masterpiece, Pope Sisto had actually commissioned frescoes from Botticelli to decorate the two long walls of the chapel. As a Renaissance contemporary, Botticelli’s work is outstanding in itself – it’s just a shame that now most people overlook his efforts in favour of the impressive ceiling. So if you’re visiting, give Botticelli a look in and remember it’s not all just about Michelangelo. Story time It’s something of a feat in itself to paint such a masterpiece as The Last Judgement, let alone to tell a story within it. To understand more about what you (and 24,999 others) are looking at, the nine panels depict religious stories from the Book of Genesis. With characters from the Creation to the legend of Noah, Michelangelo flipped the order and decided to paint the panels in reverse – ending with God creating the sun, moon, Earth, darkness and light. Ever the perfectionist, Michelangelo left this chapter to the end as he believed his technique would be more refined than when he started. Quite rightly he believed he ought to get the image of the divine right, seeing as he was in God’s house... Indecent exposure We all know Renaissance art is renowned for its nudity and celebration of the human form, but in 1564 the Council of Trent put their foot down and demanded that the more ‘prominent’ nudes that decorated the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel be covered up and made slightly more decent. So much so, Daniele da Volterra was commissioned to paint underwear, or braghe, on the naughty naked ones. Unfortunately, this lent da Volterra the nickname Braghettone after his job. For those who don’t speak Italian, that means Big Pants. Prime position You might think that it would be logical to paint a ceiling whilst lying on your back, in a horizontal position. Well, Michelangelo didn’t. The artist invented a platform on scaffolding that would allow him and his assistants to stand upright to paint, reaching above their heads. Although standing might have allowed for a better, more natural style of painting, Michelangelo wasn’t shy about sharing the discomfort of the job and the physical strain of the awkward angle, lamenting in a poem he wrote about “this torture” and how his “spine’s all knotted.” Considering he was originally hired to sculpt a tomb, and sculpting was actually Michelangelo’s true profession, you could see how he might have been a little bitter... With the OMNIA Vatican & Rome Pass you can visit the Sistine Chapel for free! Saving yourself €27.50, visit this 15th century chapel, not to mention one of Rome’s most famous historical buildings, and admire Michelangelo’s (and Botticelli’s) Renaissance masterpieces and put your knowledge to the test. The OMNIA Vatican & Rome Pass also grants you skip-the-line privileges – a blessing during the summer months - so despite the 25,000 people a day, you'll be one of the lucky few who can wave goodbye to the long queues as you make your way to the front.
Go City Expert
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To Rome with Love

Spending St Valentine’s in the Eternal City Rivalling Paris as the most romantic city, Rome is a top destination for passion and ‘amore’. You only need to watch Vacanze Romane to get a vague idea of its infectious romance. As we approach St Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together a list of the best places to take your loved one, as recommended by our local ‘on-the-ground’ insider. So if you’re planning a (surprise?) trip to the Eternal City, take heed and follow our five step guide for a weekend to remember. 1. Bici&Baci Make the most of the mild weather and rent out two bicycles at Bici&Baci for a romantic cycle through the city. Rome’s cobbled streets were made for stolen kisses and exploring the ancient passages of the centre, so break away from the crowds of tourists and make your own memories, sightseeing your own way. 2. Secret Garden Head to the Coliseum for a breath-taking view of the old amphitheatre, passing the Roman Forum on your way. For somewhere even more romantic, visit the Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) on the Aventine Hill, a stone’s throw from the Coliseum, where you can walk through the small tree-lined walled garden and sit on an old marble bench to overlook the city. Perfect at sunset. 3. Lock of Love If you want to make your love known in a more permanent way, Ponte Milvio is the place to go. Lining the side of the bridge is a wall of hundreds of padlocks locked together, binding young love symbolically. Stop off at a local kiosk, or take one off your suitcase, and affix your love to Rome forever by throwing away the key in the River Tiber. 4. Food of the heart They say the way into a man's heart is through his stomach, but in Rome it applies to both women, too. A city not shy of good places to eat, stop off for a midday sugar hit at Giolitti or GROM, around the corner from the Pantheon. With an array of multi-coloured creams to choose from sample a rich hazelnut or zesty limoncello flavour. 5. It’s all about the view Nothing says romance more than a candle lit dinner and spectacular views. Thankfully in Rome, this is quite easy to come by. If you want to splash out and really show your loved one how much they mean to you, Hotel Forum offers one of the best roof garden experiences in Rome where you can dine on fine foods and drink rich Italian wines into the night. Overlooking the Roman Forum and Piazza Venezzia, your panorama stretches across impressive domes along the skyline and tall, ancient pillars standing proud from the old cobbled streets. And one last point, in case you’re planning on it being an extra special trip to Rome... 6. A sparkly something If you’re in need of a last minute present, or a ‘little something’ to remember Rome by, wander through the cobbled streets, especially in the Monti Quarter, and you’ll be sure to stumble upon a boutique jeweller to suit your needs. If you’re after something a bit more special with a designer label, head towards the Spanish Steps, to Via Condotti where you won’t be stuck for inspiration. With an OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card you can enjoy Rome to the fullest with free, fast track and discounted entry into 30 of Rome’s most popular attractions and museums – not to mention stress-free travel with a 3 day travelcard and hop-on, hop-off bus all included in the package. Find out more, here.
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