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Ten Reasons Why You Should Be in Rome Right Now

30/06/2014 13:51 BST | Updated 26/08/2014 10:59 BST

With so many great reasons to visit Rome, it's a task in itself to narrow down the must-see attractions. With more than 900 churches alone - that's more than two church visits every day for a year - it's unlikely that you will fit everything into one visit. So, don't try and rush around the city to see every ruin or piazza - save it for your next holiday to Rome!

The first thing that might hit you on your arrival is the sense of stepping onto a movie set - a film that will definitely feature some romance, warriors and bloody battles between powerful emperors! Walk with your imagination along the ancient Appian road, or get lost in time within the Roman forum.

Then there is the Roman cuisine, which you have to taste to fully understand. The simple Roman dish of tonnarelli cacao e pepe (pasta with pecorino cheese and black pepper) might not sound or even look particularly exciting, but looks can certainly deceive, a true culinary treat! In Rome your 'local' is the nearest pizza joint, so be prepared to indulge.

Below is a list of ten of Rome's treasures both big and small. However, you should know that this list only scratches the surface, and many travellers go on to find their own little gems along the way. In the words of Huckleberry Finn, 'explore, dream, discover'!

The Colosseum - A must-See

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To visit Rome without seeing the Colosseum would be like going to Italy and not eating pizza and pasta - a completely ridiculous idea! The Colosseum is an ancient Roman treasure, an amphitheatre that stands a staggering 48 metres high and is believed to have been able to hold between 50,000 and 80,000 Romans - this is almost on par with Twickenham Rugby stadium.

Apart from its sheer size, the Colosseum is also tremendously beautiful; the outside is simply a façade of ruins but inside is where you can really appreciate what happened here. It's easy to imagine some of the characters that would have walked these ancient grounds - mighty gladiators fighting for their lives amongst all the blood and gore, not to mention the roaring excitement of the Roman spectators.

A little tip for you: It is worth getting here early and purchasing your ticket online beforehand. After your visit, make the trip to Gelateria Fatamorgana for the best ice cream in town - you'll find some whimsical creations such as dark chocolate and tobacco, or ginseng, almond milk and mint.

Admire Roman Architecture at the Pantheon

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A beautiful 2,000-year-old temple built to worship the Roman gods, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in the world today.

Architecturally, the mighty Romans were ahead of their time. Step inside and look up - you will see a round space that opens to the sky. The light from the Oculus moves around the space in such a way that it has a reverse sundial effect, which serves as a cooling and ventilation method. What about the rain you ask? Look down to your feet and you will see there is a drainage system that runs underneath the whole building.

After your visit to this impressive feat of architecture, kick back and people watch from one of the many charming cafes in Piazza della Rotonda, or perch on the edge of the Piazza's pretty fountain, with a slice of delicious Roman pizza from the Navona Notte restaurant.

Stroll through Romantic Piazza Navona

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The Piazza Navona looks like something from a movie set and is particularly romantic in the evenings, when the square is at its most peaceful and the fountains are lit up. During the daytime the square sees a lot of crowds but still manages to keep its charm. Here you'll find vendors selling trinkets, street entertainers and cafes galore.

As with most things in Rome, it has an impressive history. The oval-shaped square was built on an old stadium - dating back to 86AD - which was used for festivals and sporting events. It is dominated by three lavish and intricately sculpted fountains.

Let your feet wonder the cobbled streets leading off the Piazza Navona square and down to the family owned Bar Della Pace, a popular bar with the locals. The small local neighbourhoods are full of bistros, bakeries and cute little delis, with their own delightful little piazzas.

Take in the colours of Campo dei Fiori

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Alfredo Cerra / Shutterstock.com Alfredo Cerra / Shutterstock.com

Translating as the 'Field of Flowers', Campo dei Fiori was a meadow for many years before it was restored it to its former Roman glory as a Piazza the 1400s. This became the square where cardinals and ambassadors would gather to socialise, as well as a being a popular horse market.

Over the 1400s, the square flourished into a cultural and commercial hub with stalls selling fresh produce and other wares. Today, you have to try some of the delicate, pencil thin asparagus - so delicious that there's no need to cook them! Also, don't miss Il Forno bakery for some mouth-watering zucchini pizza and yummy pastries.

At night, the hustle and bustle remains. Here you will find both Italians and tourists enjoying the bars and pubs that line the square, a must for the night owls among you.

Soak up the Heavenly Atmosphere at Santa Maria in Trastevere

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Santa Maria is one of the oldest churches in Rome and arguably one of the most beautiful. It was built in the 12th century but since this time has seen many structural changes. You will certainly be in awe at the grandeur of the basilica - check out the Greek and Latin inscriptions engraved in the stone. Then step inside to where you can experience the real magic...

The large granite pillars perfectly contrast the pretty illuminated dome above the alter. The whole of the church ceiling is adorned with gold and frescoes and is simply stunning. Don't miss the pretty mosaics at the front of the altar!

The local Trastevere area is also worth exploring. It's an old Jewish neighbourhood with winding cobbled streets lined with some cute boutiques and handcraft shops. Try the Jewish-Roman dish of deep fried artichokes at 'Da Enzo' and you won't be disappointed!

Step back in time when you visit the Catacombs of San Callisto

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The most exciting part about this excursion is that the whole experience is set almost 20 metres underground! You will be walking around narrow, winding tunnels where it's been discovered that 50 martyrs and 16 Bishops were buried.

Why underground? That's a good question. A lot of Christians were persecuted for their beliefs prior to Emperor Constantine I, and in the 2nd century this burial place expanded to include chapels, as well as sleeping, dining and meeting areas where Christians could secretly meet in peace.

You will most definitely need to take a tour as it will give you a real sense of what it was like to be a Christian at risk of persecution. This unforgettable tour really brings to life the despair and fear of the Christians before Constantine's reign.

You are advised to take the infamous Appian Road to these ancient burial tunnels, a road dating back to the Roman times. Get a map at the visitor's centre in Rome and see what ancient treasures there are to be discovered along the way!

Grab your walking shoes for a hike up the Spanish Steps....then for a cup of tea?

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There are 137 Steps to climb when you visit the famous Spanish Steps - some of the largest and widest in Europe. Built in the 1700s, the steps connected the Church of Tinita dei Monti - under the patronage of the king of France - to the Spanish Square, where the area around the embassy was considered to be Spanish territory.

Many famous artists have frequented these steps as the view at the top offers some great views of Rome. Make sure you take the time to notice the stunning boat fountain at the foot of the stairs. The best time to visit is in spring when the potted azaleas are at their finest.

Nearby you have Borghese gardens, a little piece of paradise that's truly worth a visit. Rather unusually for Rome, you'll also find the Babington English Tea Room, established by an English family who travelled to Rome in the 1800s - definitely worth a stop off for some refreshments.

Take well-earned break and rest your feet in the peaceful Protestant Cemetery in Testaccio

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You might not consider a cemetery to be an idyllic resting place but you may be pleasantly surprised should you take the time to visit this Protestant cemetery. It is a place steeped in history, with many famous scholars, artists, sculptors and diplomats buried here - most popular are the graves of the poets Keats and Shelley.

Essentially this was a burial ground for foreigners who were not Roman Catholic - those who were lucky enough not to be thrown into the river Tiber that is! Some of the graves themselves are works of art, such as 'The Angel of Grief, which is particularly moving.

This cemetery is not only a famous burial ground but a haven of tranquility nested in a boisterous but wonderful city. It is very green here with some luscious foliage and is a place to sit and contemplate. Afterward head over to Santa Sabina for great views over the river Tiber.

Off to Gianicolo Hill to take your breath away - both literally and figuratively!

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It's certainly some climb up this steep hill so be sure to wear suitable footwear. The climb itself will take on average 20-30 minutes and the best route to take across the city is the Via Garibaldi route all the way to Passeggaita Del Giancolo and then onto the top.

Starting with the walk across the city as suggested above, you might also want to look out for some of the remaining ancient Roman walls. The Church of San Pietrol in Montorio and a huge fountain - not unlike the Trevi Fountain - are also worth admiring along the way.

Once at the top you won't be disappointed - the silence is peaceful and the panoramic views of the city are simply spectacular. This hill is the spot where Italy defeated the French in the mid-1800s and gained their independence. To remember this significant battle, a single cannon shot momentarily breaks the silence every day at noon. Take a picnic and enjoy!

Don't tell any Porky Pies at La Bocca della Verità....or you could be in trouble

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Located within the Santa Maria Church, this is a great stop off if you have little ones or if you liked the film 'A Roman Holiday' with Audrey Hepburn, in which the mask appeared and became almost famous overnight. La Bocca della Verità translates to 'The Mouth of Truth' and is a large round piece of marble with a somewhat scary looking face carved into it. It previously formed part of an ancient fountain and has an entertaining myth to go with it.

Legend has it that if you put your hand in the mouth of the mask and tell a lie it will bite off your hand! In past times, anyone suspected of perjury or adultery was dragged to the mask and asked to admit their wrong-doings whilst holding their hand in the mouth of the mask - no doubt trembling with fear!

This is a quick stop point of interest for a photo and a bit of fun, before heading to some of the more prominent ruins around this wonderful town.

This is a mere snippet of what Rome has to offer, and the good news is that the city centre is small enough that it can be covered by foot, therefore a lot of these sights are within walking distance should you choose to stay within the centre. The best advice I can give is simply to get lost, allow your feet to wander, stumble upon a local pizzeria in a small piazza, and be charmed by this magical city.