The ‘Eternal City’ draws in tourists from across the globe by combining its epic history with the bustle of modern city life.
Rome is one of those travel destinations – everyone seems to know someone who’s jetted off to the Italian capital, don’t they? But, Rome is more than a destination to tick off from a bucket list and there is a reason why students in particular are attracted to this city.
Rome has a history that is unparalleled by the rest of Europe. It has been the: home of the Roman Empire, unmissable destination of the Grand Tour, and set for ‘Roman Holiday’ (1953). At the same time, Rome is still evolving with its enviable food and street life, added to the promise of the next generation of these (forgive the generalisation) hot-headed, bubbly and, altogether, irresistible people. Last year, Rome attracted over 7 million visitors – perhaps you should give a second thought to being one of them next year?
For me, Rome was the perfect travel destination. Practically, it was an easy 2-and-a-half-hour flight away for an amateur traveller and there were plenty of reasonably-priced Airbnbs to choose from. But, I was inspired after re-watching a favourite film of mine – ‘Roman Holiday’ – where the similarly iconic Audrey Hepburn came into the spotlight. The Hollywood classic is 65 years old, but its glamourous depiction of Roman life still generates merchandise to this day. I nearly ended up buying a calendar in mid-July!
Following in Audrey’s footsteps, it was impossible to be disappointed by any of the famous landmarks in real-life – from the Spanish Steps to the Colosseum. While there are things to look out for, like pickpockets and street-sellers, each day at these landmarks was an adventure. I saw everything from a proposal by the Trevi Fountain, which was met with infectious enthusiasm from the crowd, to a World Cup frenzy by fans beside the river Tiber. Even the Vatican was a surprise – seeing more than a few nuns indulging in a gelato or two! At every attraction, there was both old and new Rome, making the city as accessible to museum buffs as it is to social media addicts.
Students should definitely not be turned off by Rome’s night-life. Trastevere is only one example of a hidden gem not covered in ‘Roman Holiday’ or a general ‘Rome Top 10’. It boasts not only great pizzerias but also riverside cocktail bars and a main piazza where students gather to listen to street performers. So, with historical landmarks by day and Italian street-life by night, real Rome goes beyond guidebook descriptions and can be just as exciting as any trip further afield.
It is even easy to explore beyond Rome if you are willing to stay more than a few days in Italy. The beach at Ostia is less than an hour from central Rome, whether you are looking to escape the city heat or get a bit of a tan. You can even travel there for free on your day metro ticket! If you are willing to spend a little, Naples is just over an hour on the fast train and boasts not only its own city landmarks but also the unmissable Pompeii. Other than day-trips there are also plenty of cities to visit across Italy from Milan to Venice to Florence.
The Italian capital seems like the iconic place to start either a European or an Italian adventure. Rome has a history but is not stuck in the past; the ‘Eternal City’ has evolved since 1953 as its street life flourishes and visitors still unearth new attractions around the corner.