Travelers' Tales Rome articleIt was the movies that first brought me Rome in all its glory. Three movies, to be exact: Roman Holiday, in which Audrey Hepburn lost herself in the city with Gregory Peck; Only You, in which Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei stuck their trembling hands into La Bocca della Verità; and Gladiator, in which Russell Crowe vanquished opponent after opponent within the walls of the Colosseum, wearing only a tiny skirt. I would pore over these films, soak in the sights and sounds, and promise myself that I would one day see these amazing places up close and do as the Romans do.

Luckily, my wish came true! Upon entering Rome, you are immediately struck by the coexistence of old- and new-world architecture alongside breathtaking ruins. The city is, indeed, a picture book for archaic times, and it is famed just as much for its magnificent past as it is for its food, art, and swoon-worthy ambiance. All over—on fire engines, lampposts, even drinking fountains—you will find the engraved Roman coat of arms, SPQR (meaning, “The Senate and People of Rome”), which has stood as the official emblem since the Roman Republic. That’s a little piece of ancient history right there!

It’s also an incredibly romantic spot that makes the most of its cobbled streets, hidden nooks, ivy-and-bougainvillea-covered buildings, and marble fountains laden with sculptures (some of which are even said to bring love and luck). Don’t be surprised when a handsome stranger calls out “Ciao, bella!” from the café across the street—that’s just the way it works in Roma.

So if you’re planning a trip to the Italian capital, here’s a crash course on what’s not to be missed. With its grand architectural monuments (beautifully preserved over centuries), to its confessionary graffiti, which cover walls and sidewalks like everlasting love letters, you’ll find it’s no surprise that Rome is touted as the “Eternal City.”

(Photos by Stephanie Castillo unless otherwise stated.)

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