A Trevi coin to make sure I go back...

WANDERING winding streets in dazzling Italian sunshine, stumbling upon magnificent squares and two–thousand–year–old buildings and, of course, enjoying delicious food, makes Rome the perfect destination for a city adventure writes Connie Primmer.

I took the inaugural Monarch Airlines flight from Luton to Rome for a four-day break, which was nowhere near long enough to see everything, but probably the right length of time for our increasingly weary feet.

We found the perfect place to rest after long days of sight–seeing in 47 Hotel. Situated in Rome’s historical centre it’s just across from the Temple of Vest which makes a nice contrast with the cool, luxury modernism of the hotel.

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Five minutes up the road is Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, which has had a lift installed in the last three years so visitors can climb even higher than the steep steps and see a stunning view of the city from the roof top.

Just don’t pause to pose sitting on the steps as you’ll get whistled at by an angry and important–looking Italian chap.

A guidebook is essential for the Italian capital. There’s just so much to discover it’s good to have a few pointers, and as I’m not one for listening to audio-guides on–the–go, it was also nice to read up on the history of the places we’d just seen over a coffee or ice cream afterwards.

The not-to-be-missed sights include the Palatine, Spanish Steps and the Colosseum, a must for anyone who’s ever watched Gladiator.

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I found the Basilica of San Pietro very interesting. It’s a castle which was converted into a fortress to be used by the Pope in times of siege or invasion. A secret passageway links it with the Vatican, and one of the most famous times it came into use was when Pope Clement VII stayed here for several months during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

Nowadays there’s a lovely little cafe nestled behind the walls where you can stop for a quick coffee, tea, or beer before going on to The Vatican.

One of my favourite places was the San Clemente, an ancient temple under an ancient basilica topped by an ancient church. It looked like it was closed when we got there, but we strolled round the block and when we came back a little old lady was ushering a group inside –so stay put and you won’t miss out. As you descend into the cold, gloomy underground passageways, it’s fascinating to picture people worshipping down there a thousand years ago.

It’s a relief to find yourself back above ground blinking in the dazzling sunshine and you may not feel like an ice cream as you try to warm up after the journey underground, but Italian ice cream is obviously obligatory.

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The best ice cream I had was from a restaurant in Piazza Navona at lunchtime on our last day.

We ate in Campo de Fiori on two of the nights – the square is buzzing with a great atmosphere. I can highly recommend the cocktails from Sloppy Sams, but you might want to make sure your stomach is properly lined with pizza before you indulge.

On our last day we went to the Trevi Fountain, one of the top tourist spots whose beauty can be eclipsed by the swarms of people brandishing cameras, but if you take a minute to sit and really look, it’s magnificent.

Don’t forget to throw a coin in the water over your shoulder as it’s said to guarantee your return to Rome. When I went the first time I remember thinking it would probably be the only time I visited, but I threw my coin in and then found myself back there again five years later. It’s a city with so much to discover, so I threw my coin in again this time and we’ll see if I’m back in another five years.

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It’s certainly easy enough to get there thanks to Monarch’s new flight routes.

>The upgrade to extra–leg room seats for as little as £9.99 is really worth it for the longer–legged flyer.Flights are on sale now, with fares from £38.99 one way and £65.50 return, inclusive of all taxes and charges at www.monarch.co.uk.

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