Italy

Rome

Shutterstock/23793340/Luca Moi

The past seems more recent in Rome. With history oozing out of every deep-fried rice ball, the world’s one-time caput mundi, the capital of the world, still lives among its ancient stones and their accompanying ghosts.

Rome’s Baroque splendours and over-the-top ornamentation give it romantic cinematic backdrops. Anita Ekberg striking dripping-fountain poses might seem like silliness in another city but here the weighty seriousness of centuries of importance gives Rome an unmatchable substance; an operatic sense of glamour.

Whether you are walking Roman roads, worshipping at the shrines of the Renaissance, spending euro millions in fashion palaces or sipping aperitivi on pretty piazzas, it is a city that wears its history proudly on its flaking sleeve. And though many of its extraordinary ruins are worryingly dilapidated, the openness of its stones to the weather, the traffic fumes and the tourists is also democratizing, bringing the ancient world to the door of every café, bar and cheese shop. Cleaned and opened up for the millennium, and daring to be new, Rome has shaken off some of its conservative skin and increasingly rivals Milan for stylishness. But while the city’s bars, hotels and restaurants become slowly hip, the city’s inward-looking traditions mean that local identities are retained, and chain stores and corporations largely resisted. Among the gleaming new museums and arts showcases there are still places closed for stagnant “renovation”. There is a sense that Rome is a city beginning to look to the future, while, of course, living with the past.

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