They call it the Eternal City for a reason. On April 21, Rome celebrates its 2,775th birthday, dating to its legendary founding in 753 B.C.E. This year, the city is emerging from another plague, one of many it has endured in its long history and making a glorious return to the world stage as nearly all COVID restrictions in Italy are gone.
The city once known as Caput Mundi, the “head of the world” remains full of the symbols of its ancient past. The Colosseum is in the midst of a massive restoration, with visitors now able to get a closeup look at the tunnels underneath the arena, where gladiators and wild animals stayed before making their entrance onto the sand.
The restoration, sponsored by Italian fashion house Tod’s, is part of a larger effort to renovate classic Roman landmarks. The Mausoleum of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, reopened to the public last year after a long restoration effort. Prior to the pandemic, the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps also had work done.
As the seat of the Catholic Church, Rome welcomed crowds last week celebrating Easter, the first such large gathering for Christianity’s most important holiday in three years. With most restrictions lifted, it marks the beginning of what promises to be a lively travel season.
Of course, there’s more to see in Rome than ancient history. There’s a fantastic culinary scene with young chefs putting new twists on old favorites. Dinner is even more enjoyable after a cocktail in one of the many aperitivo spots the city has elevated to an art form. To take in all the sites in a short time, you can zip through the city on a vintage Vespa.
If you really want to travel back in time, without all the crowds and constant reminders of modernity, you can visit the Via Appia Antica, one of the most important ancient Roman roads. There are long, well-preserved stretches of the road outside the city, lined with tombs and monuments dating back thousands of years. There’s also Ostia Antica, away from the city out by the airport. Once the port of Rome, it’s now 2 miles from the sea, and it’s an excellent alternative if you can’t make it to Pompeii.