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Rome

The capital city in the land of Leonardo, Michelangelo and the popes is today a living museum with gorgeous artwork, amazing architecture and inspiring ancient sites -- yet at the same time it is alive and vibrant in a 21st-century way. It's an unforgettable city to visit, and we'll warn you right now: once you've experienced it, you'll want to come back for more.

One of our favorite things to do here is walk and ogle. On a recent visit, we took one day to do the route from Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica, with its jaw-dropping art and statuary (not to mention religious significance), to Via del Corso, where our pursuit of the latest Italian fashions was more than fulfilled amidst the well-dressed crowd of Roman shoppers. And then the next day we went on an ancient history quest past ruins and columns, traversing the same streets Julius Caesar strode (and rode) to the Colosseum, where gladiators once battled. Then, walking on, we were awed by the Pantheon, the well-preserved ancient symbol of Rome and now a great hangout spot.

11 Unforgettable Italy Experiences

Many first-time visitors, envisioning Rome as big and congested, will be surprised by the scenic layout, with its famous seven hills and the Tiber River running through the city. But your senses may be shocked by the general energy and hustle and bustle. With cars, taxis and scooters roaring here and there, crossing the street can be a challenge (don't worry, there are quiet piazzas aplenty with lovely cafes where you can get away from it all and unwind).

The food is, of course, wonderful -- we can't eat enough pasta -- and the spirit of la dolce vita (the good life) abounds. Whenever we do such a quest in Rome we do regular gelato stops (try the yummy pine nut flavor) or coffee breaks because "when in Rome..." And the shopping scene serves up Prada, Gucci, Armani and more (high style can be found in more affordable brands like Furla as well). What could be better than that?

--written by Fran Golden

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