Destination: Rome
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Vatican City
Rome is the capital of the Roman Catholic church, for in it lies the Vatican City (Città del Vaticano), covering less than half a hectare, and really a separate state with its own post office, radio and TV stations. Rome abounds in nuns, monks and priests from all over the world who come to study at one of the Catholic universities; in and around St Peter's you can see an exotic array of the habits worn by various religious orders.


Rome has got it all - a climate that gives sunny days at any time of year, a cuisine that has something (and usually a lot of things) for all tastes and some of the best fine art and architecture in the world. This is a city of contrasts; a bustling, modern capital set amid ancient splendour where screeching motorini swoop past leisurely pedestrians, classical art competes for attention with high fashion, and a beautiful sunny day can suddenly throw up a sky- blackening storm with thunder like cannon fire and rain that'll soak you in seconds.

It helps to approach it with a flexible attitude. You may not always be able to achieve what you set out to do (museums, shops, restaurants and even occasionally banks sometimes close suddenly for one reason or another), but don't worry. There are plenty of other things to do and even the streetlife, with its constantly changing parade of locals and visitors alike, is worth watching from a pavement or piazza bar. There are intriguing juxtapositions everywhere: in narrow winding streets of terracotta buildings clothes boutiques nestle among family-run grocers, craft studios, art galleries and restaurants.

The weather helps create a relaxed way of life in which even the most simple transaction may need far more time than you would have thought possible. On the other hand, lunch can take all afternoon so you'll probably soon stop worrying that the overseas post takes rather longer than expected. There is notorious bureaucracy and time-consuming public service (but these are improving), but once you adjust to the pace of life, you realise how much of Rome functions extremely efficiently, including the bus service, which gets you where you want in central Rome more or less when you want.

The beauty of Rome is a magnet to artists, tourists and students, many of whom never quite manage to leave it.

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