london, paris, and rome - detailed itinerary

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Day 1 -- London

London is huge and no matter how fit you are, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to walk to everything you want to see. Invest in a London Pass, and you’ll save your feet and receive free admission at more than 50 attractions. See our Travel Notes for details.

On seeing Niagara Falls, Oscar Wilde remarked that he reckoned the falls were the second greatest disappointment of American married life. We feel that way about the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Unless you’re here off-season, which these days is pretty much limited to February, you’ll wait for an hour and the crowds will be so huge that you won’t see much anyway.

If you feel you really must see it, start your day by touring Buckingham Palace, the Royal Residence since Queen Victoria moved in during the late 1830s. The Palace was originally a country house and during the summer, you can tour the State Room, the Throne Room, the Picture Gallery, and other "public" areas. To avoid the long lines, purchase your tickets in advance.

After your visit, you can pop outside for the Changing of the Guard. Try to be there by 10:30AM.

A better choice is to show up at the Horse Guards north of Downing Street off White Hall Way whenever it’s convenient for you. Members of the Household Cavalry leave the Hyde Park Barracks at 10:28AM (9:28AM on Sundays) and arrive here at 11AM. There’s always a very photogenic mounted sentry posted outside the Barracks from 10AM to 5PM

Mounted guards change here every hour to rest their horses. The troops are inspected daily at 4PM and dismount with plenty of pageantry at 5PM.

If you’re willing to pass on the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, start your day this morning with a "flight" on the British Airways London Eye. To get there, take the "Tube" to Waterloo Station.

The giant wheel towers 450-ft. above the Thames and from the top, you can see 25 miles on clear days. Since opening early in 2000, the Eye has become one of the city’s most popular attractions and the 30-minute "flight" provides a fantastic orientation.

After your flight, cross the Thames via the Westminster Bridge. With the Clock Tower, (commonly called Big Ben), and the Houses of Parliament on your left, this is one of the most beautiful approaches in the city and you’ll get terrific photos as you cross.

Those fascinated by democracy and the workings of government will enjoy a tour of the Houses of Parliament. This takes some advance planning, because you’ll need to request permission at least a month in advance. See our Travel Notes for details.

Otherwise, your best bet is to come back after 6PM. When the House of Commons is in session, it "sits" until 10:30PM -- or later -- on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Trying to get in during the day usually involves a long wait.

Westminster Abbey, (don’t even think about calling it West-min-i-ster), has been the scene of coronations, funerals, and much pomp and pageantry since Harold was crowned here in 1066. It’s the oldest church in London, and undoubtedly the most important.

Today, Westminster Abbey is equal parts working church, magnificent example of medieval architecture and repository of 1,000 years of British history. Best of all, it’s just gorgeous. For our money, this is the most awe-inspiring spot in London.

Before you enter the church, walk around it. Most of the present structure dates from the 13th century, although the West Front Towers were built from 1734 to 1745. Take note of the tremendous flying buttresses supporting the nave.

As you enter the church via the North Transept, the Victorian Gothic Choir will be on your right. The organ dates from 1727. Past the Choir, the Nave was begun around 1362 and at 101 feet, it’s the highest ceiling in Britain. The West Window dates from 1735.

The four Cloisters date from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The octagonal Chapter House in the East Cloister dates from 1250. The King’s Great Council met here in 1257 and there are some beautiful original tiles and fan vaulting.

Outside the Chapter House in the South Transept is the Poets’ Corner. Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Tennyson, Dickens, Kipling, and Thomas Hardy are buried here. And there are memorials to authors who were not laid to rest here, including Shakespeare and Lord Byron.

Composer George Frederic Handel and Laurence Olivier are also buried here.

St. Edward’s Chapel, roughly in the center of the Abbey, houses the Coronation Chair and Edward the Confessor’s shrine, as well as the tombs of many monarchs.

The Lady Chapel, also known as Henry VII’s Chapel, was begun in 1503 as the final resting place of Henry VI. A pair of bronze gates at the entrance displays royal badges of the Tudor house. The 16th-century wooden stalls are decorated with the banners and crests of the Knights of the Order of the Bath.

The Chapel contains the tombs of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

There’s no place in Britain as simultaneously grand and intimate as Westminster Abbey. So be sure to take time to let it all sink in.

When you leave the Abbey, walk past Parliament Square and head down Parliament Street, which becomes Whitehall. When you come to Downing Street, take a left. The Prime Minister’s residence at Number Ten is about halfway down the street. Number Eleven is the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

If you’re hungry, the Red Lion at 48 Parliament Street (Whitehall) is the best pub in the area. The original Red Lion was built here in 1733 and was mentioned in Dickens’s David Copperfield. This one replaced it in 1899 and it’s a favorite watering hole for Members of Parliament. There’s a dining room upstairs.

Past the Red Lion, on your right, is the Banqueting House, designed by Inigo Jones in 1622 in the Palladian style. It contains a ceiling painted by Rubens. On your left is the Horse Guards. If it’s near the hour, hang out to see the mounted guards change.

Walk down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. If anyplace is the heart of London, this is it. Overseen by Nelson, who stands atop the 145-ft. column in the center of the square, Trafalgar has been a gathering place for centuries. The huge Classical building is the National Gallery and the church on the right is St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

If you haven’t eaten, Leicester Square is your best bet. You’ll find plenty of restaurants. While you’re there, if you don’t have plans for the evening, stop by the tkts Booth (formerly the Half Price Ticket Booth) in the Square, which sells unsold day-of-performance theater tickets at a discount.

After lunch, return to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery. Begun in 1824 when George IV purchased 38 major paintings by Rembrandt, Raphael, and others, the National Gallery has one of the finest collections of art in the world. In addition to masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s "Virgin and Child with St. Anne and John the Baptist," Bellini’s "Doge Leonardo Loredan," Piero della Francesca’s "Baptism of Christ," van Eyck’s "Arnolfini Marriage," Botticelli’s "Venus and Mars," and van Gogh’s "Sunflowers," the gallery hosts blockbuster traveling exhibitions. For upcoming shows visit their website listed in our attractions to the right.

If time and energy permit, you can visit the National Portrait Gallery which exhibits everything from a cartoon of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein to photographs of Mick Jagger. Shakespeare buffs will enjoy the only surviving portrait of the Bard painted from life.

Overshadowed by its neighbor, The National Portrait Gallery is highly underrated and well worth a visit.

Across from the National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin-in-the-Fields is the final resting place of artists William Hogarth and Joshua Reynolds. There’s a crafts market in the back of the church. And evening concerts are held here Thursday through Saturday at 7:30PM.

When you’re beat, walk to Covent Garden. If you’ve been to London before but it’s been a while, you’ll be amazed at how much lighter of heart the city seems.

Always a home to buskers and street performers, Covent Garden was London’s first "piazza." Today, it presents one free show after another. It’s one of the most vibrant parts of the city, and the buzz here is contagious, particularly around sunset. There’s an antiques market here on Mondays.

Find an open air café on the piazza, order something to drink and watch the jugglers, acrobats, and musicians. If you’re going to the theater tonight -- and if you aren’t, why aren’t you -- have a bite to tide you over before heading back to your hotel to change.

There are more than three dozen theaters in London’s West End where you can see everything from Greek tragedy to next year’s Broadway smash. For complete listings, pick up a copy of "Time Out". If you want to see the latest hit, it’s wise to purchase tickets in advance. See our Travel Notes for details.

Those who are content to see less popular performances can drop by the tkts Booth (formerly the Half Price Ticket Booth) at Leicester Square or see your concierge for tickets.

In addition to the West End theaters, London has several of the best repertory companies in the world, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and Shakespeare’s Globe, a recreation of the Elizabethan original on the banks of the Thames. Try to see at least one show and at least one play during your visit.

It’s no surprise that in a theatre town, there are plenty of places to go for an after-theatre supper. The Ivy has been going strong since 1911 and Joe Allen is very popular.

Day 2 -- London

This morning, take the tube to Russell Square, in London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood -- the city’s literary quarter. The Bloomsbury Group, which included Virginia Woolf, Lyton Strachey, and Dora Carrington, were active here during the first three decade s of the century.

There’s lots of literary history here. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby at 48 Doughty Street. Today, there’s a small museum in the house.

Across from Russell Square, the Russell Hotel is one of the last remaining grand hotels from the turn of the century. The hotel was renovated, so if you enjoy the architecture of the period, pop into the lobby for a peak.

The main draw in Bloomsbury -- in fact, with 5 million visitors a year, the main draw in London -- is the British Museum. Founded in 1753, it’s the oldest museum in the world, and certainly one of the most important. With 94 galleries covering two-and-a-half miles, there’s more than you could possibly see in a months of visits.

The best course of action is to decide which things you really want to see and stay focused. No one should miss the controversial Elgin Marbles which were brought from the Parthenon in 1816; the Rosetta Stone, which provided the key to deciphering Egyptian heiroglyphics; the Sutton Hoo Treasure; and the Lindow Man, who was preserved in a peat bog for 2,000 years.

In 1998, The British Library was moved to its own space on Euston Road, freeing up space for the British Museum’s new £100 million Great Court which opened in December 2000. The glass-crowned court is now the largest covered space in Europe and it’s spectacular. There are galleries, an educational center, and the restored reading room.

What this means is that many of the documents that were once at the British Museum -- including the Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Guttenberg Bible, a First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, and Paul McCartney’s scribbled lyrics to the Beatles classic "Yesterday" -- are now at the British Library, making that well worth a visit too.

The Library is next to St. Pancras Station.

When you finish at the British Museum, take a stroll down Museum Street where there are cafes, old book stores, and antique shops. When you’re hungry, or thirsty, the Museum Tavern on Great Russell Street has a good "Ploughman’s lunch," (bread, cheese, cold meats, cold salads).

For the best fish and chips in London, try the North Sea Fish Restaurant on Leigh Street. If you’d prefer something more sophisticated, take the tube to Knightsbridge and head for Harrods. There are a dozen places to eat in the upscale department store. Or you can get picnic supplies at the Food Halls.

After lunch, there are three great museums in the area to choose from. If you’re a thorough and deliberate person, one may be all you can do. Two is an accomplishment for anyone. And three is out of the question. So choose wisely.

The Victoria and Albert is the world’s largest museum of the decorative arts. The 145 galleries here are filled with furniture, jewelry, textiles, metalwork, ceramics, and clothes from all over the world -- and all periods of history.

With four million objects in all, there’s something for everyone. Highlights include the best collection of Indian art outside India; miniature portraits; Constable paintings; the Medieval Treasury with priceless objects such as the Eltenberg Reliquary; the Dress Collection with clothing from the 1600s to the present; and the room William Morris designed as a refreshment room for the museum in the 1870s.

The British Galleries contain an unrivalled collection of British treasures. And the museum frequently hosts temporary exhibitions. The V&A shop is a wonderful place to find gifts.

Up Cromwell Road from the V&A, the Natural History Museum uses interactive technology to make subjects like biology, zoology, and geology engaging. Highlights of the Life Galleries include the Dinosaur Exhibition, which features life-size robotic models. You’ll walk past them on a raised walkway, then pass them again at ground level. The Creepy-Crawlies Exhibition , which arachnophobes should avoid. And the Mammals section with a 70-foot model of a blue whale.

In the Earth Galleries, you can experience an earthquake, and see thousands of gems and minerals in the Earth’s Treasury.

The third choice in the neighborhood is the Science Museum, which will appeal to anyone interested in technology. The seven-floor building has the earliest steam locomotive, a V2 missile, the Apollo 10 command module, navigational instruments, a replica of the first flying machine, and computer prototypes. The exhibits are hands on and inventive.

When you can’t assimilate another thing, you can take a stroll through Kensington Gardens. If the weather’s fine and you have any strength left, you can rent a boat and row across the Serpentine.

Otherwise, find a pleasant place to plop and have some refreshments.

For dinner tonight, try one of Sir Terence Conran’s trend-setting restaurants. Bibendum in the beautiful Art Nouveau/Art Deco Michelin Tire Building serves French-influenced fare. Bluebird in Chelsea is more a complex than a restaurant. There’s a café, a flower stand, and a housewares store too. But the cavernous upstairs restaurant is always buzzing. Le Pont de la Tour is right on the Thames next to the Tower Bridge and the views are sensational.

Whichever one you choose will have the best shellfish in town.

There’s more to London nightlife than theater, so take advantage of it. London has five symphony orchestras, several opera, dance, and ballet companies, and evening concerts in churches and other historic building. Consult Time Out for listings.

If you’re heart’s set on seeing something, make your reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment. See our Travel Notes for ticket resources.

London’s dance clubs are legendary. The best have long lines and fickle door policies, so it’s a good idea to call ahead for details or ask your concierge for advice. The hottest clubs at press time are Scala, which can accommodate 800 enthusiastic hipsters; and Fabric where the "Bodysonic" dance floor is a gigantic woofer.

Those who want to wing it will find plenty of choices around Covent Garden. Bar Rumba and The Wag are two of the best.

Jazz fans should head for Ronnie Scott’s in Soho. Top international acts like Cedar Walton, Monty Alexander, Terence Blanchard play two sets a night and the sound there is first-rate.

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Day 3 -- London

If you weren’t out too late last night, get an early start this morning. Take the tube to Monument Station. The monument in question was designed by Christopher Wren to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed four-fifths of the city. Climb the 311 steps to the top for wonderful views.

Since you’ve already burned some calories, head for Leadenhall Market on Whittington Avenue. The ornate Victorian arcade dates from 1881 and today, it houses some of the best food purveyors in London. Enjoy wandering and sampling goodies. Then walk to the Tower of London.

During its nearly one-thousand-year history, the Tower has played many roles, most notably that of a prison. To get the most out of your visit, get there early and take one of the tours conducted by the Yeoman Warders -- they leave every half hour.

You’ll see the White Tower which dates from 1076 and houses the Royal Armouries and the Romanesque Chapel of St. John. North of the White Tower, the Waterloo Barracks is where the Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown with its 317-carat diamond, are displayed. The Bloody Tower is where Richard II imprisoned 12-year-old Edward V and his ten-year-old brother. The two disappeared in 1483 and their whereabouts remain a mystery.

Two of Henry VIII’s six wives were beheaded on the Tower Green. The ravens are there for a reason; legend has it that if the ravens leave, the tower will fall.

We’re not enthusiastic about the Tower Bridge Experience, although there are great views up and down the Thames from the elevated walkways -- albeit behind glass. If you’re interested in engineering, you might find it interesting. But we think the 90-minute tour is a poor use of time. Better to spend your time on the other side.

Your first stop after crossing the Thames should be Southwark Cathedral. Shakespeare’s brother, Edmund, is buried here and John Harvard, the founder of the University, was baptized here. Inside, there’s a 13th-century wooden effigy of a knight and the tomb of Chaucer contemporary John Gower, dating from 1408.

About a block away is one of the most ambitious — it’s not a museum, it’s not a winery, we’re not even sure what to call it — one of the most ambitious attractions in London — Vinopolis, City of Wine.

This $35 million complex (for want of a better word), occupies two-and-a-half acres of floor space in the city’s gentrified Southwark neighborhood. You can take a highly interactive tour of the world of wine, taste your choice of 200 premium wines from 40 tasting stations, have a wine-tasting lesson, or purchase more than 800 different kinds of wine. Tours must be booked 48 hours in advance.

Wine enthusiasts may find it a little superficial. But the admission includes taste of five wines and a Bombay Saphire Martini. So all in all, it’s a good excuse to drink wine during the day. The restaurant wine wharf, is a pleasant spot for lunch, and stocks 300 kinds of wines.

Another good spot for lunch is the Anchor. The original pub was destroyed in the Great Fire. This one dates from 1666 and it’s very atmospheric. In fact, Tom Cruise had a beer here in the film Mission Impossible. Dr. Johnson was a regular patron. And there are great views from the riverside terrace.

Shakespeare’s Globe is past the Southbank Bridge, on the Thames. The brainchild of American actor Sam Wanamaker, the Globe is a recreation of the original Tudor theater where Shakespeare produced many of his plays. You can tour the theater and visit the Exhibition, where you’ll learn about construction of the theater and how costumes, special effects and other aspects of production were managed during Shakespeare’s time.

The visit takes about 90 minutes and it’s worthwhile for those interested in theater.

The spectacular Tate Gallery of Modern Art at Bankside is practically next door, so you’ll need to decide how to spend your time. One of the most important collections of 20th-century art in the world is now housed in the former Bankside Power Station. With its two-story glass ceiling and turbine hall running the length of the building, the physical plant itself is amazing. And modern art lovers will enjoy seeing major works by Dali, Picasso, Warhol, van Gogh and other modern masters.

When you’re through, cross the Thames and head back for the City.

Take the Millenium Bridge, which will take you right to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Great Fire destroyed the original cathedral here, so Christopher Wren was hired to create a new one. The design he presented in 1672 was not well received, so the final product is a modification of his original plan. In fact, the towers weren’t added until 1707.

At 360-ft. the dome is second only to Michelangelo’s great dome at St. Peter’s in Rome and it’s as magnificent inside as it is outside. During the bombing raids of World War II, the dome became a symbol of resilience for war-weary Londoners.

The cruciform church has been the scene of many historic occasions including the funeral of Winston Churchill and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spenser. Christopher Wren is buried here, as are Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

The vast interior space is beautifully decorated with mosaics and intricate carvings. Aerobics instructors can climb 530 steps to the top of the dome for the best views in the city.

When you’re exhausted, the Bow Wine Vaults on trendy Bow Lane is a two-minute walk. There are tables on the sidewalk, dozens of wines by the glass, and goodies like deep-fried goat’s cheese and game terrine.

For something different tonight, consider visiting one of London’s popular comedy clubs. There are a dozen to choose from. Comedy Café and Comedy Store seem to book the best acts, even if you haven’t heard of them.

Day 4 -- London

A red letter day for art lovers.

This morning, take the tube to Westminster Station and walk along Millbank to the Tate Britain Gallery. This branch of the museum now displays British Art from the 1500s to the present. It’s a wonderful collection, highlighted by the bequest from landscape painter J.M.W. Turner which included 19,000 watercolors and 300 paintings.

Other standouts here include the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and paintings by Constable, Blake, and Whistler.

Take the tube back to Temple and walk to Somerset House. Built on the site of a former Tudor Palace, the present building dates from 1775 and was intended to house government agencies and learned societies under one roof.

A massive renovation has transformed Somerset House, and the 18th-century courtyard, Thames River terrace, and synchronized fountains make it one of the most attractive destinations in the city.

Today, it is the home of three of London’s most extraordinary art collections: The Courtauld, the Gilbert Collection, and the Hermitage Rooms.

The Courtauld Institute of Art, now the gallery of the University of London, is at the north end of Somerset House. The foundation stock for the gallery was the private collection of Samuel Courtauld, a descendent of the Huguenots who cornered the rayon market.

The collection is particularly strong in the French Impressionists. If you’ve enjoyed the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, you’ll love it here. Manet’s "A Bar at the Folies Bergere" is here, as is "Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe." There’s also major work by van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Gaughin, Cezanne, and Toulouse-Lautrec, and several Italian Renaissance masterpieces.

The Gilbert Collection in Somerset’s Embankment building includes more than 800 works of decorative art, including exquisitely detailed silver plates, gold boxes, portrait miniatures, and Roman micro-mosaics.

The Hermitage Rooms displays paintings, jewels, and decorative arts on loan from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Advance booking for this exhibit is advised. See our Travel Notes for current exhibition details.

When you’re ready for lunch, there’s are several good spots at Somerset House, Admiralty has consistently earned good reviews and the riverside terrace is a tough location to beat.

From Somerset House, it’s a brief stroll to Sir John Soane’s Museum. Nineteenth-century architect Soane bequeathed his house to the nation upon his death in 1837 with the provision that nothing in it be changed.

Today, it’s one of the most fascinating places in London. The house itself is full of surprises -- rooms that turn out to be merely reflections, folding panels that double wall space -- and there are many treasures and curiosities among the contents.

The walls are covered with Soane’s art collection, which includes paintings by Reynolds, Lawrence, Hogarth, Canaleto, and Watteau. The basement, which is lit from a skylight high above, contains an Egyptian sarcophagus. There are ancient statues throughout and an odd collection of Gothic casts.

Spend the rest of the day shopping. Regent and Oxford Streets in the West End, are good for almost everything. You’ll find Marks and Spencer, Liberty of London, and Laura Ashley there. And Knightsbridge and Chelsea have up-market stalwarts Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

For dinner this evening, try the Sugar Club in Soho for Asian-influence fusion, Zafferano for Italian, or Aubergine in Chelsea.

Day 5 -- London

Today, see whatever you haven’t had time for so far, or visit one of London’s more far-flung attractions.

If it’s Saturday, head for Notting Hill and the Portobello Road Market. The earlier you get there the better. And after the market, antique lovers will find 90 antique shops along the Portobello Road.

North of the city, Hampstead is a charming Georgian village bounded by the Heath, a three-square-mile swath of greenery separating Hampstead from the city proper. On clear days, you can see the dome of St. Paul’s from the hillsides.

The village has always been popular with writers. D.H. Lawrence, Shelley, Stevenson, Kingsley Amis, John Le Carre, and John Galsworthy are all associated with the area.

There are several historic houses worth visiting here, including the home of John Keats. Flask Walk and Well Walk are filled with quaint shops. And nearby Highgate Cemetery, where Karl Marx is buried, is worth a stroll.

Despite seeming a million miles from the city, Hampstead is on the tube line and is just a 20-minute trip from the heart of London.

Hampton Court Palace was built in 1515 for Cardinal Wolsey and later given to Henry VIII, probably to avoid having it "appropriated." Christopher Wren renovated much of the palace for William III, so it’s not as Tudor as you might hope, But it does provide much insight into court life.

The gardens alone are worth the trip. There’s a shrubbery maze, a Knot Garden, the King’s Privy Garden, the Great Fountain Gardens and several others.

During the summer, you can make the trip more interesting by taking the train to Hampton Court and cruising back on the Thames.

Gardens lovers can take the tube to Kew Gardens Station, visit the spectacular gardens there, then cruise to Hampton Court Palace and take the train back from there.

The Royal Botanic Gardens -- commonly called Kew Gardens -- has more than 50,000 species of plants on 300 acres of beautiful grounds and in greenhouses and garden pavilions. This is one of the foremost gardens and botanical research centers in Europe and a must-see for horticulturalists.

If you prefer to remain in town, visit Apsley House, the home of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and later became Prime Minister. His treasures -- gifts of a grateful nation -- are displayed in this Robert Adam-designed house in the corner of Hyde Park. Highlights here include the mammoth statue of Napoleon by Canova, and the superb collections of porcelain and silver.

For your last night in London, pull out all the stops and have dinner with a view. Try Terence Conran’s Le Pont de la Tour, the Ship Hispaniola, or The Portrait Restaurant in the National Portrait Gallery.

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Day 6 - Paris

Transfer to the airport or the rail station this morning for your journey to Paris.

Paris is seductive and its charms have a way of changing your plans. Delightful shops and cafes that weren’t even on your radar screen, much less your itinerary, beckon. And the next thing you know, you spent the afternoon buying mustard instead of looking at art. Tant mieux (so much the better). In a city as vibrant, captivating, and romantic as Paris, spontaneity rules.

So be flexible and allow plenty of time to explore whatever appeals at the moment. Plenty will.

Plan to spend a minimum of five days and schedule your sightseeing according to the day of the week. Most major museums, including the Louvre, are closed on Tuesdays. Consequently, the Musee d’Orsay, which is open on Tuesdays is packed. The best time to visit the Musee d’Orsay is on Thursday evening.

The department stores and most small shops are closed on Sundays, which is a good time to check out many of the city’s lively open-air markets. Many establishments close for a couple of hours at lunch time. So check to make sure they’ll be open when you go. The top attractions here -- the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame -- are open daily.

Do this itinerary in whatever order makes sense for your visit and you’ll have seen the major attractions, and gotten off the beaten path enough to savor the special allure of this beguiling city.

On your first day, even if breakfast is included at your hotel, consider starting your day with a stroll to the corner patisserie for pains au chocolate.

Although the Paris Metro is outstanding, taking it means you’ll see nothing en route -- which in Paris is a crime. And many of the city’s main attractions are in a fairly compact area. So we recommend walking as much as possible.

If you’ve never been to Paris before, head for the Eiffel Tower. Seeing the city from above will really help you get your bearings. And besides, it’s thrilling. You can take the stairs to the second landing, or take an elevator to the first, second, or third landing. Even if you pay to go all the way to the top, be sure to check out the views from the lower landings. Each has its own appeal. For a nifty souvenir, mail yourself a postcard from the post office on the first level.

On clear days, you can see for 45 miles from the 900-ft. top platform.

When you leave the Eiffel Tower, cross the Seine via the pont d’Iena. Here, the Jardins du Trocadero provide 25 acres of greenery between the Place de Trocadero and the river. The Trocadero Fountains are illuminated in the evening. The huge semi-circular building is the Palais de Chaillot, which houses four museums, a theater, and a cinema.

Walk along the Seine on Avenue de New York to Place de l’Alma. Princess Diana was killed in the tunnel beneath the Place in 1997 and there’s a memorial here.

If you can’t wait to get onto the river -- which is another great way to see Paris -- the Bateaux Mouches tour boats leave about every half hour. We prefer the cruises that leave from the more central Pont Neuf. But millions of tourists enjoy these one-hour tours.

Another option is the the Batobus, which stops at 8 locations along the Seine. You can buy a one day pass, and hop on and off as often as you like.

You can also take a tour of the Paris sewers from Pont d’Alma. It provides an alternative, if odiferous, view of the city.

From Place d’Alma, take stylish Avenue Montaigne to the Champs Elysee. Sophisticated shops including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Christian Dior and other fashion luminaries line the street.

When it’s lunch time, one of the city’s most exciting restaurants -- Spoon, Food & Wine -- is nearby.

Those who haven’t been to Paris in a while will be amazed by the Champs Elysee. A massive reconstruction in the mid-1990s got rid of the parked-car lanes, widened the sidewalks, and added underground garages to ease congestion. Strolling the city’s grandest boulevard is now a pleasure.

The gardens lining the Champs Elysee were laid out in 1838 and became the grounds for the 1855 World’s Fair.

Walk to the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon in 1836 to commemorate his victories. Anchoring the Place Charles de Gaulle -- formerly the more descriptively named Place de l’Etoile (star) -- the Arc de Triomphe is the biggest triumphal arch in the world. To reach it, use the underground passageway. Don’t even think about crossing traffic here, even if the coast looks clear.

At 164 feet, the observation deck provide some of the city’s best views. You can climb the stairs or take the elevator to reach it. You’ll see the avenues radiating from the star, the Bois du Boulogne, and the gilded obelisk of the Place de la Concorde.

If you’re beat, find a cafe that strikes your fancy, plop, and have something cool to drink. If you still have energy, take Avenue de Friedland to Rue du Faubourg Honore, the haute couture center of the universe. Even if you’re not buying, window shopping at Versace, Hermes, and Cardin is great fun. And you’ll pass the Elysee Palace and the residences of the British and American ambassadors.

La Cave Taillevant at 199 rue du Faubourg St-Honore is a terrific wine shop with half a million bottles in the cellar.

For dinner, pace yourself and dine at a bistro or brasserie near your hotel.

Day 7 - Paris

The Paris Museum Pass -- available at museums, tourist offices, and Metro stations -- will enable you to bypass the ticket lines which can take as long as half-an-hour to navigate. If you plan to visit lots of museums, it’s a good value and a big convenience.

To beat the crowds at the Louvre, avoid Wednesdays, and get there early -- the closer to 9AM, the better. To make the most of your time, have a plan. There’s simply no way to appreciate even one tenth of what’s here, so decide which periods or artists are of the most interest to you and visit only those galleries.

The Greek and Roman statuary -- particularly Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace -- should make everyone’s short list. And most people will enjoy the 18th- and 19th-century French paintings. Tour the Louvre’s outstanding web site before your trip and you’ll be able to narrow your focus.

Those interested in 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century French furnishings and objets d’art should visit the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in the Louvre’s Pavilion de Marsan.

Touring the Louvre could take half a day, although our eyes tend to glaze over after about two hours. When you’ve reached saturation, head out into the Jardin des Tuilleries for something to drink or an ice cream.

Laid out by Le Notre in 1664 the formal gardens are lined with chestnuts and lime trees. For memorable photos, take a donkey ride through the park.

Antique lovers will swoon over Le Louvre des Antiquaires, where more than 250 dealers showcase three stories of top-quality antiques. It’s across the street from the Louvre. But don’t go if you’re looking for bargains.

Lovers of Impressionism who still have some capacity to look at art should visit the Musee de l’Orangerie at the entrance to the Tuileries. The museum -- remarkably manageable after the Louvre -- has 24 Renoirs, 14 Cezannes, 11 Matisses, and a breathtaking Monet.

Across from the Museum, the Place de la Concorde was ground zero during the French Revolution. Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and 1,300 others lost their heads here. The recently restored obelisk at the center of the Place was made in Luxor 3,200 years ago.

Take the Rue de Rivoli back toward the Louvre. Then take Rue de Castiglione to Place Vendome, one of the loveliest squares in Paris. Chopin lived -- and died -- at No. 12 and the legendary Ritz hotel is at No. 15.

From Place Vendome, take Rue de la Paix to Place de l’Opera. Have lunch in any of the cafes en route, or nab a sidewalk table at Cafe de la Paix. The food’s overpriced, but the people watching is terrific.

After lunch, you can tour the Opera if you’d like. If shopping’s on your agenda, three of Paris’s great department stores are just a short stroll away. Boulevard Haussman which runs behind the Opera house is home to Galleries Lafayette, Au Printemps, and Marks and Spenser. All have English-speaking help desks with discount cards for tourists.

With its gorgeous stained glass dome, Galleries Lafeyette, built in 1906, is worth a look even if you don’t intend to shop.

In the evening, take a Vedettes du Pont Neuf cruise along the Seine. Many of the city’s monuments and all 32 of the bridges spanning the Seine are illuminated at night. So it’s very romantic.

For dinner, try Au Trou Gascon in the 12th, Sir Terence Conrad’s Alcazar in the 6th, or Brasserie Flo in the 10th.

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Day 8 - Paris

On Sundays, the roads flanking the Seine are closed to automobile traffic, giving bicyclists and roller bladers free reign. The Quai de la Tournelle is yours from 9AM to 6PM and the Canal St-Martin from 2PM to 6PM.

Bicyling the city on Sunday morning while the Parisians are sleeping in is a real treat.

Start your sightseeing at Notre Dame, on the Ile de la Cite, the larger of the two islands in the Seine. No other building in Paris so closely mirrors the city’s history. Begin by exploring the exterior of the church with its magnificent -- though some say, "hideous" -- flying buttresses. You’ll get the best photos of the eastern end of the church from Square Jean XXIII.

The West Facade has three beautiful portals -- the Portal of the Virgin, the Portal of the Last Judgement, and the Portal of St. Anne -- that you should check out before entering the cathedral. The three Rose windows and choir are highlights of the interior.

Hardy visitors can climb the 387 steps of the tower. The views from up there are wonderful and you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Notre Dame’s outstanding gargoyles.

Ancient history buffs may want to visit the Crypte Archeologique in the main square in front of Notre Dame. Inside the crypt -- which is more than 260 feet underground -- you’ll see remnants of the original Parisii settlement.

One of the most beautiful structures in the world, Sainte-Chapelle, is also on the Ile de la Cite, a short stroll away. Walk down the Place du Parvis Notre Dame to Rue de la Cite and take a right. Turn left of Rue de Lutece and then enter Place Louis-Lepine to explore one of the most colorful markets in the city. Marche aux Fleurs is the largest flower market in the city, except on Sundays, when it sells birds.

When you’re through in the market, continue along Rue de Lutece until you reach Boulevard du Palais. The huge, Gothic complex in front of you is the Palais de Justice -- the Paris law courts. Practically hidden by the courts, Sainte-Chapelle was built by Louis IX to house relics from the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross.

Begun in 1248, it is one of the most glorious interiors in the world. Be sure to visit on a sunny day when the 15 stained glass windows tranform the upper chapel into a kaleidoscope of colored light. More than 1,000 bible stores are illustrated in the sublime windows and the overall effect is literally breathtaking. Highlights are the Rose Window, the Window of the Relics, and the Window of Christ’s Passion.

Also on the Ile de la Cite is the Conciergerie, the city’s prison from 1391 to 1914. Marie Antoinette was held here before her execution in 1793.

At the western tip of the Ile de la Cite near the Pont Neuf, you can take the stairs down to Square du Vert-Galant, a tiny triangular garden that makes a wonderful spot for a picnic.

When you’re through exploring the Ile de la Cite, take the Pont Neuf across the Seine to the Right Bank. If it’s not Sunday, pop into La Samaritaine. The department store was built in 1926 with iron and glass and it’s a great example of the French Art Deco style. There’s a beautiful Art Nouveau staircase inside.

As an added bonus, La Samaritaine offers one of the best free views of Paris from its rooftop. Take one of the center elevators to the ninth floor, go outside to the dining terrace, then take the spiral staircase up to the observation platrform. Under the railing, there’s a map labeling all the landmarks laid out at your feet.

Take Rue du Pont Neuf to Rue Berger and take a right. After a couple of blocks, you’ll pass Fontaine des Innocents, the city’s last surviving Renaissance fountain. Shortly after Rue Berger becomes Rue Aubry le Boucher, you’ll see the striking industrial exterior of the Pompidou Centre.

The Pompidou, also known as "Beaubourg," after its neighborhood, has been Paris’s top attraction since opening in 1977. Seven million people visit each year.

The controversial architecture didn’t hold up well, and the museum has reopened after a major renovation. Most agree that it’s better than ever.

There’s always an interesting temporary exhibit here. The National Museum of Modern Art is here and its permanent collection contains Dadist, Futurist, Cubist, and Surrealist works. Look for paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Dali, Braque and other modern masters. There’s also a library, a cinema, and temportary exhibition space at the center.

Cafe Beaubourg, particularly its terrace, is a great place to escape the hordes for lunch. The menu offers everything from bruschetta to spring rolls, and it’s very popular with locals. It was designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc.

East of Beaubourg, the Marais is one of the city’s most enchanting neighborhoods. So be sure to explore its nooks and crannies. Once the early home of the city’s well-to-do, many of the Marais’s mansions have been recently restored and today house museums, stylish shops, and cafes.

Art lovers who are hungry for more can visit the Picasso Museum, in the 17th-century mansion of a tax collector. When Picasso died in 1973, the French government presented his estate with a $50 million tax bill. This collection of more than 200 paintings, 3,000 drawings and engravings, and 150 sculptures settled the debt. Highlights include The Kiss, Les Demoiselles Avignon, and a self-portrait from his Blue Period. Also on display are paintings from his personal collection by Renoire, Cezanne, and Matisse.

History buffs will enjoy the Musee Carnavalet which occupies two adjoining mansions. The museum is as notable for the gorgeous interiors as for their contents. Don’t miss the reconstructed Fouquet Jewelry Boutique designed by Alfons Mucha.

And photography fans should check out the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, which houses more than 15,000 photographs taken between 1950 and the present.

Place des Vosges is the oldest square in Paris, and in many ways, its the most beautiful. There are red brick houses on each side of the square, built atop arcades filled with shops. The scene of many a duel, Place des Vosges has been a vital part of the city for more than 400 years. Victor Hugo lived -- and wrote most of Les Miserables -- in No. 6.

Find a sidewalk table that appeals and take a load off your feet. Or if you still have some energy, there are dozens of antiques shops in the courtyards and alleyways off Rue St. Paul from the Marais to the river.

For dinner, splurge at Pierre Gagnaire, Taillevent, or Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon.

Or if you’re a good roller blader and it’s Friday, show up at the Place d’Italie at 9:45PM for the three-hour group skate through the city. As many as 18,000 bladers take part and there are gendarmes along the route to stop traffic.

If you’re just a beginner, try the group skate Sundays at 2PM from the Bastille.

Day 9 - Paris

If you’ve been patiently waiting to visit the Musee d’Orsay, go this morning. Although art historians know nothing compares to the Louvre, many visitors prefer the Musee d’Orsay.

And why not? The physical space in a turn-of-the-century rail station is gorgeous. The mostly Impressionist art -- dating from 1848 to 1914 -- is accessible and appreciated by almost everyone. And you can do the whole thing in a few hours without rushing. If you only do one thing in Paris, make it this one.

Once you’ve toured the Musee d’Orsay, walk along the Seine to Quai Voltaire, named for one of its many famous residents. Voltaire lived at No. 27; Oscar Wilde, Richard Wagner, and Beaudelaire lived at No.19

Today, several of the city’s most prestigious antiques dealers are located here.

Take Rue des Saints Peres to Boulevard Saint Germain, the Left Bank’s main drag. Or if you’re serious about food, continue on to Rue de Sevres and the Bon Marche department store. Their Grand Epicerie de Paris offers the best culinary shopping in town.

This area has always been the intellectual center of the city, and you’ll find many book stores, antique shops, and cinemas in the neighborhood. The Village Voice on Rue Princesse is a great English-language bookstore. If they’re having a reading when you’re in town, go. It’s a great way to meet ex-pats and anglophiles.

If it’s lunch time, there are several legendary cafes near St-Germain-des-Pres, the oldest church in Paris. Cafe de Flore, Les Deux Magots, and Brasserie Lippare all within a block of the church.

Wine lovers should visit La Derniere Goutte on rue de Bourbon le Chateau, the pedestrianized street behind St-Germain-des-Pres. Run by an American, it’s one of the best -- and friendliest -- wine shops in Paris.

There’s a wonderful open air food market on rue de Buci. If you’d like to picnic, you can find everything you need here for a picnic in the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg, the Parisians’ favorite park. The twin-towered church you’ll see en route is St-Sulpice, begun in 1646 and not finished until a century later.

The park’s ponds and fountains offer a complete respite from bustling St. Germain. The Palace around which the gardens are centered is now the home of the French Senate. Take time to enjoy the peace and quiet and to watch the ubiquitous lovers.

Boulevard St. Michel radiates from the northeast corner of the garden and divides St. Germain from the Latin Quarter. Heading toward the river on St. Michel, you’ll pass the Univeristy of Paris, better known as the Sorbonne. Established in 1253, the school is now comprised of 13 separate universities.

After you pass the Sorbonne, you’ll come to the Musee National du Moyen-Age, which houses one of the most important collections of medieval art in the world. Priceless jewelry, illuminated manuscripts, and wood carvings are displayed. But the real draw here is the six Lady with the Unicorn tapestries.

Dating from the 15th century and remarkably well preserved, the tapestries alone are worth a visit.

When you leave the museum, you’ll see the Gothic spires of St-Severin, one of the prettiest churches in Paris. Completed in the early 16th century, it took more than 300 years to build.

Many of the streets in the neighborhood are pedestrian-only, making it a pleasant place to explore. Bibliophiles can pop into Shakespeare & Co. At No. 37 Rue de la Bucherie. A book stamped with their insignia makes a great gift.

When you’re ready to stop, you’ll find plenty of cafes in the area for a beer or a glass of wine.

For dinner, try Fish in the 6th, Chez Michel in the 10th, or Bofinger in the 4th. Then if you’re up for a night out, catch the late show at the Moulin Rouge or le Lido. If you’re looking for something a little hipper, try Batofar -- the hottest dance club in Paris which is in a barge on the Seine -- les Bains Douches, celebrity central.

Day 10 - Paris

If you enjoy antiques, junk, or humanity in general, take the Metro to Porte de Clignancourt and head for Marche aux Puces de Clignancourt, the largest flea market in the world. It’s a 15-minute stroll from the Metro station.

More than 2,500 dealers cover 15 acres with everything from buttons, to dinnerware, to furniture. It’s packed on weekends, but it’s open daily.

You’ll see the white dome of Sacre Coeur towering over Montmartre. Though the Place du Tertre can be mobbed with tourists, Montmartre is still one of the most romantic parts of Paris. Make an effort to get off the main drags and explore the side streets and you’ll be rewarded with unexpected treats.

Artists -- among them Picasso, Renoir, Utrillo, and Toulouse-Lautrec -- have made Montmartre their home since the turn of the century. You can see paintings by many of Montmartre’s masters at the Musee de Montmartre.

Another artist showcased here is Salvador Dali. Espace Dali has a collection of over 300 prints by the Catalonian surrealist.

Sacre Coeur is almost as recognizable on the Paris skyline as the Eiffel Tower. The interior is redeemed by a glorious Byzantine mosaic crowning the dome. The real reason to visit is the view. At 300 feet, Montmartre is the highest hill in Paris, and the dome is the second highest spot so the views are sensational.

When it’s time for lunch, try Le Moulin a Vins, which seems to have been frozen in time since the 1930s.

After lunch, you could take the Metro to Pere Lachaise to see the final resting place of Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison. Many Parisians spend the day enjoying the peace, quiet, and cool of the shaded cobbled lanes here.

Closer by, you could visit the Cimetiere de Montmartre, where Berlioz, Degas, Nijinsky, and Francois Truffaut are buried.

Those with an interest in science and technology should go to the Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie at La Villette. The state-of-the-art, interactive museum cost a staggering $642 million. More than 5 million visitors come each year to experience weightlessness, fly a plane in a flight simulator, watch a 3-D movie, or tour the human body.

For dinner this evening, splurge at Georges in the Pompidou Centre. You can dine on the terrace or in the stunning dining room. Either way, you’ll enjoy unforgettable views of the city. Or dine on the terrace at Cafe Marly, 50 yards from I.M. Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre.

After dinner, hit one of Paris’s terrific jazz clubs. Petit Jounral Montparnasse in the 14th is good for traditional jazz. New Morning in the10th has acts like Chick Corea and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Le Sunset/Le Sunside in the 1st is two clubs in one where you can choose from electronic or acoustic be-bop. And the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club in le Meridien Etoile Hotel has hosted B.B. King, Oscar Peterson, and Count Basie.

If you’re up for something different and uniquely Parisian, take a cab back to Montmartre and visit Au Lapin Agile. Today, this atmospheric cottage frequented by Picasso and Utrill is a music hall where a local chanteuse sings Parisian classics. Audience participation is encouraged and no one will mind if you mangle the lyrics to La Vie en Rose.

Whatever you choose to do, if you have any strength left, take one last stroll along the Seine before you bid Paris "Bon Nuit."

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Day 11 - Rome

Transfer to the airport this morning for your flight to Rome.

Several of Rome’s attractions limit admissions and require reservations. So if you’d like to visit the Galleria Borghese or have an audience with the pope during your stay, make reservations and then arrange your sightseeing around your designated tour time.

Porta Portese, the city’s sprawling flea market, is open on Sunday mornings. The city’s food market, Campo de Fiori, is open every day but Sunday. And many of the city’s museums close on Mondays and midday on Sundays. So plan accordingly.

If you have no reservations for the day, plan to spend the morning seeing the treasures of the Vatican. Dress modestly, as the dress code here is strictly enforced.

You’ll need a good map to find your way around Rome, so make sure you’re so armed.

If you’re an early riser -- and it’s not Sunday -- start your day at Campo de Fiori, Rome’s colorful food market. In addition to fruits and vegetables, there’s cheese, meat, olives, and flowers.

If it is Sunday, consider renting a bike and exploring the city while the Romans are sleeping in and traffic is manageable.

From Piazza Campo de Fiori walk toward the Tiber past Piazza Farnese until you come to Via Guilia. The street, which was laid out by Bramante in the 16th century, is lined with 16th- to 18th-century palaces and churches.

Cross the Tiber via the Ponte Pr. Amedeo.

When you cross the river, you’ll come to Piazza delle Rovere. You’ll see the Porta Santo Spirito, which was once the southern gate of the defensive walls built by Pope Leo IV in 846. The church of Santo Spirito in Sassia is worth popping into to see the pretty frescoes.

Michelangelo’s magnificent dome towers above the quarter. Walk along Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter’s. As you enter the Piazza Pio XII, you’ll see the Obelisk at the center of Piazza San Pietro. The Piazza, which was laid out by Bernini, is bounded by a pair of elliptical colonnades. It is here where crowds gather to receive the Pope’s blessings.

The Prefecture of Pontifical Household on the north side of the piazza can give you information about appearances by the Pope.

Built between 1656 and 1667, the colannade is crowned with statues of 140 saints. In the portico, there’s a mosaic by Giotto dating from 1298.

The church was originally a shrine on the site of St. Peter’s tomb dating from the 2nd century AD. Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, had a basilica constructed on the site in 349AD. It soon became the most important church in Christendom. But by the 14th century, the church was collapsing under its own weight.

Pope Julius II commissioned the architect Bramante to begin work on the present structure in 1506. Raphael took the reigns following Bramante’s death in 1514. Michelangelo managed the project -- and figured out the infrastructure of the spectacular dome -- from 1547 until his death in 1564.

Work on the church continued until it was finally consecrated in 1626, 1,300 years after the consecration of the first basilica. Today, it’s one of the most impressive structures in the world. Its sheer enormity is overwhelming.

Inside St. Peter’s, look for Bernini’s Baldacchino, the gilded-bronze canopy above the Papal Altar. The keys to the kingdom of heaven are on the coat of arms at the base of the columns.

The statue of St. Peter at the end of the nave is a highlight for many a pilgrim. His toe is worn from the kisses of the faithful. Michelangelo’s Pieta is in one of the side chapels to the right. And you can also tour the grottoes where many of the Popes are buried.

If you’re in good shape and not claustrophobic, take the elevator outside the church to the roof of the nave. There’s a balcony at the base of the dome that provides wonderful views of the interior. The top of the dome, the largest in the world, is reached by climbing 300 narrow steps. The view from up there is unsurpassed. And the climb entitles you to another serving of tiramisu.

The Vatican Museums are about a ten-minute walk from St. Peter’s. Over the centuries, many of the Popes have been connoiseurs and patrons, so the collections here are among the most important in the world. There’s no way to appreciate them all in a single visit. Choose three or four to give your attention.

Outstanding collections include the Egyptian Museum, the Etruscan Museum, the Pinacoteca (picture gallery), and the Pio-Clementino Museum where Laocoon and other priceless Greek statuary are displayed. Pace yourself, because off season the museums close at 1:45PM.

There are two sections of the Vatican Museums no visitor should miss: the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael to decorate four rooms of his private apartments in 1508. He began with the Stanza della Segnatura (the study). This room contains Raphael’s frescoes of The School of Athens and The Dispute over the Holy Sacrament.

The Stanza di Eliodor (waiting room) features The Expulsion of Heliodoros. The Stanza dell'Incendio (dining room) features The Fire in the Borgo. And the Sala di Constantino

(reception room) features frescoes completed after Raphael’s death by his students.

The restored Sistine Chapel is one of the world’s great treasures. The walls contain frescoes by Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio, and Signorelli, in addition to Michelangelo’s stunning ceiling.

The overall effect is indescribable. Those who don’t feel genuine awe should have their pulse taken. Look for the Creation of Adam, the Expulsion from the Garden, the Delphic Sybyl, and Isaiah. Opera glasses will greatly enhance your experience.

For lunch, try San Luigi on Via Mocenigo, Ristorante Il Matriciano on Via dei Graacchi, or Tre Pupazzi. Go ahead and have a glass or two of wine because after lunch, there’s nothing to do but head back to your hotel for a little nap.

Many of Rome’s shops and attraction close for lunch and reopen again from 3:30PM to 7PM or so. Don’t fight it. Go with the flow and you’ll have plenty of energy this evening. After all, when in Rome...

After your siesta, head for the Piazza Navona. The distinctive oval shape of the piazza reveals the original Roman racetrack on whose foundations the present Baroque structures were built. The piazza is graced with three lovely fountains, two by Bernini. The Fontana dei Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) in the center of the Piazza is one of the most beautiful in Rome.

People watching here is first-rate, so treat yourself to tartufo at Tre Scalini and enjoy the show. The cafe -- at No. 28 -- is known around the world for its chocolate covered ice cream ball.

When you’re ready, leave the Piazza via Corsia Agonale. Do a dog-leg onto Via del Salvatore, then follow the signs to the Pantheon. The best preserved Roman building, the Pantheon was a temple dedicated to all the gods. Built in 27BC and remodeled by Hadrian around 120AD, the temple has become an enduring symbol of the city. It is stunning in its simplicity.

Crowned with a 140-ft. by 140-ft. dome, the interior is lit only by the 30-ft. oculus or open skylight at the top. Raphael is buried here, as is Victor Emmanuel II, Italy’s first king.

Behind the Pantheon in Piazza della Minerva, you’ll see an ancient Egyptian obelisk atop a marble elephant. Conceived by Bernini, it was originally intended for Palazzo Barberini. Next to the obelisk, Santa Maria sopra Minerva is one of the few Gothic churches in Rome. The church contains art from the 13th, 15th, and 16th centuries and a fresco by Fillipino Lippi. St. Fra Angelico and Catherine of Sienna are buried here, although her head is still in Sienna.

Sant Ignazio di Loyola on Piazza di Sant Ignazio off Via del Seminario features a beautiful baroque ceiling painting by Andrea Pozzo. When a lack of funds precluded building the planned dome, the Jesuits had a trompe l’oeil cupola painted on the ceiling.

From Piazza di Sant Ignazio, take Vicolo de Burro to Via di Pietra. This turns into Via d. Muratte and will take you right to the Trevi Fountain. Completed in 1762, the fountain features Neptune and two Tritons. Tossing a coin in the Trevi ensures that you’ll return to Rome again.

Leave Piazza di Trevi and take Via D. Stamperia to Via D. Nazareno. Take V.S. Andrea D. Fratte to Via D. Propaganda which will take you to the Spanish Steps. Long the meeting place of Romans, the steps were built in the 1720s when Trinita dei Monti -- the church at the top of the steps -- wanted to provide access from the Piazza di Spagna.

There’s no more glorious place in Rome at sunset, and no better place to enjoy Rome’s lovely spirit.

There are lots of good restaurants in the neighborhood. Alla Rampa on nearby Piazza Mignanelli has a wonderful antipasto buffet, in addition to a full menu. Otello alla Concordia has a lovely courtyard and serves classic Roman cooking.

For the most part, nightlife in Rome consists of a late supper and a stroll past the city’s illuminated monuments. If you’re interested in something more stimulating, the concierge at your hotel can fill you in on the lastest hot spots.

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Day 12 - Rome

Spend the morning exploring the grandeur of ancient Rome, starting with the Colosseum.

A word to the wise: keep an eye on your purse or wallet here. Ancient Rome is as popular with pickpockets as it is with tourists.

Built in 72AD by Vespasian, the Colosseum seated 50,000 spectators. In remarkably good shape considering it was used as a marble quarry for Renaissance construction, the stadium contains 80 arched entrances. From the top, you can see the underground passageways through which lions entered the arena.

You’ll need to use your imagination to appreciate the Forum, although a decent map and the little red guide book called "Rome, Past and Present" are helpful. Ours dates from the 1970s.

You should be able to enter the Forum across from the Colosseum. But if that entrance is closed -- sometimes it’s only an exit -- take Via dei Fori Imperiali to Via Salara Vecchia.

If you enter from the Colosseum, you’ll see the Temple of Venus and Rome directly ahead of you. A quick left, followed by a quick right will put you on Via Sacra, ancient Rome’s main drag. You’ll see the Arch of Titus before you and Santa Francesca Romana on your right.

To climb the Palatine Hill, which will reward you with wonderful views of the Circus Maximus, the Capitoline Hill, the Forum, and the Colosseum, take a left at the Arch of Titus.

Take a right and you’ll see the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. Follow Via Sacra as it bears left and the Temple of Romulus will be on your right and the House of the Vestal Virgins and Temple of Vesta on your left. Continue along Via Sacra to the west end of the Forum where you’ll see the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the Arch of Septimus Severus.

As you wander through the ruins, try to imagine how magnificent the thriving ancient capital must have been.

Leave the Forum and walk to the Piazza del Campidoglio. Designed by Michelangelo, but not completed until the 17th century, the square at night is one of the most magical places in Rome.

If time permits, visit the Capitoline Museums before lunch. There are two separate museums on either side of the piazza but both are included in the same admission ticket. When you face Michelangelo’s magnificent staircase, the Palazzo Nuovo is on your right and the Palazzo dei Conservatori is on your right. Both contain some of the finest ancient sculpture in the world.

The heart of the Palazzo Nuovo collection was given to the city in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV. Here, you’ll see the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius -- the one on the square is a copy -- the Hall of the Philosophers featuring Roman copies of Greek originals, and the magnificent "Dying Gaul".

The Palazzo Conservatori contains a colossal head of Constantine II, the Etruscan bronze of the she-wolf, and paintings by Caravaggio, Veronese, and Titian.

When you’re ready for lunch, walk toward the Tiber to the old Jewish Ghetto. Vecchia Roma, and Piperno are charming places for lunch. And Sora Lella on Isola Tiberina, the small island in the river, is especially appealing.

An alternative is to pick up supplies at Campo de Fiori and picnic on Isola Tiberina.

After lunch, return to your hotel for a siesta. On the way, go by Piazza Mattei to see one of Rome’s most delightful fountains. The Fontana delle Tartarughe depicts four youths with their feet resting on the heads of four dolphins. The turtles may or may not have been added by Bernini.

In the late afternoon, head for the Gallerie Borghese in the Villa Borghese. You should have already made reservations. To conserve your strength, consider taking a cab.

Built for Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1605, the Villa and its park provide a wonderful escape from the city’s noise and exhaust. It’s a pleasant place for a stroll, or you can rent a bike.

The Villa, which now houses the Gallerie Borghese, closed in 1984 for restroration and didn’t reopen until 1997. Today, it provides the opportunity to see some of Rome’s incomparable art treasures, including Bernini’s "Apollo and Daphne" and "Rape of Prosperpine," Titian’s "Sacred and Profane Love," and paintings by Caravaggio and Raphael.

Also on the Villa Borghese grounds, Villa Guilia houses the National Museum of Etruscan Art. The beautiful Renaissance villa contains a magnificent sarcophagus of a husband and wife dating from the 6th century BC, and a reconstructed Etruscan temple.

Between the Villa Borghese Park and the Piazza del Popolo, the Pincio Gardens provide one of Rome’s best sunset overlooks. The romantic appeal is undeniable and the views of the city at dusk are unbeatable.

Walk down to Piazza del Popolo, one of Rome’s most unified squares. There’s an Egyptian obelisk dating from the 13th century BC on the piazza. The early Renaissance church is Santa Maria del Popolo. It’s worth looking inside to see the two Caravaggios, the frescoes by Pinturicchio, and the Chigi Chapel designed by Raphael.

The early evening stroll from Piazza del Popolo along Via del Corso is one of Rome’s most popular. Enjoy watching stylish Romans taking their passegiata.

For dinner, try L’Eau Vive near the Piazza delle Rotunda. Run by an order of Belgian nuns, the 17th-century palazzo is decorated with beautiful frescoes. The food is French, the setting is lovely, and all combine to create a memorable experience.

After dinner, if you have any energy left, consider walking to Piazza Campidoglio. The views from here of the illuminated Forum and Colosseum are truly special.

Day 13 - Rome

Despite Rome’s considerable charms, the heat and noise of the city can be tiring. So today, we recommend that you get out of town for the day.

If you’re not going to Pompei this visit, or even if you are, consider a day trip to Ostia Antica, the well-preserved ancient port city 20 miles from Rome. For those interested in ancient history, it’s a fascinating excursion, easily reached by public transportation.

To get there, take the B Metro from Termini station toward L’Eur Fermi. Disembark at Magliana, get on the Lido subway line, and get off at Ostia Antica. From there, it’s a short walk to the complex. Just follow the signs.

Since Romans could not be buried within the city walls, you’ll see some tombs before you enter the ruins. And a statue depicting winged victory.

The city was built around the 4th century BC as a military outpost guarding the mouth of the Tiber. The city -- which was once home to 100,000 Romans -- was abandoned after the harbor silted up and a malaria epidemic decimated the population.

The city was covered by sand for centuries, which helped to preserve it. Although the site is huge -- covering 10,000 acres -- the main street, Decumanus Maximus, runs for a little over a mile.

The first thing you’ll see after entering the gate is the Baths of Neptune which houses a beautiful mosaic of the sea god in a chariot. There’s a cafe nearby, where you can buy a guide to help you make the most of your visit.

The adjacent amphitheater dates from 12BC and seated 3,500 spectators. Throughout the site, you’ll see the remains of shops, cafes, apartment buildings, baths, offices, and temples. There are many mosaics in wonderful condition. And it’s easy to grasp the layout of the city and imagine the early inhibitants going about their daily routines.

When you get hungry, there’s a tratorria right next to the entrance to the ruins. Or you can walk across the bridge to the modern village of Ostia Antica. There are a few restaurants there. You’ll see the 15th-century castle of Pope Julius II , who became Bishop of Ostia in 1483. There’s a historical museum inside which documents Ostia during the middle ages.

Another alternative, particularly if gardens are your weakness, is to travel to Tivoli to visit Villa d’Este. You can get to Tivoli by train, suburban bus, or you can take a tour from Rome.

The son of Lucrezia Borgia and the grandson of Pope Alexander II, Cardinal Ippolito d’Este built Villa d’Este in the 1550s when he was, for all intents and purposes, exiled to Tivoli by Julius III who appointed him governor.

The Renaissance Villa is unremarkable and the gardens are not as well-kept as they could be. But the marvelous grottoes and fountains are still very appealing. The product of a brilliant landscaper and two hydraulic engineers, they are as much science as art. The first fountain -- the Rometta -- was created to remind the homesick Cardinal of his beloved Rome. The Pantheon, the Colosseum, and structures from the Forum are carved from volcanic tufa.

Walk down the Road of 100 Fountains, which take the shape of ships, Egyptian obelisks, or the d’Este coat of arms. The Fontana del’Ovato is an egg-shaped waterfall which can be entered by a narrow footbridge. Bernini’s Great Chalice fountain and the Fountain of the Dragons follow.

The Fontana dell’Organo was once an organ in which water coursing through the pipes created different musical tones. Unfortunately, it no longer plays music.

Although it’s a little run down, Villa d’Este’s cooling fountains and grottoes are still enjoyable on a hot day.

Also in Tivoli, Villa Gregoriana was created by Pope Gregory XVI. Not one to think small, the Pope diverted the flow of the local river in 1831. The resulting waterfall cascases into a 180-ft deep gorge. There’s a circular walk looking out over the falls -- actually there are two -- and a path that leads down into the canyon. It’s a gorgeous hike, but the return trip to the Temple of Vesta on the other side is very steep. If you plan to undertake it, wear sturdy, waterproof shoes.

For many, the highlight of a trip to Tivoli is Hadrian’s Villa. Built as the Emperor’s retirement home in the second century AD, it is arguably the most luxurious Roman villa ever built. An avid traveler, Hadrian incorporated many of the wonders he’d seen during his travels into the design of the villa.

The 300-acres grounds are very pleasant, covered with olive trees and cypress. So consider bringing a picnic. There’s a pleasant trattoria outside the gate if you prefer not to picnic.

Highlights of Hadrian’s Villa include the Maritime Theater, which features a large pool with an island in the middle where the Emperor had private conversations; the Greek and Latin libraries, the beautiful reflecting pool, and his recreation of the Egyptian Canopus, for which a 130-yard canal lined with caryatids was built.

When you return to Rome, relax a while before heading to Trastevere for dinner. The name means "across the Tevere," which is the Latin name for the Tiber. Many frequent visitors to Rome consider Trastevere the most authentic part of the city. The narrow, winding streets are among the most picturesque in the city. And the cafes radiating from the piazza are charming.

Go before 7PM and you’ll be able to tour Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome’s first Christian church. Dating from the 4th century and updated in the 12th, the church contains many beautiful mosaics by Pietro Cavallini.

There are several restaurants in Trastevere that cater to tourists with strolling musicians and period costumes. There are also several outstanding restaurants in the area. But we recommend that you simply wander the neighborhood until you find someplace that strikes your fancy. You can hardly go wrong here. And ambience is as much a part of dining here as the food itself.

Day 14 - Rome

Today is yours to do as you please. There are still many wonderful things to see and do in Rome. So plan the day according to your interests and enjoy.

Noted for its sweeping views of the city, the Janiculum Hill is especially appealing in the early morning. And there are several attractions in addition to the views.

You can hike up the hill or save your strength and take a taxi to Villa Farnesina. Built in 1508 for a Sienese banker, the early Renaissance villa has been recently restored. It contains frescoes by the architect Peruzzi, Raphael, and his students.

Across from the Villa, the Palazzo Corsini contains the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica. The Palazzo has an interesting history, having hosted Michelangelo, Bramante, and Erasmus. In fact, Queen Christina of Sweden died here in 1689.

The gallery displays the work of Rubens, Caravaggio, Van Dyck and numerous Italian painters. Rome’s Botanical Gardens are behind the Palazzo. They’re a pleasant place for a stroll.

On your way down the hill, stop at Villa Lante, a Renaissance summer retreat that has lovely views of the whole city.

If it’s Sunday when many stores are closed, shoppers can get a fix at Porta Portese flea market. Known to the locals as Mercato delle Pulci, the market is near the Porta Sublicio in Trastevere. With 4,000 stalls, it’s the largest in Italy and the array of goods is staggering.

Castel Sant Angelo, on the west side of the Tiber in front of Ponte Sant’Angelo, was begun in 139AD as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian. During the Middle Ages, the fortress became a place of refuge for the Popes. It was linked to the Vatican by a series of underground passageways.

Those interested in history will find much to appreciate here from the glorious Renaissance Apartments to the ancient prison cells beneath the castle. There’s a display of ancient arms and armor and great views from the terrace.

Rome’s magnificent churches provide a vividly illustrated history of art and architecture. San Clemente, not far from the Colosseum, is effectively a time machine, transporting visitors from the 12th-century church at street level, to the 4th-century church beneath it, to the 1st-century Roman apartment under that. You can explore the subterranean grottoes and walk to a public building dating from the 1st century AD on your own.

Not far from San Clemente, the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is the Cathedral for the diocese of Rome. The Pope celebrates mass here several times a year. Built in 314 by Constantine -- the first Christian Emperor -- the church has been rebuilt many times and today it is distinguished by a Baroque interior designed by Borromini in the 17th century.

The cloisters here were built in 1220 and they are lovely. The attached Chapel of San Venanzio is decorated with 7th-century mosaics. And the adjoining palace was the home of the Popes until the 13th century.

Rome’s two other exceptional churches are on the neighboring Esquiline Hill. San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) contains the chains used to confine St. Peter and Michelangelo’s Moses, which was created as part of the unfinished Tomb of Pope Julius II.

Santa Maria Maggiore is a composite of architectural elements from the 5th through the 13th centuries. Highlights here include the Gothic tomb of Cardinal Rodriguez, the 16th-century Cappella Sistina, the Coronation of the Virgin mosaic, and the beautiful coffered ceiling.

Lovers of the decorative arts should visit the Palazzo Venezia across from the Victor Emmanuel Monument (the big, ugly white thing dominating Piazza Venezia). Built in the 15th century for the Venetian Cardinal who became Pope Paul II, the Palazzo became Mussolini’s headquarters during the Fascist era. He addressed the crowds from the balcony in the center.

The museum contains a double portrait by Giorgione, Renaissance paintings and wood panels, a fantastic zodiac ceiling, a large collection of ceramics and porcelain, and terra cotta prototypes of Bernini’s Fontana del Tritone. The adjoining Church of San Marco contains a wonderful 9th-century mosaic in the apse.

Whatever you do in the morning, be sure to leave time for afternoon shopping. Most shops reopen after lunch around 3:30PM and close about 7:30PM. Leather, jewelry, housewares, art and antiques are all top quality.

The streets around the Spanish Steps -- Via Condotti, Via Frattina, and Via Borgognona -- are lined with some of Italy’s poshest fashion houses and designers. You’ll find Bulgari, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Gucci, and Givenchy here.

Via Corso near the Piazza del Popolo offers some less expensive alternatives.

At the top of the Spanish Steps, there are many stylish boutiques along Via Sistina all the way to Piazza Barberini. Take a left after Bernini’s Fontana del Tritone onto Via Veneto. Despite having lost some of its 1960s glamor, Via Veneto still has much to offer shoppers. While you’re there, duck into legendary Harry’s Bar for a cocktail.

Food lovers should visit Castroni near the Vatican. La Rinascente and Standa are the city’s major department stores.

For your last night in Rome, splurge with dinner at La Terrazza in the Hotel Eden at the top of the Spanish Steps or at Relais Le Jardin in the Hotel Lord Byron at the edge of the Villa Borghese gardens.

If energy permits, enjoy one last stroll after dinner through the Eternal City.