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With characterstic disregard for facts, the Romans have clearly, throughout the ages, led the rest of the world astray: There are not Seven Hills in Rome, there are a Million. Or so it may seem to the modern traveler limping toward middle age, for it's very easy to lose sight of the fact that among the many things to see in the city, Rome also has a sprawling and challenging terrain. Below are ten attractions in Rome that will require your best walking shoes, not to mention a fair amount of deep knee bends and a stop for an espresso here and there.
If you opt not to take the subway, it is quite a hike up a long, winding hill to reach the lovely summit of the Villa Borghese and its gardens, and then a long, lovely stroll through the neatly trimmed and serene garden area to the Villa itself, which is one of the top museums in Rome--it's so good that you have to make a reservation to get in!
John Keats lived in a house at the foot of the Spanish Steps (his house, where he died, is now a humble little museum dedicated to the poet), and you have to wonder if the tubucular poet's demise may have been hastened by climbing the Steps one time too many. Have a bottle of water upon reaching the top and enjoy the panoramic view!
The Vatican Museum is like a dozen museums crammed into one. It's impossible to really get through it and appreciate it all in one day, but it's a compulsion not to--there's always another room, another masterpiece that beckons. It'll keep you on your feet all day, and you won't mind a bit. But be warned--there aren't a lot of places to sit and rest in this museum.
The utterly amazing Forum sits, inconspicuous and ancient, in the middle of a modern city. The rocky terrain and winding, hilly dirt paths give you as close an experience as you may ever get to what it was like to live in Rome thousands of years ago. Afterward, climb up the steps toward the Capitoline and watch the Forum bathed in floodlights at night.
The Colosseum is synonymous with Rome, and is one of the most instantly recognizable images in the world. Braving the crowds is exhausting enough, and climbing the stairs is a workout. Luckily, there are plenty of places to sit and take a breather. And if you care to "cheat"--there is an elevator that will take you up to the higher levels of the site.
After dealing with the hordes at the Colosseum, you can head over to the Baths at Caracalla, which are nearby. After the Forum, there's not much here to wow the average visitor, but it is a wonderful, peaceful diversion that's worth the walk. Because peace and quiet in Rome can be hard to find!
Another fantastic view of Rome awaits you from atop the Capitoline, as well as a statue of Marcus Aurelius. The Capitoline Museum is also at hand, a must see on the museum list for Rome. And the best thing is, comparatively speaking, the steps aren't that gruesome.
If the Spanish Steps haven't killed you, the steps leading up to this church will. The compelling reason for the hike, though, is the statue of Moses by Michelangelo, made for the tomb of Pope Julius II.
The villa of Roman emperor Hadrian is actually located in nearby Tivoli, just outside of Rome. (Hadrian had not-so-good relations with the Roman senate, hence the distance.) Going to the villa is a day trip; this is an impressively large complex of buildings that will have you exploring for hours.