London and Rome appear like chalk and cheese but scratch beneath the surface you will find many similarities.
Rome contains a city within its boundaries. Covering less than 110 acres and with just 842 residents, Vatican City is the smallest state in the world by both area and population.
Within Vatican City www.vaticanstate.va are the world famous religious and cultural sites of St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
They both feature some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported by the sale of postage stamps and tourist mementos, fees for admission to museums and the sale of books and guides. Remember to dress appropriately though, shoulders and knees should be covered, even if shoulders and upper arms are just covered with a scarf during your visit.
London boasts St Paul’s Cathedral www.stpauls.co.uk and the unique acoustics of its must-visit Whispering Gallery. Stand (or sit if you need to after climbing 257 steps) on one side of the dome, with a friend on the other, and whisper into the wall. The sound will skim around, hugging the wall and be clearly heard by your friend.
If your legs have recovered, you can carry on climbing another 119 steps to the Stone Gallery which encircles the outside of the dome.
If your legs can take it, make that last push to the Golden Gallery, which is the smallest of the galleries and runs around the highest point of the outer dome. Anyone who manages the final 150 steps will be treated to panoramic views of London including the River Thames, Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre.
Once you’ve lapped up the culture at the Vatican or at St Pauls, you are spoilt for choice for an afternoon treat. In Rome you can pick up a freshly made gelato on most street corners, the only problem will be which flavour to choose! If you are a real connoisseur, find a certified Gelaterie Artigianali. These establishments use only fresh ingredients with no artificial colours, flavours or thickeners. Here are three to check out…
1. Fatamorgana – Via Laurina, 10, off the famous Via del Corso by the Spanish Steps
2. Ci Gusta – Via della Palombella, 32, right by the Pantheon
3. Gelateria del Teatro – Via de San Simone, 70, just of the pedestrianised Via dei Coronari.
To get a true ice cream fix in London head to
1. Amorino – amorino.com or Patisserie Valerie – patisserie-valerie.co.uk on Old Compton Street
2. Alternatively, Freggo – freggo.co.uk on Swallow Street is a two-minute walk from Piccadilly Circus. Here, the dulche de leche ice cream with caramel sauce is like a double hit, but fantastic if you have a really sweet tooth or are flagging after walking up all those stairs!
3. A bit closer to St Paul’s Cathedral is Morelli’s Gelato – morellisgelato.com in Covent Garden Piazza. Although there are a few coveted tables outside if you’re footsore, for most it’s the chance to slow down and have a meander around Covent Garden in the sunshine (hopefully) with a delightful ice cream – look out for the flavour of the month.
The Eternal City might have the beating of London when it comes to ice cream, but the British capital did come out on top in TripAdvisor’s 2016 Travellers’ Choice awards. Rome, on the other hand, managed seventh place behind Paris, Prague and… Marrakech!
London’s top billing was calculated using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and attractions over a 12-month period.