Before Game of Thrones and Lady Gaga, Italy, and in particular Rome, was the beating heart of the world’s entertainment scene, putting on spectacles and shows of bloody grandeur, battling gladiators and tigers, and reconstructing the most ferocious skirmishes of antiquity.

For better or for worse, such entertainment can no longer be found in Rome. James Joyce once famously remarked that ‘Rome reminds me of a man who lives by exhibiting to travellers his grandmother’s corpse.’ Indeed, when in Rome, sometimes it can seem like you are visiting a place that was once the light of the world but has now been extinguished, and only the echoes and ruins of its former greatness remain.

There you would be mistaken. Not only are the echoes and shadows of the Roman Empire’s heart well worth a visit, but there is much to be found in The Eternal City that can still entertain and excite the mob.

Rock in Rome

The city’s biggest summer event is Rock in Rome, formerly known as Romarock Festival. In truth it is more of a season than an event. Over the months of summer (the delectable Giugno, Luglio and Agosto) at the mammoth Ippodromo Capannelle some of the biggest and best bands and solo artists from around the world perform.

As the name suggests, traditionally the festival had a bent towards rock music (Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, Arctic Monkeys and Rammstein are all previous headliners), but since then the line-up has broadened to incorporate a wider array of music genres, and the ‘rock’ in the title denotes rollicking crowd as much as the performers on stage. This year, alongside 30 Seconds to Mars and The Rolling Stones, the placid Passenger and funky Paolo Nutini will also be playing.

Unlike other big European music festivals like Glastonbury and Benicàssim, as the acts are spread out over a few months there is no camping at Rock in Rome. However, as Rome is a principle town on the backpackers however there is a plethora of hostels and hotels to stay in, catering to different tastes and at a range of prices.

Visiting Florence

Once you have applauded Franz Ferdinand off the stage when they close Rock in Rome on 2nd August, you will be free to explore the rest of the city. If possible, I would recommend taking your time, as in Florence, just north of Rome. This little gem is definitely worth a visit. Busses and trains travel regularly between the two cities, but both also have international airports from which you can make use of this chauffeur service here, not only picking you up from the airport but also taking you about the city.

Though Florence is the epitome of art, culture, and all that is sophisticated about Italy and the Renaissance, you can still look for musical performances and games. Often times international musician will stop in Florence on their tours around Europe. Florence has a big student population.

Christians battling lions there may not be, but let no one say that Italy can’t still entertain.