BLESSED WITH ETERNAL CHARM; Rome Has Fashion, Food, Religion, Politics and 80 per Cent of the World's Key Archaeological Sites. Buy a Home There and You'll Never Be Bored, Says Cathy Hawker

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Byline: Cathy Hawker

THIS year, Italy celebrates 150 years since its reunification, but a century and a half is but a heartbeat in the history of its capital, Rome. The Eternal City holds endless fascination, from the remains of the 1st-century BC Forum to the Zaha Hadid-designed Maxxi Museum of 21st-century arts, winner of the Royal Institute of British Architects' prestigious Stirling Prize last year.

Eighty per cent of the world's key archaeological sites are found around Rome, but there's more to the city than its history, says Cristina Casacci, of Knight Frank. She adds: "When the British think of Italy they think of Tuscany. But Rome is the centre of everything. Rome is fashion, religion, food and politics."

IN THE HEART OF ROME House prices in the historic Centro Storico are the highest of any Italian city averaging [pounds sterling]900 to [pounds sterling]1,200 a sq ft. The closer you are to any of the main landmarks -- the Trevi Fountain or the Colosseum for example -- the steeper the price. The most expensive property on Knight Frank's books in central Rome is a [pounds sterling]7.7 million 4,300sq ft apartment in the Piazza di Spagna with a terrace overlooking the flower-strewn Spanish Steps.

A few steps from the Piazza Navona, where racing chariots have been replaced by throngs of tourists drinking prosecco in the cafes, a 1,080sq ft two-bedroom flat, in need of modernisation but with bags of potential, is for sale at [pounds sterling]1.16 million, also through Knight Frank. The third-floor flat, in a 16thcentury building, has no lift but is in a prime location opposite small antique shops and has been a secure lock-andleave home for its current owners. Nearby, closer to the Tiber and among the palazzos on the grand Via dei Banchi Nuovi, Casa Travella has a 740sq ft second-floor apartment with a terrace, in a classic building, for [pounds sterling]730,240.

AWAY FROM THE CENTRE Just outside the centre, Gemma Bruce of GK Italian Property tips Flaminio, where Maxxi is located, and also hilltop Monteverde Vecchio which has good connections to the city's heart.

"Many sellers are unwilling to accept less than they would have received four years ago, even though prices have fallen by 20 per cent," explains Bruce. "So owners often let their property rather than sell it for a price they don't like."

A fourth-floor renovated onebedroom apartment in Flaminio, 20 minutes from Piazza del Popolo is [pounds sterling]532,640. …