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Roman nightlife retains some of the smart ethos satirized in Fellini's film La Dolce Vita, and designer-dressing-up is still very much a part of the mainstream scene. Entrance prices to the big clubs tend to be high (as much as L40,000, including a drink), but there are a few smaller, more alternative nightspots, where your travel-crumpled clothes will be perfectly acceptable. To get around the licensing laws, some of Rome's night haunts are run as private clubs - usually known as "centri culturali" - a device that means you may be stung for a membership fee, particularly where there's music, though as a one-off visitor some places will let you in without formalities; and some places charge no fee at all to be a member. In recent years these sorts of places have sprung up all over the city, particularly in the suburbs, and these are becoming the focus of political activity and the more avant-garde elements of the music and arts scene.

On the live music scene , summer offerings are plentiful, with several venues all over town, featuring concerts of every sort, including practically free events in Testaccio. However, the chances of catching major rock and pop acts are virtually nonexistent, and getting worse. Rome has been all but abandoned by most big UK and US acts because of its almost complete lack of organization and a suitable venue. Big promoters book the cities up north, especially Milan and Bologna, and leave Rome entirely out of the loop. However, there is a chance you can catch up-and-coming US and UK indie bands playing some of the city's more alternative venues.

Rome's clubs run the gamut. There are vast glitter palaces with stunning lights and sound systems, predictable dance music and an over-dressed, over-made-up clientele - good if you can afford it and just want to dance (and observe a good proportion of Romans in their natural Saturday-night element). But there are also places that are not much more than ritzy bars with music, and other, more down-to-earth places to dance, playing a more interesting selection of music to a younger, more cautious-spending crowd. There is also a small group of clubs catering specifically to gay or lesbian customers. Whichever you prefer, all tend to open and close late, and some charge a heavy entrance fee - as much as L25,000, which usually includes a drink. During the hot summer months, many clubs close down or move to outdoor locations.

As for location , Roman nightlife can be found all over the city, including neighbourhoods on the very edge of town. However, in the central zone the best areas tend to be Testaccio (especially in summer), Trastevere, and the centro storico from the Jewish Ghetto to the Pantheon.

For what's on information, there's Romac(L2000, Thursdays), with its helpful section in English, and, if you understand Italian, Time Out Roma (L4500, Thursdays). Otherwise the main Rome newspaper , Il Messaggero, lists major musical events, and " Trova Roma " in the Thursday edition of La Repubblica is another handy guide to current offerings.

Culture and entertainment
Let's face it: Rome is a bit of a backwater for the performing arts . Northern Italy is where creativity in theatre and dance - and, of course, opera - flourishes, and very few international performers of renown in any of the arts regularly put in an appearance here. Nevertheless, there is cultural entertainment available, and the quality is sometimes better than you might expect. In any case, what the arts here may lack in professionalism, they often make up for in the charm of the setting. Rome's summer festival , for example, organized by "Estate Romana", means that there's a good range of classical music, opera, theatre and cinema running throughout the warm months, often in picturesque locations - amidst ancient ruins with soaring columns, or perched on hills with brilliant panoramas of Rome by night - although obviously some of what's on is of little interest if you don't speak Italian. During the winter season, you'll find a regular programme of classical music at the Accademia Santa Cecilia, and other sporadic musical offerings of mixed quality, sometimes in beautiful churches or palatial halls, and on occasions free. Opera is well established in Rome and on occasion approaches world-class levels, but not often enough. Good dance is a rarity in Rome, although international companies do show up from time to time, usually at the Teatro Olimpico and the Teatro Argentina. Finally, cinema -lovers will find an increasing number of films in the original language, as Italy gradually breaks away from its nationalistic dubbing mania.

For current information about what's on where in English, consult the English section at the back of Romac'è (L2000, Thursdays) or Wanted in Rome , the English language bi-weekly (every other Wednesday), which you can pick up at almost any newsstand in the centre. Otherwise, in Italian, Time Out Roma (L4500, Thursdays) is your best bet. There's also the " Trova Roma " insert in La Repubblica 's Thursday edition.

Shops and markets
At first glance, you may wonder where to start when it comes to shopping in a big, chaotic city like Rome. In fact the city is a more appealing shopping experience than you might think, abounding with pleasant shopping streets and colourful markets, most of which are in the city centre. Many shopping areas have been pedestrianized, and, perhaps best of all, the city hasn't yet been entirely overrun by department stores and shopping malls, or by the international chain stores that characterize most European city centres. One-stop shopping opportunities are rare, but you will find corners of the city that have been colonized by stores featuring the same sort of merchandise - fashion, antiques, food - making it easy for you to check out the competition's products and prices. You will also find true artisans in Rome, who take great pride in their crafts.

You can find the best of Italy in Rome. Fashion straight from the catwalk is well represented on the fashionable streets close to the Spanish Steps - Via Condotti, Via Borgognona , and Via Frattina - where you'll find chic boutiques like Gucci, Prada and Valentino. If you want to do more than window-shop, head to Via del Tritone , Via Nazionale , below piazza della Repubblica, or Via Cola di Rienzo , near the Vatican, for more middle-range and affordable fashion. The stores on and around Via del Corso are a mixture, selling mainstream, and fairly youth-orientated, fashions, while Via Veneto , off Piazza Barberini, caters to those who were youthful when Fellini's La Dolce Vita opened, and are now the fashionably well-off patrons of the street's expensive leather shops and boutiques.

Antiques shops - a huge selection - line Via dei Coronari and neighbouring Via dell'Orso and Via dei Soldati , just north of Piazza Navona; Via Giulia , southwest of Campo dei Fiori, and Via del Babuino and Via Margutta , between Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps, are also good sources of art and antiques. As for food , if you want to take home a bottle of extra virgin olive oil or some vacuum-packed porcini mushrooms, end your day visiting the food shops and markets around Campo de' Fiori or Via Cola di Rienzo across the river.

The city's many markets offer a change of pace from Rome's busy shopping streets. Many of these are bustling local food markets, and, even in the centre, are still very much part of Roman life. The Campo de' Fiori market is probably the most central of these. Otherwise there's Trastevere's Porta Portese flea market, a venue for antiques, clothing, books, and indeed virtually anything else, every Sunday morning.

These days some shops in the centre of Rome stay open all day. However, many still observe the city's traditional hours - Monday 3.30-7.30pm, Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am-1.30pm & 3.30-7.30pm, and closed on Sunday. Food shops are also often closed on Thursday afternoon in the winter and Saturday afternoon during the summer; and most shops close for at least two weeks in summer, usually in August. Most places accept all major credit cards .

Sports and outdoor activities
Spectator sports are popular in Italy, although the hallowed calcio, or football, is far and away the most popular, and tends to overshadow everything else - a rule to which Rome, with two clubs in the top flight, is no exception. As for participation in sport , there isn't the same compulsion to hit the hell out of a squash ball or sweat your way through an aerobics class after work as there is, say, in Britain or the US. However, Mussolini placed a special emphasis on fitness, and the notion of keeping fit and being active is as fashionable a notion here nowadays as it is in most European countries - especially when it offers the opportunity to wear the latest designer gear.

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