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Since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on February 11, much of the world has turned its attention toward the Vatican as it chooses its new leader. As the College of Cardinals descends on the city, the number of travelers making their way to Rome has increased as well, helping highlight the role that a trip to Vatican City can play during a tour of Italy.
Industry analysts estimate that hundreds of thousands of people will visit the Vatican in the coming days, echoing the 200,000 people who turned up for Benedict's final address last week, according to ABC News. In fact, many people started planning their trips as soon as word broke of the pope's resignation. Online travel agent Expedia found that there has been about a 35 percent increase in the number of bookings in Rome.
While the increase in the number of people flocking to Rome for the selection of the next pope may not be surprising, travel experts predict that this trend will continue even after he is selected. In fact, some industry insiders expect that the interest will continue to swell once he is in place.
"We have seen a huge increase in interest in the country and people are quicker to close their bookings, and we are getting more requests where people want to attend papal audience, private Vatican tours and Sunday Mass," Karishma Kaul, Kensington Tours Italy manager, told ABC. "We imagine that once the new pope is in place, even more people will want to visit Italy."
Of course, there is more to Rome than the Vatican and the papal proceedings. If you're planning on making a trip there as part of your tour of Italy, there are a number of other important landmarks you should visit. For instance, you should explore some of the highlights of ancient Rome such as the the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
Palatine Hill, the most central of the Seven Hills of Rome, includes a number of highlights in its own right. Among the most famous is the sprawling House of Augustus, which dates back to 23 B.C. You should also make a point to visit the Stadium of Domitian, which was used for many of Rome's most storied athletic events.
Look down in wonder at Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral from your glass-walled pod on the London Eye, then gaze out over the Louvre and the Champs-Elysees from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The scent of rich pine forests lingers in the breeze as the 13th-century ruins of Turaida Castle are revealed before your eyes in the lush Gauja River valley in a medieval sanctuary untouched by the march of time.
The aroma of dark roasted Viennese coffee hangs thick in the air as you tread the cobblestone laneways and bask in the elegant architecture, atmospheric cafes and refined restaurants in one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe.
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