For as many times as I have been there, I have never had troubles finding incredible things do to in Rome. The range of Rome attractions is just fabulous. I don’t think many other places in the world can offer such a great mixture of historical landmarks, archaeological sites, churches, museums, antique and modern art. The only one I can think of is Jerusalem, and even then the Israeli capital, to me, lacks the grandeur that Rome has.

To read more about Jerusalem, check my post “Traditional And Alternative Things To Do In Jerusalem.”

But aside from the many tourist attractions in Rome, I enjoy its amazing restaurants and “trattorie” – where the locals also go; I would never stop eating the fantastic street food and gelato; and I find the attitude and the dry sense of humor of the locals incredibly funny.

Rome is vibrant and lively; it’s chaotic yet lovely; it’s dirty yet utterly gorgeous. It is a place anybody should travel to, at least once in a lifetime – but more than that, if possible. I have lived there and could not get enough of it: there are simply too many places to visit in Rome.

There’s only one issue that you and other travelers may have when they visit Rome: it is a major tourist site and tourist attractions in Rome do get crowded, with lines that can at times be discouraging and make you regret going, especially if you only have a couple of days to visit. Sure enough, I don’t like waiting in line for hours. But worry not! I know what the most famous attractions in Rome are, I know what to do in Rome for fun, and I have tips to avoid the lines and still visit all the iconic attractions.

So, here’s an outline of all the things to do in Rome and a few tips about on how avoid the massive lines.

Rome attractions

Without a doubt, visiting St. Peter’s is one of the things to do in Rome

15 Unmissable Things To Do In Rome – And How To Avoid Waiting In Line To Get In

Visit the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica

Without the shadow of a doubt, visiting the Vatican is one of the unmissable things to do in Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica is the most famous church in Christendom. The church is sumptuous and splendid in its Renaissance and Baroque style, and inside there are works of Bernini, Michelangelo’s Pietà, and Vignola’s cupolas.

Right next to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums well deserve to be included among the best things to see in Rome. This is where the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms are located. They are incredible works of art. The rest of the collection of the Vatican Museums is stunning: some of the most important world art. The museums are housed in palaces originally built for Renaissance popes.

Every time I go to Rome I promise myself that I will pay a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. I have been to the Basilica a few times already, and to the museums once. I would love to go again. But visiting the Vatican isn’t that easy: last time I was in town I saw a line so long that I was completely put off. I could not work out the patience to stand for hours at end – not even if visiting is among the top things to do in Rome.

Check out my posts How To Get St. Peter’s Basilica Tickets And Skip The Line” and “How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums And Skip The Line.”

But I finally realized what to do in Rome to avoid the humongous lines at the Vatican. So here’s my tip for you: you can either get a fast track admission online, or you can even opt to skip the line entirely and on top of that, you will even have a guide to take me around. That means saving a lot of time that you can use to explore other Rome attractions, and you don’t even have to print the voucher because mobile vouchers are accepted (I love it when I can save paper).

Unfortunately, these fast track and skip the line tickets don’t include access to St. Peter’s Top of the Dome, one of the most amazing tourist attractions in Rome, but I know of a way to get there. Continue reading to find out.

These are some of the best tours of the Vatican:

Rome attractions

One of the prettiest things to see in Rome is the view from the Dome of St. Peter’s

Walk up St. Peter’s Top of the Dome

There aren’t many places to get a proper view of Rome (though I know a few – more about it below). Yet, one of the best things to see in Rome is precisely that – a gorgeous panorama. St. Peter’s Top of the Dome has the most spectacular view ever, I think. It shows St. Peter’s Square, Via della Conciliazione, Castel Sant’Angelo and the Tiber River. In other words, it would be a pity to miss it.

The bad news is that there’s always the longest line to reach the elevator that goes all the way to the first level of the Dome (and then there’s stairs to get to the top). Last time I went to the Top of the Dome it was 2006 and I remember standing in line for a while, with my ex boyfriend becoming increasingly impatient despite me saying that this was one of the unmissable things to do in Rome.

The good news is that there are ways to skip this line: you can now get online tickets, which can either be printed or saved on the phone. No more excuses not to go!

These tours of the Vatican all include a visit to the Dome of St. Peter’s:

what to do in Rome

Castel Sant’Angelo is one of my favorite tourist attractions in Rome

Explore Castel Sant’Angelo

Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo is bound to become one of your favorite things to do in Rome. It is a massive fortress whose construction started in 139 AD. It was initially intended as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum but it then became a medieval citadel, a prison and a place of safety for popes during times of political unrest – there is a corridor that connects the Vatican Palace to the Castle and that provided an escape route for popes.

One fun fact about Castel Sant’Angelo is that it was the the set of Angels and Demons, one of Dan Brown’s most famous novels. One more reason to include it in your list of things to see in Rome.

The lines to get inside Castel Sant’Angelo are not nearly as bad as those at St. Peter’s Basilica and at the Vatican. Yet, you’ll be better off booking your ticket in advance and get in through the fast track than have to wait for your turn to then dodge money out of your purse and wait for change. Sure enough, getting a fast track advance ticket to Castel Sant’Angelo is what to do in Rome to get a chance to visit this awesome place.

Here’s some of the best tours of Castel Sant’Angelo:

Discover the Capitoline Hill and Museums

Among the things to do in Rome, I recommend paying a visit to the Capitoline Hill and Museums. The palace was designed by Michelangelo and it is a real work of art in and of itself – easy to see why it is one of the top tourist attractions in Rome.

Inside the Capitoline Museums there is a fabulous collection of classical sculptures kept there since Pope Sixtus IV donated a group of bronze sculptures to the city of Rome in 1471. There’s also paintings by Caravaggio.

A guided tour of the Capitoline Hill and Museums generally includes a visit to the St. Mary of Aracoeli Basilica. I recommend getting tickets online in order to skip the line and avoid any hassle.

Here’s the best tours of the Capitoline Hill:

places to see in Rome

Visiting the Coliseum is quite simply one of the unmissable things to do in Rome

Go to the Colosseum

In proper unsuccessful backpacker style, hitting all the places that many avoid labelling them as “too touristy” and trying to distinguish themselves from tourists and pointing out they are travelers, I would never dream of suggesting to visit the Italian capital and skipping what is considered to be one of the top tourist attractions in Rome – the Colosseum.

Learn how to care less about what other travelers think on my post “How to be an unsuccessful backpacker.”

Visiting the Colosseum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with the historic center or Rome, definitely is among the ultimate things to do in Rome. This is one of the most iconic and photographed tourist attractions in Rome. I still think that not even the best photos do it justice. It is just that beautiful that nobody with a pinch of salt in his brain would dream of skipping it when in Rome.

Yes, the line to get inside the Colosseum is long and if you have limited time in the city, it can be annoying. But once again, you can get online and buy a guided tour with a skip the line entrance: this is what to do in Rome in order to enjoy one of its top attractions completely hassle free. The bonus is that the guided tours usually include a visit of the arena floor, of the third tier and at times even of the undergrounds.

If you want to know more tricks on how to avoid the lines to the Colosseum, read my post Five Smart Ways To Get Tickets To The Colosseum And Skip The Lines.”

Here’s some of the best tours that include a visit to the Colosseum:

what to do in Rome

The Roman Forum is one of the best tourist attractions in Rome

Head to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill

The Roman Forum is one of the greatest things to see in Rome, and it is located right next to the Colosseum – so you can visit in on the same day. In the early Republic days this was a chaotic place with food stalls, brothels, as well as temples and the Senate house. Eventually the food stalls were replaced by business centers and law courts and the Forum remained a ceremonial centre under the Empire.

As this is one of the top tourist attractions in Rome, there obviously is an entrance fee to go in – well worth the price in my opinion. However, on certain days the line to get in is long and you may be discouraged. Trust me though, it is worth the effort.

Anyways, if you can’t be fussed standing in line to get a ticket, getting an online ticket for a guided tour and to skip the line is among the things to do in Rome. The good news is that tours of the Roman Forum sold online are generally sold together with visits to the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill, thus allowing you to visit of three of the best tourist attractions in Rome in one go and skipping the lines for all of them.

The Palatine is one of my favorite places to visit in Rome. According to legend, this hill is where the twins Romulus and Remus were brought up by a wolf and where Romulus, having killed his brother, founded the village that later on became Rome. Historically speaking, the Palatine was once the residence of emperors and aristocrats.

You surely shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit all these tourist attractions in Rome in one go, especially if you could do it completely hassle free.

These are some of the best tours that include a visit to the Roman Forum:

Visit the Baths of Caracalla

Not far from Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla are one of the coolest places to visit in Rome. This is an enormous bathing complex (around 1600 people could bathe there at the same time). It suffered the passing of time way more than other sites in Rome, but it is still pleasant to explore – especially as it gets way less visitors than other places in Rome. It costs €11 to get into the Baths of Caracalla. You can buy your ticket in advance here. If you want to get an audio-guide as well, the ticket costs €17 – the visit will last around 1.5 hours. You can get it here.

places to visit in Rome

The Pantheon is an unmissable attraction

Marvel at the Pantheon

One of the unmissable things to do in Rome is visiting the Pantheon. This was built in 126 AD, upon orders of Emperor Hadrian and served as a temple. It later on became a Catholic church. Its Dome is considered one of the best preserved buildings from antiquity. Inside you will be able to see the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II. There is no admission fee for the Pantheon, as it is a church. But if you want, you can get an audio-guide which will take you around for about 35 minutes. It costs €5.5. You can get yours here.

Explore the Domus Aurea

If you want to visit a unique place, head to the Domus Aurea. This is a beautiful villa built upon orders of Emperor Nero after the great fire of 64 AD destroyed most of the city. The site only opened to the public a few years ago, and excavations continue – to the point that visitors have to wear a hard hat.

At the time of Trajan, the villa was used as a foundation for his public baths and he demanded that doors and windows were sealed and art covered – yet it is still possible to see some of the frescoes. Most of them are still covered in dirt, while restores painstakingly bring them back to their original beauty.

The Domus Aurea is opened on weekends only, and you need a guide for your visit. You can book this tour, which also goes to the Colosseum.

Marvel at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Built in the 17 century upon orders of Pope Innocent X, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is located in the heart of Rome, in Via del Corso 305. It’s a great art gallery and palace where you can admire paintings and ceilings made by artists such as Caravaggio, Caracci and Bernini.

I recommend hiring a guide for your visit. These are the best tours available:

Rome attractions

Villa Borghese is one of the coolest places to visit in Rome – photo courtesy of Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (flickr)

Go on a tour of Galleria Borghese and Borghese Gardens

Villa Borghese is one of the most interesting places to visit in Rome. The gardens are a truly enchanting place – especially the Pincio terrace. But art lovers also enjoy the incredible art exhibit with paintings and sculptures of Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio and Titian.

Going on a small group tour of Villa and Galleria Borghese is one of the nicest things to do in Rome to fully enjoy this incredible place – not to mention, purchasing the tour in advance allows to save time and to skip the lines at the entrance. They even have VIP tours, for an even more intimate experience.

Here’s some tours of Villa Borghese:

Make sure to read my post Seven Smart Ways To Get Galleria Borghese Tickets And Skip The Lines.”

views of Rome

A breathtaking view of Rome

Admire the most amazing views of the city

I did say that the views from St. Peter’s Basilica Dome are impressive. But did you know there is another place where you can admire the city and which is completely free to access? The Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci) is located on the Aventine Hill, at an easy walking distance from the Colosseum. The gardens were designed in 1932 by Raffaele de Vico and very well kept. From there you will get the most impressive views of Rome and the Vatican.

Visit San Clemente Basilica

If you want to visit a lesser known church in Rome (at least to foreigners!) head to San Clemente Basilica. This is one of the oldest church in town, built over a site that Christians used to pray when they still had to hide their faith. Subsequent excavations brought out various levels of the church: one dates back to the 1st century, and one to the 4th. Apparently there’s an even older one that went destroyed during the 64 fire caused by Nero.

San Clemente is located close to the Colosseum and you can visit it independently thanks to the panels that share precious information.

If you’d rather join a guided tour, these are some good ones:

And St. John in the Lateran

St. John in Lateran is located in the Esquilino neighborhood. It is the seat of the Pope in the city of Rome and the oldest basilica in town. There, you will be able to see the Lateran Obelisk, thought to be the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world and located right outside the church, which is famous for its Scala Sancta, a stairway of 28 steps said to be the one Jesus climbed to go to his trial in Jerusalem.

Explore the The Catacombs and the Appian Way

The Appian Way is one of the nicest places to visit in Rome. This famous road was built in 312 BC to connect Rome to cities such as Naples and Brindisi. It was used for both commercial and military purposes. Along the Appian Way, you can visit the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, built in the 9th century, and the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, where 16 popes have been buried.

These are some good guided tours of the Catacombs and the Appian Way:

Rome attractions

Meeting the locals is what to do in Rome for fun

10 Absolutely Fun Things To Do In Rome

Most people who visit Rome go there to immerse themselves in its incredible history and millenary culture. However, Rome is an incredible vibrant and fun city. Places like Campo de Fiori, Piazza Navona, Via del Corso are not only among the best tourist attractions in Rome, but also the go-to places for a stroll, for a bit of shopping and to enjoy a good gelato (the best gelaterie are Grom in Piazza Navona and Lemon Grass in Via Ottaviano, by the way).

But going for a stroll, shopping, eating gelato, going to open air concerts and to the White Night are old classics. So I have put together a short selection of things to do in Rome just for fun.

Put your hand in the Mouth of Truth

According to a Medieval legend, the Mouth of Truth bites off the hand of liars. You can give it a try. It’s located right by the entrance of Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. It was originally a large marble manhole that dates back to the 1st century and which was placed right by the church in 1632. The Mouth of Truth became internationally famous thanks to the movie Roman Holidays, with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.

Rome attractions

Driving a vintage Vespa is one of the most fun things to do in Rome – photo courtesy of Jarred Elrod

Go on a Vespa tour

I grew up watching old movies like Roman Holidays and La Dolce Vita, and with the myth of Vespa scooters – I used to have one, but sold it once I moved overseas. Needless to say, going around in a Vespa scooter is one of the coolest things to do in Rome to appreciate the city a bit like the locals do. Vespa Tours can be booked online. Some can be done independently and they include itinerary and maps.

If you are not too confident to dodge the streets of Rome by yourself you can opt for a guided Vespa tour. Personally, I’d prefer that: Rome is huge and it is easy to get lost in the maze of boulevards and narrow alleys. A local guide is bound to take you to the nicest places to visit in Rome without getting lost.

Other cool tours are the Vintage Vespa one – but it’s only for those who already know how to drive a manual transmission Vespa; and Rome by Night. Considering that public transportation in Rome isn’t the best at night, a night tour may be what to do in Rome to enjoy a bit of sightseeing and nightlife at the same time.

The following are some of the coolest Vespa tours in Rome:

Or drive an Ape Calessino 

One of the most fun things I did in 2016 was touring Sardinia on an Ape Calessino (tuc tuc). I can only imagine how much fun it would be to go around Rome in one and I am really glad to find out that it is now possible to rent Ape Calessino to drive around town – this is certainly one of the most fun things to do in Rome.

places to see in Rome

Who said that art can’t be fun? Spotting street art is what to do in Rome – photo courtesy of Valeria Preci (flickr)

Spot all the street art 

It is only obvious that art galleries rank among the best known tourist attractions in Rome. But let’s face it: art can at times be a bit boring. I enjoy a museum every now and then, but I find street art and urban renovation projects to be more fun – even if only because they need to be discovered throughout a city.

Going to Quadraro is what to do in Rome to admire some incredible street art projects. This part of town is not nearly as touristy as the rest, so the benefits in going are many: it is local, it is free and it is fun.

Go on an off-the-beaten path tour

All travelers like going local – including a proper tourist like myself. But in a city like Rome this isn’t exactly easy, because it is huge and extremely touristy. The good news is that there is a company, called Withlocals, that offers off-the-beaten track tours guided by a local. This is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Rome if you to learn a bit more about the culture and way of life of its people (without getting lost). You can even get a local to walk you around. Check out local guides in Rome here. 

Join a food tour

If there is one thing that I truly enjoy in Rome, that’s eating. I am not even a foodie at all, but the food in Rome is heavenly. Whether eating at a fine restaurant or at a local trattoria; grabbing gelato on the go; biting into some street food it’s really hard to go wrong. Going on a food tour is what to do in Rome to enjoy all of its flavor.

The good news is that there’s a variety of tours that can all be bought online. There are wine and food tasting tours; beer and food tasting tours; day tours and evening tours; Michelin stars food tours for extremely refined palates; Withlocals Roman Food Tour: the 10 tastings (I’d personally opt for this: eating street food is what to do in Rome!). They even organize food tours based on location – Testaccio food tours and Trastevere food tours are just two examples.

Here’s the best food tours in Rome:

Take a cooking class

We all love Italian food, and one of the perks of visiting Rome is the chance of eating all the delicious pasta, gelato, saltimbocca, abbacchio (lamb), and the many specialties of Roman Kosher cuisine (did you know that one of the largest Jewish communities outside Israel lives in Rome, by the way?). One of the most fun things to do in Rome, that unveils at least some of the secret of Italian cuisine, is joining a cooking class. It’s a great way to learn a bit more about the Italian culture and way of life!

These are some of the best cooking classes in Rome:

things to do in Rome

Did you know that the cats of Rome are famous?

Visit a cat sanctuary

If you love cats as much as I do, then you will have a great time visiting one of the many cat sanctuaries in Rome. The oldest and possibly the most famous one is that of Largo di Torre Argentina, which is very central (right between Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia). It’s located in an archeological side thought to be the place where Julius Cesar was murdered (though in fact he was killed a couple of blocks away, at the Theater of Pompey).

The sanctuary is open to visitors who are welcome to pet the resident cats, and who can shop for small souvenirs such as a cat of Rome calendar (it’s actually a very popular souvenir to get in Rome) and even make a donation to support the charity that runs the sanctuary.

Explore Rome’s coolest neighborhoods

Testaccio, Trastevere and Garbatella: you may have heard of them already. Either way, make sure to at least go for a walk in each of them.

Testaccio is known as Rome’s original foodie neighborhood – there is no way to avoid it if you are a food lover. There you will also find the Non-Catholic cemetery of Rome and the Pyramid of Caius Cestius – which was built as the tomb of a notable roman at the time when Rome was a fan of all things Egypt.

Trastevere is the nightlife hotspot of Rome – it is packed with cool bars, cafés, pubs and restaurants, and it is overall very lively. It’s maze of pretty alleys is simply fun to explore.

Garbatella is often unknown to foreigners. It became popular with Italian tourists when an incredibly famous Italian TV series was filmed there. The neighborhood, which was first created in the 1920s, used to have a bad reputation but it is now thought to be one of the best ones to live in rome.

Go in search of Art Nouveau

If you are a fan of Art Nouveau, you really have to go on a search for the gems you can find scattered around town. Some of the best examples of this artistic trend can be found in Quartiere Coppedé, which is not far from Borghese Gardens.

Another place to look for Art Nouveau is Galleria Sciarra, which is at a short distance from Trevi Fountain. This was built between 1885 and 1888 upon orders of Prince Maffeo Sciarra and was meant to serve as an upscale shopping mall, but it now hosts mostly offices.

places to see in Rome

Ideas on what to do in Rome that is budget friendly: walking along the Tiber river

5 Things To Do In Rome That Are Budget Friendly

I won’t deny it: Rome isn’t exactly a budget friendly destination. Any long term traveler will agree with me if I say that the best way to travel on a budget is to travel slow and spend longer in a place. Flash packers who only have a few days to enjoy tourist attractions in Rome are bound to book hotels in the city center, to eat out all the time and will benefit from all the skip the line tickets. However, I also know what to do in Rome when on a tight budget.

Stay at a self catering apartment

My first advice is to rent an apartment rather than go to a hotel or bed and breakfast. That means having a kitchen and being able to cook, thus saving massively on meals – besides it is fun to shop for groceries in the many markets of Rome and to cook using fresh local produce.

Opt for trattorie rather than restaurants

I know that eating out is one of the most fun things to do in Rome, and it is still possible to do so – eating in trattorie or gorging on street food is what to do in Rome in this case.

Visit all the squares

The good news is that there’s a wide range of tourist attractions in Rome that are completely free to visit. All the squares in Rome can be accessed for free. Going to places like Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza di Trevi (with its famous fountain) and even Piazza Venezia with its view of Campidoglio is what to do in Rome to enjoy free attractions.

And the churches

Visiting churches is one of the most budget friendly things to do in Rome – they are usually free to visit (at times there is a really small fee to access the cloister).

Take advantage of free admissions to museums on Sundays

But there’s more: a bunch of museums and other tourist attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine, and Castel Sant’Angelo – are free on the first Sunday of each month. The entire list can be seen here: it’s in Italian (no equivalent on the English version of the site) but it is rather self explanatory. Of course, free access implies waiting in line to get in, but if time is not an issue this is definitely what to do in Rome if on a tight budget.

2019 UPDATE: Free admission Sundays are only available from the first Sunday of October to the first Sunday of March.

Rome attractions

Picking a room with a view is definitely what to do in Rome – this is the view from Orange Garden B&B dining room

Other Useful Tips For Your Trip To Rome

Where to stay in Rome

As any proper tourist destination, Rome has a wealth of accommodation options that range from budget backpacker hostels, to holiday rentals, guest houses and bed and breakfasts, hotels and luxury hotels. Choosing where to stay in Rome is more a matter of location than anything else – checking what unmissable tourist attractions in Rome are nearby may be a good way to select a hotel.

I find that staying in the area around Vittorio Emanuele metro station is one of the things to do in Rome to have easy access to a number of attractions, including the Colosseum which is a bit of a walk, but totally doable, and San Giovanni in Laterano Church. Not to mention my favorite restaurant in town (Trattoria Vecchia Roma) is located there. A good place to stay in Vittorio Emanuele is Zefiro Home.

If visiting the Vatican is one of the top things to do in Rome, the Orange Garden B&B may literally be the top choice. I stayed there during one of my last visits in Rome and the view of the Dome of the Vatican from the dining room is simply stunning.

what to do in Rome

The Pantheon is one of the iconic tourist attractions in Rome

How to get to Rome

As one of the world’s most visited city, Rome is really easy to get to. There are two airports: Fiumicino, which is the main airport, a bit outside of Rome; and Ciampino, which is closer to the center and used by budget airlines.

While there are no trains connecting Ciampino to Rome city center, getting the train from Fiumicino to Roma Termini Station is what to do in Rome to get there on the cheap – a one-way ticket costs €14.00 euro. Tickets can be bought online on Trenitalia website, or directly at the station.

An even cheaper way to get from either Fiumicino or Ciampino airport to the center of Rome (where all the nicest tourist attractions in Rome are located) is via bus or shuttle. Tickets can be bought directly online. There’s even shuttle and transfer services connecting Civitavecchia (the nearest port) to Rome – they also can be bought online.

Check out my post on How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center.”

Best time to visit Rome

If you ask me, it is always a good time to visit Rome. Yet, there are some months where the nicest tourist attractions in Rome are even more crowded than usual. I tend to avoid the summer months for example, because it is too hot and there are too many tourists (and even if I can get skip the lines tickets, I still don’t enjoy a place when it is too crowded).

I find that going in October is what do in Rome to be able to enjoy great weather, less tourists and all that the city has to offer.

Have you ever been to Rome? What are your recommendations on things to do in Rome? Do you have any tips to avoid the lines at tourist attractions in Rome?

Check out my post The Best Roma Pass Options And How To Make The Most Of It.”

Make sure to read my other posts about Rome for more itineraries and ideas:

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Discover what to do in Rome - via @clautavani

 

Find out what to do in Rome - via @clautavani

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