The great beauty of the eternal city of Rome
A tour to discover the city of Rome and its main monuments
A visit to Rome, considered the cradle of modern civilisation, is like a journey back in time, getting lost in more than 3000 years of history, witnessed by monuments, churches and squares that make the Eternal City an open-air museum.
Every year millions of tourists land at the Rome-Fiumicino airport to visit the Italian capital, which boasts of being the city with the most monuments in the world, and to lose themselves in the narrow streets whose architecture tells us the sequence of the past centuries, marked by invasions, wars, periods of decadence, unrest and rebirth.
Situated in central Italy, in the Lazio region, Rome was the starting point of the flourishing Roman Empire, which extended its rule over the entire Mediterranean area and much of Europe for thousands of years. It is considered one of the most important civilisations of antiquity and, with its discoveries, inventions and innovations, influenced every aspect of life, from society to art and from the right to technology, of the populations that came in the centuries that followed.
According to tradition, Rome was founded on 21 April 753 B.C. by Romulus and Remus, illegitimate sons of the god Mars and descendants of the famous Trojan hero Aeneas, who, as soon as they were born, were left in a basket on the banks of the Tiber, a river that still flows through the city today. Legend has it that the two twins were saved by a she-wolf who, torn apart by the death of her litter, was attracted by the cries of the children she saved by feeding them with her milk. Whether reality or myth, the she-wolf is still considered the symbol of the city of Rome, depicted with full breasts and with the intention of feeding the founder twins.
Even today, Rome, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980, has retained the charm of its glorious history, and there are many places to visit in Caput Mundi.
Ancient Roman bronze statue of a she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus, the traditional founders of the city and empire of Rome, Italy. (foto © Shutterstock.com)
The eternal city of Rome, Italy (foto © shutterstock.com)
First of all, the Flavio amphitheatre, known throughout the world as the Colosseum, which entered the general imagination thanks to films like Spartacus and characters like Massimo Decimo Meridio. It was the scene of bloody battles between gladiators, wild animals and simulations of naval battles, in which more than 50,000 spectators took part.
The Colosseum was begun at the request of Emperor Vespasian, the founder of the Flavian dynasty, and completed by his son Titus in 80 AD. It stands in the heart of Rome and has a surface area of 3000 square metres and a height of 48 metres.
Symbol of the greatness of the Roman Empire, it is today not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Admission to the Colosseum is not free and in high season it is difficult to reserve tickets for access to the world-famous structure, which includes access to the amphitheatre, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
The Forum Romanum, or Fori Imperiali, was the heart of the city throughout the republican era, the commercial, political and religious centre of the Roman Empire.
Located between the Capitoline, Palatine and Quirinal Hills, inside you can visit the ruins of the ancient markets, the first sanctuaries, the first basilicas, the various administrative buildings where the Senate met and the remains of the Tabularium, seat of the State Archives.
There are also many mausoleums, temples and memorials built within the Imperial Forum, such as the temple dedicated to Emperor Caesar, the sanctuary where the mythical founder Romulus rests and the Column of Honour for Emperor Byzantium Foca, the last monument built on the Forum in 608 AD. Unfortunately there are no explanatory panels inside the archaeological site and the only way to really get to the heart of history is to take a guided tour.
The Palatine Hill, the third and last sight on the Colosseum ticket, is one of the seven hills of Rome, exactly where Romulus and Remus began to build the city according to the famous myth, which is confirmed by the discovery of the remains of an ancient village from the Iron Age. On this hill, isolated from the others and with the best view of the city, you can enter the cave where the she-wolf kept the founder twins alive and visit the Palatium: a complex of the magnificent residences of the emperors who ruled over Rome over the years.
Another monument not to be missed in Rome is the Pantheon, located just a few steps from Piazza Navona. Built almost 2000 years ago, this building, with its harmonious architecture and original circular shape, has remained one of the most brilliant examples of building technology over the centuries. The pagan temple, built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa between 27 and 25 BC in honour of the Greek gods of Olympus, was not converted to Christianity until 608 AD by Pope Boniface IV, who changed its name to Basilica Santa Maria ad Martyres. Access to the Pantheon is free and the two main attractions are the Oculus, a large hole in the centre of the main dome, which is said to be the work of the devil, and the tombs of the first two kings of Italy, Victor Emanuel II and Umberto I.
Near the Pantheon, made world-famous by Anita Ekberg in “La dolce vita”, is the Trevi Fountain, which is a must on your Roman itinerary. The central theme of the work, designed by the architect Nicolò Salvi and richly decorated with numerous sculptures, is the sea. In the centre of the composition we find Neptune on his chariot, followed by the statues symbolising health and wealth, and finally two horses representing the fury of the ocean. Legend has it that only by tossing a coin into the fountain can one fulfil his wish to visit the Eternal City again.
Panoramic view of the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum / Forum Romanum at sunrise in Rome, Italy (foto © Shutterstock.com)
The Pantheon in Rome, near Piazza Navona. (foto © Shutterstock.com)
The green lung of Rome is the park of Villa Borghese, designed by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1605 and renovated over the years by his successors. At the beginning of the 20th century it was bought by the State and thus transformed into a public park. Within its 6 km radius, the park contains endless surprises, such as dozens of neoclassical statues, an artificial lake, numerous fountains, an aviary, a biopark and a botanical garden.
Villa Borghese’s park also houses three museums: the National Gallery of Modern Art with works by Van Gogh, the National Etruscan Museum, which houses pre-Roman finds, and the Borghese Gallery. The latter is housed in the 17th century villa of the same name and has a section dedicated exclusively to sculpture, with works by Bernini and Canova, and a picture gallery, whose collection includes paintings by Rubens, Titian and Caravaggio.
The Temple of Esculapio, located in the beautiful park Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy. (foto © Shutterstock.com)
Not only monuments and churches, Rome is also rich in countless squares, each with priceless works of art. Among the most famous are Piazza Venezia where you can admire the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, a huge white marble building, and the Column of Trajan that with its bas-reliefs tells the valiant deeds of the emperor. Proceeding in the direction of the monument in honour of Victor Emanuel II we arrive at Piazza del Campidoglio. Entirely designed by Michelangelo, in this square we can visit the famous Capitoline Museums where the famous statue of the Capitoline She-wolf, symbol of Rome, is kept.
Located in the heart of the historical centre we find Piazza Navona with the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and its three fountains: the Fountain of the Four Rivers, the Fountain of the Moor, the Fountain of Neptune. Following Via Condotti you reach the suggestive Piazza Spagna, famous for being at the foot of the monumental staircase that leads to the church of the Trinità dei Monti. Near Villa Borghese we find Piazza del Popolo, one of the largest squares in Rome which contains several fountains, three churches and an obelisk.
You cannot visit Rome, the only city in the world to host an entire state inside, without entering Vatican City. As soon as you cross the state borders you find yourself in the immense St. Peter’s Square, an architectural masterpiece by Bernini, surrounded by 280 columns and 145 statues of saints and designed to allow as many people as possible to see the Pope from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. The entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free, however in high season it is a long wait to enter and admire the wonderful baroque architecture, the numerous altars, funerary monuments to the Popes, the famous Pietà by Michelangelo and the Chair of St. Peter. For a fee is instead the access to Michelangelo’s gigantic dome from which you can admire, after taking a lift and climbing 323 steps, the whole city of Rome. Not to be missed are also the Vatican Museums, born from the patronage of the various Popes who over the centuries collected countless works of art, which have the incredible honour of hosting the famous Sistine Chapel painted by Maestro Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Rome is certainly one of the most fascinating and memorable cities in the world, one of those metropolises that you absolutely must visit at least once in your life. In Caput Mundi every brick, house, street or square has a story to tell, and you, are you ready to leave to listen to it?
Equestrian monument for Viktor Emanuel II at the Vittoriano Monument in Rome, Italy (foto © Shutterstock.com)
Piazza del Campidoglio on the top of Capitoline Hill with the facade of Senatorial Palace and equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius at night, Rome, Italy (foto © Shutterstock.com)
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