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Rome

Rome (Italian: Roma), the Eternal City, is the capital and largest city of Italy and of the Lazio (Latium) region. It's the famed city of the Roman Empire, the Seven Hills, La Dolce Vita (the sweet life), the Vatican City and Three Coins in the Fountain. The ColosseumRome, as a millenium-long centre of power, culture and religion, having been the centre of one of the globe's greatest civilizations ever, has exerted a huge influence over the world in its c. 2500 years of existence.

The Historic Centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With wonderful palaces, millenium-old churches and basilicas, grand romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains, Rome has an immensely rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere, making it one of Europe's and the world's most visited, famous, influential and beautiful capitals. Today, Rome has a growing nightlife scene and is also seen as a shopping heaven, being regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world (some of Italy's oldest jewellery and clothing establishments were founded in the city). With so many sights and things to do, Rome can truly be classified a "global city".

Districts

Central Rome

Rome can be divided into several districts. The so-called historical centre (centro storico) is quite small, only around 4% of the city's area. This is mainly made up of the area inside the Roman walls. Districts are explained below:

  Modern Center 
Where many of the hotels are, as well as shopping and dining galore along the Via Veneto; home to the Quirinale, Trevi fountain, Barberini, Castro Pretorio, and Repubblica areas.
  Old Rome 
The center of the Roman Renaissance period, with beautiful squares, cathedrals, the Pantheon, and plenty of laid-back dining; includes the Navona, Campo de' Fiori, and the Jewish Ghetto neighbourhoods.
  Vatican 
The Papal City State and its endless treasure troves of sights, relics, and museums, as well as the surrounding Italian neighbourhood.
  Colosseo 
The heart of ancient Rome, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Forum of Augustus, the Forum and Markets of Trajan, the Capitoline and its museums.
  North Centre 
Situated in the north part of Rome, home to the Villa Borghese, the Spanish Steps, and the elegant neighbourhoods of Parioli and Salario.
  Trastevere 
The land to the south of the Vatican, on the west bank of the Tiber River, full of narrow cobbled streets and lonely plazas that served as the inspiration for artists such as Giorgio de Chirico. Now arguably the center of Rome's artistic life
  Aventino-Testaccio 
Off-the-beaten-path neighbourhoods of Rome with plenty of surprises waiting for interested travelers, as well as some truly great food.
  Esquilino-San Giovanni 
South of Termini, with an indoor market, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, and the Cathedral of Rome Saint John in Lateran.
  Nomentano 
Municipio III, the neighbourhoods "behind" the train station. Vibrant night life in San Lorenzo.

Outskirts

  North 
the vast suburban areas to the north of the centre (Municipi 4, 15-20)
  South 
home of the Appian Way park, several catacombs, fascist monumental architecture at EUR and extensive suburbs. (Municipi 5-13)
  Ostia 
Rome's beach resort and the impressive ruins of Ancient Rome's harbour.

Understand

Situated on the River Tiber, between the Apennine Mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea, the "Eternal City" was once the administrative centre of the mighty Roman Empire, governing a vast region that stretched all the way from Britain to Mesopotamia. Today it remains the seat of the Italian government and home to numerous ministerial offices. Rome has 2.8 million inhabitants while the metropolitan area is home to around 5 million.

Architecturally and culturally, Rome has some contrasts - you have areasThe Pantheon with pompously huge majestic palaces, avenues and basilicas, which are then surrounded by tiny alleyways, little churches and old houses. The centre of Rome is mainly ancient, and modern buildings are usually concentrated in the suburbs, unlike Milan (where new and old architecture is combined both in the centre and the outskirts). You may also find yourself walking from a grand palace and tree-lined elegant boulevard, into a small and cramped Medieval-like street.

The abbreviation "S.P.Q.R" is ubiquitous in Rome, short for the old democratic motto "Senatus Populusque Romanus" (Latin), i.e. "The Senate and People of Rome". A humourous variation is "Sono pazzi questi Romani" (these Romans are crazy).

For two weeks in August, many of Rome's inhabitants shut up shop (literally) and go on their own vacations; many stores, restaurants and other amenities will beclosed during this time. The temperature in the city centre at this time of year is not particularly pleasant. If you do travel to Rome at this time, be prepared to seeChiuso per ferie (Closed for holidays) signs on many establishments. Even in these weeks the city is very beautiful and if you are looking for a less overcrowded vacation in Rome, this is not a bad time. You will always be able to find somewhere to eat.

History

Rome's history spans over two and half thousand years, which have seen its transformation from a small Latin village to the centre of a vast empire,Roman Forum through the founding of Catholicism, and into the capital of today's Italy. Rome's history is long and complex. What follows is merely a quick summary.

Rome is traditionally thought to have been founded by the mythical twins Romulus and Remus, who were abandoned as infants in the Tiber River and raised by a mother wolf before being found by a shepherd who raised them as his own sons. Rome was founded as a small village sometime in the 8th century BC surrounding the Palatine Hill, including the area where the Roman Forum is found. Due to the village's position at a ford on the Tiber River, Rome became a crossroads of traffic and trade.

The settlement developed into the capital of the The artsy Piazza NavonaRoman Kingdom, led by a series of Etruscan kings, before becoming the seat of the Roman Republic at around 500 BC, and then the centre of the Roman Empire from 27 BC on. For almost a thousand years, Rome was the largest, wealthiest, most powerful city in the Western World, with dominance over most of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. Even after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Rome maintained considerable importance and wealth.

Beginning with the reign of Constantine I, the Bishop of Rome (later known as the Pope) gained political and religious importance, establishing Rome as the center of the Catholic Church. During the Early Middle Ages, the city declined in population but gained a new importance as the capital of the newly formed Papal States. Throughout the Middle Ages, Rome was a major pilgrimage site and the focus of struggles between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy.

With the Italian Renaissance fully under way in the 15th century, Rome changed dramatically. Extravagant churches, bridges, and public spaces, including a new Saint Peter's Basilica The Vittorio Emanuele monument, considered a symbol of modern post-Risorgimento Romeand the Sistine Chapel, were constructed by the Papacy so that Rome would equal the grandeur of other Italian cities of the period. In the 19th century, Rome again became the focus of a power struggle with the rise of the Kingdom of Italy, which wished to see a reunification of Italy. The Papal States remained in control of Rome under French protection, but with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, French troops were forced to abandon Rome, leaving it clear for the Kingdom of Italy to capture. Rome became the capital of Italy, and has remained such ever since.

Rome today is a contemporary metropolis that reflects the many periods of its long history - Ancient times, Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Modern Era. With the rise of Italian Fascism following World War I, Rome's population grew. This trend was stopped by World War II, which dealt relatively minor damage to Rome. With the dismantlement of the monarchy and the creation of the Italian Republic following WWII, Rome again began to grow in population and became a modern city. The city stands today as the capital of Italy and one of the world's major tourist destinations.

Background reading

At last count there were close to 1700 novels set in Rome in days gone by. [1] Most easily available in bookshops are those by Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor. Both are good storytellers and excellent at portraying life in Ancient Rome. Particularly interesting if you are visiting Rome may be Saylor’s “Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome”, which traces The Quirinal Palace, the official residence of the President of Italythe first thousand years or so of Rome’s history by following the fictional fortunes of two families. Each chapter begins with a map showing the state of Rome’s development at the time of the chapter.

The classic work on Ancient Rome remains Edward Gibbon’s “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. This was written in 1782 but is still being reprinted. A marvellous book that covers Rome’s fortunes from Romulus and Remus to the 1970s is “Rome: The Biography of a City” by Christopher Hibbert (Penguin). An excellent guide book, too, although perhaps a bit too heavy to carry around.

English-language bookshops in Rome are:

Some Italian bookstores also have English-language sections. Try the large selection of English books (but also French, Spanish and more) at Feltrinelli International in Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando - or the smaller in Largo Argentina.

 

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