Rome, the Capital of Italy

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Sitting on the banks of the River Tiber is one of the world’s most beautiful, and most photographed, capital cities, Rome, Capital city of Italy, and known as the Eternal City. Rome is in the Lazio region in the centre of Italy. Rome is also known as the city of the Seven Hills: Aventine Hill, Caelian Hill, Capitoline Hill, Esquiline Hill, Palatine Hill, Quirinal Hill, and the Viminal Hill. The history of Rome spans over two and a half thousand years which goes some way to explain why there is so much to see in the way of architecture, monuments, castles, churches, museums, fountains, parks and gardens, statues, aquaducts, bridges and catacombes. There are over 900 churches in Rome alone. The city of Rome was the centre of the world’s greatest ever civilisations which exerted so much influence over the world and has left its mark in many of Europe’s cities. The historic centre of Rome is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Rome has been the seat of the Papacy since the 1 st century AD and after the Middle Ages was ruled by Popes such as Alexander VI and Leo X who transformed the city into one of the major centres of the Italian Renaissance, along with Florence. It was then that the current-day St Peter’s Basilica was built, the first version having been constructed in 313 AD, and Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. Monuments and museums such as the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum are amongst the world’s 50 most visited tourist destinations (the Colosseum receiving 4 million tourists every year).Rome is the national capital of Italy and is the seat of the Italian Government. The official residences of the President of the Italian Republic and the Italian Prime Minister, the seats of both houses of the Italian Parliament and that of the Italian Constitutional Court are located in the historic centre. View Larger Map

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Short summary of the history of Rome

Legend has it that the city of Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus, who were thrown into the river to die but were saved by a she-wolf who saved them and suckled them before they were taken in by a shepherd and his wife who raised them to manhood. Romulus and Remus were natural leaders and after discovering their heritage went off to establish a new city. They argued as to where they would build their new city, Romulus wanted to build it on the Palatine Hill and Remus on the Aventine Hill. Remus was killed and Romulus built his new city which bears his name. One can see the statues of the infant twins and the she-wolf in many parts of the city. This new city developed into the Capital of the Roman Kingdom which was led by a series of Etruscan Kings. Rome became the centre of the Roman Empire from 27 BC and was the largest, richest and the most powerful city in the western world. Rome ruled most of Europe and the Mediterranean region. In the 5 th century there was the fall of the Roman Empire, but Rome still stood strong and maintained her wealth and importance. When Constantine I, Bishop of Rome, came to power, he brought political as well as religious power to Rome. The city was established as the centre of the Catholic Church. In the Middle Ages Rome became a major pilgrimage site and it had gained importance due to the newly formed Papal States. During the Italian Renaissance, in the 15 th Century, Rome underwent huge changes. The new St Peters Basilica and Sistine Chapel were built, wonderfully extravagant churches, bridges and parks appeared so that the city of Rome would equal the grandeur of other Italian cities. 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. Modern-day Rome is a wonderful and vibrant city in which the present day sits in harmony with the past. Buildings from the ancient world, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the present day make up this unique capital city and draw visitors from all the corners of the world.

Rome, much like the rest of Italy, is predominantly Roman Catholic, and has been an important centre of religion and pilgrimage for centuries. Pilgrims and visitors alike flock to see St.Peter’s Basilica, St.Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel all of which are located within the Vatican City, home of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. This area is always filled with visitors all year round and there are numerous religious and souvenir shops lining the Via della Conciliazione, Via di Porta Angelica and the surrounding streets. Rome is not just for sightseeing, the night-life is is fast growing and popular, as are the many shops which make it a shopping paradise, and is regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world. Be aware that for two weeks in August many of the shops and businesses close and the owners go off on their own holiday. This is the hottest time of the year in Rome, be prepared to see the sign “Chiuso per ferie” on the doors, meaning “closed for holiday”. The main shopping areas are situated around the Via del Corso, Via Condotti and the surrounding streets. There are some very good quality leather goods, such as shoes and handbags, to look out for. If you want to shelter from the heat outside take a trip to the Euroma2 shopping mall. It has over 200 shops, restaurants, toilets and air conditioning. Take Metro B line from Termini to EUR Palasport station, cross the road and take the frequent free bus (ride takes 5-15 minutes) to the mall. Street vendors (without stalls), sell a variety of goods from fake ‘Louis Vuitton’ handbags to umbrellas, hats, ornaments, etc. these are actually illegal and police do impose severe fines, but if you do take your chances and buy from them then make sure to haggle, a lot! Many of Rome’s attractions are free of charge, such as the Pantheon and St.Peter’s Basilica, but museums etc do charge. It is well to note that each year a week is set aside, usually in mid-May, which is known as “La settimana dei beni culturali” and for the 7-10 days, admittance into all publicly owned landmarks and historical sites is free. At other times it is advisable to purchase a pass, either one-day or three-day passes are available. These passes will allow you access into the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Baths of Caracalla, the Catacombes,Terme di Diocleziano, Palazza Massimo alle Terme, Crypta Balbi, Palazzo Altemps, Villa dei Quintili, and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella. Get a good map of the city as this will be of help as you try and locate where everything is that you want to see. Mark out the places that are of interest to you and that way you can concentrate on each area in turn. Much of the charm of Rome can be found in wandering off the main roads and exploring along the old cobbled side streets where you can believe that you are in a small town and not a vast capital city. Here you will see into some of the beautiful courtyards that lie behind archways and gated entrances. Lovely gardens with statues and fountains, and from certain vantage points you will be able to see some of the amazing roof gardens which are dotted all over the city ( a good place to view a few of these is from the top of the National Gallery). Take a stroll in the area between Piazza Navona and the Tiber river in Old Rome where artisans continue to ply their trade from small shops. Also in Old Rome, take a 1km stroll down Via Giulia, which is lined with many old palaces. Film enthusiasts will want to visit Via Veneto (Via Vittorio Veneto) in the Modern Centre, scene for much of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Stay Safe. Rome is generally a safe city to visit, however do be sensible and take precautions, don’t look like a tourist and don’t display what you have on you, keep items of value out of sight and keep your wallet out of the reach of pick-pockets. If you are robbed don’t hesitate to call out “Aiuto, al ladro!” (Help Thief) people will normally come to your assistance. Be careful on the buses as everyone surges forward it is very easy for the pickpocket to slip your wallet out of your pocket and disappear (I speak from experience on this!). Around the tourist ares of the city you will encounter people trying to sell roses and bracelets, they will give you the rose as a ‘gift’ or try to take your hand to tie on the bracelet, be firm and tell them to go away otherwise they will pester you for money. Being firm and walking away works they move on to someone else. Do not be worried about visiting Rome, these problems are in many cities throughout the world, just be aware, don’t carry too much money on your person, keep valuables out of sight and enjoy the beauty that Rome has to offer in abundance. In an emergency, call 112 (Carabinieri), 113 (Police), 118 (medical first aid) or 115 (firemen). Carry the address of your embassy or consulate.

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What is there to see in Rome?

Catholic Rome

For most people when thinking of churches in Rome, their first thought is of the Vatican and St.Peter’s. Situated in the heart of Rome with easy access from there to other places of interest around the city, it is where most visitors head for. There is also the draw of the wonderful Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum, but St.Peter’s is not the cathedral of Rome, that is the Basilica of St. John Lateran located to the south-east of the city centre. There are actually more than 900 churches in Rome, some huge, some small, some you fall across in a small side street, but on entering they surprise you with their opulence. Beautiful frescos, statues, paintings adorn the interiors. The largest church in Rome is the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major, there are 25 other churches dedicated to Mary but the size of this distinguishes it from the others.

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Eating in Rome

Rome is full of restaurants, so no problem trying to find something to eat. If you are looking for somewhere special it is best to ask for recommendations from locals, maybe at your hotel or campsite office they are generally quite helpful. For lunchtimes there is so much competition that the best way is to compare, don’t plump for the first place you come to. Walk past and see what everyone else is eating, check out what is included with the daily offer, some even include a drink with the price. Coming away from the main tourist route into residential areas will bring you to where the Romans eat, here you will find good food and good value. Coming off the tourist track and exploring the side streets can produce some great places to eat, they may not be luxurious but the food is generally very good and the people friendly. You can meet some interesting people this way who will chat away while they freshly prepare your meal or snack. If you want to have a picnic lunch then go to one of the supermarkets, they have a good selection of local foods and is a good way of keeping costs down.

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St.Peter’s Basilica

Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano The Papal Basilica of St.Peter lies inside the Vatican City. The tomb of the first Bishop of Rome, St.Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, is located underneath the main altar of the Basilica. Many of the popes have been buried at St.Peters since early Christian times. …Read more…..

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The Colosseum

The Colosseum in the centre of Rome was originally named the Flavian Amphitheatre. It is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire and is considered to be one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering. Construction started in 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus…..Read more…..

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Castel Sant’Angelo

The Castel Sant’Angelo is the more recognised title for the Mausoleum of Hadrian. It is located in the Parco Adriano near to the banks of the River Tiber in Rome. The Roman Emperor Hadrian originally commissioned the building of the castle as a mausoleum for himself and his family(AD130-139) …..Read more…..

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Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran

The Basilica of St.John Lateran is the Cathedral Church of Rome and the ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, the title which is held by the Pope. It is also the Ecumenical Mother Church of the Catholic Church and is the most ancient church in the world and ranks first out of the four of the major, or Papal, Basilicas in Rome…..Read more…..

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Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

The Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome and the largest Roman Catholic Marian church in Rome. There are also 25 other churches dedicated to Mary in Rome, but this Basilica stands out from the other due to its size…..Read more…..

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Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

‘Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura’ – is one of the four Papal Basilicas of Rome and is the second largest after St.Peter’s. The Basilica is said to stand over the burial place of St.Paul ….Read more

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Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura

The Basilica of St.Lawrence outside the walls is a minor Basilica and one of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome and one of the five patriarchal Basilicas. It has the title of ‘Outside the walls’ as it stands outside the ancient city walls of Rome…..Read more….

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Sant’Andrea della Valle

Sant’Andrea della Valle is a basilica church in Rome dedicated to St.Andrew and is the general seat of the Theatines, a male religious order of the Roman Catholic church. Pier Paolo Olivieri deigned the church in 1590….Read more….

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Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere is a minor basilica in Trastevere, a district of Rome. It is one of the oldest in the city and is possibly the first church in which mass was openly celebrated….Read more……

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Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Santa Maria sopra Minerva has the status of minor basilica and gets its name from the fact that it sits on the site of a former temple dedicated to Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom. The facade of the basilica is of Renaissance style and the interior is the only Gothic church in Rome,…Read more….

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San Pietro in Montorio

The church of San Pietro in Montorio sits on the Janiculum Hill which looks out over a beautiful view over ancient Rome and is said to be one of the most beautiful sites in Rome….Read more

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Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Santi Giovanni e Paolo is situated on the Celian Hill in Rome and is a basilica church dedicated to two Roman martyrs John and Paul, who were executed in 362 under Emperor Julian….Read more

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Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

The first church built here on this site was most probably built in the 3rd century and was devoted to St Cecilia, a Roman martyr. The church was constructed over the original house belonging to the saint and her husband Valerius….Read more….

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All Saints

The Anglican church of All Saints was established in 1816 by the Reverend Corbet Hue and was built by George Edmund Street in 1882-1887….Read more…..

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Great Synagogue of Rome – Tempio Maggiore di Roma

The Synagogue was constructed following the unification of Italy in 1870. Victor Emmanuel II granted the Jews citizenship and dismantled the Ghetto…Read more..

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Mosque of Rome – Moschea di Roma

The Mosque of Rome is the largest in Italy and has an area of 30,000m2 which can acomodate around 12,000 people. Situated at the foot of the Monti Parioli, north of the city, it is the seat of the Italian Islamic Cultural Centre….Read more

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Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope SixtusIV in 1475 to 1483. Built by Giovanni de Dolci, and named after Sixtus IV, the chapel was designed to be virtually inaccessible from the outside, almost fortified. Under Pope Sixtus IV, painting began in 1482, painters such as Boticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Rosselli began to illustrate the Old and New Testements which face each other along the walls. The Life of Moses along one side depicting the Old Testement and on the other The Life of Christ showing the New Testement. Going a little further along are paintings from Botticelli, The Temptation of Christ, The Healing of the Leper and Moses with Jethro’s Daughters. Next there is the Crossing of the Red Sea by Rosselli and The Calling of the First Apostles by Ghirlandaio. Next comes Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law and the Sermon on the Mount both by Rosselli. Next is Botticelli’s Korah, Dathan and Abiram which faces the Delivery of the keys to St Peter by Perugino. Coming to the end of the frescoes there are The Testement and the Death of Moses on the left and Roselli’s greatest work The Last Supper. ….. for further information “click here”

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Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain outside the Palazzo Poli is, without doubt, the most famous fountain in the world. Standing 26.3 metres (86 ft) high and 49.15 metres (161.3 ft) wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. The fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 and work was completed in 1762, although Salvi died in 1751 and never saw his masterpiece completed. Among the central figures is Neptune – God of the Sea, on either side of Neptune are two Tritons one with a wild Sea Horse

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and the other with a calmer animal, these shiow the contrasting faces of the sea. Arches frame the fountain and the figures and in front of these the waters tumble down over the rocks all of which makes for a wonderful spectacle for the many visitors who come to see this famous work of art which fills the square….. for further information “click here”

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Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna

Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti or the Spanish Steps is a stairway of 138 steps, built between 1723-1726, which run from the Piazza di Spagna up to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti and the 16th century French church of Trinità dei Monti above (1502). The Scalinata is the widest staircase in Europe. At the foot of the steps is the Fontana della Barcaccia – Fountain of the ugly boat also called the fountain of the broken boat – which was built in 1598 on the orders of Pope Urbano VIII to commemorate the terrible flood which occured that year on the River Tiber. The steps and the square take their name from the Spanish Embassy which used to be here and they were actually built by the French and used as access to the French church above….. for further information “click here”

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Via dei Condotti

Via dei Condotti was one of the streets of ancient Rome that enabled people who crossed the River Tiber to reach the Pincio Hill, today it is a busy and beautiful street in which the most fashionable and luxurious shops such as Prada, Armani, Hermès, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Valentino …..Read more….

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Via del Corso

The Via del Corso is a straight, main road situated in the centre of the historical centre of Rome. In the 15th century it was used as a racetrack for riderless horses called the “Corso dei Barberi” from which it takes its name….Read more

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Piazza del Popolo

The large square of the Piazza del Popolo is situated inside the northern gate of the Aurelian Walls called the Porta del Popolo which was once known as the Porta Flaminia in ancient Rome and was the most important route from Rome to the north…..Read more

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Galleria Alberto Sordi

Situated on the Via del Corso and originately named Galleria Colonna, the Galleria Alberto Sordi was built in 1914 on the site of the Palazzo Piombino in Art Nouveau style….Read more

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Via del Babuino

Today’s Via del Babuino gets its name from the public fountain and statue of a reclining half man half goat which the citizens of Rome thought so ugly they named it Babuino meaning Baboon….Read more

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Via Veneto

The Via Veneto has long been known for its luxurious and expensive houses, even since the days of the Roman Empire. today it is home to some of the most exclusive of Rome’s hotels and cafes as well as the American Embassy,….Read more...

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Piazza Colonna

Along the Via del Corso is the Piazza Colonna which takes its name from the impressive marble column of Marcus Aurelius that illustrates from top to bottom the emperor’s wars against the Sarmats and Germans…Read more

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Piazza Navona

This large,oval shaped Piazza is wonderfully impressive with its three fountains along the centre, two of which were designed by Bernini….Read more

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Palazzo di Giustizia

Palazzo di Giustizia – The Palace of Justice – is popularly called the Palazzaccio by the Italians and is the seat of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Judicial Public Library….Read more

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Piazza della Repubblica and the Fontana delle Naidi

This semi-circular square has been called Piazza della Repubblica since WW2, but officially it is still named Piazza dell’ Esedra. Unlike many of the other piazzas it is not pedestrianised and the traffic is very heavy….Read more

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Antico Caffè Greco

Antico Cafe Greco opened in 1760 and stands at 86 Via dei Condotti, near to the Spanish Steps. It is the second oldest bar in Italy, with the oldest being Caffe Florian in Venice (1720). …Read more….

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Villa Borghese and the Villa Borghese gardens

This large, landscaped garden was originally a vineyard and was turned into the most extensive gardens in Rome by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V……Read more

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Capitoline Museums and the Piazza del Campidoglio

The Capitoline Hill was once a sacred place to the Romans and the destination of triumphal processions, it has remained the centre of Roman life and is the headquarters of the mayor and municipality of Rome…..Read more…..

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Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II

The Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II which is also known as the “Vittoriano” rises from the foot of the Capitol Hill. The huge white building stands majestically with the two Quadrigas rising up from either side of the roof of the building,‘Quadriga of Liberty’ and ‘Quadriga of Unity’ (Zanelli)….. “Read more”….

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Campo dei Fiori

The square named ‘Campo dei Fiori’ (Field of Flowers) sits in an area that was once prone to flooding and was therefore unused for many centuries. It was only in the 15th century that the square we see today started to take shape…..Read more….

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Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR)

The Esposione Universale di Roma (Universal Exhibition of Rome) was built in the early 1940s in fascist architectural style to celebrate the 20th anniversary of fascism…..Read more

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Palazzo del Quirinale

The Palazzo dei Quirinale is the official residence of the President of the Italian republic. It takes it name from the the hill on which it stands, the Quirinale Hill the tallest of the seven hills of Rome….Read more

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Villa Giulia and the National Etruscan Museum

The Villa Giulia was built by Pope Julius III in 1551-1553 on what was then the edge of the city as he wanted to be far away from the smells of the waters of the River Tiber…..Read more

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Galleria Doria Pamphilj

The Doria Pamphilj gallery is situated inside the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj which is still pivately owned by the family Doria Pamphilj. The gallery houses a large art collection which has been amassed over a period of 500 years. …..Read more….

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Palazzo Corsini and the Accademia dell’Arcadia

The Palazzo Corsini is a late Baroque palace built for the Corsini family between 1730 – 1740 and it sits in the Trastevere section of the city of Rome. Today the palace houses some of the offices of the National Academy of Science and the Galleria Corsini. ….Read more

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Palazzo Barberini

The Palazzo Barberini stands facing the Piazza Barberini in the Trevi district of Rome and it houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica…..Read more….

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National Museum of Rome

The National Museum of Rome is in fact a number of museums split among four different sites, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, Terme di Dioleziano and Crypta Balbi. It was founded in 1889 with the aim of collecting antiques from the 5th century BC to the 3rd century AD …Read more….

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Roman Forum

At first sight it is difficult to see what once was the heart of the Roman Empire, looting in the Middle Ages for building materials have robbed us of the magnificent structures that once stood here, but with a map of the area one can walk around the site and visualise how it once looked and how life was in Roman times long ago……Read more

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Pantheon

The Original Pantheon was built by Marcus Agrippa in 27-25 BC but this burnt down in 80 AD and was later replaced by Hadrian in 125 AD. Hadrian is himself credited with designing the building….Read more….

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Bocca della Verità

The Stone mask of a Roman God with long hair and an open mouth has long been famous as the “Bocca della Verita” or “Mouth of Truth”…..Read more

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Circus Maximus

Today’s Circus Maximus is a public park where modern day Romans go for a stroll or just sit in the sunshine and watch people walking by. In ancient Rome it was also a place for Romans to gather and enjoy themselves …..Read more…..

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Arch of Constantine

Spanning the Via Triumphalis, the route taken by Emperors entering the city of Rome in Triumph, stands the Arch of Constantine. Built in 315, three years after his victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge,…Read more

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Ponte Sant’Angelo

The Ponte Sant’Angelo, built in 134AD, was once named Pons Aelius meaning the bridge of Hadrian. The bridge was built on the orders of the Roman Emperor Hadrian to cross the River Tiber and lead to his Mausoleum, now the Castel Sant’Angelo. ….Read more

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The Seven Hills of Rome

Aventine HillCaelian HillCapitoline HillEsquiline HillPalatine HillQuirinal HillViminal Hill

The seven hills of Rome once contained walled cities on each hill. There is also evidence that the people of were warring with each other and this could be the reason that Romulus and Remus were chosen as leaders. Tradition has it that the original city of Rome was founded by Romulus on the Palatine Hill…..Read more

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The Vatican City – Citta del Vaticano

The Vatican City (Citta del Vaticano), is the world’s smallest state and is situated inside the City of Rome, Italy. Also known as the Vatican City State, it is the centre of the Roman Catholic Church and the temporal seat of the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion Catholics… Read more….

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