Last Updated: 21st Jan 2014
by – Matt Vernick, Tour Manager, Europe
Rome (Italian: Roma) is the capital of Italy and by far the country’s biggest, busiest and most happening city.
The ‘Eternal City’ is a treasure trove of ancient art, history, culture, buildings, architecture, sites, food, and people that you would need almost an eternity to see and do everything the city has to offer.
Ancient Roman legend tells how the twin sons of the Roman god Mars washed up on the banks of the Tiber River. The twins (Romulus and Remus) were raised by a she-wolf and when they grew into adulthood Romulus killed Remus in a dispute over where to establish the city. Romelus became the first king of Rome in 753 BC and over the coming centuries this tiny settlement grew to take over and control not only the Italian peninsula but an Empire. At its peak the Roman Empire stretched from Britain to the Middle East and from Germany to Northern Africa and Egypt. People still travel to the city today to see the wonders and ancient ruins left behind by the Empire.
Later the city became the home of the Pope and the heart of the Catholic Church, eventually leading to the creation of the churches own country in the form of the Vatican City in the middle Rome. This is another major draw card for religious pilgrims, particularly during religious holidays.
- The Colosseum was finished in 72 AD and is one of the most famous sites in the world.
- The Roman Forum was the political heart of the ancient Empire and is also within a short walk of the Colosseum and the ancient chariot racing arena of the Circus Maximus.
- One of the artistic and culinary districts in the city is the area around the Piazza Navona which is also home to the Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s ‘Four Rivers Fountain’.
- The Pantheon is perhaps the most complete pieces of ancient Roman architecture in existence, so much so that it is still used as a Catholic Basilica today.
- At the Trevi Fountain, in the center of the city, you can throw a few coins over your shoulder at this, the city’s most famous and romantic fountain.
- The National Monument at the Piazza Venezia is an impressive monument dedicated to Victor Emanuel II, built for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Italian republic.
- Film lovers or those seeking virtue will love the Mouth of Truth – a sculpture of a mans face with a hole in the mouth. Legend has it that if you place the hand in the hole, and you are not truthful, the mouth will close and bite your hand off.
- One of the most romantic and also exclusive parts of the city is the area around the Spanish Stairs.
- The Castel San Angelo, now a museum and cafe, was originally a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian before it eventually became a fortress to protect the popes.
Being the home and heart of the Roman Catholic world, the city is filled with churches from all eras. Generally free to visit, here are a few of the more well known.
- St Peters Basilica is home of the Catholic Church at the Vatican City which also houses the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.
- San Giovanni in Laterno is the second biggest church in the city and houses the tombs of many popes and some great sculptures.
- St Peter in Chains (Italian: San Pietro in Vincoli) is home to the chains St. Peter allegedly wore before his execution by the Emperor Nero as well as the well known ‘Moses’ sculpture by Michelangelo.
- Santa Maria Della Vitoria is home to Bernini’s ‘The Ecstasy of St Theresa’
First time visitors generally have higher sightseeing priorities than shopping sprees but being a big city, Rome does offer some good, albeit, spread out shopping. Shoes, clothes, small street side markets and loads of Italian fashion.
Religious souvenirs are also popular and rosary beads and the like can also easily be found around the Vatican.
Check out some European Shopping Tips for hot spots and helpful hints when hitting the stores around Europe.
Rome, like the rest of Italy, is obsessed with football (soccer) and the city is home to two of the best teams in the country. The sky blue and white of Lazio and brown and orange of AS Roma can be found everywhere in the city. Both teams play out of the 1960 Rome Olympic Stadium on the edge of the city. Games can often be filled with riot police, flares, fireworks and militant fans but is a true taste of Italian sporting culture. The city is also regular host to international Rugby matches with the Italian National team often competing at the Flamino Stadium.
More information on European sports.
Rome has a loads of small bars spread all over the city. For reasons unknown the most popular seem to be of the Irish/Scottish variety. During the only place to go in the city is the Campo Dei Fiori, a short walk from the Piazza Navona.
During the summer time weekends, as any Roman will tell you, most locals migrate to the beaches about 20 miles west of the city however winter weekends see an area close to the Pyramid metro stop is filled with bars and clubs.