Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Rome
Rome is the capital of the Republic of Italy, the region of Latium and the province of Rome, as well as Italy's largest city. It lies in latitude 41°52' north and longitude 12°30' east, some 20km/12mi from the Tyrrhenian Sea in the middle of the hilly Campagna di Roma, on the River Tiber (Tevere), the third longest river in Italy (after the Po and the Adige). The city itself covers an area some 9km/5.5mi in diameter; the commune of Rome has an area of more than 1,500 sq.km/579 sq.mi.
Rome is an important center of air, rail and road communication, a major financial and commercial city (port at Civitavecchia, 75km/47mi northwest) and an international center of fashion and the film industry (Cinecittà). The city's industries, established mainly to the east and south, consist of engineering, printing and publishing, chemicals, the manufacture of telephones, textiles and foodstuffs.
The city's numerous cultural institutions enjoy an international reputation. Among the many educational and research establishments run by the Italian state, the Roman Catholic Church and a number of foreign countries are the two state universities, the Papal Universitas Gregoriana, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia (music), large libraries and collections of archives including the National Library, the University Library, the FAO Library and the Vatican Library; and a variety of learned societies and foreign cultural and research institutes. Rome is also the headquarters of the Food, Agriculture and Forestry (FAO) Organization of the United Nations.
The flea market at Porta Portese is held every Sunday from 8 am to 2 pm.
The Tiber flows through the city from north to south, with three fairly sharp bends; it is spanned by some 25 bridges. On the left bank are the famous seven hills of Rome - the Capitoline (50m/165ft), Quirinal (52m/172ft), Viminal (56m/185ft), Esquiline (53m/175ft), Palatine (51m/168ft), Aventine (46m/152ft) and Caelian (50m/165ft). The ancient city was built on these hills.
Between the hills and the river is a level area, the ancient Campus Martius, which was until recent times the main urban area. The Pincian (50m/165ft) to the north of the Quirinal, the Vatican (60m/198ft) and the Janiculum (84m/277ft) on the right bank of the river, were for long outside the city, but from the time of Augustus there was a densely populated suburb on the right bank, Trans Tiberim (now Trastevere). Imperial Rome was enclosed by the Aurelian Walls.
Rome's atmosphere is polluted by vehicle emissions, etc.; many buildings in the inner city are in danger of becoming sacrificed to the pollution. Since the beginning of the eighties the authorities have been endeavoring to halt this decay by restorative measures.
The Aurelian Walls (Mura Aureliane), a circuit of massive brick walls 19km/12mi long, with gates and towers, were built by the Emperor Aurelian in A.D. 272-278, after a period of some 500 years during which no enemy had approached the city. Long stretches of the walls are still preserved, though frequently restored since the fifth century; it is possible to walk along some sections.
It is only in modern times that Rome has extended beyond the Aurelian Walls.
The principal gates are the Porta del Popolo, the Porta Pinciana, the Porta Salaria and the Porta Pia on the north; the Porta San Lorenzo and the Porta Maggiore on the east; the Porta San Giovanni, the Porta San Sebastiano and the Porta San Paolo on the south; and the Porta San Pancrazio on the west.
Already known in ancient times as the Eternal City (Roma aeterna), Rome was for a millennium and a half the cultural center of Europe and the scene of great historical events. It was the first city of world stature, capital of the Roman Empire, and thereafter the home of the Popes with their world-wide spiritual authority. In the heyday of the Roman Empire, at the beginning of the A.D. second century, the city had a population of over a million. Rome was the birthplace of the Roman Catholic Church, one of the most powerful single religious communities in the history of the world, and it was here that about A.D. 1200 Innocent III established a secular Papal state which subsisted until 1870 and was succeeded in 1929 by the new sovereign state of the Vatican City. Present-day Rome is a creation of its long past, and its attraction and interest to visitors are enhanced by an awareness of that past. After the devastation suffered by Rome during the period of the Great Migrations and its vicissitudes in subsequent centuries, the population in the 14th century was barely 20,000 and at the beginning of the 16th century only 55,000. In 1832 it was 148,000 and in 1870 at the end of Papal rule it was 221,000. By 1921 it had risen to 660,000. After the World War I, and still more after the World War II, the population began to grow on a massive scale, bringing it to its present figure of nearly 3 million.
The ancient city was traditionally founded on April 21st 753 B.C.; but there must have been a Latin settlement of some consequence before then on this convenient site near the mouth of the Tiber. The oldest part of the town consisted of the Palatine and Quirinal hills and between them the Forum at the foot of the Capitol.
After the destruction of the town by the Gauls (c. 387 B.C.) the development began which was to make Rome capital of the Empire - a development reflected in its architecture. Important temples and secular buildings were built; in 312 the first aqueduct and the first paved road, the Via Appia, were constructed, and the characteristic Roman technique of building vaulted structures of rubble bound with mortar was evolved. The city developed still farther in the time of Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14), who "found Rome of brick and left it of marble" and extended the built-up area on to the Campus Martius, and again after the great fire in the time of Nero (54-68) which destroyed most of Rome. The zenith of its development was reached in the A.D. second century.
The development of medieval Rome was shaped by Christianity, which came to Rome in the mid first century and thereafter, in spite of successive persecutions, particularly during the third century and in 303 during the reign of Diocletion (the final wave of persecution), demonstrated its ability to withstand the declining authority of paganism. In 313 Constantine the Great granted freedom of religious exercise. The old religion received a final blow in 408, when the Emperor Honorius decreed the confiscation of all its property. The old temples were destroyed and their columns and other materials used in the building of Christian churches (basilicas); later whole temples were converted for use as churches. The number of churches increased rapidly. There were 25 parish churches (titoli) and five patriarchal churches. The patriarchal churches - of which the Pope himself was priest and to which all the faithful belonged - were San Giovanni in Laterano, San Pietro in Vaticano, San Paolo fuori le Mura, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura and Sant Maria Maggiore. In addition to these five churches there were two others which enjoyed particular veneration, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and San Sebastiano, above the catacombs on the Via Appia. These were the Seven Churches of Rome, visited by pilgrims from all over the Western world down to the present day. In political terms, however, Rome's importance declined. Constantine's decision in 330 to transfer the Imperial residence to Byzantium and Milan reduced Rome to the status of a provincial town. The Campagna reverted to wasteland, and malaria spread inland from the coastal regions. The stormy years of the Great Migrations, in particular the sack of Rome by Alaric's Goths and again in 455 by Gaiseric's Vandals, brought a further decline. Only the tradition of the great battles and victories of the Christian faith, which were indissolubly linked with Rome, preserved the city from extinction. The conversion of ancient Rome into Christian Rome made the Papacy the supreme spiritual power in the West. Particularly powerful representatives of Papal authority were popes Leo the Great (440-61) and Gregory the Great (590-604). The secular power of the popes and their authority over Rome began to develop in the 8th c., when the foundations of the States of the Church were laid by the grant of territory to the Pope by the Lombard king Luitprand (727) and the Frankish king Pipin (755). On Christmas Day 800 Leo III (795-816) crowned Charlemagne Emperor and thus re-established the secular empire which was to preserve for a millennium at least the name of the old Roman Empire. In subsequent centuries Rome was ravaged by enemy attacks, the struggle between the Empire and the Papacy and strife between the great noble families. It suffered a further blow with the exile of the popes to Avignon (1309-77), during which Cola di Rienzo tried to establish a republic on the ancient Roman model (1347). The population now fell to barely 20,000.
The Renaissance, breathing fresh life into learning and art throughout Italy, established itself at the Papal court and brought a new flowering to Rome. Tuscan architects, sculptors and painters had already been summoned to Rome in considerable numbers during the 15th century, but it was in the following century that the great Renaissance popes Julius II (1503-13) and Leo X (1513-21) made the city the real center of the High Renaissance. From here Bramante (1444-1514), Michelangelo (1474-1564) and Raphael (1483-1520) set the artistic pattern of the whole 16th c. (Cinquecento). Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) also worked in Rome in 1513-15. Among noted architects of this period were Baldassare Peruzzi (1481-1536) and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1483-1546). After the occupation and sacking of Rome by Charles V's forces in 1527 ("Sacco di Roma"), which drove away almost all the city's artists, recovery was slow. In 1546 Michelangelo built the Palazzo Farnese, the plan of which was to have enormous influence on the palaces of the Baroque period. The reign of Pope Sixtus V (1585-90), for whom Domenico Fontana designed a whole series of fine buildings, saw the beginning of the vigorous and powerful Baroque style of the 17th century. The architects of this period - in particular the Neapolitan Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), his like-minded contemporary Francesco Borromini (1599-1667), Carlo Maderna (1556-1629) and Carlo Rainaldi (1611-91) - created the magnificent churches and palaces, with their impressive command of space and picturesque effect, which still largely determine the architectural character of the older parts of Rome. In the field of painting Caravaggio (c. 1573-1610), the most gifted artist of the Early Baroque, was the leader of the naturalistic school; the chief representatives of the opposite trend, the "Eclectics" of Bologna, were Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and his pupils Guido Reni (1575-1642), Domenichino (1581-1641) and Guercino (1591-1666). In the following century Antonio Canova (1757-1822) produced the first works of monumental sculpture in Neo-Classical style.
18th and 19th centuries
In the 18th and 19th centuries the economic importance and artistic achievement of Rome both declined. Nevertheless the city continued to attract increasing numbers of artists and connoisseurs from many lands in quest of the Classical art of antiquity, particularly after the publication of Johann Joachim Winckelmann's history of Greek art, written in Rome about 1760. A revival of the city's life and art came only with its incorporation in the new kingdom of Italy in 1870, which gave Rome the status of a national capital and royal residence. This was the period of the "Third Rome" ("Terza Roma"). New and imposing public buildings were erected, usually aiming at a kind of ancient Roman monumentality (Banca d'Italia, Ministry of Finance, Palace of Justice, National Monument) but employing overcharged Renaissance and Baroque forms. It was only in the 20th century that this style gave place to simpler and more straight forward structures.
The 20th century created the "Fourth Rome" ("Quarta Roma"). A development plan initiated in 1931 provided for the opening up of overcrowded slum areas, the disengagement and restoration of ancient building (the Theatre of Marcellus, Trajan's Market and Trajan's Column, the Imperial Fora and the Arch of Constantine, the Mausoleum of Augustus, Castle Sant'Angelo, etc.), the construction of large new avenues (Via dei Fori Imperiali, Corso del Rinascimento, Via Regina Elena, the Via della Conciliazione between the Ponte Sant'Angelo and St Peter's Square, etc.) and the creation of public parks and gardens and well-planned modern suburbs. Notable among recent developments are the University City, the Air Ministry building, the Via del Mare to Lido di Ostia, the new ring road, the EUR exhibition area, the Termini Station and the new underground railway system (Metropolitana). In 1960 Rome was host to the 17th Olympic Games, for which the Olympic Village, a number of major sporting facilities and new link roads (including the Strada Olimpia from the EUR to the Foro Italico) were constructed. In consequence of chronic financial difficulties the 1965 development plan has been only very partially carried out, and many buildings are still awaiting the urgent renovation they require. In March 1957 the treaties establishing the European Economic Community and the European Coal and Steel Community (the Rome treaties) were signed in Rome. In 1968 economic leaders and experts from more than 30 countries formed the "Club of Rome". Archbishop Karol Woityla from Krakau was crowned Pope (John Paul II) in 1978; he was severely wounded in an assassination attempt in 1981. During the football World Cup held in Italy in 1990 many buildings in Rome were restored and new building projects undertaken. In 1993 there were spectacular bomb attacks in Rome and other cities, causing deaths and damage to many buildings including the Lateran basilica and the church of San Giorgio.
Rome saw a decrease in its population during the late 20th century as residents moved to nearby communities. The reason for this decrease was motivated by diminished quality of life, increasing pollution and continuous traffic issues. The recent population growth is due to cultural and economic changes as well as an influx of immigrants from other countries. Tourists visit year-round now even during the hot summer months, at one time businesses would close during August and that caused a decrease in visitors. Spring and Fall are still the ideal times to visit Rome.
Via del Corso and Side Streets
Quirinal and Villa Borghese District
Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano
Rome - Aventine
Outside the Walls