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I went several times in Rome when I was child, with the school and other association I was in but I didn't remember a lot of it, for this reason, I decided to come back for a couple of days to visit Italy's capital.
Rome is one of the best city in Italy, in my opinion. It is chaotic, big, noisy, crowded, majestic, lively, ancient and beautiful. Rome has a long and prestigious history, I studied a lot in school and still see standing many things that books told is fantastic.
Historical sources attest that Rome was founded in the 8th century B.C. by Romulus. According to the legend, along the Tiber's banks there was the city of Alba ruled by Amulius who had deposed his brother Numitore. The daughter of the latter fell in love with the god of war Martha and from him had two sons, Romulus and Remus. Amulius, fearing that his throne was stolen, ordered the twins to be killed, but the soldiers abandoned them along the banks of the Tiber. A she-wolf attracted by the crying of the two children fed them until they were adopted by a copy of shepherd who found them. When they became great, they killed their uncle Amulius and restored the throne to their grandfather Numitore and founded a new city in the Palatine Hill, in fact, Rome. Romulus eventually killed Remus and became the first of the seven kings of Rome.
Things to do in Rome
Roman Colosseum. Called also Amphitheatre Flavia in the full city centre there is the Colosseo. Work began around 72 B.C. at the behest of the Flavian dynasty. It was then called the Coliseum because nearby there was an immense statue of Nero 35 meters high that is a colossus. Il Colosseo was used for games between gladiators and animals, shows and exhibitions. When these games were prohibited, the Amphitheatre was abandoned and used as a storehouse. Today, we can see only 1/3 of the Colosseo because the marble of the façade and some internal parts were used to build other building like the St. Pietro' Basilica. I always found the Colosseo incredible because not only it is full of history and shows how in ancient Rome, they liked to have fun but also because it is enormous and still standing, amazing.
Near the Colosseo, we can also find the Fori Imperiali. In this part of the city, there was the centre of the politic activity of the city. The many ruins make thinks that there were Temples, squares, Basilica and market. The Fori where destroyed and brought to light between 1924 – 1932. This is one of the places that I remember from when I was a child because they have a particular: cats everywhere. The cats with the ruins of Rome are amazing; they are in harmony and together are perfect.
Can you see the differences?
On the left summer 2005 no Covid and many people. On the right, summer of 2020 no people and a lot of Covid.
One of the most visited attractions in Rome is the Pantheon. A legend says that has been chosen this place to build the Pantheon for a reason; seems than in this exact place Romolo was taken from an eagle and brought in the sky with other divinity when he died. It was built around 27 A.C. as a small temple dedicated to all gods of Rome. During the years its structure changed as a result of many fires and this last form we owe it to Adriano that added, also, some Greek columns. The Pantheon is particular because it doesn't have windows, but all the light comes from a hole at the top of the Dome. The myth says that from the aperture the rain doesn't go inside, but it is not true; the floor is a little bit convex to allow the water to flow away. In 608 the Pantheon became a catholic church and was decided (1878) that all the kings of Italy would be buried here.
Majestic and imposing between small street is the Fontana di Trevi. I think that this is the best-known attraction of the capital for its beauty and also for the ritual of the coin thrown inside The fountain was wanted by pope Clemente XII and it is the unique example of a Roman aqueduct still in operation. The Trevi fountain is unique and imposing with this gorgeous decoration of statues and ornament. A legend says that throwing a coin back to the fountain makes you lucky; better to try, you never know maybe it’s true.
A very famous square and the most photographed is absolutely the Piazza di Spagna In this square we can find many important palaces, a fountain and the most beautiful thing the grand staircase towards Church Trinità dei Monti. The staircase counts 135 stairs, and during some celebration, it is decorated with beautiful flowers. This square amazes me every time I see it, and my passion for photos here goes crazy.
Between the small streets, always in the city centre, with the shape of a boat, there is Piazza Navona. Navona Square is loved by everyone, tourist, Romans and street artist; at every time of the day the square is crowded, the restaurants are full and the square lively. During the antique Romans, this square was used for games for aristocrats and also for the entire population. An interesting game I’ve heard about are the naval battles, the Romans filled the square with water and reproduced the battles. There is another very particular and interesting fact about this square; in Navona square, there is a church built from Borromini, and in front of it a fountain with four statues symbolize the four-country made from Bernini. The two hated each other and, since the fountain was built before and Bernini knew that his rival would build the church, the two statues in the fountains in front of it seem to cover their eyes as if to say that sucks.
I didn’t visit the Castel St. Angelo inside since there is a museum, but it is a must to see, even only, from outside in Rome. The castle was built on the outskirts of Rome by Emperor Hadrian who wanted this place to bury himself and his family. During the years it changed many times its functions from mausoleum to fortress against the invasions until 1367 when was donated to Pope Urbano V to solicit the return of the pope and catholic church to Rome from France. From this moment the castle became a residence of the pope.
Piazza del Popolo is another famous square in Rome. It is situated at the intersection of three famed shopping street, and It is well known for the fountain with lions, the twin churches and being close to Villa Borghese. The two churches were built by Carlo Fontano and wanted by Pope Alessandro VII; they seem identical, but they are not because there wasn't the same space available on the right and left. I didn't spend much time in this square because I took the scooter and I arrived in 10minutes of climb at Villa Borghese where I admired Piazza del Popolo from the top.
A few steps away from the Fori Imperiali there is the Vittoriano better known as Altare Della Patria even if the last one is just a piece of all the building. The Vittoriano was built around 1885 to commemorate Italy’s Unit and the first king of Italy instead the Altare Della Patria has been constructed in 1925 to celebrate the unknown soldier of World War I. I like this part of the city because it is something outside the other monuments; all its grandeur made of pure white, prominent statues and huge Italian flags illuminate the capital.
The ancient Romans were famous not only for the significant conquests but also to give more importance to games and body care, and the Baths of Caracalla are a perfect example. Emperor Marcus Aurelius also called Caracalla began the construction of the baths around 216 B.C. Today we can find only the ruins of the baths, but you can still admire the prominent structure and some walls that help us understand that this was the most significant and well-studied complex made in antiquity.
Moving a little further away from the centre we find near the Appia Antica district the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano and the Scala Santa. This Church is one of the Papal Church, and he is the only one that can celebrate services. San Giovanni in Laterano is a masterpiece of Borromini that built it around 312 d.C., by the will of pope Melchiade. The church from the outside seems a miniature of San Pietro even if it was built before; this makes San Giovanni the oldest Catholic church in the world.
Just a few steps from the church we can find the Scala Santa destination of many pilgrims because considered an important holy space. The stair is made of 28 steps, and it can be travelled only on knees; at the top, it is possible to look through a window inside the Private Pope Chapel (one of the most sacred spaces in the world). The story goes that the mother of Costantino dismantled the ladder that Jesus crossed to get to the Sanhedrin in Holy Land and had it transported to Rome. If you don’t want to take the stairs, just take a look at them and also the pilgrims praying.
If you have a half-day free and you would like to visit something different, I recommend the EUR. Eur is a neighbourhood around 20 minutes by car outside Rome. For the majority is a business quarter (The City of Rome) but it is particular because it has been made during the fascist era; It was a project of Mussolini to welcome the Universal Exhibition of 1942 (EUR= Esposizione Universale Roma translate as Universal Exposition Rome). With the outbreak of war, the event did not happen, but the neighbourhood has continued to grow years after years, and today is a mixture of modern skyscrapers and construction of fascist style. Everything it is beautiful but the best thing, in my opinion, is the squared Colosseo; today it is the headquarter of Fendi, and It stands out from the rest because it is a squared and imposing block with arches reminiscent of the Colosseo. Curiosity?? The square Colosseo is composed of six arches in horizontal and nine arches in vertical like the number of the letters in Benito Mussolini.
I love when a place is surrounded by mystery and legend, and Piazza Bocca Della Veritá is perfect; placed under the arches of the Santa Maria in Codmedin’s church we find the Bocca Della Veritá (Mouth of True). It is a colossal marble mask representing a face that screams and takes its name from a mediaeval legend. The mask was used as a lie detector indeed the person, accused of something, had to put the hand into the mouth and if he was saying the false the mouth closed and cut off the hand. Instead, it appears that an executioner was hiding behind the mask with a sword ready to strike.
What I love more in Rome? The panoramic points allow you to see all the city from the top surrounded by the Romans hills. One of my favourite panoramic views is Il Giardino Degli Aranci (Orange’s Garden), also called Parco Savello. It is a small but lovely garden with many orange trees with a majestic terrace that overlooks a breathtaking view of Rome. It is situated close to the Circo Massimo above a hill and, even if you don’t spend that much time because it is small, I recommend visiting it because it is relaxing.
After the garden, a little further on, before a church there is the most beautiful, hidden and surprising thing that you have to see; San Pietro seen from the lock hole. The hole is the lock of the gate of the Priory of the Knights of Malts and spying inside you can see a tunnel of trees that leads to the Dome of San Pietro.
The last time I went to Rome I was lucky enough to be driven around, and this allowed me to visit particular places and outside the capital so one Sunday afternoon I went to Villa d 'Este in Tivoli. Tivoli is a pretty town with narrow streets surrounded by ancient buildings, very characteristic but the best part is the Villa that from the outside does not look anything special but when you go inside there is a hidden world. Villa d'Este was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este around 1550 and includes the residential building and a fantastic garden decorated with tree-lined avenues, hedges, statues and numerous fountains and water games, real works of art. Inside beautiful frescoes and outside hidden places, huge fountains, secular trees and the most beautiful garden of Europe become part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
The must that makes Rome famous in all the world is absolutely San Pietro. I love the idea that for visiting the most majestic church and square I have to go literally to another country even if they speak the same language and there is no border. I recommend the visit of the St Pietro Church, the square, the Dome and the Vatican museum to see the beautiful and amazing Cappella Sistina painted by the most famous artist Michelangelo.
As soon as you enter the door of the Basilica di San Pietro, you find yourself inside this large and imposing church with beautiful decorations and statues that make you want to stare at them for a long time. I particularly remember a statue; he was holding a kind of cloak, and it was as if he was waving it because the folds on the mantle were so well made that it seemed real.
Just to make you understand the size of the Basilica I give you some sizes: 218 meters long, 134 meters high contains 46 altars and 233 windows and could accommodate the beauty of 60 thousand people. It is still classified as the largest Catholic church in the world.
Inside this colossal church, we find some of the most fantastic pieces of art painted or sculpted by famous artists of the time. I think that the most important is La Pietà Di Michelangelo; it is situated on the prompt on the right under a glass case this stupefacient statue depicting the Madonna with Christ died in his arms. After a man attack that destroyed the face of Our Lady in 1972, the Pietá has been restored and put under the glass case.
I spent a lot of time observing the Basilica all the altars are different from each other and the decorations are always essential and carefully designed to give a masterpiece, the painting are colourful and fantastic made. When I visited all the Church, I moved under it at “Le Grotte” (The Caves). They are not right caves, but they are the gap between the old Basilica and the present Basilica di San Pietro, and you can also see the line of the old floor and the new one and even pieces of columns of the precedent Basilica. The Caves are important because many previous popes are buried here. The first time I visited the caves was in 2005, four months after the death of Pope John Paul II. I remember that it was impossible to walk near his tomb because it was crowded with people praying all around and I could see the massive devotion of these people to this great pope; I think that this is a thing that I will never forget.
Last but not least La Cupola (Dome). After visiting the Caves, you can decide to go up to the Dome and, in my opinion, it is a must to do because the view from the top it is breathtaking. There are two levels, in the first, you can decide to do around 560 stairs or take the elevator to arrive while for the last there are about 300 steps to do; I did both and the lift is much much better! After a few steps, directed to the top, ad after a door you arrive on the terrace that from inside the Basilica, where you can see not only the interior from above but also admire the fantastic frescos that surround it. Continuing, after 300 breathless steps and with a head that turns (for several spiral stairs) you get to the top where you can have a 360º view of St. Peter’s Square opening up to all of Rome.
Food in Rome
Last time I was in Rome for the first night in town I went to Frascati for dinner. Frascati is a city around 20 km from Rome and part of the Roman Castles. Frascati is famous for the beautiful aristocratic villas, for the productions of wine and of course for the delicious food.
I enjoyed dining here because not only the food is great, but also for the locations. I ate in one of the many "Fraschette" ( Fraschetta is the term to call taverns typical of the area) in the middle of a road with a table in precarious balance because of the slope of the road, but everything, crowned by a friendly and helpful waiter, was absolutely incredible, so special and folkloric that the table never bothered me.
Another dinner was held in Trastevere. Trastevere is a district of Rome and is famous for its typical restaurants and narrow and characteristics streets. This part of the city is always lively and full of young people ready for an aperitif, dinner or even just to be outdoors together. I went to early summer 2020 so, because of Covid there were not many people and I found almost immediately a restaurant otherwise be patient because it is always crowded.
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