Rome is the capital of Italy and the capital of the Lazio region. Located in the centre of Italy, Rome has a population of more than two million people and it is one of the most spatially extended European capitals. The core of the city has been built on seven hills: Palatine, Aventine, Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline and Caelian. Rome was the centre of one of the most important ancient civilisations that influenced the culture and society of Europe in the following centuries. In 1980 the historical city centre was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Rome is also the heart of Catholicism and the only city in the world to host a country within its boundaries: the Vatican City. For this reason it is sometimes defined as the capital of two countries.
According to the legend, after the destruction of Troy, Aeneas, together with his father and his young son Ascanius landed on the region of Lazio and married Lavinia, the daughter of the local king. One of his descendents was Rhea Silvia, the Vestal Virgin (Vestal Virgins were priestesses of goddess Vesta, the equivalent of the Greek goddess Hestia) that had two twins from the god Mars. While she was imprisoned for succession reasons, her twin sons Romulus and Remus were thrown in the river Tiber. Fortunately, the infants were saved and nourished by a female wolf until a shepherd took them as his sons. When they became adults, they restored their grandfather Numitor as King of Albalonga and they decided to establish a new city. After the fight of the two brothers and the death of Remus, this city took the name "Rome". The seven kings of Rome seem to be mythological figures who reigned until 509 BC. They are Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius and Tarquinius Superbus. The last king of Rome was expelled from the city because his son raped a noble woman who committed suicide after the incident. The rebellion against the king was led by Collatinus, husband of the abused woman, and Brutus, who later became the first of the consuls.
This period saw a huge growth in the construction industry when many roads, bridges over the river Tiber and aqueducts were built. This was a very difficult period in the history of Rome because of the internal fights between nobles and people, the fights with the neighbouring towns and the first invasion of the Gauls. Since the defeat of the Gauls and the treaties with the neighbouring Etruscan towns, Rome could start its expansion in the south after 345 BC. Rome's main enemy here were the fierce Samnites, who were eventually defeated at the end of the three Samnite Wars (343-341, 326-304 and 298-290 BC), and Taranto, a Greek colony, aided by Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus. Since then, Rome became the main city in the Italian peninsula. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia were appended to the Roman dominion, after the three Punic Wars (264-237, 219-202 and 149-146 BC), during which Rome invaded and finally destroyed Carthage. Spain followed right after, as well as Greece after the four Macedonian Wars (214-205, 200-197, 171-168 and 150-148 BC), the Illyrians (three Illyrian Wars 229-228, 220-219 and 169-167) and the Gauls (219-175 BC) in the northern part of the Italian peninsula. In the period from 133 until 121 BC, Rome set foot in Asia conquering Pergamon and appended it in the Roman provinces as well as the Narborensian Gaul (nowadays Provence). In the following years a new man appeared on the political scene: Gaius Marius. After his successful campaign in Spain, Marius was appointed to lead the Roman troops in the Jugurthine (111-104 BC) and the Cimbrian wars (113-101 BC), applying a new structure within the Roman legions. The first thirty years of the last century BC were characterised by serious internal problems that threatened the existence of the Republic. The allies of Rome felt bitter since they had fought by the side of the Romans, and yet they were not Roman citizens, sharing very little of the rewards. The Social War (91-88 BC) between Rome and its allies, and the Servile Wars were very hard conflicts that forced the Romans to change their policy with regards to their allies and subjects. Although the Roman allies lost the war, they finally got what they wanted, and by the beginning of the first century AD practically all free inhabitants of Italy became Roman citizens. The year after the end of the Social War, found Rome expanding in Eastern Europe and fighting against Mithridates, king of Pontus in the three Mithridatic wars (88-84, 83-81 and 75-73 BC), which ended with the destruction of the Kingdom of Pontus and the affirmation of the Roman power in Anatolia. However, the growth of the Roman power created new demands that the Republican system, with its annually elected magistrates and its sharing of power, could not manage. The dictatorship of Sulla, who was the leader of the "optimates" faction as opposed to the "populares" of Marius, the extraordinary commands of Pompey Magnus, and the first triumvirate among Pompey, Cesar and Crassus, made this clear. In January 49 BC, Julius Cesar, the conqueror of Gaul, marched his legions against Rome, vanquishing his opponents and ruling Rome for four years. After his assassination in 44 BC, the Senate tried to restore the Republic, but its champions were defeated by Caesar's lieutenant, Marcus Antonius, and Caesar's nephew, Octavianus. They fought each other from 44 until 31 BC and finally, in the Greek promontory of Actium, Octavian won and became the sole Ruler of Rome and the Roman Empire.
At the end of the Republican period, Rome was the indisputable power in the Mediterranean region with holdings in Europe, Asia and Africa. Since the reign of Octavianus, who became Augustus, Rome went through a period of stability and prosperity, called the "Pax Romana" (Roman Peace). In the third century the Empire underwent a period of crisis that ended with the reign of Diocletian. He imposed the so-called "tetrarchy", splitting the Empire (also known as the Greco-Roman world) into four parts that soon were reduced to two: the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. In the eastern part, Constantine became emperor, transferred the capital of the empire from Milan to Byzantium, which he named Constantinople, and converted to Christianity. The Western Empire began to disintegrate in the late fourth century due to invasions. In AD 476 the Western Empire collapsed, when Romulus Augustulus was forced to abdicate to the Germanic warlord Odoacer. The empire in the East —known as the Byzantine Empire— had a multi-ethnic character during most of its history and remained attached to its Romano-Hellenistic traditions, it slowly became identified by its western and northern contemporaries with its increasingly predominant Greek element (Greek became the Empire's official language from AD 620 until its fall). To distinguish it from the prestige of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire was occasionally referred to using the term "Empire of the Greeks" (Latin: Imperium Graecorum) and the Byzantine Emperor was referred to as the Imperator Graecorum (Emperor of the Greeks). After a long flourishing period, the Byzantine Empire started to gradually decline and eventually ended in 1453 with the death of Constantine XI and the fall of Constantinople to the Turks.
After the fall of the Western Empire, the general of the Eastern Empire, Belisarius, and later on Narses, captured Rome from the Ostrogoths in 552, ending the so-called Gothic Wars which had devastated much of Italy. In the meantime, the Byzantines moved their capital to Ravenna leaving Rome to the growing influence of the Pope. In 568 the first invasion of the Lombard region started, conquering a large part of the territory, until Pope Gregory the Great took the initiative of a peace treaty in 598. Despite the tension in the following years, Rome and the Pope never stopped their support to the Byzantines until 739, when the Lombard king Liutprand allied with the Byzantines against the Pope. The latter, then, asked Charles Martel King of the Franks for help. Since Liutprand's successor, Aistulf, moved to Rome after having conquered Ravenna, the Pope went to France to get the help of Pippin the Younger, who came to Rome with the Pope and defeated Aistulf in 754. The final Lombard attack came in 771, when king Desiderius attacked Rome and was stopped by Charlemagne, who definitely destroyed the Lombard Kingdom in 773.
On the 25th December AD 800, Charlemagne was crowned Roman Emperor in St. Peter by Pope Leo III Holy. This act posed an end to the bond of Rome with Constantinople. Charlemagne conquered many of today's Christian countries, but after his death, the lack of a similar figure brought to the desegregation of the Carolingian Empire. In the ninth century the Saracens attacked Rome and sacked St. Peter, which obliged Pope Leo IV to start the construction of majestic defensive walls. Because of the fights among rival families for the rule of Rome, the new Pope, John XII, asked the Ottonian Emperors for protection, crowing in Rome Otto I in 962. Since the Pope wanted to concentrate both the temporal and the spiritual power in his figure, the Roman Emperor Henry IV sieged the Pope in Castel Sant'Angelo. He was later set free by Robert Guiscard in 1084. The fight against the temporal power of the Church did not stop, bringing to Italy Frederick Barbarossa, who wanted to oppose the Pope. The most influential families of Rome alternated in the Senate of the city, which was restored, and continued their opposition to the Pope in particular, since the relationships with the emperor broke. In 1263, the Pope appointed Charles of Anjou as Senator, who was opposing the Hohenstaufen dynasty. From Pope Clement V, the Papacy moved to Avignon, entering a period of decline for Rome, whose economy depended on the Papacy and the pilgrimages. When the Pope came back to Rome in 1377, he found a weakened city in a period characterised by strong instability with fights between the Commune of Rome and the Pope and the Western Schism between Roman and French popes, which finally ended with the election of Martin V as Pope.
After his election, the new Pope settled in Rome in 1420, and started new works for the city. He wanted Rome to be great like it was in the past and called all the best artists and architects, such as Michelangelo (who painted in this period part of the Sistine Chapel). The immense amount of funds needed for the works made necessary the sale of the indulgences, bringing to issues in Germany. Martin Luther guided this rebellion against the Church, which ended in the Protestant Reformation. Emperor Charles V tried to stop the rebellion but, known that the Pope was plotting against him, he sent the mercenaries Landsknechte, who plundered Rome in1527. In 1600, Rome was the capital of Baroque and many artists came here from around the world. During the Napoleonic occupation, Rome was proclaimed "second city of the French empire" and, after his domination, the Roman Republic was established in 1849. The unification process of Italy under the Savoy rule excluded the city since the Pope called Napoleon III for help. When in 1870 the king of France started his war against Prussia, he was no more able to protect the Church State and the Italian army could enter Rome, which was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, becoming the capital of the reign.
Talking about Rome in only a few words is very difficult. Every road and building tells the visitor about its ancient history: the capital of the Roman Empire, the Rome of the gladiators and the devastated Rome. Nowadays, Rome is also a very busy city, with 24/7 open shops, traffic jams, coming and going of people and tourists. Anyhow, Rome is always one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its particular atmosphere.
Here, only the must-see things are listed so that you can breathe a little of its past and its charm.
Besides art and history, in Rome the visitor can find also fashion and glamour. Walking between Via del Corso and Via del Babuino and crossing Via dei Condotti and the area of Campo Marzio, the visitor can find the main Italian and international fashion brands. In Rome, one can also find the traditional markets where one can look for particular clothes and objects. The main market is definitely the market of Porta Portese (it takes place only on Sunday from 6.00 until 14.00), where one can find literally anything. For the art and antiquities lovers, the right place to go is the area surrounding Via Giulia.
Furthermore, Rome offers many nightlife places, which satisfy any kind of expectation. If one is looking for the typical place that locals like, one can go to Campo dei Fiori with its pubs and small bars open until late. The students mostly gather together in the area of San Lorenzo. During summer, one can also move to Ostia, a close-by seaside town, with its bars and discos at the beach.
The most famous and typical Roman dish is definitely the bucatini all'amatriciana, which is composed by pasta (in particular, bucatini is thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the centre), tomato sauce, lard and pecorino cheese. It seems that the original recipe of this dish was born in Amatrice, a town in Lazio and was the shepherds' dish. Other typical meals are the "spaghetti alla carbonara" and the "abbacchio alla romana" (month-old lamb cooked with garlic, oil, cubes of ham and spices and served with roasted potatoes). Furthermore, other typical dishes are the "coda alla vaccinara" (ox tail cooked with large amounts of vegetables, tomatoes, ham, pancetta and aromatic herbs) and the porchetta (a savoury, greasy and moist boneless pork roast). Finally, in the dessert section, it is worth mentioning the maritozzo with cream, which is a soft piece of sweet bread, with pine nuts, raisins and candied orange peel, cut into halves and filled with whipped cream.
The blue pins with the letter H indicate the location of various hotels in Rome. Click on the blue pin for more information about a specific hotel.