Overview and History
All roads lead to Rome, the capital of Italy, current football world champions, where western civilization really got cookin' and Christianity gained its foothold on an empire.
According to legend, the city was founded on the Palatine Hill by Romulus and Remus, just after they finished wiping wolf's milk from their lips. Romulus killed his brother Remus in a fight over who had the right to name the city, hence "Rome" and not "Remo". He attained divine status after his death, being given the name "Quirinus," the root of which you can see in the Quirinale Palace.
The Quirinale Palace is the home of the President of the Italian Republic. Its fountain has two ancient statues of Castor and Pollux, sons of Zeus, the famous twins of the Gemini constellation.
Rome is famous for its seven hills: Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, Viminal. Vatican City is on Vatican Hill which is not one of the seven hills. It's its own state, too, not technically under the authority of Italy. It's also the smallest country in the world.
Within Vatican City you can find the Pope of course, the Basilica of St. Peter and also Michaelangelo's masterpiece -- the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This painting is a fresco, which means the paint is part of the actual plaster. The painter mixes plaster and pigment at the same time and had to finish the work before the plaster dried, and by the way he was laying on his back to do it. Call me crazy but I think the requirements for being an artist have declined in their stringency of late. Vatican City has an insane amount of pure-gold artwork as well.
Since Rome predates the Christian era, you will find many examples of gods and goddesses who were worshipped in the Pantheon, or, "Temple to All the Gods." This is the oldest domed building still standing in Rome, dating to 35 B.C and first reconstructed in 126 A.D. It's been in continuous use since it was built, and has been a Catholic church since 700 A.D.
Students of history may also enjoy the Roman Forum, around which the ancient city first developed. This area included the Senate and Republican government, and a central marketplace where everyone came for news, supplies, gossip and everything else. It's between Palatine hill and Capitoline hills, a swampy spot that was drained during the Forum's construction. Doomed to repeat history, or fascinated by its roots? Take your pick.
All roads lead to Rome except this one, it leads to the Colosseum. Forget Youtube, Netflix and getting laid. REAL entertainment comes from the Colosseum. Do you know why we have popcorn and movies today? Because first they had Bread and circus at the Colosseum, baby! Fake pirate battles in an ocean of real blood! Two vs. one gladiator ambushing with Neptune's tridents and deadly spiked nets! Here's the interior.
If this is what you see around you, you'd better hope to find a sharp sword in your hand to go with it.
Now nevermind all that old stuff, welcome to the Hippodrome, race fans! Besides being the coolest panorama on the whole site, the Circus Maximus was where they had the chariot races and judges who knew how to take a bribe for pole position.
But let's zoom back out for a second. Rome is located on the Tiber river. Crossing the Tiber are many bridges dating back several centuries, for instance Ponte Cavour, Ponte Umberto, and the Saint Angelo bridge.
Rome offers an enviable array of Renaissance and Baroque architecture due to its luck; like Prague and only a few other cities, it escaped major damage during WWII.
Now here are a few little things to get you there so you can investigate the more than 2500 years of history which continue to seep into out modern times.
There's a smaller airport called Ciampino, which handles mostly charter flights, and has a bus line running to meet the Metro.
The historic center of Rome is less than two miles from the central Colosseum and Piazza di Spagna, so you might as well walk there. The bus network is very extensive but the Metro is probably easier to get your head around. It's called the Metropolitana and it makes a loop around, rather than through, the city. Basic tickets cost one euro. Night buses run between midnight and four am when the metro stops.
You can also hop onto one of the many tourist buses for a guided ride around Rome. These prices are a lot higher than the metro, but it's an activity more than just a ride.
Now if you really want to do as the Romans do, rent yourself a Vespa scooter and drive it one-handed, shouting.
People and Culture
You don't have to have a lot of money to have good style. That's Italian culture in a word.
I'll go up against Paris right here and say that Italians have style all sewn up. Rocking a scooter in a red dress and stiletto heels? Come on.
Here are a few piquant expressions which further the idea:
"Finish that pasta so Nonna doesn't have to put it away."
"It's sugar sweet and as big as your hand."
"People do not age at the table."
And concerning the stereotype that Italians all talk with their hands:
"Mathematics is not a matter of opinion."
Just imagine how funny it was, the first time that one sprung out.
Things to do & Recommendations
First of all, go back and see all the panoramas in the top section. After you've been through the places and back, try these:
Modern art at Gallery Nuovo Pesa.
After lunch, pick up a few things at the most popular market in Rome, Piazza Vittorio.
Be glad you're there and not eating only memories in the Traianei Market ancient Roman market.
For a little more religious history, visit the 18th century Rococo style Plaza of St. Ignacio. Saint Ignacio was the founder of the Jesuits or Society of Jesus, the largest male religious order in the Catholic church.
For music lovers, the Auditorium is the main music hall in Rome.
Text by Steve Smith.