All roads lead to Rome, but Rome was not build in a day, nor has it ever been finished by the looks of things, I take the advice of many native Italians and not judged Italy on Rome alone.
When the Roman empire was at its peak it controlled most of Europe. Though it has a rather rich history, Rome left me with impressions of a crumbling city, graffiti covered with little to be desired or appreciated. The centre is where all main attractions are found and everything within walking distance, but beyond it almost feels third world, its more about keeping up appearances, or rather... letting things go.
Rome is the capital of Italy, located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber river within the Lazio region of Italy. Situated on the River Tiber, the "Eternal City" was once the administrative center of the mighty Roman Empire, governing a vast region that stretched all the way from Britain to Mesopotamia. It has been one of history's greatest, most powerful and important cities, being the home of the emperor during the Roman Empire and the modern seat of the Italian government. Rome also has a significant place in Christianity and is the present day home of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope, and the site of the Vatican City, an independent city-state run by the Catholic Church.
Rome's history spans over two and a half thousand years. It was the centre of the Roman Republic and of the Roman Empire, which was a major political and cultural influence in the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea for over four hundred years. During the Middle-Ages, Rome was home to popes who transformed the city into one of the major centres of the Italian Renaissance, along with Florence.
Rome has had an immense historic influence to the world and modern society, its rich artistic heritage and vast amount of ancient, notably architectural and archaeological sites, contribute to the city's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its modern and ancient global influence in politics, literature, high culture, the arts, music, religion, education, fashion, cinema and cuisine.
The buzz about fashion, style and shopping was a great disappointment and traffic a nightmare, risking ones life crossing the road is all part of life in Rome. One thing that you just can't say anything bad about, is the food.
All roads lead to Rome but the one taking me back to the airport was the one I most enjoyed, perhaps Rome deserves another chance? Not for this soldier.
Rome today is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable immensity of its archaeological and artistic treasures. Plenty of museums, aqueducts, fountains, churches, palaces, historical buildings, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum, and the Catacombs. One of the symbols of Rome is the Colosseum (70?80 AD), the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire. Originally capable of seating 60,000 spectators, it was used for gladiatorial combat.
One of the best-known symbols of Roman neoclassicism is the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II or "Altar of the Fatherland", where the Grave of the Unknown Soldier, that represents the 650,000 Italians that fell in World War I, is located.
Rome has extensive amount of ancient catacombs, or underground burial places under or near the city. The first large-scale catacombs were excavated from the 2nd century onwards. Originally they were carved through tuff, a soft volcanic rock, outside the boundaries of the city, because Roman law forbade burial places within city limits. Currently maintenance of the catacombs is in the hands of the Papacy.
Visit the Pantheon, the temple of all the gods, in the old part of Rome, which is amazingly well preserved considering it dates back to 125 AD, there is a hole on the ceiling so it is an interesting experience watching the light change. I was most impressed by the Pantheon, this oversized structure in the city centre with its unique dome, lies the tomb of Raphael inside, and it is always free to visit.
In Catholic tradition, St. Peter is said to have founded the church in Rome together with St. Paul. The first churches of Rome originated in places where early Christians met, usually in the homes of private citizens. Of course Rome is not complete without visiting the Vatican City and the massive St. Peter's Basilica, which truly does justify being the largest church in the world, and if your lucky you'll even get of glimpse of the Pope with his weekly public mass.
The unique shape of Piazza di Spagna makes it one of the most distinct plazas in the world, and it is surrounded by a rich and colorful Roman baroque environment that distinguished its many attractions, hotels, residences, inns, cafes, and restaurants.
The Fontana di Trevi is the most beautiful fountain in Rome, fashioned in baroque style, the fountain now serves as an important Roman landmark where three roads and Rome's ancient aqueducts met. In a small square surrounded by rather tall buildings. Completed in 1762, the fountain's central figure is a statue of Neptune, the god of the sea, while riding on a shell-shaped chariot. The chariot is pulled by two sea horses of differing characters, one calm and the other restless. The site of the fountain is now often overflowing with tourists, and many can be seen tossing a coin into the fountain and envisioning their return to Rome, though I didn't have the same vision.
The Spanish Steps are just that, steps which go up and up, used as a resting place and not a place to escape the crowds. The Roman Forum (what remains of it) is a pleasant place to visit and gives a real sense of what Rome must have been like when the empire was at its peak, the crumbling Colosseum nearby appears smaller than anyone could have imagined.
According to Roman tradition, the city was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus on 21 April 753 BC. The legendary origin of the city's name is the traditional founder and first ruler. It is said that Romulus and Remus, mythical who were abandoned as infants in the Tiber River and raised by a mother wolf before being found by a shepherd who raised them as his own sons, decided to build a city. After an argument, Romulus killed his brother Remus, then named it after himself, Rome.
The Roman Republic was wealthy, powerful and stable before it became an empire. According to tradition, Rome became a republic in 509 BC. It took a few centuries for Rome to become the great city, and it only became a great empire after the rule of Emperor Augustus, which was a monarchy system headed by an emperor holding power for life, rather than making himself dictator like Julius Caesar had done.
Roman dominance expanded over most of Europe. For almost a thousand years, Rome was the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world. After the Empire started to decline and was split, it lost its capital status to Milan and then to Ravenna, and was surpassed in prestige by the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire Constantinople whose inhabitants continued to call themselves Roman until the capture of the city by the Ottomans in 1453.
The latter half of the 15th century saw the seat of the Italian Renaissance move to Rome from Florence. The Papacy wanted to equal and surpass the grandeur of other Italian cities and created more extravagant churches, bridges, squares and public spaces, including a new Saint Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, Ponte Sisto, and Piazza Navona. The Popes were also patrons of the arts engaging such artists as Michelangelo, Perugino, Raphael, Ghirlandaio, Luca Signorelli, Botticelli, and Cosimo Rosselli.
The Renaissance period changed Rome's face dramatically. Rome reached the highest point of splendour under Pope Julius II (1503?1513) and his successors Leo X and Clement VII, both members of the Medici family. The old St. Peter's Basilica built by Emperor Constantine the Great was demolished and a new one begun. Michelangelo started the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and executed the famous statue of the Moses for the tomb of Julius. Rome lost part its religious character, becoming increasingly a true Renaissance city.
The rule of the Popes was interrupted by the short-lived Roman Republic in 1798, which was built under the influence of the French Revolution. During Napoleon's reign, Rome was annexed into his empire and was technically part of France.
Rome became the focus of hopes of Italian reunification when the rest of Italy was reunited under the Kingdom of Italy with a temporary capital at Florence. In 1861, Rome was declared the capital of Italy even though it was still under the control of the Pope, in 1871, the capital of Italy was moved from Florence to Rome.
After World War I, Rome witnessed the rise to power of Italian Fascism guided by Benito Mussolini, who marched on the city in 1922, eventually declaring a new Empire and allying Italy with Nazi Germany. Rome was damaged by both Allied forces bombing and Nazi occupation. After the execution of Mussolini and the end of the war, a 1946 referendum abolished the monarchy in favour of the Italian Republic.
Rome grew after the war as one of the driving forces behind the "Italian economic miracle" of post-war reconstruction and modernisation. It became a fashionable city in the 1950s and early 1960s, the years of la dolce vita, "the sweet life".