Rome is a city and special comune (named “Roma Capitale”) in Italy. Rome is the capital of Italy and also of the Province of Rome and of the region of Lazio. With 2.7 million residents in 1,285.3 km2, it is also the country’s largest and most populated comune and fourth-most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. The urban area of Rome extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of around 3.8 million. Between 3.2 and 4.2 million people live in Rome metropolitan area. The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber within Lazio (Latium). The Vatican City is an independent country within the city boundaries of Rome, the only example of a country within a city existing.
Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years, since its legendary founding in 753 BC. Rome is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe. It is referred to as “The Eternal City”, a notion expressed by ancient Roman poets and writers. In the ancient world it was successively the capital city of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of Western civilization. Since the 1st century AD, Rome has been considered the seat of the Papacy and in the 8th century it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870. In 1871 Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, and in 1946 that of the Italian Republic.
After the Middle Ages, Rome was ruled by popes such as Alexander VI and Leo X, who transformed the city into one of the major centers of the Italian Renaissance along with Florence. The current version of St Peter’s Basilica was built and the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo. Famous artists and architects, such as Bramante, Bernini and Raphael, resided for some time in Rome, contributing to its Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
Rome has a status of the global city In 2007, Rome was the 11th-most-visited city in the world, 3rd most visited in the European Union, and the most popular tourist attraction in Italy. Its historic centre is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Monuments and museums such as the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum are among the world’s most visited tourist destinations with both locations receiving millions of tourists a year. Rome hosted the 1960 Summer Olympics.
Architecturally and culturally, Rome has some contrasts – you have areas with pompously huge majestic palaces, avenues and basilicas which are then surrounded by tiny alleyways, little churches and old houses; you may also find yourself walking from a grand palace and tree-lined elegant boulevard, into a small and cramped Medieval-like street.
The abbreviation “S.P.Q.R” – short for the old motto of the Roman Republic Senatus Populusque Romanus (“The Senate and People of Rome”) – is ubiquitous in Rome, being the symbol of its city council; a humorous variation is “Sono pazzi questi romani” (these Romans are crazy).
For two weeks in August, many of Rome’s inhabitants used to shut up shop and go on their own vacations; today, however, things have changed – many shops and restaurants (especially those located in the historical centre that cater to tourists) are open in summer. On the other hand, the ones located in residential areas do close. The temperature in the city at this time of year is not particularly pleasant: if you do travel to Rome at this time, you might see chiuso per ferie (closed for holidays) signs on many establishments. Even in these weeks the city is very beautiful and you will always be able to find somewhere to eat.
Italians are very fond of their landmarks; in order to make them accessible to everyone one week a year there is no charge for admittance to all publicly owned landmarks and historical sites. This week, known as the “Settimana dei Beni Culturali”, typically occurs in mid-May and for those 7 to 10 days every landmark, archaeological site and museum belonging to government agencies (including the Quirinale presidential palace and gardens, the Colosseum and all of the ancient Forum) is accessible and free of charge.
In general, Rome’s main attractions are free – for example, while it doesn’t cost anything to enter the Pantheon you’ll have to pay to visit the museums and so forth.You are able to buy full day passes for €12 or a 3-day pass for €30. This pass gets you in to the Colosseum, Palatine hill, the Baths of Caracalla, and the catacombs as well as the Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, the Crypta Balbi, Palazzo Altemps, the Villa dei Quintili and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella.