If someone told you they were at “the City of Seven Hills”, “the Threshold of the Apostles”, “the Capital of the World”, or “the Eternal City”, would you know which cities they were talking about? All of these nicknames refer to a single city – Rome, Italy. The legend says the city was founded on 21 April 753 and named after its first king, Romulus. Another theory is that it was named after the Tiber River, which flows through Rome and was called Rumon in the antiquity. The city that is estimated to have had a population of between one and two million two thousand years ago, when it was the capital of one of the biggest empires of all times, spread over three continents, now has somewhat fewer than three million inhabitants. Rome is the only city in the world with a whole state contained within city limits – Vatican (or the Holly See).
Millions of visitors come to Rome today, fascinated with the antiquity, to see structures that have proudly held their place for two millennia, of which the Coliseum is definitely the most famous. The ancient stadium Coliseum, the venue of the gladiator games, seats an incredible 60,000 spectators, not a mean feat even for modern-day stadiums. It was usually the venue of gladiator battles with animals, but spectacles such as real naval battles with real ships are known to have taken place there as well. Canals that transported water from the Tiber, which is almost a kilometer away, just for these occasions are still in place.
Another widely famous edifice is the Pantheon, “the Temple of All Gods”, with a circular dome with a 43 meter diameter topped by the Oculus or “the Great Eye”, an opening with a diameter of 9 meters that admits light as well as air into the temple.
In the antiquity the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) was the center of life, the gathering place for the political elite, and the scene of cultural and religious life. The complex consists of a number of squares combined into a single unit.
In addition to ancient structures, Rome boasts a colorful multitude of palaces, churches, squares and fountains from later periods. Michelangelo, Bernini, Raphael and others, the greatest artists of their times, all worked their magic in Rome. Medieval squares were often the results of rich and powerful families competing with one another to top everything that others have built. The baroque Piazza Navona, designed to the smallest detail by architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is one of such squares. Built in the place of the ancient Roman hippodrome, whose form it retained, the square resembles a gallery in the open with its wealth of decorations and details and the sculptures that depict the man’s ties with the nature. Older sculptures and elements from the antiquity were used to ornament the square. Bernini thus incorporated an Egyptian obelisk into the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (the Fountain of the Four Rivers), the square’s centerpiece.
Rome saw a number of ups and downs throughout its long and stormy past. No longer the power center that it used to be, it is still one of the most popular tourist destinations, visited by up to ten million tourists every year. The old legend that everyone who tosses a coin into the Fontana di Trevi is bound to return to Rome one day is its guarantee of a brilliant future.