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What is Rome?

All roads lead to Rome! That was true during the Roman empire when literally all roads were radiating out and towards the capital of the Ancient World.

The Eternal City is much more than history and incredible architecture and sights, savory food, and art. It’s a combination of all, sprinkled with a touch of that Dolce far niente and la dolce vita lifestyle! And Italians do know how to enjoy life!

Nowadays, one of the most touristic and visited cities in the world Rome was the center of enlightenment and art as well as the capital of Western Christianity. So let’s discover the city with Framey’s guide Rome: History, Culture, Tourism, and More Interesting Facts.

What is Rome known for?

You can not say Rome without thinking of the capital of the Roman Empire, and what remains from it. All across the 7 seven hills you will discover wonders and be walking through history: the Colosseum, Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, Michelangelo, Via Appia, the Spanish Steps, the Catacombs and let’s not forget Villa Borghese.

St. Peter’s Basilica

This is but a drop of all the wonders you can uncover!
What you need to know about Rome: history, culture, tourism, and more interesting facts:

There is much to say about one of the most ancient and history-infused capital in the world. So let’s get into it.

Etymology

Rome’s mythology legend sits at the basis of Rome’s etymology and it is about the twin brothers Remus and Romulus.

Set in a political plot, the twins, as potential heirs, were supposed to be left to die on the Tiber’s river banks. Cared by others and the famous She-Wolf (the Capitoline Wolf) they survived and after restoring their grandfather’s throne they decide to build a city of their own in the area of the 7 hills.

The Colosseum

Disputing the location, Romulus preferred the Palatine Hill while Remus Aventine, which resulted in conflict and the death of Remus, thus Romulus became the first king of Rome in 753 B.C, and the founded city took its name after the founder, Romulus.

History of Rome

Rome wasn’t built in a day! And a walk through Rome will prove that. You need a very good and long history book to cover all that is to say or know about the history of Rome. For sure the names of Cesar, Trajan, Hadrian, or Marcus Aurelius ring a bell for anybody. Mussolini, as well.

For more than a millennium, Rome was the center of all ancient European civilization and not only European.

But Middle Ages came along with the dissolution of the Roman Empire and once a military, economically, and politically force, Rome fell into pieces.

Julius Caesar Statue, Via dei Fori Imperiali Boulevard

But since Rome was not just the force, but also the builder, the teacher, and the law that power survived through centuries and was reborn as a place of learning, beauty, and the capital of Arts.

With the growing power of Christianity and Popes, Rome also grew back its power and wealth, although power struggles often happened between politics and religion, between Vatican and Rome itself.

Government

Let’s first state that Italy is a Republic and that Rome is the capital of Italy. Rome also is the place where the Italian Government sits.

All official residences of the President of the Italian Republic and Prime Minister as well as the seats of both houses of the Italian Parliament and the Italian Constitutional Court can be found in the historic center of Rome.

In such a historic city it is no wonder that all other ministries are spread out around the city, keeping up with the ancient tradition of Roman politics.

The Vatican City at the Heart of Rome

A bit of Geography

Italy’s capital, Rome, is located in central Italy in the Lazio region.
Ancient Rome was settled on a defensible area, on the 7 hills: Palatine Hill, Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, the Esquiline, the Caelian, and Aventine.

It is settled on the banks of river Tiber. In modern times, the capital has yet another river crossing, The Aniene, that joins the Tiber.
Altitude ranges in Rome from 13 m at the base of the Pantheon, rising to 139 m at the peak of Monte Mario.

Climate

Closely related to the previous chapter, Rome’s climate has a Mediterranean climate. This means that summer is both hot and dry. Those days are often cooled down a bit in the afternoons by the Ponentino. Ponentino is a Tyrrhenian Sea wind that sweeps in Rome from the Western part.

Spring and autumn are the rainy seasons in Rome while winter comes along with mild and humid weather. Frost and snow might also occur. And during winter, there is a Tramontana wind, blowing from the Northern parts of Italy.

Administration and society

A bit about how society and administration are in Rome.
Administration-wise, Rome is a “comune speciale,” named Roma Capitale. A comune is a local third-level administrative division of Italy, after regions and provinces. It can also be named “città”, meaning city. Rome is governed by the mayor and the city council.

Palazzo Senatorio on the Capitoline Hill is where the comune is seated. As for the local administration, it takes its name, Campidoglio, after the name of the hill where it is located.

Starting 2015 Rome is also the biggest town in the Metropolitan City of Rome. The Metropolitan City, which is the largest in Italy, extends further until Civitavecchia.

Demographics

Over time, Rome has evolved into a cosmopolitan city known for its architecture, gourmet food, and breathtaking landscapes, which is probably why one of the largest and finest cities in Europe.

According to World Statistical Data, Rome’s population reached 2.318.895, making it the most populated city in Italy and the 7th most populated in Europe. But the entire Metropolitan area has a population of more than 4 million, 4.295.508 to be precise (March 2022). This also makes Rome’s Metropolitan area the most populated in Italy.

While most of Rome’s population is Italian, about 9.5% are non-Italian. Half of them are Eastern Europeans from Romania, Polish or Ukrainian, while the other half are non-Europeans.

Architecture

To be fair, every architectural monument would deserve an in-depth description but it would take a while to just name them all.

Rome, the two and a half millennium old city developed greatly in Ancient times. It is no wonder that you can find Ancient Roman mixed with modern and contemporary architecture.

Trajan’s Column and other buildings behind

Architecture and archaeology are so intertwined in Rome that the entire historic district is a World Heritage Site since 1980. And more than 25.000 archaeological sites and locations are included.

Rome was once an epicenter of all architecture, progress, and engineering endeavors. Roman classical architecture gave the world the arch, the dome, and the vault.

The 11th through 13th centuries gave us the Romanesque style that was also widely used in Roman architecture. Rome was also one of the main centers of Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

Modern time infused Rome’s architecture with Neoclassical style and even Fascist style.

Economy

The first thing you might note about Rome’s economy is the fact that it lacks heavy industry, and it is mostly services.

This includes high-tech companies (IT, aerospace, defense, telecommunications), research, construction, and commercial activities, especially banking.
Tourism plays a huge role and it is extremely important to the economy.
Television and the movie industries are also important parts of the economy, thanks to the Cinecittà studios that have been on the market since the 1930s.

The city is also a center for finance, banking, and insurance as well as electronics, energy, transport, and aerospace industries. Also, a great number of international companies have headquarters in Rome’s biggest business districts: the Esposizione Universale Roma, the Torrino, the Magliana, etc.

Education

Rome has always been a major worldwide intellectual and educational center. This is especially visible throughout the Ancient Rome period as well as the Renaissance.

Nowadays, Rome is still retaining its nationwide and international status as a center for higher education. It includes academies, colleges, and universities. Its first university, La Sapienza was founded in 1303. It is one of the largest in the world, with more than 140.000 students.
Closely related to higher education we have Rome’s libraries. Amongst them, Biblioteca Angelica was opened in 1604, being the very first public library in the whole of Italy.

We can not say library without mentioning the Vatican Library, one of the oldest and most important libraries in the world. The library was established in 1475, although it is in fact much older. It is known to hold more than 1.1 million printed books.

Culture

Culture and education have always been at the heart of Roman life. Music, cinema, art, and fashion, all play and mix in the life of the city.

Regarding music history, we have to mention the most famous composer of the Roman School Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Rome also houses several prestigious music conservatories, theaters, and an opera house, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, as well as several other smaller musical institutions.

The years 1960 and 1970 brought Rome the vibe of a “new Hollywood”. Via Vittorio Veneto had transformed into a glamour place where you could meet famous people, actors, directors, etc.

Although Rome is not quite Milan, when it comes to fashion Rome is also recognized as one of the 4 fashion centers in the world, after Milan, New York, and Paris. The upscale Via dei Condotti is the home of most major luxury houses, jewelry, and boutiques such as Valentino, Bulgari, Fendi, Armani, and Versace.

Film and Cinema: Rome hosts the largest film and television production facility in Europe, the Cinecittà Studios. Cinecittà is the only studio with complete pre-production, production, and full post-production facilities on one lot. You can get all from a script to a finished film in the same spot.

Cuisine

Everybody loves Italian cuisine! French cuisine might be considered top but Italian cuisine is the most popular in the world. Who can say anything bad about pizza, pasta, and gelato?

Looking back at Rome’s cuisine we can also say that it has evolved through centuries and changed accordingly. Veal and lamb is a popular course, usually with vegetables aside. Artichokes and gnocchi are other popular choices but I would have to say that the most appreciated dish is the famous and delicious “spaghetti alla carbonara”!

Transport

The Italian capital is also famous for its ancient roman paved roads one of the architectural wonders of the ancient Roman Empire Engineering. Rome kept the tradition of having a radial system of roads emanating from the Capitoline Hill. Today’s Rome is also circled, from the Capitol, but not by paved roads – by the ring road.

Other above-ground means of public transport in Rome are the bus, tram, and urban train network, while the city itself is the principal railway node for central Italy.

Underground we have Rome’s Metro system: Due to the radial street pattern, it is quite difficult to get from one radial road to another without going into the historic center or using the ring road. This creates traffic problems. Although it might help with the traffic, Rome’s Metro line is limited in size. But there are prospects for extending the Metro lines shortly (line C is in construction and line D is in the planning stages).

Tourism in Rome

Definitely one of the most visited capital in the world, Rome is the place where history and art joined. A day trip or a weekend will not do! You need to let the city charm you with its treasures, architecture, views, and incredibly esthetic parks, called villas.

Rome is the 3rd most visited city in Europe, along with London and Paris (according to Wikipedia). The Colosseum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel are amongst the most visited. But there is so much more than these most famous landmarks in Rome! The ruins of the Roman Forum and the Palatine hill, the catacombs, the aqueducts, Circus Maximus, and the Via Appia are all testaments of the Roman Empire’s life and style.

Roman Forum

Museums, fountains, squares and Piazzas, churches and palaces, and historical monuments make Rome a treasure in itself. Trevi Fountain is perhaps the most famous fountain in the world, not just in Rome. Piazza di Popolo, Piazza Navona with its Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Piazza di Spagna with the famous 135 Spanish steps are also not to be missed. Visit also the Baths of Caracalla ruin if you want to get an idea about the size and the importance of baths in Roman times.

Trevi Fountain

Perhaps the most beautiful park in Rome is Villa Borghese, which also houses the Galleria Borghese. The museum displays a large art collection including Caravaggio, Rubens, Bernini, and Leonardo da Vinci. This seems to be the perfect place for an art gallery.

As for castles, palaces, and churches, there is a lot to see and visit. The Castle of the Holy Angel, the Monument of the first Italian king Vittorio Emanuelle II.

There are more than 900 churches in Rome, so might just pick your favorite on the go and wonder. The most important are the four catholic papal basilicas: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Saint John Lateran, Saint Mary Major, and Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
These four basilicas each have their own Holy Door that is opened once every 25 years during the so-called jubilee.

The most famous and visited museum is the Vatican Museum. Another is Palazzo Barberini which houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, the main national collection of old paintings in Rome. Palazzo Colonna and Palazzo Doria Pamphili both house exquisite Galleries with private collections of paintings and frescoes.

 

Vatican Museums

Amazing facts about Rome

Did you know that St Peter’s basilica inside Vatican City is the largest church ever constructed?
Or that the historical district of the city is a mere 4% of the city’s area?
Rome is divided into several districts. Most of the hotels, shopping, and dining areas are located in the Modern Center. And most of Rome’s population lives in the suburbs.

If you are a history buff, at a short 30 km distance from Rome lies Ostia Antica Archeological Park. This one-day trip away from Rome will send you back to Roman Empire Times, on 100 hectares of the excavation site.

Bike tours in Rome are quite so popular in Rome that you might need to book in advance. But it’s worth it!

Testament to the fact that Italians do love pasta, remember that in Rome there is also a museum dedicated entirely to this dish!

I trust you enjoyed Framey’s tour of Rome: History, Culture, Tourism, and More Interesting Facts tour as much as I did. Rome is one of the best destinations to put on your map whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply a fan of the Italian lifestyle.