|It's hard to describe a city like Rome in a
few words, a city so vast and rich in art, monuments and characteristic
views, one with so much history, which regardless of the destruction it
has suffered, has known how to conserve its charm.
The history of this city can be read in every monument, every old palazzo, each and every stone shows evidence of the periods of splendour and those of decay, of wars, of the numerous architectural styles of the times and of the various religious cults that make of Rome not only the capital of Christianity ' since the IV century, when Constantine granted the freedom of Christianity - but also a meeting place for other religions, evident in the presence of the synagogue, the mosque and the numerous churches belonging to a variety of sects such as: Byzantine, Orthodox and Anglican.
Rome can be described as a gigantic open-air museum, visited each year by millions of tourists from all over the world. Pilgrims have been flocking to Rome for years and years, as is revealed in guides to the city, some dating back to the Middle ages. The number of pilgrims has always been larger during Jubilee years. The first Jubilee in 1300, proclaimed by pope Bonifacio VIII, Rome welcomed over two million people, attracted by the concession of plenary indulgence and the forgiveness of sins. On this occasion, amongst the important people that made it to the capital were Carlo di Valois, Giotto, who portrayed Bonifacio VIII in a fresco, now kept in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano and possibly even Dante Alighieri who left a trace of this experience in his Divine Comedy.
According to a tradition established in the middle of the sixteenth century, during the Jubilee pilgrims visited the Seven Churches, the quattro basiliche patriarcali, which are San Pietro, San Paolo fuori le Mura, San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Maria Maggiore, which included the passage through the Porte Santeand the tre basiliche giubilari, which are San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and San Sebastiano. Soon after there were also the Abbazia delle Tre Fontane and the Chiesa dell'Annunziatella along with numerous other places of worship where the popes would recommend that pilgrims went. Other religious places of interest are chiese stazionali, churches that are near the basilicas; the catacombes, the most famous being those of S.Callisto, those of S.Sebastiano, those of Priscilla and those of Domitilla; the basiliche paleocristiane, for example S.Agnese fuori le Mura, S.Maria in Trastevere, S.Sabina, S.Cecilia, S.Maria in Domnica, S.Lorenzo in Lucina amongst others and finally national churches, amongst which, the French San Luigi dei Francesi, the German S.Maria dell'Anima, the Polish S.Stanislao and the Spanish S.Maria in Monserrato, just to mention a few.
Rome is full of surprises and the vast number of archaeological discoveries, continually remind us of the great Roman empire.
It is hard to believe that all this began with a small settlement of shepherds and farmers near the Tevere river, on Palatino, one of the seven hills on which Rome was built and where most of the Roman archaeological treasures were found. Tradition dictates that this is where Romolo founded the city and where Augusto, the first Emperor, built his house, which is now largely and wrongly known as the house of Livia, his wife.
The city extended over the other hills, Quirinale, Viminale, Esquilino, Celio, Aventino and Capitolino.
Quirinale, the highest of the seven, has on its summit, Piazza Omonima, with its colossal statues of the Dioscuri, Castore and Polluce and the Palazzo del Quirinale, where the president lives. Opposite the Palazzo del Quirinale are the Scuderie only recently opened to the public, thanks to the architect Gae Aulenti, who gave the building a functional exhibition space.
Next to Quirinale is Viminale hill, smaller in size and crossed by the long Via Nazionale, and dominated by the huge Palazzo delle Esposizioni building (designed by Pio Piacentini) on Piazza della Repubblica, near Rome's first railway station, Stazione Termini. This is one of the most beautiful Piazzas in Rome, surrounded by arches and with the recently restored Fontana delle Naiadi, in the centre.
Further north is Esquilino, home of the great poets Virgilio ed Orazio. It has three summits, one of which is Monte Oppio, where you can find the ruins of Domus Aurea, only recently opened to the public after years of restoration. Initially Esquilino was a suburb of Rome, which is the reason for the nickname exquilini (non-tenants) given to its inhabitants, some believe that this is how the hill got its name and not the other way around.
Further south is Celio and Aventino. The former is a long promontory, called Monte delle Querce in the past due to its many trees. It is possibly the greenest and most charming of the seven hills (it includes Parco del Celio and Villa Celimontana) It has beautiful buildings, almost all places of worship (for example all along the magnificent Via Appia Antica with its numerous monuments). Similarly the other hill, has few inhabitants and is rich in important medieval monuments (such as the S.Maria in Cosmedin basilica, where the famous Bocca della Verità is housed).
Last but not least, is Capitolino, between Palatino and Quirinale, it used to be in ancient Rome the religious and political centre of the city. It is dominated by the Michelangelo style Piazza del Campidoglio, perfectly proportioned with a statue of Marco Aurelio on horseback in the centre. The Capitolino museum has some of the most precious art collections in the world.
The seven hilltops offer a number of panoramic views. Pincio, The dome of San Pietro and the Gianicolo, are the most popular spots to view the city as it is today.
Rome has extended outwards in every direction in no particular order, already many fields have been taken over and turned into new neighbourhoods. North of Rome near the Vatican are Aurelio, Prati and Mazzini neighbourhoods, which are more commercial and residential, also north is the elegant Parioli quarter and Nomentano, home to many foreign embassies. Further south are Prenestino and Tiburtino, more popular and due to the fact that they are university areas, full of students, who in the evening crowd onto the near-by and charming S.Lorenzo with its numerous pizzerie and bars. Undoubtedly Trastevere is one of the most charming areas of the city, it is also one of the most crowded areas especially on summer evenings. South of Rome is one of the most modern neighbourhoods, Eur, a centre for offices and administration centres.