Rome was founded in 753 BC by the
legendary Romulus. The Roman Empire was created under Augustus in 27
The ancient city was founded on the left bank
of the Tiber. In the neighbourhood between the Colosseum and the Pantheon, monuments
from antiquity stand side by side those of the Renaissance. An oval amphitheatre built
in AD 80, the Colosseum could seat 50,000 and was used for races and gladiator combats.
An architectural masterpiece, it has three levels of arcades, with superimposing Doric,
Ionic and Corinthian columns.
The Forums are found
along the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The largest and oldest, the Foro Romano, served as the
political, commercial and religious centre from the time of the Republic to the fifth
century BC. Its ruins contain 12 centuries of history. Via Sacra, Curia, bas-reliefs of
Trajan, the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Vesta, and
the House of the Vestal Virgins are all set near the grandiose Basilica of
By way of the Forum, we reach the
Palatino, one of the most mythical of the seven hills, where the ruins of several
imperial buildings are found: Domus Flavia, Domus Augustana, the emperors' private
residence and the stadium. It's a very pleasant walk in a shaded setting. At the Foro di
Traiano, the extraordinary Column of Trajan is carved with more than 100 scenes from the
war against the Dacians.
The Piazza del
Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo (1536) is surrounded by three palaces: the
15th-century Palazzo dei Conservatori houses an art gallery and a museum of classical
works featuring the famous she-wolf that symbolizes the legend of Romulus and Remus; the
Palazzo Nuovo, built in 1655, houses the Museo Capitolina with its unique collection of
ancient statues, including an equestrian statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius; the Palazzo
Senatorio, built in the 12th century, serves as the city hall.
Not far from the Via del Corso stands the Pantheon (27 BC), an
extraordinarily well-preserved masterpiece of classical antiquity whose interior is
dominated by a cupola with a height equal to its diameter. The tombs of the kings of
Italy and Raffaello are found here.
state governed by the Pope, who holds the title of Holy Pontiff, the Vaticano covers 44
ha (109 acres) on the right bank of the Tiber. Within its walls are the Basilica di San
Pietro, palaces, museums and interior gardens, as well as various assorted buildings:
Chiesa San Giovanni in Laterano, the Palace of the Chancellery and the summer residence,
Castelgandolfo. The smallest nation in Europe, it has 1,000 inhabitants and coins its
The design of the Basilica di San Pietro
(1462-1626), the largest church in the world, is the work of Bramante (1444-1514), and
was remodelled by Michelangelo (1475-1564). Bernini (1598-1680) decorated the 115-m
(318-foot) facade in a sumptuous baroque style and planned the oval-shaped plaza that is
surrounded by columns surmounted by 162 statues of saints.
A massive campaign to restore the Cappella Sistina took place between
1980 and 1994. Upon completion the frescos, darkened and tarnished by candle smoke and
dirt, revealed themselves to be vividly coloured works, dominated by lovely shades of
orange, yellow, green and blue.
The Piazza Navona
is the most famous plaza in Rome. It's set on the location of an ancient Domitian
stadium and follows its outline. This cool and refreshing spot reserved for pedestrians
is a favourite meeting place for Romans. The Fountain of the Four Rivers, a Bernini
masterpiece located in its centre, has statues representing the Danube, the Ganges, Rio
della Plata and the Nile, thus symbolizing the four corners of the
The Campo dei Fiori is one of the most
popular places in Rome, where a picturesque market is held every
Heading in the direction of the river,
you'll pass the facade of the Palazzo Farnese (16th century), the headquarters of the
French embassy, which is shown to advantage thanks to the layout of the plaza. It's one
of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Rome. You cross the river on the Ponte
Sisto, dating from 1475.
Across the river, the
picturesque Trastevere neighbourhood is known for its little streets and typical
restaurants. Strolling along, you'll discover its churches: Santa Maria in Trastevere,
dating from the 12th century, displays splendid mosaics in the choir, and the
9th-century Santa Cecilia in Trastevere houses a work by Pietro Cavallini. The Gianicolo
is a promenade that offers an extraordinary view of Rome.
Italian cuisine is not limited to
spaghetti, pizza and cappuccino. Rome's restaurants range from the taverns and bistros
of working-class neighbourhoods to fine establishments renowned for their haute cuisine,
as well as the famous trattorias. In terms of entertainment, Rome has everything:
theatres, concerts, folkloric parades, sports events, art galleries, museums and
Formerly a bohemian
neighbourhood, the charming Trastevere area has become a nighttime hangout for students,
artists and intellectuals. When planning a night on the town, keep in mind that
nightclubs in Rome usually have high cover charges.
The city offers a good choice of experimental theatre and classic musical comedies.
Roman theatres are known for the high-quality shows they produce. Movie theatres are
numerous and it's worth going out of your way to see the Cinecittà studios, the Italian
Hollywood, before entering Rome.
Where on earth
Located in the centre of Italy, a boot-shaped
1,300-km-long (806-mi) peninsula, Rome, the country's capital, is in the Province of
Latium. The Eternal City developed on a strategic site made up of seven hills.