Delve into the city’s many formidable museums and basilicas, tantalize your taste buds with the unparalleled flavour of Italy and surround yourself with the pervading sense of history that is the Eternal City.
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Rome is synonymous with "history": here are the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Capitoline Museums, where you'll see the Capitoline Venus and the Dying Gaul, St Peter's Basilica, the Baths of Caracalla. Sprawled across seven legendary hills, romantic and beautiful Rome was one of the great centers of the ancient world. Although its beginning is shrouded in legend and its development is full of intrigue and struggle, Rome has always been and remains the Eternal City. It enjoyed its greatest splendor during the 1st and 2nd centuries when art flourished, monumental works of architecture were erected, and the mighty Roman legions swept outward, conquering all of Italy. These victorious armies then swept across the Mediterranean and beyond to conquer most of the known world. With Rome's establishment as capital of the western world, a new ascent to glory began.
Today's Rome, with its splendid churches, ancient monuments and palaces, spacious parks, tree-lined boulevards, fountains, outdoor cafés and elegant shops, is one of the world's most attractive and exciting cities. Among the most famous monuments is the Colosseum. As you walk its cool, dark passageways, imagine the voices that once filled the arena as 50,000 spectators watched combats between muscled gladiators and ferocious animals. Stop to see the remains of the Forum, once the city's political and commercial center. In later times, Rome's squares were enhanced with such imposing structures as the Vittorio Emanuele Monument and grandiose fountains like the Fontana di Trevi. Join the millions who stand in awe of Christendom's most magnificent church and admire the timeless masterpieces of Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Rome jars the senses and captures the soul. Grasp all you can during the short, precious time you have available in the Eternal City. With so much to see and do, a day or two will only allow you a sampling of the city's marvelous treasures.
"When in Rome, do as the Romans do" – delve into the city's many formidable museums and basilicas, tantalize your taste buds with the unparalleled flavour of Italy and surround yourself with the pervading sense of history that is the Eternal City. "Roma" is a magnificent combination of old and new, and positively hums with lively markets, cheery cafés and of course, traffic. Rome is testament to the momentous Italian past - whichever way you look, Rome will mesmerize, amuse and enlighten… and have you planning your next visit before you've even left.
The range of landmarks within the bounds of the city is staggering and depending on how much time you have at your disposal, a careful selection has to be made about what to see. There is the grand Colosseum and lavish Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel and so much more. Some of the sights not to be missed:
- Piazza Venezia — This busy square is easily recognized by its imposing Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. The white marble structure was inaugurated in 1911 as a symbol of Italy's unification.
- The Forum — Once the civic heart of ancient Rome, today the remains include a series of ruins, marble fragments, isolated columns and some worn arches.
- Colosseum — Known to the Ancient Romans as the "Flavian Amphitheater." No visit to Rome is complete without a stop at this awe-inspiring theater, which is among the world's most celebrated buildings. Here ancient Rome flocked to see gladiatorial contests and numerous other spectacles.
- Trevi Fountain — Take a stroll to Rome's famous fountain. A spectacular fantasy of mythical sea creatures and cascades of splashing water, the fountain is one of the city's foremost attractions. Legend has it that visitors must toss a coin into the fountain to ensure their return to Rome.
- St. Peter's Square — Part of Vatican City, this square created by Bernini is considered to be one of the loveliest squares in the world. Twin Doric colonnades topped with statues of various saints and martyrs flank either side of the square. In the center stands an 84-foot obelisk, brought from Egypt in 37 A.D.
- St. Peter's Basilica — At the head of the square stands Christendom's most magnificent church, which was begun in 1452 on the site where St. Peter was buried. Throughout the following 200 years, such Renaissance masters as Bramante, Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini worked on its design and created an unparalleled masterpiece. Of special note are Michelangelo's Pietà and the bronze canopy over the high altar by Bernini. The immense dome was designed by Michelangelo.
- Vatican Museum — To see this museum's immense collection would take days. As you enter, there are special posters that plot a choice of four color-coded itineraries. They are repeated throughout the museum and are easy to follow. It is a good idea to pick up a leaflet at the main entrance and concentrate on exhibits of major interest.
- Spanish Steps/Piazza di Spagna — This grand stairway consists of 138 steps and is a great place for tourists and locals to sit and relax while overlooking the Piazza di Spagna, one of Rome's most fashionable shopping areas. Other notable sights at the base of the Piazza are the Fontana della Barcaccia ("Fountain of the Old Boat") and the home of English poet John Keats.
- Pantheon — This magnificent circular temple, rebuilt in 2nd Century AD, is the most well-preserved ancient structure in the city. It was first built as a Roman temple and later consecrated as the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres. It is also the burial place of many important Italians, including the painter Raphael and the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. It is still an active church open to the public.
- Sistine Chapel — The Chapel is the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City and is also home to Michelangelo's mural masterpiece. Entrance is free on the last Sunday of every month.
- Tivoli — About 30 km from Rome on the Aniene River, this ancient town has many great sights to see, including the magnificent gardens of Villa d'Este and the archeological complex Hadrian's Villa.
When to go
The weather in Rome is generally pleasant due to the mild Mediterranean climate, however summers (June to September) are hot, and spring and autumn, sunny. The climate warms as the traveler goes south, with hot and dry summers there. High humidity is common, especially in the months of July and August. The northern, central and mountain areas are colder; it snows heavily in the mountains in the north in winter. November and December are the two wettest months. Spring (March to June) and early autumn (September and October) are perfect times to visit any part of the country, with mild, sunny days.
What to Wear
So long as it's tasteful and appropriate to the season and occasion, so long as it's well-made, versatile and under-stated, so long as it's fashionable without being trendy, you will be observed with admiration and served with respect.
Italian food is one of the world's most popular; most people consider it to be pasta, which comes in many shapes and is served with many different sauces, the basic Ingredients often being tomatoes, garlic and cheese. But there's far, far more. You could order the dishrag from an Italian kitchen and eat it with relish. The key to understanding Italy's food is knowing the region it comes from-there is no "national cuisine"; the country is too newly established for that. Cooking styles vary tremendously, from creamy in the north to spicy in the south. Northern Emilia-Romagna is the originator of spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne and tortellini, as well as excellent prosciutto and mortadella. Liguria is where pesto was invented. Sardinia is famous for its spit-roasted piglet. Wherever you go, ask for the specialties of the region. That way, you won't miss out on things you might not have heard of before. Meat and seafood are popular, and as the country is fertile with excellent conditions for growing crops, there are many vegetables and fruits available to the imaginative gourmand. Rice, polenta, cheeses and sausages are excellent, often herbed or spiced with masterful skill. Gelato, Italian ice cream, is a special treat. Custards and baked goods make wonderful desserts. Italian wines are popular worldwide. Rome's choice of restaurants is mindboggling as is the variety of cuisine. Whether your meal is at a top-rated restaurant or a rustic trattoria, you can be sure that you will enjoy your food, especially when accompanied by wines from the hill towns surrounding Rome.
The Italians' smooth sense of style has made Rome a center for chic shopping. The many different districts provide ample opportunity to wander down the street looking for antiques, sunglasses and shoes. For most visitors shopping for beautiful Italian leather articles, designer shoes, fashions for men and women, linens, knitwear, silk scarves and ties, is a favorite pastime. At the base of the Spanish steps, in the Piazza Di Spagna, you'll find Italian designers like Armani, Versace, Prada and Gianfranco Ferrè. Except for tourist-oriented shops, the majority of stores are closed on Sundays. Some of the department stores, such as Rinascente, open in the late afternoon on Sundays.
- Castello Romano Designer Oulet — Located near Rome, this shopping center has over 150 stores and offers discounted designer labels.
Open Air Markets:
- Porta Portese (every Sunday) — Open-air flea market specializing in a variety of goods, clothing, tools, and much more.
- Campo de' Fiori (daily except Sundays) — The oldest market in Rome, containing the freshest meats and food produce. It is also known for its restaurants and bars.
- Jan 1 New Year's Day Italy
- Jan 6 Epiphany Fair (religious festival) Rome
- April 4 Easter Sunday (and Scoppio del Carro fireworks in Florence) Italy
- April 5 Easter Monday (some closures) Italy
- April 21 City Birthday Celebration (parades, fireworks) Rome
- April 25 Liberation Day (some closures)
- May 1 Labor Day (some closures) Italy
- June 2 Anniversary of the Republic Italy
- June 24 St. John the Baptist Day (religious festival) Italy
- June 29 Sts. Peter and Paul Day (religious festival, fireworks in Rome) Italy; most fervently celebrated in Rome
- Aug 10 St. Lawrence Day (religious festival) Rome; Manarola (Cinque Terre)
- Aug 15 Assumption of Mary (religious festival) Italy
- First week of Sept Chestnut Festivals (festivals, chestnut roasts) most town; mainly north of Rome
- Nov 1 All Saints' Day (religious festival, some closures) Italy
- Dec Christmas Market on Piazza Navona Rome
- Dec 8 Feast of the Immaculate Conception (religious festival, some closures) Italy
- Dec 25 Christmas Italy
- Dec 26 St. Stephen's Day (religious festival, some closures) Italy
Population: 3.8 million
Time Zone: GMT +1
Currency: The Euro 1€ = 100 Cents
Italy is a member of the euro zone, along with Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The euro notes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The euro coins come in denominations of 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, €1 and €2.
Tipping and Bargaining: Tipping is practiced here, but a 15 percent coperto ('cover charge') or pane ('bread') charge usually is added to restaurant bills. Leaving an extra 5% for the waiter is customary.
Languages Spoken: Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area). Tour guides and service professionals in tourist-oriented facilities are very likely to speak English.
- Hi - Ciao (Chow)
- Good Day - Buongiorno (BWON JOR noh)
- Yes - Si (See)
- No - No
- Please - Per Fevore (PAIR fah-VO-reh)
- Thank you - Grazie (GRAH-zy-eh)
Italy's history is perhaps the most important one for the cultural and social development of the Mediterranean area as a whole. The country has been host to important human activities in prehistoric times, and thus archaeological sites of note can be found in many regions: Latium and Tuscany, Umbria and Basilicata. After Magna Graecia, the Etruscan civilization and especially the Roman Empire that came to dominate this part of the world for many centuries, came the medieval Humanism and the Renaissance that further helped to shape European philosophy and art. The city of Rome contains some of the most important examples of the Baroque.
The Italy of modern time became a nation-state belatedly - on March 17, 1861, when the states of the peninsula and the Two Sicilies were united under king Victor Emmanuel II of the Savoy dynasty, till this point ruler of Piedmont and kings of Sardinia. The architect of Italian unification, however, was Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the Chief Minister of Victor Emmanuel. Rome itself remained for a decade under the Papacy, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy only on September 20, 1870, the final date of Italian unification. The Vatican is now an independent enclave surrounded by Italy, as is San Marino.
The Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini that took over in 1922 led to the alliance with Germany and Japan, and ultimately Italy's defeat in World War II. On June 2, 1946 a referendum on the monarchy resulted in the establishment of the Italian republic, which led to the adoption of a new constitution on January 1, 1948. Members of the royal family were sent into exile because of their association with the fascist regime, and were only allowed to return to their country in 2002.
Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Union, and hence joined the growing political and economic unification of Western Europe, including the introduction of the Euro in 1999.
Predominately Roman Catholic with mature Protestant and Jewish communities
People and Culture
"The world's living art gallery" will cause you to suffer intense culture shock - when you return to whatever insipid-by-contrast backwater you come from. There is hardly an ancient or modern civilization which has not contributed to this one. If by culture you mean music, painting, acting, writing-it's all nonpareil. You will find northern Italian people to be blond, cool and welcoming, the southerners dark, passionate and welcoming. Mama mia! La dolce vita is a rich, indulgent and spirit-lifting experience. Many festivals and cultural events, as well as many outdoor sports and activities, are open to those who can't just sit back in the sun with their grappas and breathe.
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