A typical street of today in Rome, complete with
Photo credit: Susan Cozzens/Juan Jewell
Click for larger image (30K)
Located in central Italy on the banks of the Tiber River, Rome is the capital of Italy as well as the cultural, political, and historical center of the country. With a metropolitan area similar to the size of Washington D.C., Rome has other things in common with the U.S. capital. They are near the same latitude, Rome being about three degrees further north than Washington; they are both inland, up major rivers--the Tiber for Rome, the Potomac for DC--and they are both filled with classical style architecture.
Ancient Rome was the center of the vast Roman
Empire, and many of the great monuments of that
empire still stand today. In addition to these monuments, Rome is also
home to the Vatican City, an independent country
that is home to the Pope, the leader of the Christian Church. St. Peter's
Basilica (the domed building in the picture below), in the Vatican City,
is a major feature of Rome's skyline.
(photo credit: Susan Cozzens/Juan Jewell)
Rome has long been called the "Eternal City," having been a dominant city through much of the history of "Western Civilization." You travel through time by visiting different parts of the city.
The center of the city is filled with Roman ruins. To the south is the area known as "Avertine and Lateran." Its ruins are not as famous but are as interesting. There are the Temples of Fortuna Virilis and the circular Temple of Hercules; remnants of a Roman bridge across the Tiber--Ponte Rotto; the Baths of Caracalla with its gymnasia; the Pyramid of Caius Cestius--his tomb; and the Catacombs that held the dead bodies of early Christians. Laced with the ancient ruins, you find medieval, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. One church worth visiting is San Giovanni because it is where the popes resided before the center of the church was moved to Avignon, France. It includes a staircase that is believed to be the staircase Christ climbed at his trial. A collection of sculptures by the 17th century artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, can be viewed at the Museo Borghese
Moving west from the city center, you enter the area near the Piazza Navona. Near the Piazza Navona, there is one of the most famous Roman buildings--the Pantheon which is considered one of the best designed structures of the world. The fountain-filled Piazza Navona, built on the site of an old Roman stadium, helped give Rome another nickname: the "City of Fountains."
To the north, you can see two more fountains in an area that is filled mostly with 18th and 19th century architecture. There is the most famous, Trevi Fountain, where the tradition is to throw a coin into the fountain with the hope that you will return to Rome. The other fountain, the Fontana della Barcaccia (built by Bernini's father, Pietro) is less know but frequently visited because it is at the foot of Rome's Spanish Steps. This is a great place to stop for coffee and trace the steps of famous writers who visited this dynamic city.
Travel to the west, across the Tiber and you head into an area near the Vatican that is filled with medieval buildings and art. Santa Maria in Trastevere is decorated with 12th and 13th century mosaics. Then there is Santa Cecilia in Trastevere which was rebuilt in the 9th century and dedicated to the woman martyred in the third century.
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