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Lazio - Places to Visit - Rome (Roma)

Capital of Italy and Latium, the city lies 20 m. above sea level on the banks of the Tiber, in the Campagna di Roma. This is the most highly populated and largest city in Italy (municipality covering 1,507.6 sq/km.), an historical and cultural centre of extraordinary importance, the capital of the Roman Catholic Church.

Rome in Lazio

Founded by the Latin peoples around the eighth century BC. (tradition dates it to 753) near the Isola Tiberina, perhaps on the Palatine Hill, it was at first a monarchy until Tarquinius Superbus, the last king, was expelled and it became a Republic (509 BC.). In the fourth and third centuries BC. it went to war with its neighbours (Latins, Etruscans, Aequi, Volsci, Sabini, Samnites, Umbrians, etc.) for supremacy over the area and the whole of central-southern Italy, until in 264 BC. it gained control of the peninsula.

The Punic Wars (264-146) and the Macedonian Wars (215-168) marked the first great Roman conquests and prepared Rome for rule over the lands then known. After the battle of Actium (31 BC.) when Anthony was defeated by Octavian, the latter took the title of Emperor, opening the greatest period in Roman history, marked by conquest but also by great urban development of the city.

Rome began to decline in the 3rd century AD. (under the Severi dynasty): the Western Roman Empire (divided from the Eastern Empire) fell in 476 AD. to Odoacer, king of the Heruli.

After an initial period of decadence linked to the Greek-Gothic war (535-553) and frequent battles with the Lombards, the city gradually succeeded in reorganizing under papal guidance and, after the arrival of the Franks and the creation of the Patrimony of St. Peter (the early nucleus of the Papal States) the Popes succeeded in combining temporal and spiritual power.

Rome in Lazio

Subsequently, Rome was always subject to the power of the Papacy, alternating darker periods, such as the exile of the Pontiff to Avignone (1305-1370) and the Western schism (1378-1414), with others of great urban, artistic and cultural development, most importantly the Renaissance, mainly associated with Pope Julius II.

After the Napoleonic period (1798-1799 and 1809-1815) the town was the scene of Risorgimento turmoil, such as the proclamation of the Roman Republic in 1848, upheld by Mazzini, and the attempt on it by Garibaldi, thwarted at Mentana in 1867.

Rome was finally united with the Kingdom of Italy in 1870, the year which marked the end of the Papal States. In 1929, under the Lateran Treaty the Vatican City State was created within the city's perimeter, its sole sovereign the Pope.

Ancient Rome reached its maximum urban expansion (perhaps a million inhabitants) in the 3rd century AD., surrounded by the Aurelian walls which still define the city's historical centre.

After the fall of the Empire, Rome had a rapidly declining population, reduced to a few tens of thousands of inhabitants. In successive centuries development was marked by important construction work, especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, still within its ancient boundaries. Only when Rome became the capital of Italy (1871) did it rapidly begin to grow, spreading beyond the central area at the start of this century.

Expansion was often haphazard and motivated by speculation, leading to the construction of working class suburbs (the so-called `borgate'), lacking in essential services, while administrative offices and company headquarters were concentrated in the city centre.

In view of the importance and the size of Rome, one can only mentionthose important monuments which are of extraordinary archeological, cultural and artistic value. Old Roman remains include the Colosseum (1st century AD.), the Roman Forum, the Imperial Forum, Trajan's Column (113 AD.), the Column of Marcus Aurelius (193 AD.), the Arch of Titus (1st century AD.), the Arch of Constantine (315 AD.), the Basilica of Massenzio (312 AD.), the Pantheon (1st-2nd century AD., housing the tombs of the Kings of Italy and Raffaello), the Baths of Caracalla (217 AD.) and the evocative ancient Appian Way.

Civil buildings include: Palazzo del Museo Capitolino (16th century), Palazzo dei Conservatori (16th century), Palazzo Venezia (15th century), Palazzo della Cancelleria (15th century), Palazzo Farnese (16th century), Palazzo Barberini (17th century, Baroque), Villa della Farnesina (Renaissance). Places of particular beauty are Parco di Villa Borghese, Piazza Navona in Baroque style, the steps of Trinit dei Monti with Piazza di Spagna, Campidoglio.

There are numerous artistic fountains, the most famous being Fontana di Trevi (18th century), and Fontana di Fiumi (17th century). There are also countless religious buildings: the proto-Christian churches of S. Costanza, S. Giovanni in Laterano, S. Maria Maggiore, S. Sabina, S. Paolo Fuori le Mura, S. Pietro in Vincoli (housing the famous `Moses' by Michelangelo) and the Renaissance S. Maria del Popolo (frescoes by Raffaello and Caravaggio).

Rome is, however, thought of principally as the centre of the Roman Catholic Church. The Basilica of St. Peter, built at the start of the 4th century, was rebuilt by Pope Julius II, at the beginning of the 16th century under the direction of Bramante. Michelangelo added the famous cupola and the Basilica was completed in 1589.

Rome in Lazio

Ornate and majestic, it houses some of the greatest of all masterpieces, such as Michelangelo's famous Piet, the monument of Clement XIII by Canova, Bernini's Funeral monument for Urban VIII; Bernini's altar canopy is 29 m. high. Outside stretches the monumental Piazza S. Pietro (St. Peter's Square), a Bernini's masterpiece, with its majestic colonnade of 284 columns, topped by 140 statues.

The agricultural sector is of little importance in the city's economy, with few activities of any note, nor has industry ever developed to any extent, by political choice; what does exist is restricted to local commerce, present in the food, garment, publishing, building, precision engineering, pharmaceutical, television and film sectors.

Approximately two thirds of the working population are employed in the services sector where public employment (ministries, central organs of State, embassies), tourism, banking, transport and head offices of the principal nationalized industries and organisations and private enterprises are important.

Events: Fiera di Roma (May-June), Antique Furniture Salons (May), Quadrennial of Art, Performances at the Baths of Caracalla, Festa della Befana in Piazza Navona (6th January-Epiphany), Festa dei Noantri at Trastevere (July).

Famous People: Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (poet, 1791-1863), Cesare Pascarella (poet, 1858-1940), Carlo Alberto Salustri called Trilussa (poet, 1871-1950), Julius Caesar (Roman general and statesman, 100-44 BC.), Ettore Petrolini (actor, 1886-1936), Enrico Fermi (physicist, 1901-1954), Pius XII (Pope, 1876-1958), Gregory the Great (Pope, 540-604).

Cultural Institutions: University La Sapienza (founded in 1303), Catholic University, Politecnico, Gallery of Modern Art, Musei Capitolini (works by Caravaggio and Bernini among others), Vatican Museums with Gallerie degli Arazzi, Stanze di Raffaello and Sistine Chapel (Last Judgement by Michelangelo), Borghese Museum and Gallery, Roman Museum, Museo di Villa Giulia (archeological), Museo di Palazzo Venezia, Gallery of Ancient Art, Galleria Doria Pamphili, Galleria Colonna, Galleria Spada, Museum of Rome, Museum of Castel S. Angelo, Lincei Academy, Academy of Fine Arts, Academy of S. Cecilia, Academy of Dramatic Art, Arcadia Academy, Dante Alighieri National Society, National Research Centre, Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana, various foreign academies, Vatican Library, Central National Library, State Archives.

In the Province: Civitavecchia (port), Tivoli, Velletri, Marino and Albano Laziale (wines), Nettuno, Genzano di Roma (Infiorata del Corpus Domini), Frascati (Tuscolan Museum).

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