Cities in the Spotlight: Rome, Italy
Today we will be taking another trip to Europe. This time we will be looking at Rome, Italy.
Rome City Information
Rome is the capital city of Italy. It is also the capital of the Lazio region, the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, and a special comune named Comune di Roma Capitale. Rome is the country's most populated comune and the third most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. Its metropolitan area is the third-most populous in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio, along the shores of the Tiber. Vatican City (the smallest country in the world) is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city. Rome is often referred to as the City of Seven Hills due to its geographic location, and also as the "Eternal City". Rome is generally considered to be the "cradle of Western civilization and Christian culture", and the centre of the Catholic Church.
Rome Historical Significance
Rome's history spans 28 centuries. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it a major human settlement for almost three millennia and one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe. The city's early population originated from a mix of Latins, Etruscans, and Sabines. Eventually, the city successively became the capital of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded by many as the first-ever Imperial city and metropolis. It was first called The Eternal City by the Roman poet Tibullus in the 1st century BC, and the expression was also taken up by Ovid, Virgil, and Livy. Rome is also called "Caput Mundi" (Capital of the World). After the fall of the Empire in the west, which marked the beginning of the Middle Ages, Rome slowly fell under the political control of the Papacy, and in the 8th century, it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870. Beginning with the Renaissance, almost all popes since Nicholas V (1447–1455) pursued a coherent architectural and urban programme over four hundred years, aimed at making the city the artistic and cultural centre of the world. In this way, Rome became first one of the major centres of the Renaissance, and then the birthplace of both the Baroque style and Neoclassicism. Famous artists, painters, sculptors, and architects made Rome the centre of their activity, creating masterpieces throughout the city. In 1871, Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, which, in 1946, became the Italian Republic.
In 2019, Rome was the 14th most visited city in the world, with 8.6 million tourists, the third most visited in the European Union, and the most popular tourist destination in Italy. Its historic centre is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The host city for the 1960 Summer Olympics, Rome is also the seat of several specialized agencies of the United Nations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The city also hosts the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean as well as the headquarters of many international businesses, such as Eni, Enel, TIM, Leonardo S.p.A., and national and international banks such as Unicredit and BNL. Rome's EUR business district is the home of many oil industries, the pharmaceutical industry, and financial services companies. The presence of renowned international brands in the city has made Rome an important centre of fashion and design, and the Cinecittà Studios have been the set of many Academy Award–winning movies.
Travel to Rome
*taken from Lonely Planet*
A heady mix of haunting ruins, awe-inspiring art and vibrant street life, Italy’s hot-blooded capital is one of the world’s most romantic and charismatic cities. The result of 3000 years of urban development, Rome's cityscape is an exhilarating sight. Ancient icons such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon recall the city’s golden age as caput mundi (capital of the world), while monumental basilicas tell of its history as the seat of the Catholic Church. Lording it over the skyline, St Peter’s Basilica towers over the Vatican, testifying to the ambition of Rome’s Renaissance popes and the genius of its game-changing architects. Elsewhere, ornate piazzas and showy fountains add a baroque flourish to the city's captivating streets. Few cities can rival Rome's astonishing artistic heritage. Throughout history, the city has starred in the great upheavals of Western art, drawing top artists and inspiring them to push the boundaries of creative achievement. The result is a city awash with priceless treasures. Ancient statues adorn world-class museums; Byzantine mosaics and Renaissance frescoes dazzle in art-rich churches; baroque facades flank medieval piazzas. Stroll through the centre and without even trying you’ll come across masterpieces by the titans of European art – sculptures by Michelangelo, paintings by Caravaggio, frescoes by Raphael and fountains by Bernini.
A trip to Rome is as much about lapping up the dolce vita lifestyle as gorging on art and culture. Idling around picturesque streets, whiling away hours at streetside cafes, people-watching on pretty piazzas – these are all central to the Roman experience. The tempo rises in the evening when fashionable drinkers descend on the city’s bars and cafes for a sociable aperitivo (drink with snacks) and trattorias hum with activity. Elsewhere, cheerful hordes mill around popular haunts before heading off to hip cocktail bars and late-night clubs. Eating out is one of Rome's great pleasures and the combination of romantic alfresco settings and superlative food is a guarantee of good times. For contemporary fine dining and five-star wine there are any number of refined restaurants, but for a truly Roman meal head to a boisterous pizzeria or convivial neighborhood trattoria. That's where the locals go to indulge their passion for thin, crispy pizzas, humble pasta dishes, and cool white wines from the nearby Castelli Romani hills. To finish off, what can beat a gelato followed by a shot of world-beating coffee?
Must See Sites
Vatican Museums; Housing the museums are the lavishly decorated halls and galleries of the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano. This vast 13.6-acre complex consists of two palaces – the original Vatican palace (nearer to St Peter’s) and the 15th-century Palazzetto di Belvedere – joined by two long galleries. On the inside are three courtyards: the Cortile della Pigna, the Cortile della Biblioteca and, to the south, the Cortile del Belvedere. You’ll never cover it all in one day, so it pays to be selective.
Roman Forum; An impressive – if rather confusing – sprawl of ruins, the Roman Forum was ancient Rome's showpiece center, a grandiose district of temples, basilicas and vibrant public spaces. The site, originally a marshy burial ground, was first developed in the 7th century BCE, growing over time to become the social, political and commercial hub of the Roman empire. If you can get your imagination going, there’s something wonderfully compelling about walking in the footsteps of Julius Caesar and other legendary figures of Roman history. Signature sights include the Arco di Settimio Severo, the Curia, the Tempio di Saturno and the Arco di Tito.
Colosseum; Everyone wants to see the Colosseum, and it doesn’t disappoint, especially if accompanied by tales of armored gladiators and hungry lions. More than any other monument, this iconic amphitheater symbolizes the power and drama of ancient Rome, and still today it’s an electrifying sight. Inaugurated in 80 CE, the 50,000-seat Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, has survived in remarkably good shape. And it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to picture it in its pomp, with its steeply stacked stands full of frenzied spectators as armored gladiators slug it out on the arena below. After 2000 years, it's still Italy's top tourist attraction, drawing more than seven million visitors a year. To avoid the crowds, visit in the early morning or late afternoon. Consider booking tickets online, and make sure to get in the right entry line – the quickest are for those with pre-purchased tickets or passes.
St. Peter's Basilica; In the city of outstanding churches, none can hold a candle to St Peter's, Italy’s largest, richest and most spectacular basilica. Built atop a 4th-century church, it was consecrated in Rome in 1626 after 120 years of construction. Its lavish interior contains many spectacular works of art, including three of Italy's most celebrated masterpieces: Michelangelo’s Pietà, his soaring dome, and Bernini’s 95ft-high (29m) baldachin over the papal altar. The cavernous 646 ft-long (187m) interior covers more than 3.7 acres (15,000 sq m). Michelangelo's hauntingly beautiful Pietà was sculpted when he was only 25, and it is the only work the artist ever signed – his signature is etched into the sash across the Madonna's breast. Nearby, a red floor disc marks the spot where Charlemagne and later Holy Roman Emperors were crowned by the pope.
Pantheon; A striking 2000-year-old temple, now a church, the Pantheon is the best preserved of Rome’s ancient monuments and one of the most influential buildings in the Western world. Built by Hadrian over Marcus Agrippa’s earlier 27 BCE temple, it has stood since around 125 CE. And while its greying, pockmarked exterior might look its age, it's still a unique and exhilarating experience to pass through its vast bronze doors and gaze up at the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built. It’s vast, and you’ll feel very small as you look up at the record-breaking dome soaring above your head. Adding to the effect are the shafts of light that stream in through the central oculus (the circular opening at the dome’s apex), illuminating the royal tombs set into the marble-clad interior.
Trevi Fountain; Rome's most famous fountain, the iconic Fontana di Trevi, or Trevi Fountain, is a flamboyant baroque ensemble of mythical figures and wild horses taking up the entire side of the 17th-century Palazzo Poli. Thousands visit the fountain every day, keeping up with the tradition of tossing a coin into the water to ensure they will return to Rome. That, and it makes for a great photo opportunity. On average, about €3000 ($3600) is thrown in daily. Want to avoid the crowds? Visit later in the evening, when the fountain is beautifully lit, and you can appreciate its foaming majesty in a quieter environment.
Sistine Chapel; Home to two of the world’s most famous works of art – Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes (1508–12) and his Giudizio Universale (Last Judgment; 1536–41) – the Sistine Chapel is the one part of the Vatican Museums that everyone wants to see, and on a busy day you could find yourself sharing it with up to 2000 people. Michelangelo's ceiling design, which is best viewed from the chapel’s main entrance in the far east wall, covers the entire 800-sq-m surface. With painted architectural features and a cast of colourful biblical characters, it's centred on nine panels depicting stories from the book of Genesis. These panels can further be divided into three groups, illustrating the origin of man, the universe and evil.
Palatino; Sandwiched between the Roman Forum and the Circo Massimo, the Palatino (Palatine Hill) is one of Rome's most spectacular sights. It's a beautiful, atmospheric spot, complete with towering pine trees, majestic ruins and unforgettable views. This is where Romulus supposedly founded the city in 753 BCE, and Rome's emperors lived in palatial luxury. Look out for the stadio (stadium), the ruins of the Domus Flavia (imperial palace), and grandstand views over the Roman Forum from the viewing balcony in the Orti Farnesiani. Rome’s mythical founders, twin brothers Romulus and Remus, were supposedly brought up on the Palatino by a shepherd, Faustulus, after a wolf saved them from death. Their shelter, the 8th century BCE Capanne Romulee (Romulean Huts), is situated near the Casa di Augusto. In 2007 the discovery of a mosaic-covered cave 15m (49ft) beneath the Domus Augustana reignited interest in the legend. According to some scholars, this was the "Lupercale," the cave where ancient Romans thought Romulus and Remus had been suckled by the wolf.
Must Try Food & Drink
Pasta carbonara; The carbonara we know today is prepared by simply tossing spaghetti with guanciale (cured pork jowl), egg yolks, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Despite its simplicity, this dish remains one of Rome's favorites, equally popular throughout the country. Even though carbonara is considered a typical Roman dish today, its origins are quite vague and often disputed. The name is said to have been derived from the carbonari, woodcutters and charcoal-makers who lived in the Appenine mountains northeast of Rome, and who supposedly cooked their pasta over a hardwood charcoal fire and tossed it with eggs and cheese. Another popular theory claims that carbonara was invented after the liberation of Rome in 1944, when food shortages were so severe that Allied troops distributed bacon and powdered eggs, which the local population would then mix with water to make pasta sauce.
Cacio e pepe; This ancient dish with Roman origins is regarded as one of the simplest and most satisfying Italian dishes. Cacio e pepe consists of pasta (usually spaghetti), aged Pecorino Romano cheese, salt, and lots of ground black pepper. Since the ingredients are easy to transport and do not spoil easily, it was once the favorite dish of Roman shepherds. The spicy pepper protected the shepherds from the effects of cold weather during the night, while the pasta provided them with the carbohydrates they needed to perform their back-breaking labor. However, this simple meal is so good that the famous chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain described it by saying it "could be the greatest thing in the history of the world."
Pizza Bianca; Pizza bianca or white pizza is a variety of pizza which omits tomato sauce from the equation, often substituting it with pesto or sour cream. In Rome, pizza bianca is prepared with no sauce whatsoever, and it is instead topped with salt and olive oil, while chopped rosemary is sometimes sprinkled on top. There are numerous versions of pizza bianca, and the toppings vary accordingly, but the crucial element in all of them is that there should not be any kind of red sauce on the dough.
Deviled Eggs; Deviled eggs typically consist of shelled and halved hard-boiled eggs that have had their boiled yolks removed and blended with ingredients such as mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish, and seasonings into a smooth paste, which is then added back to the cavities of the egg whites. This all-time favorite is usually finished with paprika on top, and it is typically enjoyed chilled either as an appetizer or a side. Often mistakenly considered an American culinary contribution, the first versions of this simple gourmet delicacy are believed to have been invented in ancient Rome. From there, the dish has spread throughout Europe first, and then all over the world, yielding endless interpretations in different countries and resulting in the numerous variations known today. Interestingly, the word deviled in the name of this dish derives from the terms devil and devilling, both of which were used as culinary terms in Great Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century to refer to food that contains hot ingredients, is highly seasoned or spicy. Deviled eggs are a staple at parties, potluck gatherings, and picnics, and these days they’re often enhanced with a wide range of additions such as pickles, kimchi paste, dill, vinegar, chili powder, sriracha hot sauce, bacon, caviar, or crab meat.
Mulled Wine; Mulled wine is a warming beverage that combines wine, sugar, and spices. It is enjoyed throughout Europe, traditionally as a festive Christmas drink. Most variations opt for heated and sweetened red wine, while the additions usually include various spices and fresh or dried fruit. Mulled wine comes in numerous regional variations that differ in the choice of spices, while some even use regional spirits, fortified wines, and liqueurs. The origin of mulled wine is usually associated with ancient Romans and Greeks. It is believed that predecessors included a Greek beverage called hippocras, while the Romans had conditum paradoxum, which was a sweet spiced wine listed in the Apicius cookbook. Mulled wine is typically served hot or warm in a small porcelain mug. It is sometimes garnished with an orange wheel, star anise, or cloves.
Carciofi alla Giudía; These crunchy, deep-fried artichokes are a classic Roman side dish that originated in the oldest Jewish community in all of Europe, Rome's Jewish ghetto — hence the moniker alla Giudía. First, artichokes are trimmed and peeled down to their tender hearts, then they are marinated for a few hours in lemon water, and finally seasoned with salt and pepper before being fried in olive oil until crispy. The best variety of artichokes for preparing this dish are Romanesco artichokes. This cultivar from the coastal region northwest of Rome is harvested between February and April, making carciofi alla Giudía a springtime staple in numerous trattorias and eateries in the city's old Jewish quarter.
Spaghetti alla carrettiera; Pasta alla carrettiera is a traditional Italian dish. It's usually made with spaghetti, parsley, tuna, chili peppers, garlic, and porcini mushrooms. On Sicily, a simpler eponymous dish is made with spaghetti, parsley, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, chili peppers, and Pecorino cheese. Pasta alla carrettiera is believed to be what was prepared to cart riders who were carrying wine to Rome from the surrounding castles and took a break at the local osterias. It's recommended to serve the dish with a glass of good-structured white wine.
Trapizzino; Invented by Stefano Callegari in 2008 in Rome, trapizzino is a popular street food item consisting of a pocket of pizza bianca that is typically filled with a meat or vegetable filling – usually classic Roman dishes that would traditionally be impossible to consume on the go. The tasty trapizzino originated from pizza by-the-slice, and its name is a play on words combining tramezzino (Italian triangular sandwiches) and pizza. This snack should be soft on the inside and crunchy outside, and due to its popularity, it even gained international acclaim and started to appear on the streets of New York as well.
Angelo Azzurro; Angelo Azzurro, translated as a blue angel, is an Italian cocktail that combines gin, triple sec (Cointreau), and blue curaçao. The cocktail is made by pouring all the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. The mix is shaken and then strained into a martini glass and garnished with a lemon twist. Lemon juice is sometimes also included. The cocktail is typically garnished with a lime or lemon twist. The origin of Angelo Azzurro is not entirely clear, but its invention is mainly associated with Giovanni Pepè. The cocktail was first introduced in Rome sometime in the 1980s, but it became incredibly popular in the 1990s. It was a trendy drink in nightclubs, and it was often associated with LGBTQ communities. The name is probably a reference to L'Angelo Azzurro, a gay nightclub in Rome. Many think that Angelo Azzurro is a variation of Blue Lagoon, which is based on vodka and blue curaçao.
Bruschetta alla romana; Bruschetta alla romana is a traditional Italian bruschetta variety originating from Rome. Although there are variations, it's made with a combination of bread, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, capers, salt, and pepper in its classic form. The capers are rinsed in water and coarsely chopped. The tomatoes are chopped, mixed with the capers, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and the mixture is then spooned over toasted slices of bread that have been rubbed with garlic. If desired, feel free to add black olives, oregano, and basil to the bruschetta mixture for extra flavors and textures.