We shall not repeat here the now well-known legend of the founding of Rome, that speaks of Aeneas, Romulus, Remus and the famous seven kings.  However, it is from the legend of Romulus and Remus (the sons of Rea Silva and the God Mars, abandoned on the waters of the Tiber, and suckled by a she-wolf) that Rome derives its symbol.  In fact, today in the Capitoline Museum of the Palace of the Conservatori we find the she-wolf, an Etruscan work of the first half of the fifth century B.C.
The Ancient centre - The Capitol, the southern summit of the Capitoline Hill , was the symbolic centre of the Roman world and home to the city’s three most important temples. These were dedicated to the god Jupiter Optimus Maximus, protector of Rome, Minerva, goddess of wisdom and war, and Juno Moneta, a guardian goddess. Below the Capitoline lies the Forum, once the focus of political, social, legal and commercial life; the Imperial Fora, built when Rome’s population grew; and the Colosseum, the centre of entertainment. In the early Republic, the Forum was a chaotic place, with food stalls and brothels as well as temples and the Senate House. By the 2nd century BC it was decided that Rome required a more salubrious centre, and the food stores were replaced by business centres and law courts. The Forum remained the ceremonial centre of the city under the Empire, with emperors renovating old buildings and erecting new temples and monuments.

Overlooking the forum is the Palatine Hill, where Romulus is said to have founded Rome in the 8th century BC, and emperors lived for 4000 years.

Temples of the Forum Boarium - These wonderfully well preserved Republican temples are at their very best at moonlight , standing in their grassy enclave beside the Tiber sheltered by the umbrella pines. During the day they look less romantic, stranded in a sea of traffic. They date from the 2nds century BC, and were saved from ruin by being consecrated as Christian churches in the Middle ages by the Greek community then living in the area. The smaller circular temple which is made of solid marble and surrounded by 20 fluted columns, was dedicated to Hercules, though it was long believed to be a Temple of Vesta, because of its similarity to the one in the Forum.
Santa Maria in Trastevere - The façade of Santa Maria in Trastevere built in the twelft century.  In the tympanum a mosaic by P. Cavallini.  The portico has five arches and a terrace above.  On the balustrade are some seventeenth century statues by ~Carlo Fontana added in 1702.  The bell-tower is in Romanesque style.
Piazza NavonaRome’s most beautiful Baroque piazza follows the shape of a 1st century AD stadium built by Domitian , which was used for athletic contests (known as agones), chariot races and other sports. Traces of the stadium are still visible below the magnificent church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone which dominates the square. The Fountain, the Fontana dei Fiumi is Bernini’s most magnificent, with statues of the four great rivers of the world (the Nile, the Ganges, the Plate, and the Danube) sitting on rocks below the obelisk. Until the 19th century the Piazza was flooded in August by stopping the fountain’s outlets. The rich would splash around in carriages, while street urchins paddled. Even today the piazza remains a social centre of the city.

In the nineteenth century, tired of Baroque and Rococco, Rome indulged in a neoclassicism which echoed the Greek architectural orders and Roman Imperial architecture.  It declined to a rather cold and irritating conventionalism, however, it was in this period that several new innovations took place; for example the layout of Piazza del Popolo by Giuseppe Valadier.

The Pantheon - The Pantheon, the Roman ‘temple of all gods’, is the most extraordinary and best preserved building in Rome. The first temple on the site was a conventional rectangular affair erected by Agrippa between 27 and 25 BC; the present structure was built and possibly designed by Emperor Hadrian in AD 118. The temple is fronted by a massive pedimented portico screening what appears to be a cylinder fused to a shallow dome. Only from the inside can the true scale and beauty be appreciated: a vast hemispherical dome equal in radius to the height of the cylinder giving perfectly harmonious proportions to the building. A circular opening, the oculus, lets in the only light.

In the 7th century Christians claimed to be plagued by demons as they passed by, and permission was given to make Pantheon a Church. Today it is lined with tombs ranging from a restraint monument to Raphael to huge marble and porphyry sarcophagi holding the bodies of Italian monarchs.

Piazza di Spagna  - Shaped like a crooked bow tie, and surrounded by muted shuttered facades, Piazza di Spagna is crowded all day and (in summer) most of the night. The most famous square in Rome, it takes name from the Palazzo di Spagna, built in the 17th century to house the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. The Piazza has long been the haunt of foreign visitors and expatriates. In the 18th and 19th centuries the square stood at the heart of the city’s main hotel district. Some of the travellers came in search of knowledge and inspiration, although most were interested in collecting statues to adorn their family homes.

When the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens visited, he reported that the Spanish steps were crowded with models dressed as Madonnas, saints and emperors, hoping to attract the attention of foreign artists. The steps were built in 1720 to link the square to the French church of Trinita’ dei Monti above. The French wanted to place a statue of Louis XIV at the top, but the Pope objected, and it was not until the 1720s that the Italian architect Francesco de Sanctis produced the voluptuous Rococo design which satisfied both camps. The Fontana Barcaccia, sunk into the paving at the foot of the steps due to low water pressure, was designed by Bernini’s less famous father, Pietro.

The Spanish Steps







The Colosseum is the most famous and well-known monument of Roman antiquity.  The construction of this enormous Flavian amphitheatre was begun in 72 A.D. by the Emperors of the Flavian family and completed under Titus in 80 A.D.  It was destined to be used for gladiatorial contests and wild beast hunts.  The origin of its name is not known precisely.  Some believe it was given this name because of its gigantic proportions; others say it refers to a colossal statue of Nero which once stood near it.
Fontana di Trevi - This is the masterpiece of the Roman architect Nicolò Salvi who was commissioned by the Florentine Pope Clement XII to systematize the already existing spring called Virgin Water.  This name comes to us from an ancient tradition which tells about a young girl who showed the spring to some thirsty Roman soldiers.  The fountain was finished in 1762, and was called Trevi because it was constructed at a point where three roads join together.  Italians and foreigners, following the local tradition, throw a coin into the fountain which has the virtue of ensuring their return to Rome.
Castel Sant' Angelo - It is one of othe most historically significant monuments in Rome.  Originally, it did not have the aspect of a fortress, but of a mausoleum which the Emperor Hadrian planned as a sepulcre for himself and his successors.  The mausoleum, which consisted of a large square base to support a cylindrical construction, was begun in 135 A.D. and completed under the Emperor Antonius Pius in 139 A.D.
The Basilica of St Peter - The present basilica replaced an earlier one founded by Constantine the Great between 324 and 349.  Its foundation stone was blessed by Pope Julius II on April 18, 1506. There were several architects involved in  the work but those who was really active in its construction were the Florentine Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, followed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, Domenico Fontana, Giacomo della Porta and Carlo Maderno.  The basilica was consecrated by the Florentine Pope Urban VIII on November 18, 1626.  It covers a surface of more than a hectare and a half, is 211.50 meter long including the portico and the thickness of the walls and is 141.50 meters high.
St Peter's Square - Neopolitan Gian Lorenzo Bernini created a true masterpiece with the two immense semicircles that relate so well with the trapezoidal space in front of the façade of the basilica.  The colonnade of Bernini was built between 1656 and 1667.  It is composed of 284 imposing columns in the Doric order and 88 pilasters.  The columns are arranged in four rows forming three covered ambulatories which altogether measure 17 meters in width.  The colonade is 19 meters high; it encloses an area of 148 meters wide and 198 meters long.
The Sistine Chapel - Between 1475 and 1483, Pope Sixtus IV employed the Florentine architect Giovanino de' Dolcio to construct the ceiling.  At that time it was to serve two purposes, liturgical and defensive.  The interior is 40.23 meters long, 13.41 meters wide, and 20.73 meters high.  The walls are decorated with beautiful frescoes by famous Tuscan and Umbrian masters.  But the greatest attraction of the Sistine Chapel is the marvelous picture cycle by Michelangelo  which begins with the decoration of the enormous vault (almost 520 square meters).  It narrates different episodes of the Creation of the Universe, of Man, Original Sin, the Flood, the Rebirth of Man and it ends with the masterpiece frescoed on the walls of the altar (200 square meters of surface) narrating the theme "Universal Judgment".

The Creation of Man

The Creation of Woman


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