Rome in Italy
It's hard to say what you'll find most breathtaking about the Eternal City-the arrogant opulence of the Vatican, the timelessness of the Forum, the top speed of a Fiat Bambino, the gory resonance of the Colosseum, trying to cross a major intersection, or the bill for your caffe latte. Read more...
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It's hard to say what you'll find most breathtaking about the Eternal City-the arrogant opulence of the Vatican, the timelessness of the Forum, the top speed of a Fiat Bambino, the gory resonance of the Colosseum, trying to cross a major intersection, or the bill for your caffe latte.
Rome has two main international airports: Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (Rome Fiumicino, code FCO)-Well organized and connected to the center of the city by public transportation. Ciampino International Airport (Rome Ciampino, code CIA)-Located to the south of the capital, confusingly on via Leonardo Da Vinci.Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino International Airport (FCO)
There are several options to go from Leonard da Vinci airport to downtown Rome:
Leonardo Express trains leaves every 30 min to the central train station Roma Termini (30 min trip). Trains from Termini depart from the track 24 on the right. Ticket costs €11, available at the counter as well as the Termini news stand. Tickets sold at the departure platform are more expensive. You can't buy a ticket for a specific train (it's just a general ticket for specific route (Termini), but for any time). Get your ticket stamped in a yellow validation machine just before using it. Ticket expires 90 minutes after validation.
The Metropolitan train leaves from the track on the left but does not stop at Termini. Get off at Tiburtina Station or at Ostiense Station to connect to the Rome Metro. Tickets: €5.50, plus €1 for a metro ticket. The extra cost of the Leonard Express is for the convenience of a direct ride to Termini. If you are going somewhere else on the Metro, Tiburtina and Ostiense are as convenient. Get your ticket stamped in a yellow validation machine just before using it.
Taxis. Taxis in Rome are white. From October 1st 2006 there are fix fares from downtown to airports. City center to Fiumicino and vice-versa cost 40 euros. City center to Ciampino and vice-versa cost 30 Euros. For others destinations fares are not fixed. You don't have to negotiate the price. Regular taxis have a taximeter. Fee for luggage is around 1 euro each. Be aware that Fiumicino is outside of city limits, this implies that the fare for first part is higher (a number 2 appears on the meter). The driver is supposed to change the fare to number 1 once he hits the ring highway (G.R.A.) and enters the city limits. Watch out for unlicensed taxi drivers or limousine drivers (dark cars) that approach you at Termini station or any of the airports.
Rental cars are available from all major carriers. Providers can be reached easily in the Arrivals Hall at the airport.
Shuttle services must be booked 1 day in advance, from the following companies:
Airport shuttle, Tel.: +39-06-42013469, 4740451, or 42014507, http://www.airportshuttle.it/ offers door-to-door service from airport Fiumicino / Ciampino to Rome hotels or private residence. Minibus 8 seats.
Fattori Car Service offers great transfer and shuttle services from Rome Airports.
Civitavecchia Port Shuttles, +39-3334191175, http://www.zelitlimousine.com/http://www.zelitlimousine.com/http://www.zelitlimousine.com/. Transfers from Fiumicino or Ciampino airports Civitavecchia port, Call (24 hours).
Colosseumtravel Limousine Service, Tel.: +39 0657305406, http://www.colosseumtravel.com. Provides first-class private limousine and airport transfer services.
NCC Rome, Piazza P. Puricelli, 11 00149 Roma, Tel. 06.55.65.483, Fax 06.55.30.72.95, mailto:email@example.com, http://www.Topdriver.it/. Shuttle and limousine service.
Orange Limos Rome – Piazzale Ardeatino, 1 C – Cap: 00154, Rome, Italy. http://www.orangelimosrome.com/. Office Telephone form 9:00am to 6:00pm: +39-6-5754104, Fax: +39-6-57137675, Mobile Phone 24hrs: +393357167871 or +393357167872. Transfers from and to the roman airports (Fiumicino and Ciampino) and Civitavecchia Sea Port (only for cruise passengers), wedding service, and tours with private driver in Rome as well as in Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Pompei, Perugia and Assisi. Convenient rates and professional service!
Rome Limousines http://www.romelimousines.com/. Provides luxury sedan and van transportation for your airport transfers, charters, and tours.
Terravision http://www.terravision.it/. Offers a shuttle service from/to Fiumicino airport to/from Termini Station (Via Marsala). Tickets: €9 single or €15 return, 70 minutes, 5 stops, 7 services a day.
Bus (Co.tra.l, S.p.A, blue regular-size buses). The bus stop is located outdoors at ground level ~100 meters left from arrivals (teminals B&C). You can buy tickets at all tobacco shops-they have blue signs (Tabacheria), e.g. at Terminal B or at the drugstore Terminal A. Lines are: Aeroporto-Termini-Tiburtina (€3.60) Aeroporto-Roma Cornelia (metro A) (€2.80) Aeroporto-Roma Magliana (metro B) (€1.60) Aeroporto-Ostia Lido (€1.00) Aeroporto-Fregene (€1.00) Aeroporto-Fiumicino (città) (€0.77)
Schedules are available in the website
Don't forget to mark your ticket after getting on the bus; if the machine doesn't work (which is fairly common), you have to write your name, birth date and current date & time on the ticket.
A good choice is to take the bus to EUR Magliana (stops directly at the metro station, which belongs to line B) and then take the metro. It's the cheapest way to get to the centre (€2 bus+€1 metro). The sign on this bus reads Fiumicino-Porto-Magliana.Ciampino International Airport (CIA)
Easyjet, Ryanair and Wizzair flights, among others (see Discount airlines in Europe ) fly to Ciampino Airport (CIA). This small airport is closer to the city center than Fiumicino but has no direct train connection. Note that at Ciampino cash machines are available only in the departures area.
By bus COTRAL/Schiaffini. Operates buses from outside the terminal building to Anagnina metro station (ticket: €1.20). A metro ticket to central Rome costs another €1. There are also buses at the same price to Ciampino local train station; from there there is a train to Rome Termini station (ticket: €2). The buses operate roughly every hour or 30 minutes during the Italian work day (8-12 and 16-20), and you should count on at least 45 minutes travel time for either route. Italian trains are notoriously late, and the metro can get very crowded. Timetable booklets are available in some information booths.
Schiaffini also run direct buses to Termini station for €5 one-way (approx. 40 min), but with far fewer departures than Terravision (see below). These buses are not mentioned on the airport website yet, but you can find them on Schiaffini's own site.
Sit bus shuttle http://www.sitbusshuttle.it/. Runs a direct bus service from/to Termini. The price is €6 one-way or 10€ with return (approx. 40 min, with about 25 services a day).
Terravision http://www.terravision.eu/rome_ciampino.html. Also runs a direct bus service to Termini. Please note that this is a dedicated airport-city transfer only for some airlines. The price is €8 one-way or €13.50 return (approx. 40 min, with about 20 services a day). It is advised that passengers on the return trip from Termini to board the bus 3 hours before their flight's departure time. Terravision also offers buses from Fiumicino airport to Termini, and a transfer bus between the two airports.
By taxi The price for a taxi ride to Termini is €30, as it is to any destination within the city walls. Be aware of unofficial taxi drivers: A drive with them could reach as high as €80. Do NOT negotiate the price for the city center with anyone and be sure your driver activates the meter when he starts driving to any other destination. Be aware that Ciampino is outside of city limits, this implies that the fare for first 10 minutes is higher (a number 2 appears on the meter). The driver is supposed to change the fare to number 1 once he hits the ring highway (G.R.A.) and enters the city limits. One more proviso: Go direct to the taxi stand, ignoring touts.
By shuttle Zelitlimousine.com http://www.zelitlimousine.com/http://www.zelitlimousine.com/http://www.zelitlimousine.com/. See economic transfer rates from airport to Rome hotels and Civitavecchia port.
The shared shuttle can be hired for around €15 per person. However, since the shuttle is shared, it may take longer to reach your destination if other customers are dropped off before you are.
Rental cars are available in the airport terminal from all the usual companies.By train
Rome's main railway station is Termini Station. Like any other train station, it's not very safe at night. It's also locked up between 00:30 and 04:30, when the only people hanging around outside are taxi drivers and the homeless. Most long-distance trains passing through Rome between these times will stop at Tiburtina station instead.
Other main stations include Ostiense, Trastevere, Tuscolana, Tiburtina.By car
Roman traffic is chaotic, so it is better to use public means, if possible, while in Rome. A valid alternative is to rent a scooter which costs about 40€ per day.By boat
Cruise ships dock in Civitavecchia, one hour north by train. Most cruise lines offer some form of transportation to Rome.
Grimaldi Lines http://www.grimaldi-ferries.com. Provides ferry service to/from Barcelona, Tunis, Toulon (France), Porto-Vecchio (Corsica). Moby http://www.moby.it/cms/export/en/index.html. Provides service to/from Olbia, Sardinia.
Taxis are the most expensive way to get around Rome, but when weighed against convenience and speed, are often worth it. Roman taxis within the city walls run on meters, and you should always make sure the driver starts the meter. Taxis will typically only pick you up at a taxi stand, which you will find at all but the smallest piazzas, as well as at the main train station. Flagging down a taxi (like in London) is possible, but quite rare as the taxi drivers prefer to use the stands. When you get in the cab there will be a fixed starting charge, which will be more for late nights, Sundays and holidays. Supplements will be requested for bags that the driver has to handle, typically €1 per bag. Drivers may not use the shortest route, so try to stay on map and discuss if you feel you're being tricked. To try to avoid this situation, you can check in advance an estimate of the cost of the taxi trip.
Be warned that when you phone for a taxi, the cab's meter starts running when it is summoned, not when it arrives to pick you up, so by the time a cab arrives at your location there may already be a substantial amount on the meter. ou can get a taxi pretty easily at any piazza though, so calling ahead is really not required.
A trip completely across the city (within the walls) will cost about €11, a little more if there's heavy traffic at night or on a Sunday. From Ciampino airport the flat rate is €30 to anywhere in the city period, and this is set by a central authority. Drivers at the airport may try to talk you into more, saying that your destination is 'inside the wall' or 'hard to get to'. State flat out before you drive away that you want the meter to run. If they try to overcharge you, start looking for a policeman. They will probably back down.
The main taxi companies may be called at 063570 and 065551.
Rome also has several taxi cooperatives: La Capitale, Tel 064994 Roma Sud, Tel 066645 Cosmos, Tel 0688177
Once you're in the center you're best off on foot. What could be more romantic than strolling through Rome on foot holding hands? Hard to beat!
Crossing a street in Rome can be challenging. There are crosswalks, but these are rarely located at signaled intersections. Traffic can be intimidating, but if you are at a crosswalk the secret to getting across is to just start walking. Cars will not slow down, but they will alter their trajectory to avoid hitting you. Do not try to run across, or anticipate gaps in traffic. Keep a steady pace, look straight ahead, and you'll get to the other side safely.
Watch out for the thousands of mopeds.
Roman buses are not known for running on strict and reliable schedules. But they are a great way to get around to all parts of the city, as long as you're not in a hurry.
The buses basically operate on the honor system, but ATAC http://www.atac.roma.it/ does police the bus system for people riding without tickets. ATAC officers may board at every door of the bus just before the bus leaves and check every passenger on the bus. Stamp the ticket before boarding the Metro, or on board the bus or tram, or face a €50 fine. Though inspectors are somewhat rare, if you don't have sufficient money on you to pay the fine, they will actually escort you to an ATM to pay the fee. If you don't have an ATM card to withdraw money, you will be asked to pay by mail, and the fee goes up to €140.
Maps of the bus system are available for purchase (3.5 euro at Termini). Bus stops list the stops of the bus, but without a map, you will have a hard time using the city buses. Bus drivers try to be helpful, but most are not fluent in English. It is helpful if you know basic Italian.
Transport ticket (biglietti per autobus)-one metro ride and as many bus/tram rides as you can do in an hour and a quarter (1 Euro). Tickets can only be purchased at Tabaccheria (big 'T' sign outside), newspaper kiosks or vending machines in some metro stations. You'll have more chances to buy them in Bars inside the Metro stations.
So called 24 hour tickets are only valid on the day you buy them, not for 24 hours after buying. Be aware that many tabaccherie close on Sunday, so buy your tickets in advance. You can also get tickets for longer periods. For example, a three-day ticket costs €11. They're dead handy, as you can use them on the bus, tram and metro.
One of the most popular and useful lines is the 40, which arches from the Termini station through the historic center and then up to the Castel Sant'Angelo, near the Vatican. It is considered an express route, so its bus stops are spaced about 1/2 mile (2/3 km) apart; but it is also very frequent, very convenient for most places that the Metro does not go to, and very fast moving, especially compared to other routes.
Night buses Night buses should be useful due to the closing of the Metro stations at 23:30 and the stop of regular lines of buses and Trams at midnight. During the summer (until 23rd September) and on Fridays and Saturdays, the frequency of the rides is halved, which can vary among 10, 15, 30 and 35 minutes depending on the line, and of course, the particular pace of the city. In any case they are much more punctual than during the day, as traffic is much less jammed. This makes the drivers drive at high speeds, allowing passengers to experience a strange mixture of adrenaline and (the city's) classical views.
The Tram routes mostly skirt the historic center, but there are stops convenient for the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Trastevere area. The number 8 does run into the center, not far from the Pantheon. If you want to catch a soccer game at one of the stadiums in the north of the city, catch the tram (2) just north of the Piazza del Popolo.
There are two lines, crossing at Termini station. Line A (red line) runs northwest past the Vatican, and south. Line B (Blue Line) runs southwest past the Colosseum and northeast. Through most of 2007 Line A stops running at 10:00 pm. However, it is replaced by two bus routes (MA1 and MA2) that parallel it at 5 minute intervals. There are nearby tram lines that go right to Termini easily, however. Line B stops service at 11:30 pm (time of last departure of the trains from the final destinations). On Fridays and Saturdays the last trains of Line B leave from the stations at 1:30 am and the line closes at 2:00 am. The Metro is the most punctual form of public transportation in Rome, but it can get extremely crowded during rush hour. See safety warning in the Stay Safe section.
When to go
Rome/Aventino Aventino-Aventine Hill contains the Circus Maximus and the Baths of Caracalla Rome/Campo de' Fiori Campo de' Fiori-The most interesting and charming place where someone can plan to stay in Rome especially if English spoken. Rome/Campo Marzio Campo Marzio-Situated in the north part of Rome, otherwise known as the IV Rione in Italian. Rome/Castro Pretorio Castro Pretorio Rome/Colosseo Colosseo-The heart of ancient Rome, the Colosseum, the Rome/Roman Forum Roman Forum, the Forum of Augustus, the Forum and Markets of Trajan, the Capitoline and its museums. Rome/Esquilino Esquilino-South of Termini, with an indoor market and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Rome/San Giovanni San Giovanni-At the center of this area south of Esquilino is the Cathedral of Rome Saint John in Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano in Italian). Rome/EUR EUR Rome/Navona Navona Rome/Nomentano Nomentano Rome/Pantheon Pantheon Rome/Parioli Parioli Rome/Prati Prati Rome/Quirinale Quirinale Rome/Repubblica Repubblica-Also known as Esedra. Rome/Salario Salario Rome/San Lorenzo San Lorenzo Rome/San Paolo San Paolo Rome/Spagna Spagna-The Spanish Steps, the Mausoleum of Augustus, Ara Pacis. Rome/Testaccio Testaccio Rome/Trastevere Trastevere-Across the Tiber River, the old gate. Rome/Trevi Trevi-The Trevi Fountain. Rome/Via Veneto Via Veneto-The Via Veneto is famous for the Dolce Vita, the magnificent Piazza Barberini is also in this area. Rome/Villa Borghese Villa Borghese Rome/Vaticano Vaticano-The area around Vatican City. Vatican City-The independent Papal State within the city of Rome, location of St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Castel Sant'Angelo. Rome/Lido di Ostia Lido di Ostia
22 Rioni (I Monti, II Rome/Trevi Trevi, III Colonna, IV Rome/Campo Marzio Campo Marzio, V Ponte, VI Parione, VII Regola, VIII Sant'Eustachio, IX Pigna, X Campitelli, XI Sant'Angelo, XII Ripa, XIII Rome/Trastevere Trastevere, XIV Borgo, XV Rome/Esquilino Esquilino, XVI Ludovisi, XVII Sallustiano, XVIII Rome/Castro Pretorio Castro Pretorio, XIX Celio, XX Rome/Testaccio Testaccio, XXI San Saba, XXII Rome/Prati Prati ).
32 Urban areas (I Flaminio, II Rome/Parioli Parioli, III Pinciano, IV Rome/Salario Salario, V Rome/Nomentano Nomentano, VI Tiburtino, VII Prenestino-Labicano, VIII Tuscolano, IX Appio Latino, X Ostiense, XI Portuense, XII Gianicolense, XIII Aurelio, XIV Trionfale, XV Della Vittoria, XVI Rome/Monte Sacro Monte Sacro, XVII Trieste, XVIII Tor di Quinto, XIX Prenestino-Centocelle, XX Ardeatino, XXI Petralata, XXII Collatino, XXIII Alessandrino, XXIV Don Bosco, XXV Appio Claudio, XXVI Appio Pignatelli, XXVII Primavalle, XXVIII Monte Sacro Alto, XXIX Ponte Mammolo, XXX San Basilio, XXXI Giulio Dalmata, XXXII Rome/EUR EUR).
3 Coastal areas Rome/Lido di Ostia Lido di Ostia (XXXIII Lido di Ostia Ponente, XXXIV Lido di Ostia Levante, XXXV Lido di Castel Fusano).
6 Suburbs (Tor di Quinto, Portuense, Gianicolense, Aurelio, Trionfale, Della Vittoria).
Rome is generally a safe place, even for women travelling alone.
As in any big city, it is better if you don't look like a tourist: don't exhibit your camera or camcorder to all and sundry, and keep your money in a safe place.
Termini (the main railway station), Esquilino and bus line 64 (Termini to San Pietro) are well known for pick-pockets, so take extra care in these areas.
Read up on the legends concerning tourist scams. Most of them occur regularly in Rome and you will want to see them coming.
Watch out especially for bands of gypsy kids who will crowd you and reach for your pockets under the cover of newspapers or cardboard sheets. One of the best ways to avoid pickpocketing is to wear a money belt (different from a fanny pack, worn under clothes). Remember, if you are pickpocketed or another scam, don't be afraid to shout Aiuto, Ladro! (Help, Thief!). Romans will not be nice to the thief.
A great deal of pickpocketing and bag-or purse-snatching takes place in crowded locations, but there is very little violent crime. Members of the Italian public are likely to be sympathetic if you are a crime victim. Police are also generally friendly if not always helpful. Carabinieri (black uniform, red striped trousers) are military police, and Polizia (blue and grey uniform) are civilians, but they both do essentially the same thing and are equally good, or bad. A particular scam is when some plainclothes police will approach you, asking to look for drug money, or ask to see your passport. This is a scam to take your money. You can scare them by asking for their ID. Guardia di Finanza (the grey uniformed ones) do customs work. If you are robbed, try to find a police station and report it. This is essential to establishing a secure travel insurance claim.
Another popular trick that occurs at night, when people are leaving the bars/clubs is someone will approach you asking for a cigarette. They will then proceed to walk up towards you and do a funny dance of some sort. As you stare at them trying to figure out what's going on, a second person will come up from behind and snatch your purse, or wallet.
Currently there are two middle-aged men working near the Spanish Steps. They approach you, asking where you are from and begin to tie bracelets around your wrists. When they are done they will charge you upwards of €20 for each bracelet. There are also two men in their early twenties doing the same thing in the Piazza Navona. If anyone makes any attempt to reach for your hand, retract quickly. If you get trapped, you can refuse to pay, perhaps not wise if there are not many people around, however my friend and I escaped by claiming we had no money on us.
In Metro pickpockets are extremely skilled. Keeping your wallet in your front pocket or in your bag is FAR from safe. You should consider using a money belt that has a zippered inner pocket or a pouch that straps around your waist and rests between your pants & underwear. If you carry a bag, it is imperative that you either lock the zippers together with small padlocks, or carry it always in front of you, strapped AND held onto tightly. Pickpockets often work in teams using elaborate distraction techniques that are constantly evolving.
Be aware that holding the strap of your purse or messenger bag does very little to ensure its safety. One popular technique that purse-snatchers use is to ride by you on a moped, slice your bag's strap with a very sharp knife & ride off with the bag. Another technique is, usually in places like Metro or Bus, & sometimes closely-packed queues, to cut the bottom of your bag open & pick your wallet up off the ground. The thickness of crowds makes it extremely difficult to give chase in such an event. There are companies that sell bags with strong wire mesh woven into the fabric so they cannot be cut.
It may seem cumbersome to keep all your valuables completely secure, but the peace of mind it offers is priceless. It is far more enjoyable not to have to be constantly watchful.
Also, as a rule, you should pretty much never carry anything very valuable in any pocket. The front pocket of your pants is one of the easiest & most common targets. The best way is to keep whatever cash you'll need for the day in your front pocket, in no kind of wallet or carrier that is visible through your pants (in other words, if you have only paper bills in your pockets, they will appear to be empty), and put your credit card, passport & additional cash in a money belt.
When taking a taxi, be sure to remember license number written on the card door. In seconds your taxi bill can raise by 5, 10 or more euros. When giving money to taxi driver, be careful. They usually tell you gave 10 instead of 50 euros, they are skilled thieves and you can not negotiate after they scam you.
Be careful of con-men who may approach you at tourist sights such as the Colosseum or Circus Maximus. Eg. a car may pull up next to you, and the driver ask you for directions to the Vatican. He will strike up a conversation with you while he sits in his car, and tell you he is a sales representative for a large French fashion house. He will then tell you he likes you and he would like to give you a gift of a coat worth several thousand euros. As you reach inside his car to take the bag the coat is in, he will ask you for €200 for gas, as his car is nearly empty. When you refuse, he could turn angry and now demand money from you, any money, of any currency. Don't fall for such confidence-tricks-if something sounds too good to be true, it is.
Rome is also home to two rival Serie A football clubs, A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio, and there is a history of conflict, and even rioting, between the two. If you dare to wear anything that supports either of them, especially during the Rome Derby (when the two clubs play each other), make sure you don't wander into supporters of the other club, or you may be subject to heckling or even confrontation. Play it safe and refrain from openly supporting either club unless you are very familiar with the rivalry.
In short, conscientiousness and vigilance are your best insurances for avoiding becoming a victim of a crime in Rome.
Ancient Romans believed their city had been founded on 21 April 753 BC, and more recent archaeological discoveries pretty much back this up. According to myth, the city was founded by the twin sons of Mars, god of war, and Rhea Silvia, princess and (until meeting Mars) vestal virgin. The twins, Romulus and Remus, were abandoned on the shores of the Tiber and brought up by a she-wolf. Romulus killed his brother in a battle over who should govern, then established the city of Rome on the Palatino.
The non-mythical city was ruled by Etruscan kings until 510 BC, when it became a republic. By the 2nd century BC the city controlled central and southern Italy, had defeated the rival empire of Carthage and was poised to take over the whole Mediterranean. But as Rome became more powerful abroad, its citizens got more uppity at home-the city suffered several civil wars, with the last wrapping up on the Ides of March, 44 BC, when Brutus backstabbed Julius Caesar.
The Republic ended and the emperors took over, ushering in a frenzy of civic and monumental building. Each emperor wanted to leave his mark on the city and in their eagerness to outdo one another, they sprinkled Rome with many of the famous buildings that still stand today. The Empire reached its apogee under Trajan (98-117 AD), spanning the area from northern England to Mesopotamia, north to the River Danube and south down the Nile.
With the rise of Christianity in the 4th century, Rome lost much of its secular power but became the centre of a new empire, Christendom. The Bishop of Rome was named successor to Saint Peter (or, in other words, Pope). Many of the city's large basilicas-such as Santa Croce, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Pietro and San Sebastiano-were built around this time.
In 410, the Barbarian invasions began, but in truth the citizens themselves did more damage, stripping many of the city's fine buildings for their marble. The Western Roman Empire bit the dust in 476 when Odoacer deposed Emperor Romulus Augustulus-from this time on power moved east, and Germanic and Byzantine empires bickered over authority over Rome. In the late 8th century, Pope Stephen II backed up the claims of Frankish king Pepin the Short that he was the chosen of God, and in return received a parcel of land around Rome. The alliance became known as the Holy Roman Empire-combining the power of church and state.
From the 9th to the 12th centuries the power of the popes grew, although it was under constant attack from the city's various aristocratic houses. The papacy splurged its wealth on several new churches dedicated to the Virgin-the Santa Marias of Cosmedin, Trastevere (with its spectacular mosaic), Aracoeli and sopra Minerva. Although things hit the skids a bit in the 14th century, when the pope was exiled to Avingnon due to factional fighting and the city's population and infrastructure took a plummet, the papacy had re-established its firm grip on the reins by the 15th century. Things got lavish. In cahoots with some of Italy's greatest artists-Raphael, Bernini, Borromini-and their cash-stacked patrons-the Medicis, Farneses and Borgheses-the papacy transformed Rome into a wonderland of Renaissance and Baroque piazzas, churches and fountains. Money poured in as pilgrims came from all over Europe to see the wonders of the Holy See. The only real interruption to papal power came in the form of the Roman Commune, whose republican constitution and classical-style senate were instituted during the Roman revolution of 1143.
But as some guy once said, pride goes before a fall: Charles V's sack of Rome in 1527, the French Revolution, Napoleon's march across Europe and the Franco-Prussian War pulled the rug out from under papal power. In 1870 Rome became capital of the newly united Italy, leaving the pope with mere figurehead status and causing him to abandon the city for the home fires of the Vatican.
In the 20th century, Rome went through yet another growth spurt. The pope was made sovereign of Vatican City in 1929. The new administration was more interested in offices and housing blocks than churches, and during the 1930s the city expanded beyond the city walls. During Mussolini's rule, in the 1920s and '30s, Rome took on Fascist airs, puffing out its chest with wide boulevards and overblown architecture. Dreams of imperial glory led Mussolini to form an alliance with Germany during WWII, and the nightmare that ensued helped set the scene for Italy's transformation from a totalitarian regime into a republic in 1946. The postwar years saw Rome expanding physically and becoming the centre of Italy's film industry until the early 1960s.
The 1970s and '80s were marked by more violent transformations, namely those of some radical student groups (who had a long list of complaints about Italy's left-wing governments) into right-wing terrorists. The Brigate Rosse (Red Brigade) was the most notorious group, going so far as to kidnap and eventually murder former prime minister Aldo Moro in Rome in 1978.
The last few decades of the 20th century saw a mixture of economic success and wide-ranging corruption scandals which touched many a politician, public official and businessperson. The public reacted with perverse moral indignation in 1994 by electing a stridently right-wing coalition headed by a billionaire media magnate, Silvio Berlusconi. Amid claims of corruption, the government fell, and after some years of typically Italian political musical chairs, Berlusconi returned from the desert to win the 2001 national elections, promising 'few words and plenty of action'. Despite the landslide victory, his right-wing government's activities were regularly greeted with large-scale protests and voters eventually replaced him with the left-wing Romani PRodi in elctions of 2006.
The Jubilee Year in 2000, during which around 16 million Catholic pilgrims visited the city, gave Rome impetus to clean up her act. Billions were spent cleaning church and palazzo facades, improving roads and transport, and reclaiming public spaces from the car parks they'd become. At the start of the new millennium Rome had never looked more beautiful. Meanwhile, Rome proper ostensibly remains, as it has always been, an administrative and tourist centre, without much sign of industry or trade, but lots of political intrigue.
Quick Facts about Rome
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Country Dialing Code
In an emergency call 112 (Carabinieri), 113 (Police), 118 (medical first aid) or 115 (firemen). Carry the address of your embassy or consulate.