Rome

Short history

Rome, often hailed as the “Eternal City,” has a history that spans over 28 centuries. This historic journey began in 753 BC, according to Roman tradition, with the founding of the city by Romulus. It grew from a small Latin village to the heart of the mighty Roman Republic, which eventually morphed into the Roman Empire. This empire became one of the most significant and enduring in human history, influencing language, politics, law, architecture, and the arts far beyond its Mediterranean basin origins. The fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD introduced the beginning of the Middle Ages for Europe and for Rome. This city later became one of the centers of the Renaissance.

For over a millennium, from 756 through to 1870, Rome served as the capital of the Papal States, a theocratic sovereign entity governed by the Bishop of Rome—the Pope. In 1871, following the unification of Italy—an arduous process initiated in 1815 and culminating in 1870—Rome was declared the capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.

During World War II, the city was the seat of fascist Italy’s government, then it was occupied by German forces from 1943 until its liberation in 1944, leading to extensive damage and hardship for its residents. In the post-war era, Rome experienced a “boom” period, characterized by economic growth, urban development, and film industry.

Geography

Rome sits in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, near the coastline of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Encompassing an area of approximately 1,285 square kilometers, it’s a vast city with a varied topography that includes the Seven Hills of Rome, adding a distinctive physical dimension to its environment. The city’s climate is typified as Mediterranean, characterized by mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Temperatures in the summer months often exceed 30°C (86°F), creating an idyllic setting for the throngs of tourists who visit. Conversely, winter temperatures rarely dip below freezing, with more frequent precipitation, providing a respite from the heat and providing a different perspective of the city’s historical and cultural sites. 

Population

According to the ISTAT (Italian National Institute of Statistics), as of 2021, Rome has a population of approximately 2.8 million people, making it the most populous city in Italy. This figure accounts for about 4.7% of Italy’s total population. The majority of inhabitants are of Italian origin, but the city has witnessed a steady increase in its foreign resident population, which now constitutes roughly 9.8% of the total population. These residents primarily originate from Romania, Philippines, Bangladesh, and China. Significant proportion of the population (about 22%) is over the age of 65, highlighting Italy’s broader demographic trend towards an aging population.

In terms of religion, Rome is predominantly Catholic. The Vatican City, situated within the city, serves as the spiritual and administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church. Language-wise, Italian is the primary language spoken by the majority of the residents, while the influx of international communities has introduced a mosaic of languages, contributing to Rome’s multicultural identity.

Main sights and landmarks

  • The Colosseum: An ancient amphitheater is a great evidence of Roman engineering and entertainment, once hosting gladiatorial combats and public spectacles that drew spectators from across the empire.
  • Vatican City: The sovereign enclave within Rome that serves as the spiritual and administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church. It houses treasures of immense cultural and historical importance, including St. Peter’s Basilica with its awe-inspiring dome, and the Sistine Chapel, notable for Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes.
  • The Pantheon: Distinguished as the best-preserved structure from ancient Rome. Its massive dome remains a subject of study and admiration among architects and historians alike.
  • The Roman Forum: Once the heart of ancient Rome, the forum encompasses the ruins of several important government buildings, temples, and marketplaces. 
  • The Trevi Fountain: An exquisite example of Baroque art. Legend has it that those who throw a coin into the water are ensured a return to Rome.
  • The Spanish Steps: A monumental stairway of 135 steps, the Spanish Steps provide a grandiose link between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and the Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top.
  • The Borghese Gallery: Located within the Villa Borghese, the gallery is a treasure trove of Renaissance and Baroque art, featuring masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael. 

Food

  • Cacio e Pepe: A quintessential pasta dish embodying the flavors of Pecorino cheese and black pepper in a harmonious blend.
  • Carbonara: Globally acclaimed, this pasta preparation relies on a rich mix of eggs, Pecorino cheese, guanciale (a type of cured pork cheek), and black pepper for its signature taste.
  • Roman Pizza: Presenting variety, from the crisp, thin-crust Roman pizza to the more substantial, focaccia-like pizza al taglio.
  • Artichokes Roman-style (Carciofi alla Romana): Delicate artichokes meticulously prepared with herbs and olive oil.
  • Supplì: A popular Roman street food, these are delectable fried rice balls, often filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella.
  • Amatriciana: A robust pasta sauce featuring a savory blend of guanciale, Pecorino cheese, tomato, and a touch of chili.

Fun facts

  • Rome houses the world’s smallest country, Vatican City, which spans only 0.2 square miles.
  • The Pantheon in Rome, completed in 126 AD, is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, highlighting Rome’s architectural innovation.
  • Rome was the first city in history to reach a population of one million people by 50 BC, illustrating its significant ancient world influence.
  • The city is known for having the highest concentration of historical monuments and sites, including the iconic Colosseum and historic Roman Forum.