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Italy Today - Rome

The home of the Colosseum, the Appian Way, the Vatican and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, certainly wasn't built in a day; nor indeed, do all roads lead here ( although the traffic might make you think so! ).
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Rome is a very large and sprawling city; however, most of its historic and cultural sites are fairly concentrated in a central area. Ancient Rome was centered at the Forum, near the Palatine and Capitoline hills, and many of the famous sites of the Romans - such as the Colosseum - are located here, near the curve of the Tiber River.
To the north is a maze of medieval streets where monuments of the ancient Romans were hybridized by the later Romans of the Renaissance. Here temples like the Pantheon have continued to exist, but as a Christian church; an ancient racing track transformed into the fine Piazza Navona, complete with fountains, the surrounding buildings built onto the foundations of the Roman bleachers. Here too are some of the grandest monuments of the Baroque era, the Trevi Fountains and the Spanish Steps.
Still farther north, beyond the walls of ancient Rome, is the Villa Borghese, a large public park with ancient trees and formal gardens; its fine villas, like the Villa Giulia, are now public gallerias and museums.
Facing all of this rather sternly from the western banks of the Tiber is the Vatican, with its dour stronghold, the Castel Sant'Angelo perched on the river itself. Rising above its massive square, always filled with pilgrims, is St. Peter's Basilica—its dome recognizable everywhere in Rome—the center of the Catholic faith.

To the south is the Janiculum, whose hilltop often served as a defensive bastion for Rome, and now serves as a lovely parklike getaway from the city. Farther south, facing the sites of ancient Rome from across the Tiber, is the timeless residential area called the Trastevere, as lively and bustling now as when it played suburb for the ancient capital.

The district surrounding Rome is known in modern parlance as Lazio, or as the ancient Latium. The castles, villas, and ancient ruins of Etruscans and Romans alike make Latium as interesting to explore as the city itself. But it is an area more likely to be filled with modern Roman villas and weekend vacation homes rather than the hotels of international travelers. And although the rolling hills covered with vineyards and grazing sheep remain as they were millennia ago, the city of Rome has grown and expanded, turning most rural areas into suburbs and making most of these sights just a brief trip outside the city limits. For these reasons, it's best to approach Latium as excursions from the city rather than as an overnight getaway.

Not as famous as the hills of Tuscany, the volcanic hills and lakes near Rome became summer retreats for Roman patricians and later, the papal court. At Tivoli, where the Sabines once watered their flocks in spring-fed valleys, Hadrian built his villa as did Cardinal d'Este; each diverted the streams into fountains. Then as now, Tivoli is a charming, cooling place to escape the summer heat of Rome.
Downstream from Rome, on the Tyrrhenian Sea, is the ancient port city of Ostia. Today, Romans head to Ostia for its beaches, not for wheat. The old residential district, Ostia Antica, has been excavated and is one of the most complete and easily accessed ruins of an ancient Roman city.

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