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Latium Region

One day, while Rea Silvia, a vestal virgin, was sleeping on the banks of the Tiber, the god Mars took advantage of her. She gave birth to twins, Romulus and Remus, who were brought by Acca Laurentia, known as Lupa, a woman of easy virtue but kind heart. When the twins grew up they went to the top of the most airy hill, the Palatine, and decided to build a city there just for themselves, swearing that they would kill anybody that crossed the wall marking its boundary. Remus crossed the boundary and Romulus killed him: it was on the 21st April 753 B.C. It was from this hill that, seven centuries later, Augustus looked down on the new Rome: the imperial city. We can still feel the atmosphere of that city today when we stroll through the romantic ruins of the Forum, the heart of the Roman Emperor: this is where, 2000 years ago, Lollia Pollinia strolled, wearing jewellery worth a million euro; close by stands that gigantic and fascinating circle of marble and travertine, the Coliseum: an amphitheatre for spectacular games with animals and gladiators, where 70 thousand spectators could take their seats or leave them in only three minutes.
Just as in the past, Rome is a city meant for spending time out of doors: in its grand squares, like the spectacular piazza Navona, its picturesque little marketplaces, like Campo dei Fiori. or the noisy Sunday morning market at Porta Portese, and in its old districts, like Trastevere, where the charm lies in the “simple” architecture of the houses and the maze of working-class alleyways surrounding the square: the district is famous for its trattorie (informal restaurants) and hosterie (taverns), where, especially in summer, people can relive the pleasure-loving and gay atmosphere of old Rome.
The best place to take a walk and look down on Rome from above is the Janiculum hill: this is what the ancient Romans and the romantic travellers of the eighteenth century did, as well as the poets and writers of the nineteenth century in search of inspiration. Even today, luxuriant gardens frame the sumptuous villas of pontifical Rome, which still contain the splendours of the past: Villa Doria Pamphili, Villa Medici and Villa Torlonia, without forgetting the most beautiful of all, Villa Borghese: Rome’s green heart. That heart beats for the people too, since it became a public park in 1903. The Gallery contains very precious paintings, including as many as 6 marvels by Caravaggio: as far as sculpture is concerned, the Borghese Gallery is the reign of Bernini, “the artist with the feverish look”, author of the most splendid and impressive baroque statues in Rome.
Well, even if you do not fall in love with Rome you still cannot escape its attraction, although you may think you know it perfectly. And that attraction remains unchanged on one of the oldest roads in the world: the Appian Way; here is where the chariots passed and the Roman soldiers marched, on their way to conquer the empire.
Rome is not just the city of Michelangelo, the artist that, on his own, by candlelight, crouching on a scaffold 20 metres high, painted the beautiful damned souls in the Sistine Chapel; it is also the city of Caravaggio. He was known as “the cursed painter” but the powerful Cardinal Francesco del Monte liked him just the same. And the cardinal commissioned the paintings we can admire in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, though the Curia could not forgive him for making the saints look like common people, with dirty feet, with chiaroscuro effects more reminiscent of taverns than of paradise.
Rome is the most elegant city in the world: nowadays, during fashion parades, the models of Europe’s greatest couturiers come swaying alluringly under the floodlights down the “Spanish steps” into the piazza di Spagna, while in the Springtime the steps are decked out with pink azaleas.
Then there is the majestic colonnade of Saint Peter’s Square opening its arms, along with the crowds of saints and martyrs that stand over it, to welcome in people whose hearts are filled with faith and even people with no faith at all.
Close to Rome there are seaside places, lakes and hills: the tombs of the mysterious Etruscans in Tarquinia, the villas of emperors and popes in Tivoli, Frascati and Castelgandolfo, a sacred wood full of monsters in Bomarzo; Fregene and Ostia are popular seaside resorts. And, if it is true that all roads lead to Rome, they can also lead on to other places: Viterbo where you can see the fantastic papal palace, Palazzo dei Papi, and its beautiful loggia with a gothic facade; Sperlonga with its old town centre; the charming island of Ponza; not to mention Fiuggi, with its spa, or beautiful Velletri, Terracina and Gaeta. And nobody can leave this area without tasting a dish of bucatini all’amatriciana (pasta with a spicy bacon and tomato sauce), or pajata (milk-fed calf’s innards) or coda alla vaccinara (stewed oxtail), washed down, of course, by a good wine from the Castelli, the Roman hills.


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