The Eternal City has much more to offer than St Peter's Basilica and the Trevi Fountain. As one meanders up and down the slopes of this modern city built on top of the ancient one, you are amazed at the way its glorious past has shaped its cultural present.
On the drive from the Leonardo da Vinci international airport to the centre of Rome, a visitor will pass St Paul's Basilica, the only one of the four ancient major basilicas or papal basilicas (others being St John Lateran, St Mary Major, and St Peter's) that lies outside the walled city. Inside the Aurelian walls, built to protect Rome from barbarian invaders, lies a rich and centuries old culture that has continued to fascinate visitors from around the world.
Of hills, piazzas and fountains
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. Below the Capitol lies the Roman Forum, once the focus of political, social, legal and commercial life and the central area around which ancient Rome developed and the Colosseo, the centre of entertainment where gladiator fights used to sometimes last for days.
According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by twin sons Romulus and Remus who were raised by a she-wolf. Overlooking the Forum is the Palantine Hill, where Romulus is said to have founded Rome and emperors lived for over 400 years. Julius Caesar ruled for a time as dictator, and his nephew Octavian became Rome's first emperor, assuming the title Augustus.
As one passes the Largo di Torre Argentina or Argentina Square where Caesar was assassinated, and the amazing Pantheon which houses the basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyres dedicated to St. Mary and all the Christian martyrs, the baroque architecture, the huge columns of marble brought from different continents especially Africa, the larger than life sculptures of gods and goddesses, it is not just a reminder of the skilled craftsmanship of the golden era of the Roman Empire but a cauldron of art and culture that has been restored and painstakingly kept alive.
A short walk from the Pantheon, you will find Piazza Navona, an oblong square with three fountains. In the centre is the Fountain of Four Rivers (Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio del Platas) by 17th century sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The stadium was