Rome is one of the oldest cities in the world. In fact, it’s even older than Italy. The city has been for 28 centuries, since 753 BC. Modern Italy was only just emerging after 1861.
As such, the city has had plenty of time to gather an impressive array of impressive aspects. Interested in visiting one of Italy’s top travel destinations but unsure where to start? These facts about Rome will give you an insight into its historical sites and culture.
Interesting facts about Rome, Italy
Getting to know Rome is one way to make the most of your visit when you arrive in this diverse, fascinating city. Check out these facts about Rome that may inspire you to indulge in your travel inspirations soon.
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1. The Colosseum had its bloody days
We all know that the Colosseum was the site of gladiator fights in ancient times, but did you know that over 500,000 people and a million animals died in the name of these sports? Fortunately, these bloodbaths ended in AD 435.
Emperor Vespasian built the Colosseum between AD 72 and 80 with the help of thousands of slaves. In its heyday it hosted chariot races and even naval battles. It had 80 entrances, 36 trap doors, numerous underground passages and a retractable velarium for shade
The Colosseum held 50,000 spectators and hosted games for up to 100 days, and the reigning emperor sometimes provided free food for all spectators. Nowadays, the Colosseum is one of the top attractions in Rome, attracting over 6 million visitors annually. Although only a third of this building has survived, it is still considered that largest amphitheater in the world.
2. The Romans loved water
Over 2,000 years ago, the Romans began making their water supply a top priority. They brought it into the city via aqueducts and canals, and built fountains all over the city. Many of them still stand today and the city has more than 2,000 functional fountains, more than any other place in the world.
The really rich had pipes laid from the canals into their homes to ensure a constant supply of clean water. The rest of the population visited some of the city’s many public baths where they could do their ablutions for free. Everyone had access to these hygienic spaces, and many of them were huge complexes with luxurious facilities. Many of them had rooms for socializing, lounging, massages, and even dining, as well as several hot and cold pools and rooms.
You can still enjoy an authentic ancient Roman bathing experience at:
- QC terms
- Aqua Madre
- Terme Dei Papi
Here you can immerse yourself in natural thermal water, bathe in a cold water whirlpool, simmer in a steam bath or enjoy the hammam experience.
3. The construction of St. Peter’s Basilica took 150 years
You can find this magnificent building in the Vatican City State, a country within the city of Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica occupies the original burial place of the Apostle Peter and deserves a place on every Rome route. Julius II laid the foundation stone of the basilica in 1506 and Bernini completed the elliptical piazza that leads to the building in 1667.
To experience the true grandeur of this cathedral, you have to admire it from the inside, where Michelangelo’s magnificent dome towers 140 meters above the ground.
4. Ancient Rome had skyscrapers and a shopping mall
When we think of Rome we think of magnificent mansions and magnificent temples. In reality, most of the population lived in cramped apartment blocks with a wooden attic. These penthouses were a major fire hazard and their residents had to climb 200 steps to reach them.
In 100 AD, the Romans built Trajan’s Market, the world’s first covered shopping mall. This concrete and brick building housed 150 shops on six levels and also had a large hall for concerts and speeches.
The upper level of the complex served as an administrative complex, and below it were shops called ‘tabernae’. Since all roads led to Rome, traders from all over Europe could sell their products here. Today the Imperial Museum is also located on the Trajansmarkt.
5. The Pantheon is a huge sundial
The Pantheon is Rome’s best-preserved structure and another top place to visit during your trip to Rome. It is the only pagan temple that has been converted into a Christian church and still has the largest cantilevered dome in the world.
That alone is an incredible feat of engineering and architecture, but it is not the most incredible feature of the Pantheon. If you visit the Pantheon at lunchtime on April 21 of each year, you will see the sun pour through the door of the Pantheon into the courtyard.
Because the Romans designed the hole in the roof of the Pantheon in such a way that the beam of light fits exactly on this entrance on that day. As the Romans celebrate April 21st as the city’s founding date, this feature formed an impressive backdrop for the speech of the reigning emperor at the annual celebrations of that day.
Aside from the 43-meter-high dome, which is larger than that of the US Capitol, there is also an impressive fountain in the Pantheon, the so-called Fountain of the Pantheon. The best part is that you can visit this page for free.
6. You could have takeaway in ancient Rome
In the glory days of the Roman Empire, the rich gobbled up fabulous feasts and puked between the courses in order to stuff more flamingo tongues into their stomachs. But most of the residents of Rome had no cooking facilities. So they bought hot meals in various snack bars (Thermopolia) and wine bars (Popina) that were scattered all over the city.
Here is an excellent example of a thermopoly in Pompeii, about 2 hours drive from Rome, but they existed throughout the Roman Empire. If you want to try ancient Rome, you can always opt for a traditional Romana pizza.
This Rome version of the pizza features a crispy base, square design, and toppings like mushrooms, olives, ham, tomatoes, artichokes, and even egg.
7. Cats rule the roost in Rome
One of the most interesting facts about Rome is the extraordinary importance cats have in the city. Under a 1991 Biocultural Heritage Act, no one may relocate or chase cats away from natural urban habitats while they are in a group of five or more individuals.
If you love to see cats at their best, you can visit Largo di Torre Argentina. Over 250 wild cats live here in the middle of the ruins. The cats moved in shortly after archaeologists began excavating in 1929, and they have been there ever since.
Largo di Torre Argentina is one of many squares in Rome, but it is significant insofar as experts believe it was the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination. It is also home to four of the city’s oldest temples.
A local group of cat lovers called ‘Gáttare’ ensures that the cats are adequately fed and cared for. They are raising funds for this effort from cat-loving tourists visiting the ruins as well as charities around the world.
8. All roads led to Rome
As early as the fourth century, the Romans built a road network of over 53,000 miles. This network of roads played an important role in the history of Rome, helping them outrun and outsmart their enemies as they traveled across Europe and captured everything in sight.
Every time the Romans added another city to their empire, they connected it with Rome, creating a solid supply network between the conqueror and the conquered.
The Romans maintained and protected these roads well to give them quick and safe access to any part of their empire. You can visit one of the most famous Roman roads, Via Appia, during your trip to Rome.
9. The Trevi Fountain makes wishes come true
The Trevi Fountain is the most famous water feature in the world and one of the most visited attractions in Rome. Its masterful craftsmanship draws visitors from all over the world, but it is also a top destination for anyone looking to realize their hopes and dreams.
Legend has it that you will return to Rome one day if you toss a coin into the water of the fountain. Flip two coins and you will fall in love with one of the handsome Roman locals. A third coin seals the wedding bells deal for the happy couple.
Thanks to these beliefs and novelty value, almost everyone who passes this trail throws a coin into these waters, so the Trevi Fountain is also a money machine that collects loot worth thousands of dollars every day.
It is also the source of one of the most inspiring facts about Rome. Volunteers regularly collect the bounty found in the well and donate it to charities that help feed the less fortunate people of the city.
Discover more facts about Rome
One of the most indisputable facts about Rome is that it is an unforgettable destination that is high on the wish lists of many travelers around the world. Here are some quick facts about Rome for the end.
- Rome is the capital of Italy
- Population of Rome: 4.3 million
- Rome is the third largest city in the European Union
- It is also the most visited city in Italy.
- Greek and Latin were the official languages of the Roman Empire.
- Vatican City is not part of Rome. It is a separate sovereign state in Rome and is considered the smallest country in the world. It has only 800 inhabitants.
If you want to cross some of your most desirable destinations off your list, browse our blog for inspiration or take a look at our travel tips and resources to help you plan the trip of a lifetime.