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It is impossible to be a jaded traveler in Rome. The Eternal City does not allow boredom, and strolling through ruins from the earliest days of civilization can never be blasé. Walking through Hadrian's Arch makes you wonder what it must have been like to ride triumphantly into the center of the city, hailed by crowds. Touring the remains of the Coliseum is to imagine it in its heyday, packed to capacity with 50,000 screaming fans as gladiators fought to the death on its sandy floor. When you visit the House of the Vestals, your mind's eye sees the flame of the faithful, ever burning. The ruins of the Forum and the splendor of the Pantheon pull you back through the centuries, to the days of legend.

Of course there is more to Rome. The Eternal City is also a modern city. The ruins of the cradle of civilization are a stone's throw from the most modern boutiques and restaurants. The land so well served by the Appian Way is now also served by high-speed rail systems of world-class caliber and a state-of-the-art airport. This is a city not of contradictions, but of continuity. The past has not been laid to rest, but has been integrated into today, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. No other city has such a long history that is so well preserved and carried along with the present.

Located in the central Italian region of Lazio, Rome has been occupied for a very long time. While official estimates vary, there is scientific evidence that this area has been occupied for more than 10,000 years. The traditional knowledge states that the city that became modern Rome was created in 753 BC by Romulus, and spread out from a nucleus on Palatine Hill. The Hill would later become home to the Forum and to the House of the Vestals, as well as a residential area for the rich and famous of the city. Governmental systems have varied through the ages, and Rome has in turn been governed by kings, by the Senate, by the Papacy, and by the Emperor before eventually becoming a democracy in the 20 th century. Many years of archeological excavation and careful restoration activities have revealed more and more of the ancient artifacts of the city, building Rome into one of Europe's most important, and busiest, tourist destinations.

Rome travel

Visitors to Rome should quickly realize one important fact: Rome is not a small town. This means you need to plan how to get around, and what you plan to see. Understanding the city's public transit system of trains and buses is of paramount importance. The train system is an inexpensive and easy way to move between major areas of the city.

One of the major points for any visit to the Eternal City has to be the Vatican Museum complex. Inside these walls you find countless priceless treasures, from sculptures to sarcophagi to tapestry and paintings. Pay special attention to the detailed maps of Italian regions that are in the halls leading toward the Sistine Chapel. These maps were drawn prior to the advent of GPS, before the invention of the airplane, yet have still managed to accurately capture the topographic details of the land. Once you have reached the Sistine Chapel, take the time to sit and really take in the details of the artwork there. Everyone knows the stories of Michelangelo's work on the ceiling, but this is not the full picture. On the front wall and the upper part of the side walls there are many additional images to review, and each tells a story. Hiring a qualified guide for the Vatican tours is highly recommended, but use a private guide so that the information is delivered at your pace.

The center point of the Vatican tour has to be St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square. There has been a working church on this site since the 4 th century, and the current building has the largest interior space of any Christian church in the entire world. Inside the church, spend your time reviewing paintings and sculpture from the Renaissance masters. Schedule a visit to the catacombs beneath the church, the resting place of the popes. While it is not open to the public, the final resting place of St. Peter himself is beneath the cathedral. While inside the main building of the church, pay special attention to the bronze altar, called the baldacchino. The altar, built by Bernini, has four columns, stands nearly 100 feet high, and may be the largest single piece of bronze in the world.

Outside of Vatican City, your next must-see will be Rome's ancient center on the other side of the Tiber River. Start at the Palatine Hill, and see the sites of the palaces of the ruling elite of ancient Rome. Down below Palatine Hill, you will find the ruins of the Forum and the House of the Vestal Virgins. Multiple small temples line the pathways through this former center of Roman life. Wide pathways lead you from the Forum area over to the Coliseum and to the Arch of Constantine. Though only a fragment of the original grandeur of the Coliseum remains, it is enough to be thought provoking. As you move through the ticketing and turnstiles, you can imagine what it may have felt like to attend the spectacles of the Coliseum. You may also wonder what it may have felt like to enter as a gladiator, from the warrens beneath the floor, with no idea if you'd ever leave.

A walk through the many piazzas of Rome is also required while you're in the city. Piazza Navarro is of particular interest. The square is home to the Fountain of the Four Rivers and to great examples of Roman baroque architecture. Built over the site of the Stadium of Domitian, the square is now a marketplace and site for relaxation and people-watching.

Before you finish your Roman holiday, go to the Parthenon. Originally erected as a temple to the old gods as early as 27 BC, the temple has since been converted to a Roman Catholic Church, and is still in use today for regular Christian worship. Inside the church, take note of the lighting inside. The only natural light sources come from the open front doors and from the oculus overhead. The oculus provides a reverse sundial effect, and you can see the sunlight moving around the interior of the church as the day goes on.

Rome is a city that would take weeks to explore, and a lifetime to fully understand and appreciate. Do as I have done: drop a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that once you've done this, you'll visit the Eternal City again.

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