THE ETERNAL CITY OF ROME

"All roads lead to Rome," is an expression the origin of which lays in the Romans' well-deserved reputation for their construction skills. Their network of roads meant that they literally did all lead to Rome. The expression came to have the connotation that no matter which way you chose to go, the outcome of something would be the same, with no one option being better than another. In September of 2004, my wife and I did take one such road that led us to the Eternal City of Rome. And it was for both of us an experience of a lifetime. Through this webpage, it is my hope that I will be able to share not only the numerous photographs I took during our visit to Rome but also the information I gathered about the different major tourist attractions we saw.

Rome is the capital of Italy and its largest city. It is located on the Tiber and Aniene rivers, near the Mediterranean Sea. The Vatican City (a sovereign enclave), the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and the home of the Pope is also found in Rome. Within the city limits, the population is 2,823,807 (2004) and almost 4 million live in the general area of Rome. The city's history extends nearly 2,800 years, during which time it has been the seat of ancient Rome (the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic, Roman Empire), and later the Papal States, Kingdom of Italy and Italian Republic. Rome is so filled with Christian art and architecture, wonderful sights, cultural exhibits and so much more that the city will astound you. It is fascinating no matter where you look.

Rome was not built in a day and you certainly cannot see all of Rome even in 30 days. But, whatever time you have to explore this most fascinating of cities is worth the time, whether it be a couple of days, or a week or two. From the Pantheon, you are probably twenty or thirty minutes by foot from most of the places you'd want to see - the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Campo De' Fiori, St. Peter's Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, Castel Sant' Angelo, Villa Borghese, and Trastevere. There are so many places to visit and monuments to admire. To really understand the culture and soul of Rome you have to stand among its many wonderful landmarks and attractions.

THE TREVI FOUNTAIN

It may or may not be the most beautiful fountain in Rome but the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) is without doubt the most famous and most spectacular fountain in Rome. It is known the world over as the fountain where Anita Ekberg had her night-time wading in Federico Fellini's film "La Dolce Vita." It is also famous as the setting for the popular romantic film "Three Coins a Fountain."

The imaginative concept of the sculptured marble figures make it a true masterpiece both of sculpture and of architecture. This impressive monument dominates the small Trevi square located in the Quirinale district. It is a popular meeting or gathering spot for Romans and vistors alike. The central niche depicts Neptune, the sea god, riding a winged chariot in the shape of a shell and driven by two sea horses through the gushing waters from the Acqua Vergine aqueduct. One of the horses is calm and obedient, the other one restive. They symbolize the fluctuating moods of the sea. Corinthian columns flank a triumphant arch with a large niche representing the palace of Neptune. On the left hand side of Neptune is a statue representing Abundance, the statue on the right represents Salubrity. Above the sculptures are bas-reliefs, one of them shows Agrippa, the girl after whom the aqueduct was named. The water at the bottom of the fountain represents the sea.

Located in the heart of Rome’s historic centre, the Trevi Fountain derives its name from its position at the intersection of three streets (tre vie) that form this little widened area. It one of the world’s most photographed monuments in Rome, and many visitors agree that, among the many magnicent buildings of Baroque Rome, the Trevi Fountain is unrivalled as a spectacular aquatic structure. The Trevi Fountain is within walking distance of the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona. Designed by Nicola Salvi, this grand fountain was completed in 1762. There has been a source of water at this site for over a thousand years, which today bath the mass of the fountain's many allegorical figures with gushing water. The fountain is at the ending part of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC. It brings water all the way from the Salone Springs (approx 20km from Rome) and supplies the fountains in the historic center of Rome with water.

In 1732, Pope Clement XII commissioned Nicola Salvi to create a large fountain at the Trevi Square. A previous undertaking to build the fountain after a design by Bernini was halted a century earlier after the death of Pope Urban VIII. Salvi based his theatrical masterpiece on this design. Construction of the monumental baroque fountain was finally completed in 1762.

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lt is truly surprising to see such a large fountain in such a small square, but the artist Nicola Salvi, who created it between 1732 and 1762, carefully studied the way to increase the sensation of marvel. Indeed, he set it almost entirely against the face of Palazzo Poli, preceding it with a little balconied scene, almost as if it were a theatre! The artist was, however, disturbed during his work by the continuous criticism expressed by a barber who had his shop in the square. To shut him up, during one night Salvi created the large basin, familiariy calied the "Ace of Cups", situated on the right-hand balustrade, which completely blocked the view of the fountain from the shop.

Nicola Salvi died in 1751, with his work half-finished. The Trevi Fountain was finished in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini, who substituted the present bland allegories for planned sculptures of Agrippa and "Trivia", the Roman virgin. The fountain was refurbished in 1998; the stonework was scrubbed and the fountain provided with recirculating pumps and oxidizers. According to legend, it is lucky to throw coins with one's right hand over one's right shoulder into the Trevi Fountain on the last day of one's visit. Throwing one coin in will ensure that the thrower will return to Rome. Throwing two coins ensures that the thrower will fall in love with a beautiful Roman girl (or handsome boy), and throwing three coins ensures that the thrower will marry that girl or boy in Rome. Today the fountain is filled with thousands of coins.

THE ROMAN COLOSSEUM

The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater was begun by Vespasian, inaugurated by Titus in 80 A.D. and completed by Domitian. Located on marshy land between the Esquiline and Caelian Hills, it was the first permanent amphitheater to be built in Rome. Its monumental size and grandeur as well as its practical and efficient organization for producing spectacles and controlling the large crowds make it one of the great architectural monuments achieved by the ancient Romans.

The amphitheater is a vast ellipse with tiers of seating for 50,000 spectators around a central elliptical arena. Below the wooden arena floor, there was a complex set of rooms and passageways for wild beasts and other provisions for staging the spectacles. Eighty walls radiate from the arena and support vaults for passageways, stairways and the tiers of seats. At the outer edge circumferential arcades link each level and the stairways between levels. The Colosseum had approximately eighty entrances so crowds could arrive and leave easily and quickly. The plan is a vast ellipse, measuring externally 188 m x 156 m (615 ft x 510 ft), with the base of the building covering about 6 acres. Vaults span between eighty radial walls to support tiers of seating and for passageways and stairs. The facade of three tiers of arches and an attic story is about 48.5 m (158 ft) tall — roughly equivalent to a 12-15 story building.

Public events such as gladiator fights, mock naval battles and wild animal hunts were held at the Coliseum. During the staged fights as many as 10,000 people were killed. Fighters were slaves, prisoners or volunteers. Spectators saw persecuted Christians killed by lions. After 404 AD gladiatorial battles were no longer held, but animals such as lions, elephants, snakes and panthers continued to be massacred in the name of sport until the 6th century. Mock naval battles were arranged by removing the heavy wooden flooring and flooding the lower cells, which usually housed the animals and prisoners. As gladiator fights proved to be more popular, the naval battles were ultimately moved to another site, and the wooden floors made permanent. During the middle ages, stones from the Coliseum were removed for new buildings.

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From the fourth story of the Coliseum wooden masts supported a linen awning that protected spectators from the sun. The Coliseum boasted seats of marble for the upper class, and benches of wood for the lower. Ramps within the arena made movement easy by the large crowds, and on a catwalk suspended above, trained archers were watchful and would shoot to avert disaster when an enraged animal would get out of hand. A wall about 15 feet high separated the spectators from the bloody events in the arena.

Although it survives only as a ruin, it is one of its most famous landmarks and tourist attractions and remains as a standing proof of both the grandeur and the cruelty of the Roman it still rates as one of the finest examples of Roman architecture and engineering. After the splendour of imperial times, the Colosseum was abandoned, and in turn it became a fortress for the medieval clans of the city, a source of building materials, a picturesque scenery for painters, a place of Christian worship. Today it is a challenge for the archaeologists and a scenario for events and shows.

THE ROMAN FORUM

The Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) was a central area of ancient Rome. It is a square which is surrounded by some of the most ancient Roman monuments and is also the origin of the first Latin population 2600 years ago. The Forum is located in a valley that is between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill. It originally was a marsh, but the Romans drained the area and turned it into a center of political and social activity.

The Forum was the main marketplace and business center, where the ancient Romans went to do their banking, trading, shopping, marketing, and the administration of justice. It was expanded to include temples, a senate house and law courts. It is now famous for the remains, which eloquently show the use of urban spaces during the Roman Age. It was also a place for public speaking. The ancient Romans were great orators. They loved to talk. The job of their orators was not to argue, but to argue persuasively! People thronging the Forum would stop and listen, then wander away to do their shopping, and perhaps leave a gift at a temple for one of their gods. Festivals and religious ceremonies were also held in the Forum.

The Roman Forum was not simply the core of an ancient city; for the Romans it was the center of the universe. From the birth of the empire under Augustus in 31 B.C., and for nearly five hundred years thereafter, Rome ruled most of what was then known as the civilized world. When the Roman Empire fell, the Forum became forgotten, buried and was used as a cattle pasture during the Middle Ages.

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Within the Forum is the Temple of the Castors which was dedicated by Postumius to the Dioscuri, demigods who, according to legend, appeared on the Roman Forum to announce the victory of the Romans over the Tarquins in 494 B.C. The temple was erected by Postumius' son on January 27, 484 B.C. It underwent many transformations throughout the centuries. The Arch of Titus is another landmark found in the Forum. The arch was dedicated to Titus for his victory over Judea by the Senate, the Roman population, and Titus' brother Domitianus in 79 A.D. Inside the arch are engravings depicting the conquest of Jerusalem. Another arch found in the Forum is The Arch of Septimius Severus. It was erected in 203 A.D. to honor Septimius Severus for his victories.

In the 4th Century, the decay of the old Forum began; earthquakes, fires, and the barbarian invasions completed its destruction. In the Middle Ages materials from the forums were used to build new monuments, churches and palaces throughout the city. Only in the 19th and 20th Century were systematic excavations made to bring to light what was left. Much of the Roman Forum has been destroyed. Columns and stone blocks are all that remain of some temples. The arch of Titus and the arch of Septimius Severus still stand and are in good shape. The Forums are now, with the Palatine and Colosseum, an imposing complex of ruins, testifying to the magnificence of ancient Rome.

THE SPANISH STEPS

In the 17th century the French owners of the beautiful church Trinita dei Monti, which is located on top of a hill in Rome, decided to link their church with Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square) below it by building a flight of steps. This magnificently constructed steps was later known as The Spanish Steps (Scalla di Spagna). These steps have nothing Spanish about them, except the fact that the Spanish Embassy used to be located beside it.

The French owners also planned to place an equestrian statue of King Louis XIV at the top. Pope Alexander VII Chigi was not very happy at the prospect of erecting a statue of a French monarch in the papal city, and the arguments continued until the 1720s, when an Italian architect, Francesco de Sanctis, produced a design that satisfied both the French and the papacy. The steps, completed in 1726, combine straight sections, curves and terraces to create one of the city's most dramatic and distinctive landmarks. It has a series of several flights of varying width, cut masonry steps with curved convex flanks and a straight ascent in front. The staircase ascends in three ramps from the piazza, interrupted by terraces, the last and most scenic of which is the one with the balustrade on top: the Piazza Trinita dei Monti with its obelisk. Several projects were made between 1717 and 1720, also by Alessandro Specchi, whose ideas were later assimilated by the chosen architect of the stairs.

Along the way could stop and smell the flowers that line the steps, or strike up a conversation with another world traveler taking a rest among the crowd. Or you could do what many 18th century artists and writers did, and hang out in the "English Ghetto," at the foot of the steps, then have your caricature drawn by a local artist. The hard part is getting to the top, particularly since countless vendors often use the steps to display their wares, urging passersby to not pass up their deals. At the top of the steps is an unparalleled view of the entirety of Rome, as well as the Piazza and Franciscan Church of the Trinità dei Monti.


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Always thronged with young people and foreigners, with paintings on display and the flower stall, the Spanish Steps are enlivened each month of May by a display of azaleas from the municipal greenhouses. At the bottom of the Spanish Steps is the Piazza di Spagna where there is the baroque Barcaccia fountain made in the shape of a large barge that spouts water while it sinks. The elegant and scenic Piazza di Spagna provides a welcoming point of encounter at the center of Rome. And nearby is the Via Condotti, rumored to be one of the most exquisite, and expensive, shopping centers in the world.

When the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens visited Rome, he said that the Spanish Steps was the meeting place for artists' models, who would dress in colorful traditional costumes, hoping to catch the attention of a wealthy artist. The steps are now a popular place to sit, write postcards, take photos, flirt, perform or just watch the passers-by.

THE PANTHEON

The Pantheon (Chiesa di Santa Maria ad Martyres) is one of the most important and most imposing of Roman temples and is said to be one of the greatest spiritual buildings of the world. It was built as a Roman temple by the statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, in 27 B.C. in honour of all the gods. Destroyed by fire in 80 A.D., it was rebuilt in the time of Emperor Hadrain (between 110 and 125 A.D.) with some alterations made in the early 3rd century by the emperors Lucius Septimius Severus and Caracalla.

In 609 the temple was consecrated as a Catholic church by Pope Boniface IV, who dedicated it to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyr Saints. The dedication on the architrave above the porch bears the famous Latin inscription, "M.AGRIPPA L.F.COS TERTIUM FECIT," attributing the construction to Marcus Agrippa. There are niches around the walls that originally held statues of the divinities. The church became the burial place of the great Renaissance artist Raphael Sanzio, the architects Baldassare Peruzzi and Vignola, the painter Annibale Caracci, and also members of Italy's royal family. Victor Emanuel II (first king of Unified Italy), King Umberto I, and Queen Margherita are also entombed within the Pantheon.

It is the only Roman temple which, after having been used for Christian worship, did not undergo transformations to its structure: although in fact the plaster and bronze decorations and the bronze covering of the dome were removed. Entry to the temple is through an imposing bronze portal double doors, 24 feet (7 m) high, the earliest-known large examples of this type.

The Pantheon is circular in plan and covered by a dome whose diameter (142 ft) is equal to its height, and preceded by a gabled pronaos of Greek type supported by sixteen granite columns surrounded by Corinthian capitals. The dome was the largest built until Brunelleschi's dome at the Florence Cathedral of 1420-36. The interior is majestic and highly original: rectangular alternating with semi-circular niches are laid out round its walls; the hemispherical dome is decorated with coffering. Walking into the interior of the Pantheon you will appreciate the enormity of the columns that form the pillared porch. Once inside, in the cool air, you'll find youself looking up in awe at the size of the area above you, until your eyes find the opening in the dome.

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The only natural light enters through the unglazed central apperture (oculus) at the center of the dome and through the bronze doors to the portico. As the sun moves, striking patterns of light illuminate the walls and floors of porphyry, granite and yellow marbles. It's said that when it rains you won't get wet standing under the dome's opening because the water will evaporate before it hits the floor below. The pavement of the interior is finely polished marble in patterns of the style called "Opus Sectile" which was popular in ancient Rome.

The skeleton of the dome consists of a series of ribs whose weight is supported on the massive arches situated in the parts of the cylindrical walls not opened by the large niches. This and other architectural solutions make the Pantheon a wonderful monumental work in which grandeur of mass and gracefulness of line combine to form an awe-inspiring cohesion of effect. At the front of the Pantheon is the Piazza del Pantheon which is a lively place with a beautiful fountain and numerous open air bars. Here, the tourist can rest and appreciate the atmosphere of the piazza with the old buildings and the Pantheon around it.

THE PIAZZA NAVONA

The Piazza Navona is situated on the site of the Stadium of Domitian (Circus Domitianus) and represents one of the most popular and more characteristic centers of the City of Rome. The foundations of the buildings surrounding the elongated oval of the piazza were the ruined grandstands of the vast ancient stadium. This piazza is a marvel of light and sculpture. It is exceptionally long and owes its shape to the ruins that formed it. The piazza marks the area for the races in the stadium. It features many fine old buildings, a beautiful church and fountains. No other piazza in Rome can rival the theatricality of Piazza Navona. Day and night, there is always something going on in the pedestrian area around the its three flamboyant fountains.

There are three beautiful fountains at Piazza Navona, the central one being Bernini's most spectacular fountain and masterpiece, The Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi). The fountain was designed by Bernini to represent the Ganges (Asia), Danube (Europe), Rio Plata (America), and the Nile (Africa) which were the world's greatest rivers in the 17th century.

The fountain features a central rocky structure that supports an obelisk that was an ancient Roman imitation of the Egyptian form. It was commissioned by Pope Innocent X as a setting for the obelisk that rises at its center. The four statues placed around the grotto at the foot of the obelisk have quite lifelike positions and have such movement to them that they seem to be gesticulating. The fountain took four years to build and was completed in 1651. The funds that were used to build the fountain were raised by an unpopular tax on bread. Bernini designed the figures, but the actual carving was done by his assistants.

At the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno) the basin of which was by Giacomo della Porta (1576) and the statues of Neptune and the Nereids were from last century. The fountain has a central figure of Neptune fighting with a sea monster, surrounded by sea nymphs. The Fountain of the Moor (Fontana del Moro) at the southern end of piazza was designed by Giacomo della Porta in 1576. Bernini altered the fountain in the mid-17th century to feature the statue of a Moor fighting with a dolphin. The surrounding tritons are 19th century copies.

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To the western side of the piazza and facing the Fountain of the Four Rivers is the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. Its façade was designed by Bernini's bitter rival, Borromini. It was at this site that a twelve-year-old Christian, Agnes, refused to marry a pagan and was thus martyred on the spot where the church now stands. The church was commissioned by Pope Innocent X in 1652.

Piazza Navona is an extremely lively place with open air cafes around it. During the summer there are numerous artists who draw or paint portraits for a fee. The place is crowded each day and there are often buskers and sometimes mimes to entertain you. At Christmas time the piazza is filled with stalls selling figurines of all sizes and forms, and at night you can see all the Christmas lights and decorations of the stalls. The Piazza is a popular gathering place for Romans and tourists alike. It is here that one can take time to relax on one of the stone benches and watch the artists who gather in the piazza to do their work. You can also have your "tarocchi" (tarot cards) read, or pay top prices to enjoy a drink at one of the outdoor cafés, such as Tre Scalini. From early December until the first week of January a gaudy market and mini funfair take over the piazza.

ST. PETER'S BASILICA

The center of the Roman Catholic faith, St. Peter's Basilica has remained a sacred site and draws pilgrims from all over the world. The Basilica is located in Vatican state, across the river Tiber and west of Rome's center. It is traditionally believed to have been erected over the spot where St. Peter was buried after his martyrdom (by being crucified upside down) in Rome around AD 64.

A shrine was first erected on the site of St. Peter's tomb in the 2nd century. Later, the first great basilica was constructed by the Emperor Constantine and was completed around AD 349. By the 15th century the structure was found to be unsafe and had to be demolished. In 1506 Pope Julius II laid the first stone of a new basilica which was to become the largest in the world. By 1614 the facade was ready, and in 1626 the new church was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII.

It took more than a century to build the basilica, and all the great architects of the Roman Renaissance and Baroque had a hand in its design. Ever since, this church has been the center of Christianity and continues to draw pilgrims from all over the world. The opulent interior can be visited daily for free although a strict dress code is enforced. The building itself is truly impressive and is the largest church in the world. The interior is decorated by works of many famous artists. Some of the most important found in the church are the Pietà by Michelangelo, the Papal Altar and the Throne of St. Peter by Bernini, and the Monument to the Stuarts by Canova.

As you enter the basilica you will immediately realize your entry to the most grandiose sacred building that is so vast in scale, conceived to celebrate the sacrality of the Catholic Church. The vast basilica's 615 ft long, marble encrusted interior contains 11 chapels and 45 altars. The two side aisles are 250 ft long and converge under Michelangelo's enormous dome. The central focus of the building is the Papal Altar beneath Bernini's great baldacchino, filling the space between four massive piers which support the dome.

The Dome of St. Peter's was designed by Michelangelo who died in 1624, two years before its completion. It is the largest dome in the world measuring 42 meters (138 ft) in diameter. The size of the dome dwarfs the nearby Pantheon. It is smaller than the Pantheon in diameter, but stand much higher. Made almost entirely of heavy masonry, the dome rises 452 feet (138 meters) above the street. To support such a giant dome, builders placed iron rings within the masonry of the dome.

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The Pieta, the famous marble sculpture was finished in 1499 when Michelangelo was only 25. It stands in a chapel to one side of the nave, protected by glass since being damaged in 1972. This work blends the classical idea of beauty with the strong emotional impact evoked by the heartrending tenderness with which the Virgin Mary holds the dead body of Christ in her lap. The present Papal Altar dates from the reign of Clement VIII (1592-1605). A plain slab of marble found in the Forum of Nerva stands under Bernini's baldacchino, overlooking the well of the confessio, the crypt where St. Peter's body is reputedly buried.

Until recently the famous 13th century statue of St. Peter was thought to be a late Roman work. It is sculpted in bronze with a delicate filigree halo. The statue, now attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, is situated at the end of the nave. In front of the basilica is the famous Saint Peter's Square which features a central obelisk and two identical fountains. Near the entrance of the Basilica you will see some of the famous Swiss guards. Since 1506 when Pope Julius II invited Helvetian soldiers to join the small Vatican army, they have been the guards of the Vatican and the pope in particular. All entrants to the army must be Swiss, catholic and they must take the oath of loyalty to the pope. This oath is taken on May 26th, to commemorate the sacking of Rome on the same day in 1527 when Swiss guards protected pope Clement VII during his escape to the Castel Sant'Angelo. Of the 189 guards, only 42 survived.

CAMPO DE' FIORI

Campo de'Fiori (Field of Flowers) is located in the heart of Centro Storico, the historic center of Rome, close to the Jewish Ghetto and Piazza Navona. The Vatican is just across the Tiber river. The piazza occupies the site of the open space facing the Theater of Pompey. Campo de'Fiori owes its name to its floral past - sometime before the middle of the 15th Century this area of the capital was a flowering meadow. Cardinals and noblemen used to rub shoulders with fishmongers and foreigners in the piazza's market, that it was one of the liveliest areas of medieval and Renaissance Rome. It has remained to be a colorful market that makes it one of Rome's most entertaining square.

The piazza was surrounded by inns for pilgrims and other travelers. Many of these were once owned by the successful 15th-century courtesan Vannozza Catanei, mistress of Pope Alexander VI Borgia. In the center of the square is a statue of a hooded figure - Giordano Bruno, who in 1600 was burned at the stake on this spot as a heretic for contending that the universe has no center. Bruno was a philosopher and an intellectual who also criticized the Church's involvement in politics. His statue serves as a grim reminder of the executions that were held there during the Inquisition.

The flower and vegetable market at Campo de'Fiori is now held every morning except Sunday. The local market offers an abundance of fresh produce and stall owners are open and friendly and always up for a chat in a mix of Roman, English and French. Some are even willing to pose with anyone for a photograph. You can ask to taste the produce before buying. For those who are not cooking there are plenty of pizzerias, restaurants, osterias and bars where you can have a bite to eat at reasonable prices. For those interested in flowers, the morning hours is the best time to visit when the flowers and fresh vegetables market is on. The flowers that are on sale are beautiful and so colorful.

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This ancient piazza is a popular spot for people to hang out to admire wonderful Renaissance and Baroque buildings, street artists, musicians and poets and have a drink or two in the process. The open-air market preserves the lively bohemian atmosphere of the medieval inns that once flourished here. The area surrounding Campo de'Fiori also contains Rennaisance palazzi, such as Palazzo Farnese and Palazzo Spada, where powerful Roman families built their fortress-like houses near the route of papal processions. By day, there are great buildings to admire, though few are open to the public. Today's market retains much of the traditional atmosphere. Many of the streets near Campo de'Fiori are named after the artisans who traditionally occupied them.

Campo de'Fiori continues to be an exciting area for shopping and night life. Its stalls supply many nearby restaurants, and young people shop for clothes nearby. It is one of the more popular spots to hang out in the evening. It can get quite busy during weekends, particularly during the summer months. Popular and reasonably priced restaurants and pizzerias keep the area alive late into the night.

CASTEL SANT'ANGELO

The original structure of the fortress of Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome and the Elio bridge (also known as Ponte Sant'Angelo) in front of it, were built by the Architect Demetriano between 117 and 138 A.D. as a mauseleum for Emperor Hadrian (117-138). The celebrated Ponte Sant'Angelo, crossing the Tiber, was built in 134 AD as Hadrian's fitting approach to his structure. Ten statues of angels, designed by Bernini and built by his pupils in 1688, stand along the balustrade of the bridge.

In 271, the Emperor Aurelian designed and incorporated a defense system thereby converting the tomb into a fortress. This massive construction which is the second largest architectural structure in Rome after the Colosseum looms high above the Tiber river and narrates the story of Rome from imperial to modern times. It was first named Hadrian's Mausoleum, since it was originally built for Emperor Hadrian to house his remains and those of his family, the future emperors of Rome until Caracalla. It was completed by the Emperor Antoninus Pius in 139 A.D. In the 6th century it was renamed as Castel Sant'Angelo after the huge bronze angel at its top. The building was later incorporated in the Aurelian walls and in the ninth century a tower was added. Century after century, Castel Sant'Angelo became increasingly fortified and battlements were added in the 11th century. The fortress had corner towers, gun platforms and barracks for its defenders.

In 1277 it was occupied by Pope Nicholas II who connected it to the Vatican by the famous corridor, a safety passage which runs along the top of the encircling wall of the Vatican. The papal chambers were also added and the cylindrical structure built over a square base and became a fortified place for the pontiffs in time of danger. It remained under the control of the Popes who used it as a fortress, to impress, but also as a prison and a place for torture.

During the sack of Rome in 1527 Pope Clement VII took refuge here to escape the German mercenaries that ravaged the city. Since the pope had temporal powers, the castle also housed a torture chamber and a prison, where numerous political and anti-religion prisoners were incarcerated. Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, astronomer, and occultist was imprisoned in the Castel Sant' Angelo for six years before he was tried and burned at the stake on February 17, 1600 in Campo de' Fiori.

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The castle today has five floors and houses a national Museum. At the bottom there are the winding ramps dating back to Roman times; on the second floor you can still see the prison cells, as well as the storerooms for oil and grain. The third is the military floor with two large courtyards. On the fourth floor are the papal apartments, the treasure room (Sala del Tesoro) which is not open to the public, and the room of Cagliostro the famous magician and alchemist who was imprisoned and tortured there in the 18th century. At the very top, right under the huge bronze angel, there is a terrace, where there is also a charming al fresco bar. From there, sipping on iced coffee, you can enjoy a stupendous panorama of the city. The view in the evening, when Rome is lit up, is particularly enchanting.

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