How well do you know these Ancient Rome Facts?

By Samuel Ford

Ancient Rome facts

Do you want to learn a little more about the Eternal City and its origins? Then look no further than this handy pop quiz full of ancient Rome facts.

1. Rome was founded by twin brothers

Twins Romulus and Remus were abandoned by their mother at birth, but discovered by a lone she-wolf who nursed them. They then grew up to found a city, but had a fatal disagreement over who would rule. Romulus killed Remus in the fight and named Rome after himself.

You can find the original bronze statue Capitoline Wolf, of the wolf suckling the brothers, inside the Capitoline Museums.

2. The Colosseum was once filled with water

The legendary stadium served as the location for gladiator combats, animal hunts and even... naval battles. That’s right, great ships were built and ‘sailed’ out into the flooded Colosseum where theatrical battles would be held, with hundreds of actors and live animals including alligators in the water!

3. The hills of ancient Rome influenced the language of today

Capitoline Hill, the location of political power in Ancient Rome is responsible for the word ‘capital’ we use today. Not only that, but neighboring Palatine Hill, home to temples, monuments and religious structures gave way to the word ‘palace’.

4. Rome is the only city with a whole country inside it

Vatican City, the smallest nation in the world, lies wholly inside Rome, taking up just 44 hectares. Governed by the Pope this tiny city has a population of just over 800, its own army, its own currency and its own post office!

5. Ancient Rome was home to the largest stadium ever

Circo Maximo was a vast chariot racing stadium. It was so big almost 3 Colosseums could fit inside. On race days, it could welcome 250,000 spectators - the largest stadiums of today cannot even hold half that number!

6. Romans are the inventors of health spas

The Romans took bath time very seriously. The word ‘spa’ comes from the Latin term Sana Per Acquam (health through water) and ancient bathhouses are still enjoyed to this day.

Check out the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla to get an idea of how the Romans would get clean and unwind.

7. St Peter’s Basilica took 120 years to build

To this day, St. Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest church and the center of Roman Catholicism. With its opulent decorations and stunning vaulted ceilings, is it any wonder construction took so long to complete? In fact, five different architects took the helm during this magnificent structure’s build.

8. Archangel Michel appeared over the city to signal the end of the plague

Yep, Archangel Michel is said to have appeared above the citadel sheathing his sword as a sign that the Justinian plague of 590 had ended. Formerly known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the building was renamed Castel Sant’Angelo to honor this event.

Pick up an Omnia Rome and Vatican pass and make great savings on attraction admission.

You can use your pass to gain free entry to Rome and Vatican City’s top attractions, as well as discounted entry to lots more museums, landmarks and famous locations.

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Our Easy Guide to Vatican City

Beat the holiday crowds and make your vacation a blessed one with our sightseeing guide to Vatican City. If the idea of queuing to hours and elbowing through crowds of people doesn't sound like too much fun... then you're in luck! With the OMNIA Vatican & Rome Pass, you can skip the queues and head straight to the amazing landmarks in Vatican City. From the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica to the Vatican Museums and more, here's our easy-to-follow guide to Vatican City. Sistine Chapel Not only is the Sistine Chapel a grand place of worship, it also houses some of the world's finest Renaissance art. Drawing its name from Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere, the man who oversaw its construction, the chapel is part of the Vatican Museums and is always bustling with tourists. Famous master artists such as Botticelli were commissioned to create works for the chapel, including Michelangelo whose detailed ceiling frescoes and The Last Judgment never fails to amaze all those who pass through its doors. Opening hours: 10am - 6pm Highlights: The ceiling and painting The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, Temptation of Christ and Trial of Moses by Botticelli St Peter's Basilica As one of the largest churches in the world, St Peter's Basilica is an icon of the Vatican City and is easily spotted by its elaborate dome designed by Michelangelo. With enough room for 20,000 people, it was built to honour Saint Peter after his crucifixion in 324AD and his tomb still remains in the scavi (grottoes) beneath the basilica, alongside beloved popes. Aside from its impressive standing in the religious community, it also boasts an incredible view from its dome of the city well worth climbing the stairs for. Keep an eye out for the general audiences with the Pope on Wednesdays at 10am - you'll need to sort out tickets in advance which can be found at the basilica, but they're free. Opening hours: 7am - 7pm daily, April - September; 7am - 6pm, October - March Highlights: The view from Michelangelo's dome, Vatican grottoes, general audiences with the Pope, Michelangelo's Piéta Basilica of St John Lateran Situated beyond the Vatican City's limits, the Basilica of St John Lateran is the oldest in Rome and also one of its most important as it houses the official papal throne. While the Pope technically spends most of his time in the Vatican City at St Peter's Basilica, the cathedral is still worth the visit and impressive in its own right with Baroque statues of the apostles adorning its hall. It is also said to house a part of the table from Jesus' last supper, as well as his blood. Venture across the road to the Holy Stairs, the steps of Pontius Pilate's palace that Jesus descended following the trial that led to his crucifixion which can only be climbed on your knees. Opening hours: 7am - 7pm, with the exception of winter months 7am - 6pm Highlights: Papal tombs and throne, holy relics, Holy Stairs, apostle statues Vatican Museums Tackling the Vatican Museums is no small task with over twenty distinct sections and notoriously long lines, however it's a must-visit for any traveller in the Vatican City. Started by Pope Julius II in the early 1500s with just a small collection of statues, it has since become a sprawling epicenter of art and religious iconography spanning centuries and countries. The Raphael Rooms, located at the entrance, herald the unbelievable mastery and beauty of the works to come and a photo of the iconic spiral staircase is mandatory. Opening Hours: Ticket office, 9am - 4pm; museums, 9am - 6pm Highlights: Raphael rooms, spiral staircase, Egyptian museum, Vatican Historical Museum
Megan Hills

The Catacombs of Rome - Unique Rome Adventures

Go off the beaten track and discover a hidden world in the catacombs of Rome Rome is a beautiful place to bask in ancient architecture and strolling its streets never get old, however there’s an entirely different world waiting below its surface. This ancient city has an entire network of catacombs criss-crossing beneath the streets that taxis and buses now frequent, named for religious heroes and filled with the residents of a time gone by. With five different locations open to the public, you’ll definitely want to put your walking shoes on for these eerie expeditions. Here’s everything you need to know about the catacombs of Rome below... San Sebastian Catacombs Rome As one the most famed catacomb sites in Rome, this underground burial site spans over 11 kilometres - though you’ll thankfully only get to explore a small fraction of it. Covered in Christian paintings, they’re regarded as the best in Rome and were named for a martyr named Saint Sebastian. A former soldier, he was later clubbed to death after his Christian faith was discovered before he was laid to rest in these very catacombs. Open between Monday and Saturday, it’s a place of particular interest to those of the Christian faith as the graffiti that lines the wall references the apostles Peter and Paul. In fact, the reason the place became so closely tied to the two was because it was apparently impossible to visit their actual tombs - so this became a popular place to pay respects to them While you’re here, make sure to make time for the San Callixtus catacombs - they’re nearby and absolutely amazing so you have no excuse. View this post on Instagram Catacombs San Callisto, Basilica of San Clemente and Capuchin Crypt and Museum 💀 tour with @citywonderstours #crypt #catacombs #rome #travel #wanderlust #skullseverywhere #travelgram #igtravel #eurotrip #italy #mustsee #tour A post shared by @ irenevy_ on May 10, 2018 at 2:46pm PDT San Callixtus Catacombs The sheer scale of these catacombs is more than enough reason to head over here. With four floors and nearly twenty kilometres worth of exploring to do, it’s a vitally important religious site as a number of saints and popes have been buried here. While it was originally both an above and below-ground structure, most of the bi For those of you who love a song and dance, you’ll want to stop by and pay your respects to St Cecilia - the patron saint of music buried here. It’s also a great shout for art lovers as it’s packed with small art galleries, filled with Christian art and frescoes to bask in. Open Thursday to Tuesday, it’s a popular destination and should be top of your list if you only have time for just the one. Saint Priscilla Catacombs This catacombs is widely regarded as the ‘regina catacumbarum’, or rather, the ‘queen of the catacombs’ when translated into English. Dating back to second century AD, it expanded monumentally over time and owes its name to a noblewoman called Priscila who is believed to have donated the field the catacombs lie under. With many martyrs buried here, one of the biggest highlights of the tour is an image of the Virgin Mary which is believed to be the oldest ever. View this post on Instagram Today’s outing was underground at the Catacombs! A post shared by Krina (@krina_lessard) on Jun 20, 2018 at 2:42pm PDT Catacombs of Domiitilia This is apparently one of the oldest catacomb sites in Rome, if not the oldest in the capital. Although it’s absolutely massive, only a few of the tunnels are open to the public. While there aren’t as many out and out highlights as the others, there are some stunning artworks of biblical stories like the Last Supper. Two of the most famed martyrs to be buried in these catacombs are two people named Nereus and Achilleus, both ancient Roman soldiers. View this post on Instagram #italia #italy #travel #catacombes A post shared by im’bloger (@travel_shmavel_) on Aug 30, 2018 at 1:59am PDT Where are the catacombs in Rome? This is a little tricky to answer as there’s a number of catacombs dotted around the city. In fact, there’s sixty of them all over the Italian capital. However, you don’t have to worry about making time to see all of them as only five are open to the public. The most famous are the San Sebastian Catacombs Rome, named after San Sebastiano - a martyr who was buried there and who’s also the namesake for the Basilica of St. Sebastian. Located at Via Appia Antica, 136, you’ll also be able to knock out the Catacombs of San Callixtus nearby at Via Appia Antica, 126. Further afield, the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla are in Via Salaria, 430, the Catacombs of Domitilia in Via del Sette Chiese, 280 and the Catacombs of Sant’Agnese at Via Nomenata, 349.
Megan Hills

4 Days in Rome: Top Things To Do

Discover one of the world's most historic city with our comprehensive guide to 4 days in Rome! Planning to spend 4 days in Rome? With hundreds of fountains, churches and world-famous monuments spanning more than 2,700 years of history, you’ll be spoilt for choice of exciting things to do. Read on for some top tips from our team to help you get the most from your trip! Day 1 There are lots of different kinds of guided tour to help you get your bearings and make getting around during your stay that bit easier. There are hop-on-hop-off bus tours with audio commentary, excellent (and often free) guided walks, bike tours (with or without the help of an electric motor) and even segway tours. Once you have worked up an appetite why not choose a ‘trattoria’, a type of informal restaurant, and settle down to a traditionally Roman pasta dish of ‘cacio e pepe’ or ‘amatriciana’? Batteries recharged, head down to the Pantheon, the roughly 2000-year-old temple built to honour Pagan gods (pan = all, theos = god). It’s the best preserved of the ancient Roman monuments, in part because it was converted into a church in the 7th century. The building is an incredible feat of engineering, featuring an 8m-wide oculus to let in sunlight and a completely unreinforced concrete dome, which is larger than that of St. Peter’s Basilica. Day 2 The Vatican is one of the must-see attractions for most visitors to Rome and there’s lots to see, including St Peter’s Basilica and its Necropolis, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, which contain thousands of famous paintings and sculptures. If you spent a minute looking at each painting in the Vatican Museums’ collections, you would have to stay for four years! Next, take in some fresh air with a visit to Castel Sant’Angelo, on the banks of the Tiber. Built in the 2nd century AD, it was originally designed as a mausoleum by the Roman emperor Hadrian. Over the centuries it has been used as a fortress, papal residence and even a prison, before becoming a museum in 1901. The views from the Castle’s rooftop over the city are beautiful and although 4 days in Rome will fly by, it’s well worth leaving time for a stroll by the river and to explore the magnificent grounds. Day 3 Time to return to the monuments of Ancient Rome, starting with the Colosseum, the amphitheatre that is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Roman Forum with its ancient ruins, and Palatine Hill with its views over the oldest parts of Rome, are only a short walk away. Excavations of the Forum didn’t start until 1803 and you’ll be able to see ruins of templates, government buildings, triumphal arches and market halls, literally following in the footsteps of senators and emperors. Finish your day with a relaxing visit to Villa Borghese. Although you couldn’t tell from the name, this is a fairly large public park, which houses a popular art gallery and other attractions. Tickets for the gallery have to purchased online in advance. This means that visitor numbers are restricted and it’s less busy than some of the major attractions. Day 4 There are scores of captivating museums in Rome, but particular highlights are the Capitoline Museums and the Museum of Rome. The Capitoline is remarkable in itself, dating back to 1471, and most of the exhibits come from the city of Rome and relate to its history. Particular crowd-pleasers include the collection of classical sculpture and picture gallery with masterpieces by the likes of Titian, Tintoretto, Rubens and Caravaggio. The museum includes a famous sculpture showing Remus and Romulus being suckled by a she-wolf, part of the legend of Rome’s foundation. This image has come to represent Rome and can be seen around the city. Finish off your visit with a walk from the Spanish Steps, built in the 18th century and a popular meeting point, to the Trevi fountain. Tradition has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi fountain, you will return to Rome. In fact, every night about 3,000 Euros are swept up from the bottom of the basin and donated to the charity Caritas, to provide services for families in need. This concludes our suggestions for what to do for 4 days in Rome. We hope that you have an amazing trip!
Go City Expert

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