Rome is one of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Founded in 753 BC, Rome flourished as the center of one of the world’s most impressive civilizations, with an empire spanning from the British Isles to the Middle East.
Now the capital of Italy, and known as the Eternal City, Rome is steeped with 28 centuries of history. But let’s start with the essentials. Where is Rome? Continue reading for I will tell you that, and much more!
So, Where is Rome?
Let’s start with the basic: where is Rome?
Situated in the western part of the Lazio region of central Italy, Rome is split in half by the River Tiber and is famously dotted with hills. Seven are the most famous ones – the Aventine Hill, the Caelian Hill, the Capitoline Hill, the Esquiline Hill, the Palatine Hill, the Quirinal Hill, and the Viminal Hill.
The city encompasses a range of altitudes, from its lowest point at 43 feet (13 meters) above sea level at the base of the Pantheon – a sacred site in ancient times – all the way to the peak of Monte Mario (456 feet – 139 meters – above sea level). The commune of Rome is today much larger than the original urban limits of the ancient walled city, covering an overall area of 496 square miles (1285 square km).
Rome is just 15 miles (24 km) from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, where you’ll find port towns and beach resorts in the southwestern district of Ostia. Ostia is, in fact, the site of the ancient port of Rome. Nowadays, this area, called Ostia Antica, is a site of archaeological importance.
Rome Quick Facts
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Make sure to read my post The Most Interesting Facts About Rome.
What is Rome’s climate?
Rome boasts a Mediterranean climate. Its location in the northern hemisphere means that December to February is the coldest time of year in Rome, with an average temperature of 8°C (46.4°F). In the winter months the temperature can vary, with 10-15°C (50-59°F) in the day and 5°C (41°F) at night. On rare occasions, it even snows in Rome.
But summers are long and warm. The average temperature during the dry summers in Rome is 25°C (77°F), with August being the hottest month. Temperatures during Rome’s summers can reach 31°C (88°F) or higher. Summer nights are mild, at a pleasant 15-17°C (69-63°F). Rainfall during summer is low, and the wettest month is November.
Make sure to read my post The Best Time To Visit Rome.
Is Rome safe?
Rome is a safe city. Like many European capital cities, however, petty crime (such as scams, bag snatching, and pickpocketing) can be an issue, particularly around busy tourist hotspots and transportation hubs. You should keep valuables and bags close to you, and remain vigilant of your surroundings in particularly touristed areas of Rome.
Why Is Rome Called Rome?
Rome is actually named Roma in Italian and Latin (the language of the ancient Romans), and it’s popularly believed to be named after its legendary founder, Romulus.
Together with his twin brother Remus, the pair decided to found a city in the area, after being partially raised by a wolf. Uncertain about which of Rome’s seven hills to establish their new city, the brothers fell into dispute, with Romulus choosing one and Remus another.
Eventually, the dispute led to conflict and ultimately the death of Remus, but Romulus ended up founding the city on his chosen hill – the Palatine – and gave the city his name. According to analysts, this occurred on April 21, 753 BC.
Away from the legend, however, it is thought that instead perhaps Romulus’ name was derived from the name of the city itself. There are theories that date back to the 4th century AD that give the archaic name of the River Tiber as the rumon or rumen, meaning “flow” or “steam” in Greek.
The Etruscans, whose civilization predates that of Rome, are also theorized to be possible founders of Rome, with the Etruscan word ruma possibly relating to the shape of the Palatine and Aventine Hills, or to the wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus.
One final theory suggests that the name comes from a Greek word – rhṓmē meaning “strength.”
The Rise of Rome and Christianity
After a period of being ruled by tyrannical kings, Rome flourished from its founding as a Republic in 509 BC. It shot to yet more power through its Imperial period starting in 27 BC. The empire expanded dramatically, growing to its greatest extent under the Emperor Trajan in the second century AD.
Rome at this time was thought of as the capital of the world. There were many Roman cities throughout modern day Spain, France, Libya, England, Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey. It stretched from the Atlantic to Iraq, from southern Germany to Egypt. It was quite simply huge.
This was also a point in time that Christianity started to spread throughout the Roman Empire. Famously preached by Jesus Christ and popularized by his 12 Apostles, it wasn’t too long before Rome itself stopped persecuting Christians and adopted the new religion instead. The first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity was Emperor Constantine, who ruled from 306 to 337 AD.
The Edict of Milan in 313 AD granted religious freedom, allowing Christianity to grow. Several churches were built throughout the next decades, with Christianity eventually becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD.
The Fall of Rome
However, Rome’s vast empire wasn’t to last. The final emperor of unified Rome was Theodosius I in the late 4th century AD. After his death in 395 AD, his sons divided the empire into West – with the capital at Ravenna – and East, with the capital at Byzantium (later Constantinople).
Due to mismanagement and a lack of central power, the Italian peninsula was invaded by the Visigoths, who gradually made their way to the capital – Rome itself. Under Alraic I, the Visigoths sacked the city in 410, which did little damage, but emboldened later attacks by the Vandals in 455.
With its falling population and internal strife, the Roman Empire fell into decay. It’s generally accepted that in 476, the deposition of Romulus Augustus marked the end of the empire (in the West, at least) and the beginning of the middle ages.
A City Built By Popes
Rome is a grand city. It’s home not only to its ancient Roman sites, but also to the Vatican City. Because of this, it’s also home to various religious buildings that have impressed and enthralled visitors for generations.
Much of its majestic architecture was carved out by influential families, whose members were often connected to the Papacy – sometimes directly. Successive popes and these families have commissioned large building works, palaces, chapels, and piazze in a seemingly never ending urbanization of the Papal capital.
Though the Italian Renaissance began in Florence, it truly flourished in Rome, where now world-famous works of art were painted at the Sistine Chapel, statues were sculpted and fountains were designed by the likes of Michelangelo, Boticelli, and Raphael.
During the 1500s, under Pope Julius II (a member of the Medici family), Rome is said to have had its artistic heyday, when it was again regarded as a capital – this time of the art world. The ornamental Baroque style was also born in Rome, with eminent designer Bernini at the forefront.
Becoming the Italian Capital
Strangely, Rome hasn’t always been the capital of Italy. In fact, Italy was only unified as a country in 1870 after a decade-long struggle between various city states and kingdoms. Originally, Florence was slated as the capital, but in 1871 it was decided that Rome – with its more illustrious background – should be the capital city of the newly unified Italy.
“La Dolce Vita” – The Sweet Life
As if Rome wasn’t already famous enough, Hollywood films of the 1950s and ‘60s played a large role in making the city an icon of the age – a legacy that continues to this day. Classic movies have also been filmed in the city, including Roman Holiday (1953) and La Dolce Vita (1960), with Quo Vadis (1951) and Ben Hur (1959) depicting its ancient sites.
Major luxury fashion houses have also helped to cultivate Rome’s image as a fashion capital. Numerous high-end labels and luxury boutiques are headquartered in the city – think Gucci, Fendi, Prada, and Valentino.
Cuisine in Rome
Food in Rome also has a long history, and that shows in the rich food culture at work in the city today. Pasta, especially spaghetti, plays a big part in the city’s food scene, with must-try pasta dishes including cacio e pepe (spaghetti with pecorino cheese and pepper) and carbonara (that’s spaghetti with egg, black pepper, guanciale, and pecorino cheese).
Another quintessential Roman dish is carciofi alla romana – artichoke hearts simmered with olive oil and herbs; another artichoke dish, carciofi alla giudia (deep fried artichoke) reflects the influence of Rome’s Jewish community on its gastronomy.
Those with an adventurous palate should head to the district of Testaccio to try out some of the most classic and traditional of Rome’s dishes. This neighborhood is known for its offal dishes, as well as things like pig’s trotters, brain, and coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew).
Helpful Phone Numbers
During your trip to Rome, it’s good to know some emergency numbers – just in case.
Here are the main ones:
- 112 for the police
- 115 for the fire brigade
- 118 for a medical emergency
- 803116 (Italian phone) or 800116800 (foreign phone) for roadside assistance
- 060606 is the number of the City of Rome Call Center for any queries – it’s open 24-hours a day in Italian, Monday-Friday; 14-17 hours in English.
Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Most Famous Landmarks In Rome
- The Most Famous Buildings In Rome
- Where To See The Lovely Cats Of Rome
- The Most Beautiful Squares In Rome
- The Nicest Monumental Fountains In Rome
- The Seven Hills Of Rome
- The Most Interesting Facts About Rome
- The Best Virtual Tours Of Rome
- The Best Markets In Rome
- The Most Famous Statues In Rome
- The Most Useful Italian Phrases For Travelers