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Favoured by 'alternative' youth on summer evenings
The Circus Maximus seen up close is a scrubby dog park littered with broken glass and cigarette butts. However, from the Palatine hill it’s still possible to visualise the flat base of the long, grassy basin as the racetrack, and the sloping sides as the stadium stands, and with a lot of imagination the roar of hooves can be heard.
Brick remains of the original seating at the southern end are the only visible remains of the structure (the tower there is medieval). Recent excavations have also unearthed a mithraeum from the first century BC. The oldest and largest of Rome’s ancient arenas, the Circus Maximus hosted chariot races from at least the fourth century BC.
It was rebuilt by Julius Caesar to hold as many as 300,000 people. Races involved up to 12 rigs of four horses each; the first charioteer to complete the seven treacherous, sabotage-ridden laps around the spina (ridge in the centre) won a hefty monetary prize and the adoration of the populace.
The circus was also used for mock sea battles (with the arena flooded with millions of gallons of water), ever-popular fights with wild animals and the occasional large-scale execution. Perhaps not accidentally, the furious, competitive flow of modern traffic around the circus goes in the same direction that the ancient chariots did.
Aventino is a less touristy area of Rome, nevertheless there are many historic landmarks here. You can visit the Baths of Caracalla built between A.D. 212 and 216 and used by the romans until the 6th century, or the Pyramid of Cestius built in 12 B.C. - the tomb of Gaius Cestius, a powerful magistrate of ancient Rome. Discover some of the most authentic Roman flavors at Testaccio Market – find your favorite delicacies, then go picnic at one of the parks overlooking the Tiber river. And just for fun, try the Roman lie detector, - the Bocca della Verità in Santa Maria in Cosmedin.Find out more about Aventino
A short walk from the Spanish steps this area of Rome is layered thick with history. Centuries of successive generations have plundered or adapted the palaces, temples and townhouses of their forefathers, creating the swirling mix of living history that is such a distinctive aspect of modern Rome. A fine example of this is the Piazza Barberini, named after Palazzo Barberini, with Bernini’s masterpiece, Fontana del Tritone, at the center of the square. From here you can stroll up Via Veneto, one of the most famous and luxurious streets in Rome and background to the famous movie by Fellini La Dolce Vita.Find out more about Barberini
The area around the Colosseum, Campitelli, is the least populated neighborhood of Rome, noted for its museums and archaeological sites, that include the most important temple of ancient Rome (Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus), as well as the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, two of Ancient Rome’s greatest monuments. This is where you will find the Palatine Hill, the site where the she-wolf found Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of the city.Find out more about Colosseum
The area south of Rome’s central station Termini, Esquilino, is the site of many architectural treasures, with ancient churches whose interiors take your breath away, museums, elegant squares, and popular markets. As authentic as it gets, Esquilino has a mixed population, with a large Chinese immigrant neighborhood, where you’ll find both typical trattorias, as well as ethnic restaurants. Don’t miss the fourth century baptistery in San Giovanni in Laterano, the cathedral of Rome.Find out more about Esquilino
Nomentano is a student favorite, as the site of the prestigious Università La Sapienza. It is also an ideal neighborhood for those who travel on a budget, as it boasts numerous student-friendly trattorias, unpretentious cafés, and street markets with food, clothing and more. At night, Nomentano turns into party central, with numerous clubs, and people drinking in the open. And yes, there are enough historic landmarks here too. It’s Rome, after all.Find out more about Nomentano
Old Rome is the site of many ancient churches, traditional trattorias and lovely piazzas and streets to wander about. Via dei Coronari is renowned for its posh antique dealers, while Piazza della Rotonda bustles with tourists, who come to admire the glorious Pantheon. Campo de' Fiori is party central for college students and tourists at night, and Piazza Navona is ideal for shopping and watching street performers. On the other side of Via del Corso you can make a wish at the breathtaking Fontana di Trevi, walk up the Spanish steps in Piazza di Spagna or enjoy luxury shopping in Via Condotti.Find out more about Old Rome
The Vatican neighborhood was once the site of Emperor Nero’s circus and a place where Christians, including St Peter, were martyred. Today it is the center of the Catholic Church and home to the Pope. Since 1929 the Vatican has also been a state within a city, complete with its own pike-wielding army – the Swiss Guard. The smallest independent country in the world holds the treasures of the Vatican Museum with its remarkable Sistine Chapel by Raphael. A long wall connects the Vatican with Castel Sant’Angelo or the Mausoleum of Hadrian as it’s real name is. Built as a tomb for the Emperor Hadrian, later used as a fortress by the popes, it is today a museum.Find out more about The Vatican
On the other side of the River Tiber from the Centro Storico, Trastevere can’t compete on landmarks, but its narrow, cobbled streets, are more than a match in terms of charm and atmosphere. The trasteverini regard themselves as the only true Romans and celebrate their distinctiveness. Traditionally this was a relaxed, easy-going and working-class district; although it’s increasingly home to fashionable trattorias and wine bars it has retained much of that character.Find out more about Trastevere
The area around Villa Borghese is lined with palazzos and villas, mausoleums, museums, galleries, and historic landmarks. In the magnificent Borghese Gardens you can enjoy beautiful landscapes and visit the Galleria Borghese with its collection of sculpture, paintings and antiquities from the Borghese collection, including pieces from Bernini and Canova. If you approach the Borghese Gardens from Piazza del Popolo up the Pincio hill you can admire a beautiful view of Rome. At the edge of the Borghese Gardens, the Zoo, is the perfect family spot.Find out more about Villa Borghese
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