We all know about the Roman Colosseum, St. Peters Basilica and Pizza. With a history that goes back to before the 8th century B.C. there is bound to be some very interesting facts we never knew. That’s half the fun of visiting the “Eternal City” of Rome, going out to explore and somewhat re-live some of its ancient past and sights. You may not see men running around in toga’s these days but the romance is definitely there.
Here are a few of my favorite facts about Rome:
1. Did you know that the Sistine Chapel was a copy of another famous ancient building? The dimensions were taken from the specifications of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
2. Rome’s La Sapienza University is the largest in Europe and second largest in the world. It was also the first higher education in Rome since 1303 A.D.
3. Rome’s most famous fountain was built at the intersection of 3 Roman roads. Originally named Tre-Vie interpreted as 3 Street Fountain, Trevi Fountain brings in up to €700,000 a year and is donated to “Critas” a Catholic Charity who helps needy families in Rome. Throw a coin in the fountain and help out the Roman’s!
4. Here is a reason to travel to Rome in April! On the 21st day of the month each year at Campidoglio’s Tower on Capitoline Hill a historic bell called Patarina rings to celebrate the founding of Rome.
5. If you love animals you are going to love this little fact. Rome has a law which allows locally born cats to live without disruption. The best place to see this is in the Roman Forum that leads to the Colosseum. Bet you won’t see a mouse in sight there!
6. Do you know where the name “Cappuccino” came from? If you thought Rome you are correct. The delicious hot beverage was named after the Capuchin Crypt where 4000 monks are buried. Named after the hoods they would wear to dress up the monk robes called Cappucio.
7. That’s a lot of churches! Rome has more than 900 churches and almost 300 fountains.
8. Fashionista’s in ancient Rome? So much so that Emperor Trajan built a multi-level shopping mall called Trajan’s Market. At one time it had over 150 stores including designer clothes, jewelry, fast food and a mass of people who visited each year. I guess things have not changed much in a couple thousand years!
9. Now this is a palatial fact you probably never heard of. The word “Palace” came from Rome. Starting with Palantine Hill where Augustus was the first to build a palace there.
10. Even Rome has an underground city. Underneath St. Peter’s Basilica has the “City of the Dead” that you can visit during certain times. If you want to walk around the tombs of Pope’s of the past and even an Apostle its worth the couple Euro’s to see it.
11. When Emperor Marcus Agrippa built the Pantheon it was the tallest building in Rome. In fact even today its taller than St. Peter’s Basilica. Another interesting fact about Agrippa, he was so superstitious that he always put his right shoe on before the left. The reason why? The word left in Latin means “sinister” which translates to “unlucky”.
12. Need a place to rest your head? Rome is the place with more hotels in the city than any place else in Europe.
13. If you thought paparazzi means photographers who love to document the rich and famous through their cameras…. WRONG! Paparazzi means “buzzing mosquitoes”.
14. Hard to believe but the Colosseum wasn’t built in a day. It actually took 9 years using over 60,000 slaves. Was the Colosseum built for Gladiator fights? Not originally, it was built to entertain the Roman’s with music, dance and plays. It also was a showcase to bring attention to the talented architects of Rome.
15. Who would have thought that clothes would be so important to ruling emperors? For instance, Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus loved his Gallic tunic so much he was nicknamed after it Caracalla. Originally they were to name the baths Thermal Antoninianae along the way Caracalla seems to have stuck. Another interesting yet sinister note about the baths: Marcus Aurelius somewhat jealous of his adored brother Geta, that when he went against him by allowing immigrants free citizenship he mysteriously died in the baths.