Rome (Italian: Roma) is the capital of Italy, situated on both sides of the Tevere (Tiber) river, approximately halfway down the Italian boot. The city houses some 2,5 million people; suburbia included the figure rises to 4 million.
History in a nutshell
The area which is now known as Rome was inhabited as early as the 10th century BC, or so excavations on the Palatine and the Esquiline - two of Rome's seven hills - would reveal. In the 8th century several of the earliest settlements joined forces and proceeded to build a wall around them. During the next centuries settlements appeared on other hills too, to be united within one wall in the 4th century BC marking the birth of the united city of Rome.
Rome was under republican rule from 510 BC. Through confederacy and conquest Rome becomes the mightiest city state on the peninsula. Outside Italy more land was captured: at the start of the Christian calendar the Roman empire stretched to all Mediterranean coasts.
The empire included Palestine. From the 1st century AD Christianity spread from there. A major reason for its popularity must be sought in this new religion's lack of complex initiation rites. So Rome soon had a Christian community too, which survived beyond the fall of the West Roman empire in the 5th century. After the schism between the eastern and western churches (1054) Rome became the undisputed centre of the Roman Catholic Church. The pope would usually reside in Rome. The size of the Vatican state fluctuated strongly over the centuries.
When the current unified Italian state was being formed during the 19th century, Rome was appointed as its capital (1870). 1866 was an important year for the formation process. This is when year Pope was stripped of all worldly powers. In 1929 he was granted authority over the mini-state Vatican City.
Art & Culture
Rome as ecclesiastical and worldly centre of power has a long tradition of offering work to artists. Famous examples are Caravaggio, who made paintings in Rome commissioned by wealthy cardinals and Michelangelo, who painted among other things the Sistine Chapel on assignment from several popes.
Even today much biblical art may be enjoyed in Rome, in its museums and in religious buildings.
Vatican museums: a generic term for a collection of buildings in Vatican City open to the public. They include:
several museums, among which the Pinacoteca Vaticana (whose collection includes Caravaggio's The Deposition of Christ and Raphael's tapestries, and the museum Pio Clementino, with its impressive collection of sculptures, among which the famous Laocoön group;
several rooms of papal palaces, such as the Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) including the Room of Heliodorus and the Room of the Segnatura, which contains The School of Athens.
The Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in the Palazzo Barberini. Collection includes work by Caravaggio (Judith and Holophernes), Tintoretto, Holbein. Also, Raphael's La Fornarina.
The Galleria Doria Pamphilj, located in the palace of the Doria family. Artists from the Renaissance and the 17th century, among whom Pieter Bruegel, Jan Brueghel, Caravaggio (Rest during the flight into Egypt) Memling, Velązquez, Guercino, Filippo Lippi, Titian.
In addition to the Saint Peter, there are several other churches with famous paintings. A small selection:
Sant'Agostino, with an altar by Bernini, Caravaggio's Madonna and the pilgrims and on a pillar The prophet Jesaja by Raphael.
Santa Maria del Popolo. Here, more Caravaggio may be found in the Cappella Cerasi: The conversion on the way to Damascus and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter. The same chapel contains work by Caravaggio's contemporary Annibale Carraci. De Cappella Chigi was designed in renaissance style by Raphael, who had also designed the sepulchres for the Chigi family. For his sculptures Bernini uses Raphael's symmetrical chapel to the full. Tradition has it that the church was built on the very spot where Nero's grave must have been.
Rome has numerous other attractions, including remains from the Roman Empire (Coliseum, Forum Romanum, etc.)