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Did you know that there are plenty of examples of ancient Egyptian art in Rome?
If you have already been in Rome I’m sure you’ve seen obelisks placed in some of the most famous and beautiful places of the city.
However, obelisks are just the beginning. Temples, statues and also a pyramid are here and there to remind us of the time during which the Roman Empire transformed Egypt in one of its region, absorbing the cultural and religious heritage of the Pharaohs.
The Pyramid of Rome
It is said that there were 13 pyramids in Rome, but only one has survived to this day. It’s the Cestia Pyramid, built between 18 and 12 BC as the tomb of a rich politician named Gaius Cestius.
This pyramid is located along the Ostiense road, it’s 36.40 m high with a square base of about 30 meters per side. It is made of concrete and entirely covered with Carrara marble.
Unlike the original Egyptian pyramids, the Cestia Pyramid has only one sepulchral chamber, with decorated white-painted walls, but completely empty. Probably it’s been raided by grave robbers.
The tomb has an interesting story. It was built in a very shot period of time, less than 1 year as decided by Gaius Cestius himself in his will. The heirs would have lost the conspicuous inheritance if they hadn’t respected the term.
A pyramid identical to the Cestia one was once located at the beginning of Via della Conciliazione, near the Vatican, but was demolished in 1499 by Pope Alexander VI to make room for a new road.
The Obelisks in Rome
Among all the ancient Egyptian art in Rome, the obelisks are the most visible example.
Nowadays, Rome is the city with the most obelisks in the world. They are exactly 18!
9 of them come from ancient Egypt, and arrived to Rome during the imperial period. The others were built in Rome itself as simple decorations.
Usually the Egyptian obelisks are made of basalt. They weren’t brought to Rome as decorations, but as a symbol of the power of the empire. Initially they were placed near the Egyptian temples, which at the time were numerous in the city. Then, after the end of the Roman Empire, they got forgotten. Many of them collapsed, broke and ended up buried by the soil. Only between the 16th and the 17th centuries the Popes found them, restored them and placed them in the most beautiful squares of the city.
The obelisks that you surely can’t miss to see during your holiday in Rome are the one in St. Peter’s Square, the one in Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and the one in Piazza del Popolo.
Other examples of Egyptian Art in Rome
In ancient times the Egyptian temples were common in Rome. This is not only because many of the slaves were devoted to Egyptian gods, but also because the Egyptian culture had become fashionable. As a result, the amount of ancient Egyptian art in Rome has increased.
Most of the temples were dedicated to Isis and Serapis, but almost none of them are still here today.
On the Aventine Hill and on the Quirinal Hill there are some remains of an ancient Temple dedicated to Serapis, while between Via Labicana and the Colosseum are some ruins of an ancient square dedicated to Isis.
Other examples of ancient Egyptian art in Rome are the myriad of statues scattered here and there. For example, the lions at the foot of the Campidoglio stairway, the Statue of the Nile in the Vatican, the statue of Isis in St. Mark Square and the famous statue of a cat placed on a cornice of Grazioli Palace at the corner of Piazza Grazioli.
If you are looking for a different kind of Rome tour, try to follow the traces of the ancient Egypt that are still present in the city.
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The Archaeological Site of the Roman Forum in Rome
In the heart of Rome is the Roman Forum, one of the most important archaeological site in the whole world. I think that visiting this place is like stepping into the past of ancient Rome and discover all the events that have marked its history.
The thing I like about the Roman Forum is that it’s not a museum or a separated archaeological area. No, the Roman Forum is still part of today Rome!
What’s the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was built on a marshy area, reclaimed at the end of the 7th century BC, and it was the center of public life in Rome.
The word ‘forum’ means ‘square, piazza’, and the Roman Forum was where the social and political life of the city took place. There were temples, courts, spaces for meetings, markets and monuments.
This area wasn’t built in a single period, but has grown over time and each emperor has added a building or a monument. The first buildings were those for politics, religious or commercial activities, then the courts.
The Temple of Vespasian and Titus, that of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple and the Basilica built by Maxentius are just a few examples.
The last monument added to the Roman Forum was the Column in honor of the Byzantine emperor Foca, erected in 608 AD.
After that, the area was slowly abandoned, even becoming a pasture. Only a few monuments continued to exist, since they were turned into churches, the others disappeared because their stones were used for the construction of other buildings..
This situation continued until 1700, when the first revaluations of the site began.
Finally, starting from 1860, with the Unification of Italy, the new government decided to start the excavations to recover the monuments and enhance them.
Some monuments of the Roman Forum
Many are the monuments of the Roman Forum. Here are some of my favorites.
The Arch of Titus is one of the first monuments you will seen if you visit the Forum starting from the Colosseum area.
This arch is so beautiful! It’s so well preserved that it looks like it was built a couple of centuries ago, but it dates back to the 1st century!
Nearby is the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine. The remains of this building give us a glimpse on how huge the original structure was. It is said that the Basilica of San Pietro was built taking inspiration from these ruins.
The Temples of Vesta has a circular shape and not far away is the house of the Vestals. The Vestals were priestesses who had to keep the sacred fire always lit. They were held in high esteem, enjoyed special privileges, but they absolutely had to keep the vow of chastity. If they had broken the vote, they would have been buried alive.
The ruins of the Basilica Giulia are really special. If you take a look on the stairway you’ll see something that looks like chessboards. The ancient Romans carved them into the marble and used them to play in their spare time. Wasn’t it considered vandalism?
From the last Sunday of March to August 31, the Roman Forum is open from 8.30 am to 7.15 pm. Remember that the ticket office closes an hour before.
The area of the Roman Forum is well organized: there are bathrooms, elevators, information points, routes for the disabled, cafes and more.
The ordinary ticket currently costs € 12, is valid for 2 days and includes access to the Colosseum and exhibitions.
There is also a ticket that costs € 18 and gives access to the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and other 7 places.
Visiting the entire Roman Forum complex takes about 4 hours.
To reach it, you can take Metro Line B and get off at the Colosseum stop. There are also numerous buses that take you to the area.
Obviously, being the Roman Forum one of the most appreciated tourist attractions, it is likely to find many people exploring the area. However, it is quite large and you won’t have any difficulties in enjoying it.
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immagine something more romantic than spending your Valentine’s Day in Rome?
The so-called Eternal City is the perfect background for a walk
hand by hand with your soulmate, at least.
seems to be set up to encourage love and passion.
But besides a panoramic tour, which is unmissable especially if you are coming to the city for the first time, there are many things to do and see in Rome to live a perfect Valentine’s day.
But first of all…
The story of Saint Valentine
Valentine was a Christian bishop born in Terni who lived in Rome during the third century, when Christians were persecuted
We don’t know much about his life. We know he was beloved by the Christian population and the Emperor, who was a pagan, didn’t like this. One day the soldiers captured, tortured and beheaded him, and finally buried his body near Ponte Milvio. It was the 14th of February 273.
But why is he
considered the patron saint of lovers? The legend says he helped a Christian girl and a pagan boy to get married on the day he died. Unfortunately, the couple died the same day too.
During the 4th century, the primordial Christian church establishment used this legend to create a Saint Valantine’s Day as an attempt to replace the Lupercalia, an ancient pagan fertility rite considered in contrast with Christian morality.
However, many recent studies say that s, not in Italy but in England!
The Skull of Saint Valentine
Massimo there’s a small and very old church, the church of Santa
Maria in Cosmedin, which is popular because of the Mouth of Truth in
flocks of tourists come to see the Mouth of Truth but just a few of them visit
the church itself.
Yet, it’s worth
Once inside, on
a side altar, at the foot of a large painting, you will find a case. Inside the
case is a skull that is said to be that of Saint
I must be
honest, this is not the only relic of Saint Valentine in Italy, not even in the
In fact, there has been more than one martyr named Valentino and relics have always been a lucrative business even in the past, so merchant sometimes used to sell fake ones. Even if the skull isn’t the original one, I think that if you’re spending your Valentine’s day in Rome, you should celebrate what Valentine died for, that is loyalty, perseverance and love. These are things that every couple needs, aren’t they?
A Walk on Ponte Milvio
For many years,
young couples in Rome have been hanging padlocks to the street lamps of
Ponte Milvio and then throwing the key into the Tiber as a symbol of
This tradition comes from an Italian novel of 2006, later transformed into a movie,
in which a couple of teenagers celebrate their love in this way.
Over the years
most of the padlocks have been removed because the weight was damaging the
street lamps, so lovers have started to hang them on other bridges and even on
the Trevi Fountain.
During your Valentine’s
Day in Rome, a walk to Ponte Milvio is a must.
I am not
telling you to hang a padlock and throw the key away! This behavior can damage
However, this bridge is undoubtedly considered a romantic place by citizens and tourists. It’s where they exchange their promises of love. Furthermore, it is one of the oldest bridges in the city, a real monument. You should see it!
Other Things to do on a Valentine’s Day in Rome
As a big city, Rome
has plenty of restaurants and interesting places to enjoy.
Valentine’s Day special events are set up here and there.
Whatever is the
kind of short trip you are planning to celebrate your love, I’m sure that Rome
will not disappoint you.
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From the end of November Rome is filled with lights and Christmas decorations and thecloser you get to Christmas, the more special events are hosted in thecity. Among those, the Christmas markets in Rome are a good chance toenjoy the beauty of the city, the festive atmosphere and finally find some nicepresents. On the countless stands you can find handicrafts or typical products,and every market has its own peculiarities.
Let me tell you something more about some of them.
Christmas market in Piazza Navona
Located in the historic center, Piazza Navona is one of the most popular squares in Rome. During December and January, the square is home to one of the largest and most visited Christmas markets in the city.
The wonderful Bernini fountain and the buildings around are the background of stalls selling toys, decorations, nativity scenes and food. You can find everything, from small handmade treasures to the most tacky objects.
The Piazza Navona Christmas Market gives its best on the Day of the Epiphany, also known as the day of the Befana. The Befana is an Italian folkloristic character that looks like an old lady, riding a flying broom. She brings gifts to the children during the night of the Epiphany, putting them inside the socks that children left somewhere in the house. When they woke up they usually find the socks full of candies. But the quality of the gifts depends on how the children have behaved: if they’ve been good they receive candies, if they’ve been bad they receive pieces of charcoal. Obviously it is not real coal, but colored sugar that looks like it.
Christmas market in Piazza Re di Roma
The market of Piazza Navona is visited by tons of tourists and residents. If you do not like the confusion and you want to spend some time in a more peaceful place, you may prefer the Christmas market in Piazza Re di Roma.
Although small, this market has stalls packed with gifts, foods and other products. Moreover, in Piazza Re di Roma they usually set up an ice skating rink.
It’s quite a unique experience to ice-skate in Rome, surrounded by Christmas music and light decorations.
From St. Peter’s Square to Castel Sant’Angelo
If you’re in Rome at Christmas you must go to St. Peter’s Square, the center of Christianity.
Regardless of your religion, the possibility of listening to the Pope’s Mass is something unique. Furthermore, the St. Peter’s Basilica and the square are really grandiose.
At Christmas St. Peter’s Square is embellished with a giant decorated Christmas tree and a nativity scene.
This year the nativity scene of St. Peter’s Square will be made of sand coming from Jesolo, the most popular beach near Venice.
1300 cubic meters of sand will be worked by 21 international artists who will create a bas-relief of 16 m in length, 5 m in height and 6 m in depth.
Once you’ve seen the sand nativity, you can reach the imposing Castel Sant’Angelo, walking along the Tiber river.
Near Castel Sant’Angelo there are stalls all year round. They usually sell small souvenirs and some typical products, and during the Christmas time they turn into a real Christmas market.
The strong point of this Christmas Market in Rome are the views, especially in the evening. Buildings and monuments are floodlit and Christmas decorations make everything more magical.
The Mercato Monti during Christmas
The Mercato Monti is a market open almost all the year and it is popular among the residents. During Christmas season, the number of sellers doubles.
The residents usually go there for the shopping and, of course, for Christmas presents.
The stalls displays creations of artisans, designers, stylists, innovators and inventors.
The Mercato Monti is worth a visit if you like ‘Made in Italy’ products, or if you want to blend with Italian people and discover what kind of products and gifts they buy. Maybe you could get inspiration to find something special for your loved ones.
Remember that the Mercato Monti market is open only on the weekends.
Christmas at Eur
Eur is a district of Rome outside the center that was created during the 30s to host the Universal Exposition of 1942 that never happened.
It is a fascinating neighborhood. There are imposing buildings, with a massive and squared architecture, mostly constructed of white marble. The most famous is the Palazzo della Civiltà e del Lavoro (Palace of Civilization and Work), also known as the Square Colosseum because of its square shape and the arches that recall those of the Colosseum.
Eur has its own calendar of Christmas events, with flea markets and entertainment. I decided to mention Eur in this article because of the Village of Christmas that it is usually set up inside LunEur, the oldest amusement park in Italy.
I though it could be a nice experience if you have children and you want them to spend some time surrounded by elf and reindeer and snowflakes, looking for Santa Claus..
The Etsy Christmas Market
You know Etsy, don’t you? Here is a brief summary. Etsy is an e-commerce in which users/sellers can only sell handicrafts or vintage things. It’s a sort of Amazon of craftsmanship!
Well, in Rome, for two days, there is a Christmas market that brings together 21 local Etsy artisans. You can meet them in person, attend to workshops and, of course, buy their gorgeous products.
It’s the Christmas market in Rome in which you will surely find the gifts with the best quality, from clothing to accessories, from toys to decorations. All handmade or vintage!
Clearly there are many other Christmas markets in Rome. The city is big and there is much to see and do. As I always say, the best thing to do is getting lost in the streets and discover by yourself what’s hidden behind the corner. All the Christmas markets, with their stalls, decorations, traditional music and scents of sweets, make Rome even more enchanting.
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Optical illusions in Rome: Galleria Spada, Sant’Ignazio Church, Trinità dei Monti.
“Optical illusions in Rome? Guido, what are you talking about?”
My friend, you already know that Rome is an amazing city. There are so many places, buildings, ancient ruins and artworks to visits! What you probably don’t know is that some of these attractions have something magical.
They can fool you.
Among the many artists who stayed in Rome during the centuries, some applied their talent to create things that are not what they seem. They have created optical illusions.
The capital of Italy can leave you speechless for many reason, and I think that after reading this article you’ll probably update your “Place to Visit” wish list.
Let me unveil 3 optical illusions in Rome that you have to visit during your holiday.
1) GALLERIA SPADA
I think this is the most famous of all the optical illusions in Rome.
Galleria Spada was built in 1653 by Francesco Borromini and is located inside the garden of Palazzo Spada, currently the seat of the Council of State.
It looks like a nice corridor, about 35 meters long, leading to a statue of Mars.
At first glance everything seems normal.
Nothing spectacular, I must confess.
If you are going to visit it, your tourist guide will show you the trick.
Entering the corridor she’ll get bigger and bigger, and once she reaches the statue of Mars she will look gigantic, while the statue will look tiny.
How is it possible?
Borromini built it according to specific perspective rules. The gallery walls, the ceiling and the floor all converge towards a single point, making the space looking larger than reality.
In fact, the tunnel entrance measures 5.8 X3.5 meters, while the exit is 2.45 X 1 meter. And it is only about 8 meters long!
The optical effect is reinforced by the small statue of Mars, which is only 80 cm high.
For those who aren’t aware of the trick, the surprise is great! But even those who are aware will have a lot of fun.
2) THE DOME OF SANT’IGNAZIO CHURH
As soon as you enter the church of Sant’Ignazio, you will discover an astonishing building. In particular, the ceiling with all those decorations and that deep central dome will capture your attention.
If you are going to just watch the ceiling the threshold before going out, you are going to waste the chance to discover the magic.
All you have to do is start walking.
As you proceed, the dome looks more and more distorted.
Once you are underneath you’ll see it is actually flat!
Damn! It looked so real!
This second optical illusion in Rome has a particular story behind it.
Because of some technical problems, the planned dome was never built. The artist Andrea Pozzo didn’t want an incomplete church, so he decided to paint a fake dome with the technique of the trompe-l’oeil technique.
This optical illusion allows you to perceive a three-dimensional dome only if you look at the ceiling from a certain point marked on the pavement of the church.
3) THE ANAMORPHIC FRESCO AT TRINITA’ DEI MONTI
Next to the Church of the Trinita dei Monti is the Convent of the Sacred Heart. It was completed in 1570 and managed by the French fathers of the Order of Minims.
I’m quite sure that the Convent is open only by appointment, but if you are lucky enough to visit it you will discover a truly amazing detail.
Entering one of the upper galleries of the cloister you will see, on the left wall, a large fresco depicting a tree and, further on, San Francesco da Paola. The figure of St. Francis will appear to you perfectly proportioned.
The particular thing is that, as you proceed along the corridor, the painting will become more and more distorted. When you finally look at it in frontal position, instead of St. Francis there is a bucolic landscape, with hills, boats, grass …
You’ll probably walk up and down the corridor several times to admire this cool anamorphic fresco, painted in 1642 by Emmanuel Maignan.
It will leaves you speechless, as it is a wonderful example of human talent!
Another interesting detail about this optical illusion is its size. It is 20×3.5 meters. One of the largest that survived the centuries without damages.
In the Convent of the Sacred Heart there are other anamorphoses, but they are not complete.
Rome has plenty of super famous tourist attraction. Have you ever thought that Rome could offer you also such evocative experiences like optical illusions?
Trastevere is the most authentic district of Rome, the one where you breathe the true essence of this city.
During the daytime it’s nice to get lost in the maze of cobblestones alleys and discover all the beautiful views hidden behind the corners.
And at night, this district become the heart of the Roman nightlife.
Trastevere has a long story behind.
Its name comes from the Latin ‘Trans Tiberim’, that is, beyond the Tiber, since the first settlement of Rome was on the opposite bank of the river. During the Middle Ages, the population of Rome dropped and the area was abandoned. In more recent times it became a working-class residential area. This evolution transformed Trastevere into what it is today: a medieval-looking district with a folkloristic spirit and a great nightlife.
The thing I like most of Trastevere is precisely the fact that it can be a good place to spend both day and night.
During the day I suggest you to wander around without a specific itinerary. Let Trastevere show what it has to offer!
For example, its churches. They are a concentrate of art and architecture. In my opinion, the most beautiful one is the Basilica of Santa Maria. The external appearance could make you think of a church not so special, but inside it is an explosion of decorations and mosaics. The best time to visit it is at the sunset, since the light enhances the gold of the mosaics on the exterior facade.
Right outside this church there is a fountain that is said to be the oldest in Rome.
Not far away is the Colle del Gianicolo, where you can have a wonderful view on Rome and attend the ceremony of the cannon shot that marks the noon.
At night Trastevere is full of opportunities.
Every square and alley is packed with tables and people chatting. Flea markets, musicians and street artists entertain the passengers, while the aromas of the good Italian food comes out from the many restaurants. I love how the atmosphere is cheerful and relaxed!
But if you want to live Trastevere at its best, you have to spend your night out like a real Roman. What does it mean? You should start with the aperitif at about 7.30 pm. Then gobble up a typical dinner in a trattoria like “Da Teo”, where the portions are abundant. Finally, at the end of the night, enjoy a freshly baked night-time croissant before going to bed.
Rome is so beautiful! Attractions such as the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain are unmissable, but the capital of Italy has much to offer also outside the most popular tourist routes. Trastevere is the best example for me. Traffic, chaos and people are not lacking, but it’s the place to come if you want to discover the true heart of Rome.