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Rome, Italy – the one time capital of the known world

Posted by on March 22, 2019

Unlike the modern European capitals that I’ve visited in the past such as Copenhagen, Berlin, Kiev, Riga, etc., I like to think of Rome as being the first capital of the world. During the ancient times, the Roman Empire stretched wide and far encompassing the Mediterranean Sea as its very own inland salt water lake while dominating the majority of Europe which even at that time, people thought that the Romans had conquered the known world. The Romans, in the absence of modern technology such as the computer, automobile, phone lines, internet, etc., have impressively been able to expand that far and wide which put today’s world onto its current status as of now due to its historical legacies which are still seen today with the code of laws, philosophy, culture, and of course, language that still have some Roman-ness to them.

roma plaza placa

There are soooo many amazing buildings to see in Rome as you just walk along…

The biggest of all has to be the language that the Romans gave to the world, Vulgar Latin. The vast majority of all European languages utilize the Latin script and alphabets which later evolved into languages such as English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, etc. With the world slowly turning more and more into English as the global lingua franca, it’s apparent that the Romans have produced such legacy language gifts to its descendants. Thus the saying that “All roads lead to Rome” was very much true in those days as all the best leaders, soldiers, traders, business people, sailors, citizens, etc. formed this grand empire with Rome in the middle of it. To me, in today’s world, London is the only other city that comes close to being a world capital since the British Empire stretched across the globe and the fact that it’s such a modern economical and political city at the world stage.

However, Rome, due to being the first major empire to emerge out of the ancient world and with all of its glory, the city gets the nod as being the first capital of the world since some of the European capitals of today that I’ve visited fell under the rule of the Roman Empire: Madrid, Lisbon, Paris, Athens, Brussels, and more. Even the places that I visited that were outside of Europe: Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan were all under Roman rule at one point as well. Hell, even London (which I consider as another former world capital) was under Roman rule at one point which shows what kind of legacy the Roman Empire had on Europe and the rest of the world.

There is so much stuff to see in Rome that it’s very difficult to cover it all within one day or even two days, three days. You almost need a week or so to see it all because of the large amounts of history that flowed through this grand city that used to house an empire’s capital which oversaw the entire Mediterranean Sea basin being dominated by Romans at one point. The Romans are still the only empire or country that controlled all of the Mediterranean throughout history. There are many attractions in Rome which are the must-sees since they date back to the old Roman Empire days.

Forum Romanum Foro Romano

What was called the Roman Forum was the center of Rome which acted as a marketplace and central area for Roman government buildings. Obviously, the glory days are long gone but one can think how busy this place might have been and how awesome built up would have looked.

ancient empire grandeur top of civilization legions grand empire

Here’s another angle of the Roman Forum.

roman forum arch republic severus military victory monument

This is the Septimius Severus Arch which is part of the Roman Forum to commemorate the victory in the Roman-Parthian Wars. The Parthians were an empire in what would be modern-day Iran. The Romans decided not to exceed the Euphrates River as the eastern-most border so the Romans would not be so over-extended.

ruins archaelogists dream dig sites 1000 2000 500 bc

You can often spot ruins / archaeology sites throughout the city of Rome. Some of which were very influential back in its era.

military fort fortress wall brick stone defense

Sometimes there are sites that just stick out at you like this Roman Fort.

However, I think it’s best to get a physical map of Rome and then plan out your visit of the city. Another idea is to get a tour guide to show you around the city. But there are a lot of hidden treasures in Rome particularly those that were in relation to the Pope or Papal States or to the Christian faith having been a presence in the Rome for many, many years.

Italian symmetry religious keyhole to vatican sight line fun hidden tourism trick

It’s just a regular green door on an elegant frame. But I had no idea that the keyhole known best as the Aventine Keyhole was famous for having its keyhole line up perfectly to a view of the Vatican. Whether this was intended or by surprise, no one knows for sure. But I would have never known unless I was taken there.

corridor keyhole passage to holy holiness religion religious christianity capital roman

My cameras doesn’t do the justice but you can see the Aventine Keyhole opens up to a long corridor to provide any visitor a eyeful of treasure towards the Vatican.

inside basilica roman rome church catholics treasures dome

Next to the Aventine Keyhole is a cathedral called the Basilica dei Santi Bonifacio e Alessio. From the outside, it looked like another dull building but inside are the treasures waiting to be seen by human eyes.

decorative shrine inside church in rome

Towards the end is an elaborate decorations of a shrine which appears dedicated to the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.

decorated roof dome top ceiling for religion expensive

Make sure you look up as you can even see that the dome ceiling was decorated.

And even outside of the Roman and religious sites, there are others that go along with the grandeur of things to make the city exciting to go see and experience.

pantheon temple church roman times

What was originally a temple to the Roman Gods later became a church. But its true secret is the beauty indoors.

pantheon treasure italian italy religion roman greek gods

Pictures do not provide proper justice as the Romans have really designed and made this building amazing. The dome has a hole in the top which provides light into the building.

fountain rome tourists crowding lots of people fight tourism

Probably one of the more famous and crowded tourist attractions is the famous Trevi Fountain. Just note that there are a lot of tourists going to this site that you are shoulder-to-shoulder. Sometimes it’s resulted in fights between tourists for shoulder and elbow space.

Altar of the Fatherland Altare della Patria

This is the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument also known as the “Wedding Cake” to the locals because it looks like a big white wedding cake. It was constructed to celebrate various things such as the King of Italy (when they had one), Italian reunification, and the Italian Armed Forces.

tomb of unknown soldier italian flag

The view from the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. This site is pretty visible even from far away because of its white marble as well as its unique boxy shape.

Tip: Knowing Spanish and French can assist in communicating with the Italians but don’t ever think that you can completely rely on just those two languages because it’s not like what it was during the old Roman times when Vulgar Latin, the lingua franca back then, was spoken everywhere within the Roman Empire. All the Romance Languages have evolved so far from each other over time that the languages are not completely interchangeable despite a lot of words and verbs being the same or quite similar to each other. Still, I’ve found out that knowing Spanish and French does help when the locals don’t speak English – that alone can help bridge the communication gaps.

Tip: If you visit during the summer, get prepared to combat the onslaught of your fellow tourist hordes. Summer and the Christmas-Winter Break are the high seasons meaning that it could get shoulder-to-shoulder with people so be prepared. In addition, it’s going to be hot, sweaty and humid so know what you are getting yourself into.