10 Cool Facts About Rome: Unveiling the Eternal City’s Secrets

Rome, known as the Eternal City, has a history that stretches back over two millennia, making it a treasure trove for history enthusiasts and travelers alike. From its ancient ruins to its vibrant modern culture, it is a place where past and present harmonize beautifully.

Ancient Roman ruins stand against a vibrant sunset. The Colosseum and the Pantheon are surrounded by bustling streets and iconic landmarks

Exploring the intricacies of Rome can provide fascinating insights into its rich and varied legacy. Whether drawn by its legendary myths, architectural marvels, or bustling streets, those who visit or study Rome often find themselves captivated by its unique charm.

1) The Colosseum

The Colosseum, built between 72 A.D. and 80 A.D., is one of the most famous landmarks in Rome. Constructed under Emperor Vespasian, it showcases Roman engineering and architectural skills.

Made from stone and concrete, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater in the world. It could hold around 50,000 spectators who came to watch various events including gladiator battles, animal hunts, and mock naval battles.

The outer walls of the Colosseum feature three levels of columns in Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian styles. Each level has 80 arches, with 76 of them numbered to help attendees find their seats easily.

A unique feature of the Colosseum was its ability to flood the arena for naval battle simulations. The plumbing system was advanced enough to control large amounts of water quickly.

Over 1,900 years old, the Colosseum remains a symbol of ancient Rome’s power and culture. Although damaged by earthquakes and stone robbers over the centuries, it still stands as a testament to Rome’s historical legacy.

2) Pantheon

The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most well-preserved buildings from ancient Rome.

Originally built as a temple to honor all Roman gods, its name comes from the Greek words meaning “all gods.”

The first version of this building was constructed around 27 BCE, but it burned down in 80 CE.

The present structure was completed around 126 CE during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.

In 609 CE, the Pantheon was converted into a Christian church by Pope Boniface IV. This conversion helped it remain in use and well-preserved over centuries.

It is renowned for its massive dome and oculus, a central opening that lets in natural light. This architectural feat remains impressive today.

The Pantheon has also inspired many artists and architects. When Michelangelo saw it, he famously said it looked like the work of angels, not humans.

The building is located in the heart of Rome, near the Piazza della Rotonda. Its central location makes it a prominent landmark.

Today, it still functions as a church and also serves as a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world. Its continued use makes it the oldest building in the world still in use.

3) Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was the heart of ancient Rome. It served as a social, political, and religious center where people gathered for various activities. Public speeches, political debates, and religious ceremonies often took place there.

Before it was built, the land was marshy. The area lies between the Capitoline and Palatine Hills. It took significant engineering to drain and prepare it for construction.

The Latin name for the Roman Forum is Forum Romanum. The Forum was in use for about 1400 years, from around 800 BC to 600 AD. It was a thriving hub throughout Roman history.

Julius Caesar built a new forum in 46 BC because the original one was too small. Over time, the area became crowded with temples, basilicas, and monuments.

One interesting feature was the rostra. This was a large platform where speakers addressed the public. It faced the north side of the comitium towards the Senate House.

The Roman Forum draws millions of visitors today. People come to see the ruins and imagine the bustling life of ancient Rome. The Forum remains a symbol of Roman engineering and culture.

4) Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are a treasure trove of art, history, and culture located within Vatican City. They are among the largest and most visited museum complexes in the world.

With over 6 million visitors annually, the Vatican Museums span over 9 miles of art galleries, chapels, and historical halls. Visitors can explore a vast collection that includes masterpieces by artists like Michelangelo and Raphael.

Founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century, the museums have grown to cover more than 43,000 square meters. The incredible range of artworks includes ancient Roman sculptures, Renaissance paintings, and modern religious art.

One notable feature is the impressive staircase often called “Bramante’s staircase,” although the version most visitors see was designed by architect Giuseppe Momo in 1932. This spiral staircase is a highlight for many museum-goers.

The museums also include the famous Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling painted by Michelangelo. This iconic work draws thousands of tourists every day, marveling at the stunning frescoes that depict biblical scenes.

For those interested in history, there are rooms filled with artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. These exhibits offer a glimpse into the distant past and the evolution of art and culture through the ages.

5) Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most famous landmarks. It is located at the junction of three roads, which is why it is called “Trevi,” from the Italian “tre vie.” This majestic fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762.

The fountain is known for its stunning Baroque architecture. Water flows from multiple points, creating a grand visual and auditory spectacle. The central figure of the fountain is Neptune, the god of the sea, who stands atop a shell-shaped chariot pulled by Tritons.

One interesting tradition involves throwing a coin into the fountain. Visitors toss a coin over their left shoulder with their right hand. Doing so is said to ensure a return trip to Rome. This tradition draws many tourists, who collectively throw about €3,000 into the fountain each day.

The water in the Trevi Fountain originally came from the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct, which was constructed in 19 B.C. The aqueduct used to supply Rome with water for centuries and is still functioning today. This historical connection adds another layer of significance to the fountain.

The Trevi Fountain has also been featured in various films, including the famous scene in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” where Anita Ekberg wades through its waters. This has made the fountain an iconic symbol of Rome in popular culture.

These features make the Trevi Fountain not just a beautiful sight, but also a significant part of Rome’s cultural and historical heritage.

6) Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is located in Vatican City, Rome. It is one of the most famous chapels in the world. Built between 1475 and 1481, it was designed by the architect Baccio Pontelli.

The interior of the chapel is renowned for its stunning frescoes, created by Michelangelo. He worked on the ceiling from 1508 to 1512, and on “The Last Judgment” from 1536 to 1541.

The ceiling frescoes include some of the most iconic art pieces, such as “The Creation of Adam.” The vivid and detailed paintings are known for their beauty and technical brilliance.

The chapel is used for significant religious events. One of its key roles is hosting the papal conclaves, where new Popes are elected. This tradition dates back to the 1100s.

Around 25,000 visitors explore the Sistine Chapel every day. They are drawn by its historical and artistic significance. Despite the large number of visitors, the chapel maintains a peaceful atmosphere.

The robust structure of the Sistine Chapel resembles a fortress. The high walls were built to protect the Vatican, ensuring the safety of this important site.

7) Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is a famous square in the center of Rome. It is known for its stunning Baroque architecture. The square was built on the site of an ancient Roman stadium.

Bernini and Borromini, two renowned artists, contributed to its beauty. Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers is a highlight. This masterpiece features statues representing four major rivers of the world.

Piazza Navona has several other notable fountains. The Fountain of Neptune with its sea-themed sculptures is another attraction. Each fountain adds to the charm of the square.

The church of Sant’Agnese in Agone is an important landmark here. It was designed by Borromini. The church’s façade adds a grand touch to the square.

In 1874, a statue in the square was moved to the Galleria Borghese for preservation. This decision helped protect the original piece. The replica now stands in its place.

Piazza Navona is surrounded by restaurants and cafes. Visitors can enjoy local cuisine while admiring the historical sights. The lively atmosphere attracts both tourists and locals.

The square is close to other famous sites in Rome. The Pantheon and Castel Sant’Angelo are within walking distance. This makes it easy to explore multiple attractions in one visit.

8) Roman Aqueducts

Roman aqueducts were remarkable engineering creations used to transport fresh water to cities and towns. Built around the first century BC, these structures spanned across the Roman Empire, reaching as far as France.

Using gravity, the aqueducts carried water from mountain springs and rivers. The water supplied homes, public baths, fountains, and even farms. This system could transport millions of gallons daily.

Constructed with stone, brick, and a special type of cement, known as pozzolana, these aqueducts were durable. The Aqua Appia, the first Roman aqueduct, was constructed in 312 BC. By 226 AD, eleven aqueducts had been built to serve Rome.

One of the most famous, the Aqua Virgo, still functions today, supplying water to Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Another significant aqueduct, the Aqua Claudia, stretched over 45 miles.

Roman engineers used advanced techniques, including siphons and arcades, to build aqueducts over varied landscapes. The remains of these structures, such as the Pont du Gard in France, continue to impress modern engineers.

Rome’s aqueducts set a standard in engineering that influenced water management systems for centuries. Their ingenuity helps us appreciate the Romans’ capabilities in infrastructure.

9) Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo, originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, is a striking landmark in Rome. Commissioned in 135 AD, it was completed in 139 AD. Hadrian’s ashes, along with those of his family, were interred there.

This structure has served many purposes through history. It transformed from a tomb to a fortress, a papal residence, and later a prison. Today, it operates as a museum.

A prominent statue of Michael the Archangel sits atop Castel Sant’Angelo. This angel is where the building gets its name. The angel is a reminder of a legend from 590 AD when Pope Gregory I saw a vision of the archangel sheathing his sword, signaling the end of a plague.

The building also has a secret passageway known as Passetto di Borgo. This passage was used by popes to escape during sieges and other threats. It connects the Vatican City with Castel Sant’Angelo, providing a secure path in times of danger.

Castel Sant’Angelo features prominently in literature and films. It was made famous in Dan Brown’s “Angels & Demons.” The bridge leading to it, Ponte Sant’Angelo, is adorned with angel statues, adding to its grandeur.

The panoramic views from the top are impressive, offering sweeping vistas of Rome. This historic site is a testament to Rome’s rich architectural and cultural history.

10) St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica, located in Vatican City, is a marvel of Renaissance architecture. Known as the world’s largest church, its construction began in 1506 under Pope Julius II and was completed in 1626 under Pope Urban VIII.

The basilica stretches 220 meters (720 feet) in length and 150 meters (490 feet) in width. Its majestic dome reaches a height of 136.6 meters (448 feet), making it one of the tallest domes in the world.

Michelangelo played a significant role in designing the basilica, especially its iconic dome. Other prominent artists, including Gian Lorenzo Bernini, also contributed to its grandeur.

The site of St. Peter’s Basilica was originally used for a circus during Emperor Caligula’s reign. Later, it became the location of a vast cemetery where many early Christians, including St. Peter, were buried.

Inside, visitors can find over 100 tombs, including those of 91 popes. The basilica also houses Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, the Pietà, a masterpiece of Renaissance art.

Overall, St. Peter’s Basilica is not just a religious landmark but also a testament to the skill and creativity of some of history’s greatest artists and architects.

Ancient Roman Architecture

Ancient Roman architecture is known for its durability and innovation. Key examples include the engineering marvels of the Colosseum and the majestic Pantheon.


The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks. Built between 70-80 AD, it could hold up to 80,000 spectators. The structure is a feat of engineering, featuring arches, vaults, and concrete. This allowed it to support massive crowds and complex events.

The Colosseum hosted gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, and mock sea battles. It had a complex underground system, the hypogeum, where animals and fighters were held before contests. The retractable awning system called the velarium protected spectators from the sun. Its architecture influenced many modern sports stadiums.


The Pantheon is another remarkable example of Roman architecture. Completed around 126 AD under Emperor Hadrian, it was originally built as a temple for all Roman gods. The building is famous for its massive dome, which is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

The Pantheon’s oculus, a 27-foot hole at the dome’s center, is its only source of natural light. The floor is slightly sloped to allow rainwater to drain away. Inside, the walls are adorned with ancient marble. The building’s perfect proportions and symmetry make it a masterpiece of ancient design.

The Pantheon’s influence is seen in many structures worldwide, including modern governmental and religious buildings. Its architectural techniques, such as the use of concrete, arches, and domes, were groundbreaking at the time and remain influential today.

Historical Influence

Rome’s historical influence is evident in its legal systems and its contributions to language and literature, shaping modern societies in many fundamental ways.

Legal Systems

One of Rome’s most lasting contributions is its legal system. Roman law laid the foundation for many legal principles used today. The Twelve Tables, established around 450 BCE, were one of the earliest codifications of Roman law.

These laws ensured justice and equality for its citizens, setting out rights and duties clearly.

Roman law influenced civil law systems worldwide. Countries like France, Germany, and Japan adopted legal traditions rooted in Rome’s principles. Legal concepts such as contracts, property rights, and torts originated from Roman law. Influential legal texts like Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civilis further shaped European legal thought.

The idea of being “innocent until proven guilty” also has roots in Roman jurisprudence, highlighting its enduring impact.

Language and Literature

Latin, the language of ancient Rome, evolved into the Romance languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. This linguistic legacy underscores Rome’s long-term cultural influence.

Latin was the lingua franca of educated people in Europe for centuries, becoming the basis for scientific, religious, and legal language.

Roman literature produced influential works still studied today. Authors like Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero contributed significantly to Western literary traditions. Their works, such as Virgil’s Aeneid, continue to be important in understanding classical literature and have inspired countless writers and artists through the ages.

Rome’s influence on language and literature persists, making it a cornerstone of Western education and culture.

Cultural Heritage

Ancient Rome’s cultural heritage is rich and diverse, influencing modern society in numerous ways. From culinary innovations to vibrant festivals, Roman culture left a lasting imprint.


Roman cuisine evolved over the centuries, incorporating ingredients and techniques from different parts of the empire. Bread, olive oil, and wine were staples in their diet.

Romans enjoyed a variety of dishes, including puls, a porridge made from wheat or barley. Meat, particularly pork, was a luxury. They also relished garum, a fermented fish sauce used to flavor numerous dishes.

Romans had a penchant for dining out. Thermopoliums, akin to modern fast-food joints, served hot meals to passersby. These shops were often frequented by the lower classes who couldn’t afford private kitchens.

Festivals and Traditions

Festivals played a significant role in Roman society, providing both religious significance and social entertainment. During Saturnalia, celebrated in December, Romans enjoyed days of feasting, gift-giving, and temporary social role reversals. Slaves were treated to leisure while masters attended to them.

Another notable festival, Lupercalia, was held in February. It involved rituals aimed at purifying the city and promoting health and fertility. Participants, called Luperci, dressed in goatskins and ran around the Palatine Hill, striking onlookers with thongs to bestow fertility.

These festivals not only reinforced social cohesion but also reflected the Romans’ deep connection to their mythological and religious roots.

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