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April 21, 2022: The Birthday of Rome

There is no question about the fact that not many cities have such long, rich history behind them. Now, this coming April 21st, Rome turns age 2775. Not bad. This ancient city never stops surprising us, but it has a problem: besides ancient ruins, there are soldiers, consuls, emperors, popes of the early centuries and typical Roman folk of the time.

The Birthday of Rome is an opportunity to maybe see something a little different than usual. This blog will be followed by a second one and this is why: One blog suggests how you can relive the key steps that made the Roman Empire great, from foundation to demise, the Christian origins to today’s times. The second blog will concentrate on the traditional reenactment that is held every year between April 21st and 24th.

We think that reenactments and the programed events can render a better idea of the ancient civilization. If you book a tour with us, we can make it even better! After two years of pure mayhem and deferrals, now we look forward to celebrating Rome’s Birthday. If you are in town, you have a chance to see some extras.

Here are locations where you can see the steps that led to Rome’s greatness. The following list is set in a chronological order from Rome’s foundation to modern times.

So, let’s take a look.

1) Circus Maximum

Circo Massimo 2
Circo Massimo

Latin authors were never so generous in giving us details as to their real, precise origins. They were very good at gossip or generic information which proved to be of little use. That information could never be lost. Through their information, indirect sources, and archeological investigations we have made ourselves a reliable reconstruction.

Romulus and Remus, abandoned in a basket sometime around 771 BC, were set adrift to drown in the River Tiber, at the time named probably “Albula”, however, heavy rains had had the effect of bloating the river to a point that the basket reached the base of the Palatine Hill. Remember, the river was shaped differently so this was physical possible. The strong currents, as a result, pushed the twins across the river to here. A man called Faustolo spotted them, while being fed by a female wolf. This happened almost exactly in the area of today’s Circus Maximum.

During this time of the year, the Circus become the site, during this week, of numerous reconstructions of that glorious era. As mentioned that will be part of the next blog.

The high part of the Circus is where Remus may have stood, scanning for divine signs as to where they should build Rome. Romulus, from the facing hill called Palatine, will win that contest. An argument will ensue, and because of that, Remus is killed. Not by the hands of his twin brother, maybe even an unfortunate accident.

2) Palatine – Colosseum – Forum Valley

Above the Colosseum
Above the Colosseum

Romulus eventually understood his origins. So he founded Rome, protecting it behind a square shaped wall, the very first one in Rome’s history. The wall was said to have been spotted during excavations. Anyhow, the Palatine is one of the oldest part of Rome. April 21st, 753 BC. That’s the Birthday of Rome.

Romulus also lived on the Palatine, his house was probably on the side facing the Circus, a hut made of wood and straw. Its location is presumed to have been identified, a few steps away from where Augustus, the first emperor, will build his own magnificent apartment.

From the top of the hill, the view is spectacular. At the time, it was unobstructed, no modern buildings or cars anywhere so it proved great strategic purposes.

View of Palatine from Tabularium
View of Palatine from Tabularium

Roman life will develop from those few huts and stone walls into a city inhabited by possibly over 1 million people. The Forum shows the development of that society, from the king’s house, to the Vestal female priests, running through historic events and the construction of the immense Colosseum. You have a chance to see all of this in just a few hours.

3) Tiberine Island

TIberine Island 2
TIberine Island

The Tiberine Island has its share of history and legends, in particular how the island was formed. Roman Kings left a miserable legacy behind. Supposedly, they were seven and highly controversial but the last two gripped onto Roman’s memory negatively. The sixth king was Servius Tullius, dethroned by his son-in-law Lucius Tarquinius illegitimately and murdered soon after by his own daughter.

In keeping with his infamous act, Lucius Tarquinius ruled as a tyrant. After 25 years, the Romans, boiled over by the umpteenth criminal crime, overthrew the king and the whole monarchy. Lucius was exiled and the Republic was created, it is year 509 BC.

According to one legend, to celebrate the great news, Romans tossed in the river a great amount of produce and hay, which coalesced into the Tiberine Island. A few centuries later, the island will become known as a location for the sick and the infirm when the temple of Aesculapius will be built.

4) Capitoline Museums

20200205 112202 Copy
Capitoline Museums

The Capitolium Hill has had a major role in the history of Rome. In 390 BC Rome was attacked and put under siege by the enemy and the hill was defended defiantly by the Roman garrisons with a little bit of help… some geese starting screaming so wild to a point that they blew the surprise attack the enemy had been successfully trying, consequently, they were stopped cold at that point. That battle is legendary as the presumed fire that followed. It nearly annihilated the city. It was a turning point in the history (and future) of Rome. For a moment it seemed they might rebuild the city elsewhere. It was the military commander in chief, Furius Camillus, the man who had tossed the enemy back home, who managed to stop all attempts to relocate and, consequently, Rome was repaired and started again that march to glory.

Now, on that hill is a great collection: the Capitoline Museums. A great abundant quantity of Roman relics and mementos referring to the life of ancient Romans is kept here. It will offer great insight into the history of this Empire.

Schedules:

Open all week long, from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm

5) Pantheon at Noon, April 21st

Pantheon inside
Pantheon inside

Another iconic construction in Rome. The Pantheon, the temple dedicated to all the Divine World. Later on, converted to a church with the lesser known name of “Santa Maria ad Martyres” that is Mother Mary of the Martyrs. Lots of history here. Also surprising. For instance, the original structure wanted by Augustus and designed by his son-in-law Agrippa, was somewhat different from the way it is today.

The circular beauty and astonishing dome is the protagonist here. Try wandering in the Pantheon this April 21st, a Thursday, just before Noon. Only on this day and time, sunlight sneaks into the oculus of the dome and hits the bronze doors of the Pantheon. Think of the masterpiece project: to align all these elements to make this effect come true so, as a direct result, the Emperor accessed the Pantheon at that specific time, the Birthday of Rome, the Sun kissed the Glorious Divine Emperor. That must have been a show like few others.

6) Catacombs and the Appian Way

San Callisto 1
San Callisto
Appian Way about 3rd mile
Appian Way about 3rd mile

Catacombs have been part of the history of Rome too. As the first timid Christians began to organize themselves in a parallel society, they began troubling the local authorities. Their existence was tough, at times persecuted. Not even burials were simply affairs.

These were the early Christians. A life still in the shadows, low profile, detached from the Pagan society, at times underground. The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are immense, sixteen popes were buried here whereas the nearby St. Sebastian catacombs hosted, we believe, the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul for a short while.

The Appian Way is another landmark, the engineering ingenuity of Romans. A living testimony to the reliability and resistance of Roman constructions. The picturesque presence of mausoleums, tombs, and temples along the roadside offer an idea of the past.

Schedules:

St. Callixtus – Open on all days except Wednesday, from 9 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm.

St. Sebastian – Open on all days except Thursday, from 9:30 am to 5 pm.

7) St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums

St. Peter's - under the dome
St. Peter’s – under the dome

St. Peter’s Basilica stands on what was the side of  the Vatican Hill, a sizable part removed to allow the construction of the primitive basilica. Prior to St. Peter, this area was swampy, some cemeteries, further on there were also some fields, cultivated land, and a few roads. Not much besides one huge structure, Caligula’s Circus.

Inherited by Nero, the circus is most likely the exact location where St. Peter was killed. The circus was demolished and probably there is really no trace left behind. About 300 years later, the first Pope and bishop of Rome will be buried in his basilica. Constantine, the Emperor, the commissioner.

The old basilica started to fail structurally so, as a result, a new one was built, topped by the superlative Dome by Michelangelo, the elegant colonnade and square as sketched by Bernini. From its origins to the creation of the Vatican State and the Museums, this is an excellent way to see the progression of the Eternal City from the scattered shepherd huts by the river to the capitol city of Italy.

The Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel complete the scene with their countless series of collections and great frescoes. We organize, as you are familiar, several types of tours, private and small groups, to the Vatican City with skip the line access, which saves time.

8) Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

It has been said that the shiny white monument in the middle of Piazza Venezia is a symbol of Italy’s unity. Arguably, perhaps, but still representative of the first king of Italy, Victor Emanuel II, and dedicated to the unidentified soldier of World War One and later on of all wars. This monument was so heavily contested by Romans, who couldn’t stand its bright and clumsy appearance, along with the dissonance with all surrounding constructions. At one point, they even tried a passing a referendum to tear it down. We wonder, if that had succeeded, what might have been built in the place of the monument…

After the first global conflict, the remains of an unidentified Italian soldier killed in action were relocated here. Every year, several tributes and ceremonies take place on the mammoth sized monument. After touring Rome from its inception, this is one of the most iconic constructions in the city, referring to its more recent past.

Access to the site on April 25th (see below) might be less agile – especially in the morning hours.

Schedules:

April 25th, a Monday, is a national holiday. It is the feast remembering the Liberation of Italy from Nazi-fascist forces in the Second World War. Therefore, while monuments remain open, there are possibilities of demonstrations, sit-ins, and commemorative events. We suggest you monitor the local transportation website for planned and real-time limitations:

https://www.atac.roma.it/en/home

Said that, always consider that we can manage and organize tours and offer assistance so that you can use your time the best possible way. For more information or to arrange a tour, check out What a Life Tours or contact us by phone at +39 06 88975757/+39 334 7273299 (WhatsApp), or email at info@whatalifetours.com!

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