8 fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about Rome
If you’re planning a trip to Rome anytime soon, check out these fascinating facts to help you get the most out of the Eternal City.more info
Rome On Celluloid
The Eternal City is also a city of celluloid. From Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn’s Vespa ride, to Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni’s dip in the Fontana di Trevi, Rome has been the backdrop of some of the most iconic sequences in cinema history. We embark on a celluloid tour of the capital of Italy while recalling the best movies that featured Rome as one of their protagonists.
To Rome With Love (Woody Allen, 2012)
Woody Allen stands out as one of the filmmakers who has most successfully captured the essence of New York. However, in recent years, the indispensable American director went on a pilgrimage that led him to film in London, Barcelona, Paris and Rome. One of the most outstanding movies from his European tour, To Rome With Love, revolves around Monti, a district of Rome which shook off its unsavoury past and became one of the liveliest areas in the city. The film also captures the beauty of other spots, notably the Via dei Neofiti, the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti and the popular Bottega del Caffè.
Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)
A masterpiece of Italian Neorealism, a style which in the first half of the 20th century yielded some of the milestones in cinema history through its stark portrayal of mundane, everyday life. Lamberto Maggiorani, an unemployed construction worker and untrained newcomer to acting, breathes life into the character of Antonio Ricci, who has his bicycle stolen during his first day’s work posting advertising bills. While chasing the thief, Lamberto runs through the popular quarters of Trastevere and Porta Portese.
La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
One of Federico Fellini’s heights of creativity and one of the most accurate cinema depictions of Rome’s character – particularly as it was in the 1950s, with its post-war mixture of glamour and humdrum genre life. Marcello Mastroianni stars as Marcello Rubini, a gossip magazine journalist who follows the great film star Sylvia wherever she goes (especially on her night outings), the role played by a mesmerising Anita Ekberg. Although such landmarks as the Piazza del Popolo, Via Veneto and Piazza Barberini feature in La Dolce Vita, the movie will always be remembered for the scene at the Fontana di Trevi.
The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)
Awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty is the 21st century’s La Dolce Vita. Enveloped in a fascinating surrealistic aura, seldom has Rome glittered so exuberantly on celluloid. You simple cannot help falling for Rome as seen through the gaze of Sorrentino as it settles on the Piazza Navona, Baths of Caracalla, Villa Medici, Palazzo Colonna, the Colosseum, Gianicolo, the Tempietto di Bramante and the Orange Garden.
Night On Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991)
Roberto Benigni plays an eccentric cabbie, the main star of the Rome vignette of Jim Jarmusch’s Night On Earth.This is a collection of five vignettes with stories set in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Helsinki and Rome. In the episode set against the backdrop of the Eternal City, Benigni picks up a priest in the early hours and drives him through some of the best known settings in the city, notably the Colosseum, while making a hilarious confession of his sex life.
Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
Another essential film of mid-20th-century Italian Neorealism. Inspired by the true story of the priest, Giuseppe Morosini, who was tortured and murdered by the Nazis for having helped the partisans. Filmed in the district of Prenestina the same year World War II ended, Rome, Open City lays bare the physical and moral wounds left by the conflict on the streets of the Eternal City and in the spirit of its people. And, amid so much suffering, a masterful Anna Magnani.
Dear Diary (Nanni Moretti, 1993)
With Dear Diary, this Trans Alpine Woody Allen executed one of his most widely acclaimed films. A semi-autobiographical comedy in the guise of a documentary, it recalls the director’s experiences in three chapters – On My Vespa, Islands and Doctors.In the first of these, Moretti rides his scooter through Rome’s everyday settings in August, providing a different take on the Italian capital. One unforgettable moment shows Moretti dancing with his running Vespa.
Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)
However, the prize for iconic scooter tours of Rome goes to Roman Holiday, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. It marks a sublime moment in the history of cinema, particularly the scene on the Spanish Steps or the sequence shot at the Bocca della Verità. The winner of three Oscars, this movie marked Rome’s ascendency as a city of cinema.
Book your Vueling to Rome here and let yourself be bewitched by this celluloid city.
Indie Nightlife in Rome
When you think of nightlife and dancing to indie music until the early hours, Rome doesn’t normally spring to mind. The nightlife in Rome is perhaps not among the most popular in Europe but it does have its own charm and venues where you can enjoy indie music.
In order to give you an idea before you set out into the night around Rome, you need to know that the bars usually close at midnight in winter and stay open until 02:00 in summer. Another important factor to consider is that the price of drinks can range from € 2 for a glass of house wine at a bar to € 12 for a long drink in a night club.
We have taken a tour of the most indie bars and discos in the city. Why not check them out if you happen to be in the Italian capital and miss the indie sound of the clubs back home.
Let’s start the night at Micca Club. Here, you can have a bite to eat while listening to good music and enjoying the first drink of the evening. It can be found in the Esquilino district and it is worth seeing a place like Micca before heading over to the Pigneto district where you will find most of the bars and clubs you are looking for.
Once you get to Pigneto, why not have a drink in Necci. They say it was a favourite of Pasolini and the 1960s style decoration is well worth a visit.
On the same street, at number 101, you will find Fanfulla 101. Cheap drinks, good DJ sessions and maybe an interesting exhibition.
After those first drinks, the time has come to dance and keep all that alcohol from going straight to your head. If you get there early, Init is a great place. It’s small and cosy with good music.
To end the night, there is nothing better than dancing at Circolo Degli Artisti. If you go in summer, you can even take a dip in their swimming pool.
There are other alternatives but at a distance from this part of the city. However, we do recommend Piper Club for being the spiritual home of all lovers of the 1960s sound in the Italian capital or Palalottomattica for being the largest indie club in Rome.
We hope you enjoy your indie night in Rome. Have a look at our flights here!
Image: Aaron Loganmore info
Rome’s Other Churches
They call it “The Eternal City”. The fact is that Rome still dwells in a historical limbo typified by a coexistence between Etruscan, Roman, medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and even Fascist vestiges. In this cradle of our civilisation and hub of the Catholic religion, monuments like the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Forum and the Pantheon are visited by millions of tourists each year. But, other jewels known to far fewer visitors also lie concealed in this great city. We roamed its most emblematic quarters and discovered the twelve most spectacular yet little known churches.
Here, tourists and locals jostle about one of the city’s liveliest, most characterful quarters. Here, too, stand some of Rome’s most fascinating medieval churches, in particular, Santa Maria in Trastevere.
1. San Francesco a Ripa – Bernini’s Other Ecstasy
Piazza di San Francesco d’Assisi 88
Possibly Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s best known work is the Ecstasy of St Theresa. However, what many are unaware of is that a church in the very heart of Trastevere conceals another ecstasy by this artist. The church in question is San Francesco a Ripa, home to his Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, a masterpiece in marble which you are sure to enthuse over. The church is also famous for having been built on the former site of a hospice where St Francis of Assisi lodged during his visit to Rome in 1219. Indeed, his crucifix and stone pillow can still be seen in the cell where he stayed.
The Piazza Navona, one of the great works of the Italian Baroque, is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, hence its oval shape. The area features myriad vestiges of Borromini, Bramante and Bernini in the guise of fountains, churches and palaces. With a lively atmosphere during the day and by night, this is one of the best spots to take the city’s pulse.
2. Santa Maria della Pace – Bramante’s Proportions
Vicolo del Arco della Pace 5
This superb church was designed by Baccio Pontelli in the second half of the 15th century and includes a cloister by Bramante from the year 1504. Here, the great Italian architect applied the rules of classical proportions to generate an effect of spaciousness in an otherwise small area.
Campo de’ Fiori
The streets in this quarter have preserved their medieval atmosphere and sited here is one of Europe’s most famous open-air markets. It was a centre of the Renaissance, featuring buildings such as the Palazzo Farnese and Palazza Spada. Wandering through its streets, we came across the colourful Jewish ghetto, the Roman Theatre of Marcellus and the surprising Portico of Octavia.
3. San Girolamo della Carità – A Baroque Festival
Via de Monserrato 62A
This church is located near the church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli, on the spot where St Filippo Neri lived. It houses the stunning Spada Chapel, which is well worth the visit. Designed by Borromini, it is an ode to the Italian Baroque, with statues, marble- and jasper-veined panels and all kinds of gilt decoration simulating curtains and flowered damasks.
Esquilino is the largest of Rome’s seven hills and a quarter which still retains much of its original character. Roman vestiges are in evidence in many spots, noteworthy being the ruins of the Baths of Trajan and the Domus Aurea. However, if it stands our for anything it is for its numerous churches, some of them built in private homes.
4. Santa Bibiana
Via Giovanni Giolitti 154
The simple facade of Santa Bibiana was Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s first architectural commission. The building houses the remains of St Bibiana, who was scourged to death with leaded thongs in Roman times. The small pillar inside the church is believed to be where the martyr was tortured. The interior also features a marble statue of the saint sculpted by Bernini himself. Interestingly enough, it was the first clothed figure sculpted by the Neapolitan artist.
5. Santa Prassede
Via di Santa Prassede 9A
The Basilica of Saint Praxedes, a celebrated gem of Byzantine art, houses one of Rome’s most interesting mosaic ensembles. The church was commissioned by Pope Paschal I in the 9th century, on the site of a former oratory from the 2nd century. While it has undergone alterations, its original medieval structure is still visible. The central nave contains a well where tradition has it St Praxedes buried the remains of 2,000 martyrs. Pride of place, however, goes to the beautiful mosaics, depicting saints, animals, palm trees and poppies. The church also contains part of a column, brought here from Jerusalem, to which Christ is said to have been tied and scourged.
The Lateran Palace, the papal residence during the Middle Ages, stands next to one of the most spectacular churches in Rome, St John in Lateran.
6. Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano 14
Many sightseers overlook this spot when visiting St John in Lateran. The building, designed by Domenico Fontana, houses the two remaining vestiges of the Lateran Palace, namely the Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum. The former is a set of 28 steps where, according to tradition, Christ walked up to Pilate’s residence before being tried. They were brought from Jerusalem by the mother of Emperor Constantine, St Helena, and ordered to be placed in this spot by Pope Sixtus V when the Lateran Palace was destroyed. The steps are considered holy and an object of pilgrimage, so that visitors are only allowed to ascend them on their knees. At the top of the stairs is the Sancta Sanctorum containing a painting which was allegedly executed by St Luke with the assistance of an angel.
7. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Piazza di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
While now very different in appearance, the original church was founded by St Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, in the year 320 AD. It houses relics from Christ’s Crucifixion. The crypt contains a statue of St Helena which had originally been unearthed in the Ostia archaeological site. The tomb of Cardinal Quiñones, confessor to Charles I of Spain, was sculpted by Sansovino.
8. Santo Stefano Rotondo
Via di Santo Stefano Rotondo 7
St Stephen in the Round is one of the oldest churches in Rome. Founded in 468 AD, its striking circular ground plan is difficult to forget. The four side chapels house part of the original medieval frescoes, while the standout feature is a 7th-century mosaic depicting Jesus with SS Felician and Primus.
The spectacular ruins of the Baths of Caracalla have long been the main attraction in this part of the city which is ideal for strolling in. What in Roman times was a residential area now boasts many green zones and affords views of the Roman wall and the Porta San Sebastiano, one of Rome’s best preserved gates.
9. Santa Maria in Domnica
Piazza della Navicella 2
Dating from the 7th century, the church is thought to have been built on the site of a former fire station. It is well worth getting to this eminently untouristic church to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Don’t miss the stunning mosaic in the apse, commissioned by Pope Paschal I in the 9th century.
10. San Giorgio in Velabro
Via Velabro 19
Primitive in appearance, this church was inexplicably targeted by a terrorist attack in July 1993 which destroyed the portico and tympanum. They were restored and no signs of the attack remain. Noteworthy in the apse is a fresco by Pietro Cavallini. A prominent feature in one corner of the facade is the Arco degli Argentari, dedicated to Emperor Septimius Severus in 204 AD.
11. Santa Sabina
Piazza Pietro d’Illiria 1
Like San Giorgio in Velabro, this is one of Rome’s churches that best preserves the Christian basilica layout. It features a pulpit, choir and 16th-century throne, while the windows illuminate a nave graced with exquisite Corinthian columns. The doors in the side portico, with carvings depicting Biblical scenes, date from the 5th century.
Environs of Rome
The catacombs, Via Appia Antica and Borghese Gallery are located beyond the city centre.
12. Santa Costanza
Via Nomentana 349
Inspired by circular-plan churches such as the Palatine Chapel at Aachen, or Santo Stefano Rotondo, Santa Costanza is one of the early Christian jewels. Originally built as a mausoleum for the daughters of Constantine the Great, the 12 columns supporting the vault are a veritable feat of engineering. A replica of the Costanza sarcophagus housed in the Vatican Museum is set in a niche.
Text by Aleix Palau for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS