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Rome History

According to legend, the Eternal City was founded in the 8th century when Romulus and Remus (twin sons of Mars, God of War) fought over the rule of the new city, and Romulus killed his brother.

Rome’s verifiable (pre-)history dates back some 6,000 years, but it has been confirmed that there was a settlement on the Palatine Hill by the 8th century. In the 6th century BC, Rome declared a Republic in 509 BC, elected a senate, and began to expand rapidly.

Despite being sacked by a Gallic tribe around 390 BC, Rome had seized the whole Italian peninsula by the end of the next century.

At the end of the republic, military dictators emerged, including Sulla in 82 BC and Julius Caesar in 45 BC. Later, Augustus became the first emperor of Rome and initiated 200 years of peace and prosperity.

By the late 2nd century, Rome’s power stretched from Britain to Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Near-constant power struggles followed, until Diocletian divided the Empire in the late 3rd century.

After Constantine’s death, Rome split and went into terminal decline. The city was sacked twice in the 5th century and again in the 6th. The Byzantine inheritors of the eastern Roman Empire dominated Rome until the late 8th century, when the Popes struggled for control. Centuries of feuding between the church, nobles and foreign powers followed.

Rome thrived in the 15th-century with the Renaissance, and the Papacy took up permanent residence in the city after moving from Florence. Over the next 200 years, many of the city’s most impressive buildings were built, including St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, and the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli were patronised. Rome later became capital city of the newly unified Italy in 1861.

After WWI, Benito Mussolini led the March on Rome and fascist rule was imposed until near the end of WWII. After the war, the city grew and modernised significantly, and became one of the world’s most fashionable city’s in the 1950s and 60s.

Did you know?
• Constantine is said to have converted to Christianity after seeing a cross of light in the sky before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312. This was instrumental for the early Christian church.
• Although Rome was claimed by the Allies in 1944, the German Nazis had withdrawn a year before, which is partly why it suffered so little damage during WWII.
• When Rome finally joined the new Italy in 1870, after the withdrawal of Napoleon III from the Papal States, the Vatican rejected the new king’s right to rule. The dispute was not resolved until 1929.

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Featured Hotels


Hotel d’Este

Sitting on the peak of the Esquilino hill, Hotel d'Este is a characterful, old-fashioned place with 31 charming bedrooms. Housed in a timeworn palazzo, rooms have high ceilings, period detailing and classic furnishings such as brass beds and mahogany-coloured dressers and wardrobes. Breakfast is served on a roof terrace.

The Beehive

Established by Californian couple Steve and Linda, The Beehive is deservedly one of the most popular, budget stays in Rome. Run with great personality and warmth, the house features dorms or private rooms with original artworks on the walls, a vegan and vegetarian café, a book exchange and a yoga studio.

Hotel Locarno

Close to Piazza del Popolo, the classy yet moderately priced Locarno dates back to 1925. It's full of atmospheric art deco details, from its rattling cage lift to the wood-polished bar. Each room is uniquely decorated with discreet antiques and coordinated Liberty-style wallpaper and fabrics. A real find.

Rose Garden Palace

Just off central Via Veneto, this is a business-like oasis. The interior is contemporary, with stylish design that sets it apart. The 59 bedrooms and six suites are spacious and serene, and there is the Il Roseto Restaurant, an outdoor courtyard and rose garden (hence the hotel's name) where you can breakfast and dine in fine weather.

Hassler Roma

The elegant Hassler Roma has awe-inspiring panoramic views over Rome. It's hosted a firmament of stars including Bill Clinton and Tom Cruise. The rooms are decorated in classic style, with sweeping floor-to-ceiling curtains, Venetian glass chandeliers and marble bathrooms. Ask for a room with either a balcony or terrace.

Grand Hotel Via Veneto

This 5-star hotel near the Borghese Gardens is worth a visit for the art collection alone - works by Picasso and Dali are among those that line the walls. An excellent spa and roof terrace make it great for a pampering weekend too.