In the final analysis, Paris belongs to Parisians, and London to Londoners, but Rome belongs to the world. Rome's almost gravitational pull has attracted, in addition to travellers, some of the most creative artists and thinkers of every era. All that surrounds a visitor in Rome - the stunning art and architecture, the terrible traffic, the grandeur of scale and even the lively (almost hyperanimated) citizens - guarantees and unforgettable visit. If you had only one hour in the city and visited St Peter's or admired the panorama from the top of the Spanish Steps at sunset or walked around the Colosseum to catch a glimpse of the Forum from the gates, you'd well understand why Rome is called the Eternal City.
Since the 1400's popes have been inviting people of all religions to come to Rome, a city influenced by ancient Roman, Judeo and Christian traditions. Today, the city authorities have already started sandblasting monuments, buying new city buses, expanding the subway system, rerouting traffic and landscaping parks in preparation for an estimated 15 million tourists who will visit the Eternal City in the year 2000, a Papal Jubilee year.
Nearly 3,000 years of glorious history have made Rome, the capital of Italy, a chaotic city that leaves urban planners shaking their heads. Overlooking a plain separating it from the Mediterranean Sea, Rome was built on seven hills that still provide the foundation for its most impressive remnants. these are mainly located in what's known as the Historic Centre (Centro Storico), which is surrounded by the ruins of the Servian and Aurelian Walls that used to serve as the city's defense. Most of the walled city - the Rome of the Republic and Early Empire - was in a relatively narrow area on the left bank of the Tiber River. The Roman Forum was the heart of this area, and to it all ancient roads led. surrounding the Roman Forum stand the most important monuments of ancient Rome, including the Arch of Constantine, the Colosseum and many others.
Located just to the north of the Historic Centre, also on the left bank, are the vast green stretches of Villa Borghese, Villa Ada, Villa Torlonia, Villa Glori and the Milvian Bridge. Many astounding Renaissance and baroque architectural treasures of papal legacy can be found in these parks.
Moving toward the southern part of the Historic Centre, still on the left bank, are the Baths of Caracalla, the circus Maximus, the Catacombs, the Appian Way and other sights.
Vatican City and St Peter's Basilica, the seat of papal power and the heart of the Catholic Church, stand on the right bank of the Tiber River, next to the well-fortified Castel Sant'Angelo, not far from the fashionable and charming medieval areas of the Bargo (to the north) and Trastevere (just to the south).
With the capture of Rome by Garibaldi and his troops and the subsequent unification of Italy in 1870, Rome became Italy's capital and began to expand well beyond the ancient Serivan and Aurelian Walls. Further expansion south of the Forum occurred during the time of Mussolini, resulting in the Esposizione Universale Romana (EUR) district. The city continues to expand in all directions.