In Italian Latium is called Lazio. It is the cradle of Roman civilization and is located between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apennines, along a sandy coast with Civitavecchia as its major port at the mouth of the Tiber River. This port has been in use since antiquity and now is home to the ferry traffic going to Sardinia and the enormous cruise ships that bring thousands of tourists to Rome, if only for a few hours at a time. Rome, the Italian capital and the seat of the Catholic Church, is in the center of Latium and is the Eternal City that everyone loves to return to again and again.
Named after the twins fed by a she-wolf, Romulus and Remus, it became the centre of Christendom and was the capital of a huge Empire which extended all over Europe and the Middle East. Filled with the marble monuments of Roman antiquity and the rich palaces of the opulent period of the Papal era, Rome became capital of italy when it was united as a single country in 1870. Since then, the urban expansion has spread around in a rather uncontrolled manner, which is part of the charm of the big city. The long heritage of past times, from the classical antiquities, the medieval buildings, the Renaissance palaces, and the many Baroque churches, illustrate both contrasts and continuity and always surprises, always takes us back to bygone glory days.
The visitor will be strongly impressed by the amount of monuments and the activities taking place all around Rome. Making sure you see as much as possible of the Eternal City takes some planning, but there is also plenty of charm in strolling around the streets and just soaking in the atmosphere. Two or three full days are necessary to see most of what you’ve heard about, but a full week may not be enough if you want to explore further and become familiar with the famous architects and painters who have had an impact on the city.
One day can be dedicated to the Vatican Museum and Saint Peter’s Basilica.
You need advance time tickets reservations if you do not want to wait in line for hours. A guided tour is highly recommended to see the best collections and treasures of the Vatican Museum which of course include the “must see ” Sistine Chapel.
The manicured gardens with statues and fountains are quite worth it. Saturdays and Sundays, if in town, the Pope will give his benediction, Urbi et Orbi, (to the city and to the world) as St. Peter’s Square will be filled with worshipers. At the center of the square stands the first century BCE Obelisk brought from Egypt; on top of which is a relic of the Holy Cross. All around are the two semicircles of colonnades designed by Bernini, a master in Baroque architecture.
The Basilica is built over the tomb of St. Peter. In the 15th century the shrine needed to be rebuilt and the plans for the new building were revised many times over the next 200 years. Bramante, Michelangelo, Maderna and finally Bernini participated to the construction of the Basilica, which is the largest church in the world. Among the many notable sights inside the Basilica, the Pieta of Michelangelo is considered as one of his top masterpiece.
Outside the Vatican, Rome counts more than 300 churches spread over its seven hills. It would be too long to see them all but the most important one are the Chiesa del Gesu where Saint Ignacio de Loyola rests, Santa Maria del Popolo with 2 paintings by Caravaggio, St. John Lateran which is Rome Cathedral, Santa Maria Maggiore with its exquisite mosaics, St Paul Outside the Walls with its impressive interior and the fabulous gothic Ciborium.
Another full day of sightseeing can be focused on Ancient Rome, starting with a tour of the Colosseum, trying to visualize the ancient contests between gladiators or the wild sea battles the chariot races when the arena was specially filled with water. Then you can walk among the the Imperial Forums built by Caesar, Augustus, Trajan, Nerva and Vespasian, and the Roman Forum, imagining in your minds the hubbub of activity on this same spot over 2000 years ago.
On the adjacent Palatine Hill where Romulus and Remus were found, Domitian chose the summit to built his imperial Palace; as you walk around through the immaculately restored ruins you will enjoy some magnificent views over the city and the Circus Maximus.
There are many more sites to be explored but the order you discover them in is not important and this can be part of your strolls around the city as you enjoy the delicious Roman cuisine available in so many trattorias. During these walks you will pass many squares and fountains: Piazza Venezia, Piazza de Spagna, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, Campo dei Fiori, Piazza del Quirinale.
Enjoy a stroll in the Villa Borghese, the largest park in Rome, where you can visit the Galleria Borghese, which is rich in sculptures and paintings by Titian, Raphael and Caravaggio.
The student area of Trastevere is a great place for a nice and reasonably priced dinner with a delicious cool glass of Frascati wine. In Rome do what the Roman do, and Frascati is their favorite wine!
It is impossible to name all the sites which are noteworthy, we did not yet list the Pantheon, the Catacombs or the Trevi Fountain which shouldn’t be missed. A day trip outside Rome can take you for a few hours to Ostia Antica, or to Tivoli to visit Tivoli Gardens, or Villa Adriana, all of which are short drives outside the city.
Abruzzi & Molisse
The Abruzzi region stretches along the Adriatic but the most interesting area to visit is in the mountains. Abruzzo is a country of high and wild mountains with the Gran Sasso and the Matella Mountains. Both have given their name to a national park: The third and oldest one is the Gran Parque Nazionale d’Abruzzo. In the valleys and basins sheltered from the winds grow vineyards, almond, and olive trees, while the industrial area is mostly located in the region of Chieti-Pescara. A round tour leaving from Sulmona will cover the gran plateau and take you from village to village, all quite charming with their old houses: Pescoconstanzo, Alfedena, y Scanno.
Molise is located just south of Abruzzi. Mountains, dark valleys, and dense forests still haunted by wolves are similar to those of its neighbor. The region is located between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea. Armies, invaders and travelers always passed by, pushing the local inhabitants to search refuge in perched picturesque villages and fortified castles such as Agone, Altilia Saepinum, Pietrabbondante, San Vincenzo al Volturno, or Termoli.