Home to the Vatican City, an independent country existing within the city limits, Rome is a global city and is without any surprise regularly in the top 20 most visited cities in Europe. Considered one of the birthplaces of Western civilization, the "Eternal City” has a rich and fascinating history dating back nearly 2500 years ago. Segmented into multiple districts, the historical center contains a myriad of museums, impressive displays of Renaissance Italian architecture, classic statues and, of course, the crumbling but still awe-inspiring Colosseo (Colosseum or Coliseum) visited by the thousands every year.
The Befana (Epiphany) is celebrated in January towards the end of the Christmas season in Italy. On January 6, hundreds of people dressed in medieval apparel and bearing symbolic gifts meant for the Pope walk to the Vatican. Later, the Pope commemorates the event of the Three Wise Men bringing gifts for Jesus by reading morning mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
Visit Rome in late February on Ash Wednesday and you may get to see the Pope walking from the Basilica of St. Sabina to Circus Maximus accompanied by the College of Cardinals. Rome also has the Noianti Festival in July with plenty of fireworks, parade floats and folk music honoring the Virgin Carmine. Springtime in Rome brings the Settimana della Cultura, a Cultural Heritage Week event when state-owned monuments and museums allow visitors to enter free of charge.
Rome's Mediterranean climate offers dry, hot summers and humid, cool winters with January daytime temperatures averaging 53 F (11 C) and July daytime temperatures of 87 F (31 C). Although July and August is typically hot with a great level of sunshine, many tourists decide to visit the city at this time of the year because the local residents flee to the coast for relief, leaving them the city to themselves.
Note that there will be more rain during the fall and especially in November and although it rarely snows the temperatures can drop on occasion in December and January.
The Catacombe di Roma (Catacombs of Rome) are underground burial sites spreading out under the city that resulted from land shortages and overcrowding beginning in 2 AD. Also called the Christian Catacombs, these catacombs contain invaluable information about early Christian art.
Nature reserves and well-kept public parks cover extensive areas of Rome, along with lavishly landscaped gardens and charming villas, notably the Villa Doria Pamphili and the Villa Borghese, which contains several famous art galleries hidden along its tree-shaded walkways.
Medieval, Baroque and classical fountains decorate the city and piazzas like delightful oases. Rome's fountains are alive with allegorical figures sculpted by Italian artists who wanted to integrate the graceful movement of water with their artwork. Viewing the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City is a must for anyone visiting Rome. Probably the most famous and beautiful fresco in the world, the Sistine Chapel is Michelangelo's crowning achievement and represents the ultimate in classic Italian artistry.
Located in four different places (the Crypta Balbi, Terme di Diocleziano, Palazzo Altemps and the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme), the National Roman Museum preserves a dazzling variety of Roman relics, from sarcophagi and jewelry to statues, coins and earthenware.
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