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Rome: The Capital of the ProvincePage 1
By Grace Lancieri-Olivo
The city of Rome is known by many names: Caput mundi ("capital of the world"), la Città Eterna ("the Eternal City"), Limen Apostolorum ("threshold of the Apostles"), and la città dei sette colli ("the city of the seven hills”). The city is located at the junction of the Aniene and Tiber Rivers, and covers about 1285 square kilometers. During the reign of Emperor Augustus, Rome was the largest city in the world, with population estimates as high as 3.5 million. With the fall of the Roman Empire that number dwindled dramatically. During the 18th century, only Naples and Rome could be considered populous cities. A certified census completed in 1709 reported 138,568 residents in the city of Rome, including 32,442 families, 8,000-10,000 Jews, 2,646 priests, 3.556 monks and friars, 1,814 nuns. The seven hills were primarily gardens, vines and ruins. Animals grazed in the Forum. By 1739 about one-third of Rome was inhabited. A later census in 1790 showed an increase to only 162,982. As of December 2006 that number had blossomed to Italy's largest city with 2.7 million residents. Today's Rome is divided into 19 subdivisions - there were 20, until Fiumicino was declared an independent comune several years ago.
The liveliest and most popular quarter of Rome for centuries is Trastevere, which retains much of the characteristics of old Rome. The narrow, cobbled streets are filled with fashionable boutiques and restaurants, and the residents consider themselves the most "Roman" of the Romans. The heart of Rome's bohemian sector during the 18th century was the Piazza di Spagna. The piazza and its Spanish Steps were favorites of artists and writers like Keats and Shelley. Today it is one of Rome's most popular meeting spots, and at the foot of the steps is Via Condoti with some of the finest shopping in the city.
In early Rome, the city's business were grouped by type in neighborhoods: Capellari (hat makers), Piazza Capranica (watchmakers), Via Pellegrino (goldsmiths, jewelers), Guibbonari (second hand merchants), Falegnami (cabinet makers), Funari (rope sellers), from the statue of Pasquino to the Chiesa Nuova (booksellers and transcribers), from Piazza della Cancellaria to Piazza della Valle (poultry sellers), Piazza Navona (fruits, vegetables and cereals).
There are more than 1,000 churches in Rome. Religious pilgrims traveled there in centuries past to obtain indulgences from the many relics housed there, hoping to reduce their time in purgatory. The most venerated is the tomb of Saint Peter, under the Basilica that bears his name. Relics of the heads of saints Peter and Paul are held in San Giovanni in Laterno, Rome's cathedral and formerly the papal seat. Near San Giovanni in Laterno is a building housing the Holy Stairs, said to be the stairs from Pontius Pilate's palace that Jesus climbed to be judged by Pilate. Saint Paul was bound to a pillar in the Church of San Paolo alle Tre Fontane during the hours before he was beheaded. It is said that Paul's head bounced three times when it was severed, and with each bounce a spring of water poured forth - giving the name 'three fountains' to the church. The springs still flow today. The heart of Saint Charles Borromeo is in the Church of San Carlo.
Next Page: Rome's Ancient Monuments
About the author:
Grace is the editor of the Comunes of Italy magazine. The magazine's goal is to promote Italian genealogy and culture through awareness, research, writing, lecturing, instruction and the preservation and understanding of genealogical and historical material. Comunes of Italy is published six times per year. For subscription information please visit the Comunes of Italy web site.
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