It’s time for facts again, but not just any facts. It’s time for the top 20 most interesting facts about Rome! Yes, I’m very excited! Why?
Because I love Rome! There’s no other place in the world I feel more at home, and I’ve been to quite a lot of places.
Rome is full of one-of-a-kind ingredients that blend flawlessly to create the most magical city on the planet. Having said that, it’s not that surprising that the most interesting Roman facts are also incredibly fun.
From the moneymaker fountain to cat’s special rights, from ancient malls to landlocked naval battles, here are the 20 most interesting facts about Rome!
Rome is old
Ok, this may look like a slow start, but bear with me. I presume you already know that the Eternal City is old, so why is this considered to be one of the fun Roman facts? It’s because Rome is so ancient that it’s actually older than Italy! Yes, the capital is older than the country. How weird is that?
And to add extra salt to the wounds of Italy, Rome is older by quite a lot. While the Kingdom of Italy was established in 1861, Rome dates all the way back to 752 BC (April 21st, to be precise). In fact, the Italian Peninsula was part of Rome for way more time than it was a part of Italy.
Founders of Rome were raised by wolves
If we go back to the memorable day of April 21st, 752 BC, we’ll find the twin brothers Romulus and Remus founding the legendary city (I don’t really know how you can found a town in a day, maybe they stuck a flag on the ground or something) on the same spot where a she-wolf suckled them. You’ve read that right; the myth about the Roman founders tells a story of two orphaned infants saved by a she-wolf.
Later they became warrior-shepherds (apparently that was a thing) and lived a great life before Romulus decided to kill his brother to become the sole ruler of the settlement (which was named Rome after him). Today, the she-wolf that saved the brothers is a symbol of Rome and is part of the Roman flag.
Rome is the first millionaire city
No, the first millionaire person was not a Roman ( probably some Egyptian pharaoh); what I mean is that Rome was the first city to have more than a million citizens. As far as facts about Rome goes, this one is not 100% confirmed, but plenty of historians believe the Eternal City was the first settlement to reach this incredible number all the way back in 133 BC. Considering the fact that there were roughly 300 million people on Earth back then, that was quite an impressive accomplishment.
Rome used to be crowded
Not so surprising, is it? Since you already know that a million people lived there, you’d expect it to be pretty crowded, right? But would you expect that ancient Rome was 32 times more densely populated than modern Rome?
As crazy as it sounds, with a population of about a million and the whole city contained inside the Aurelian Walls, ancient Rome had 73,000 people per sq km (189,000 per square mile). For reference, the most crowded city in the world today is Manila, with 41,500 people per square mile.
Original Rome is still underground
A lot of people assume that ancient Rome has been more or less excavated by now. The truth is, however, that only around 10% has been unearthed while the rest of the ancient city is still buried under the streets of modern Rome. This creates significant headaches for the metro infrastructure. Line C of the Roman metro took decades to be completed because they kept on stumbling upon ancient ruins and artifacts.
See Also: The most Curious Facts About London
All roads lead to Rome
Or should I say all roads lead out of Rome? Ancient Romans were incredible engineers who built an extensive network of roads and highways. At its peak, the Roman road network was 84,631 km long (52,587 miles), spanning from Cairo to London.
This road fact is part of the fun facts about Rome because the complex transport system was built to move the Roman soldiers as fast as possible from the capital city to the outer territories. So yes, while all roads in Europe do, in fact, lead to Rome (to the Golden Milestone (Milliarium Aureum) in the Roman Forum actually), but they were made with the sole intention to lead out of Rome.
Ancient Romans were odd
We continue our search for fun facts about Rome by once again going back to ancient times. It’s not precisely a fact but more like a group of facts, and it’s not so much about Rome but its people, because the ancient Romans were odd…like really odd.
Let’s start with the Roman women who loved to dye their hair blonde or red. To do so, they used mixtures of leeches, goat fat, and beech wood ashes. Kudos for being way ahead of their time, but I can’t help to wonder how your hair must smell after such dying.
Another Roman oddity was the Saturnalia festival when masters and slaves used to change their places. I’m not sure why they would do that, some sort of a fetish, I guess.
Now, let’s examine their food habits. I’m not talking about the weird delicacies in their diet (flamingo tongue), but more about the fact that it was customary to throw up between meals so that you can eat more. My friend’s dog does that too. Maybe he was a Roman in his past life.
And last but not least, – Roman hygiene. Hands down, Romans were way ahead of their time here too. They used to wash their teeth and even used a toilet paper replacement. The problem here is that the replacement was a sponge on a stick (they shared), and the toothpaste was urine.
City of churches
Rome has a lot of churches – like really – a lot. In fact, there’s no other city on Earth with more churches than Rome. There are over 900 public churches in the Eternal City, and if you count the private chapels located in historic buildings, the number goes up to 1600! If you want to see them all and spend an hour at each church, you’ll need 67 whole days! And that’s not including the time to get from one church to another, bathroom breaks, etc.
City of nicknames
Besides the countless churches, Rome also has countless nicknames. The original one used to be Caput Mundi – Capital of the World (because you know, Rome used to rule the world) but today the most popular one is the Eternal City.
Some other nicknames include the City of Love, City of God, City of Seven Hills (Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, and Vimina) and, as per Giotto di Bondone, City of echoes, illusions, and yearning.
Our next fun fact is cat fact. Do you know that cats have special protection from the Roman government? The Roman law states that if at least five cats live together, they cannot be “scatted”, effectively giving them “squatters’ rights” to all city locations, including the ancient ruins.
With a cat population of more than 300,000, Rome is the most cat-friendly city in the world.
See Also: Top 25 Fun Facts About Paris
So we talked about cats, churches, and nicknames. Can you guess what else Rome has an abundance of? Yes, I know it’s spoiled in the title, but humor me, please. The answer is fountains!
There are approximately 2,500 public fountains scattered around the city, and their water is cold, fresh, and safe to drink. Throw away the overpriced bottled, because when in Rome…
Trevi the moneymaker
Talking about fountains, we can’t miss Trevi. A signature Roman landmark, the most famous fountain in the world, is an incredible Baroque masterpiece that is almost as well-known as the Colosseum itself. Trevi is not a drinking fountain, though; it’s a moneymaking one.
You probably know the story – throw a coin in the waters of the fountain, and you’re guaranteed to go back to Rome. Throw two, and you’ll fall in love with a Roman girl/guy, throw three, and you’ll marry her/him. And if you take a photo while throwing the coins, you’re guaranteed to get countless Instagram likes and followers (I added this part).
All this coin-throwing combined with the fountain’s global fame leads to approximately 1.7 million dollars bounty per year! They are collected three times a week and donated to Caritas – a catholic charity that provides food to Rome’s poor and homeless.
Spaghetti and meatballs?
This next Roman fact is for all my American friends out there. When in Rome, don’t bother looking for spaghetti and meatballs. I know most people assume this is a typical Italian dish, but the truth is that it was invented in the US by Italian immigrants. You can enjoy dozens of authentic Italian pasta sauces in Rome, but spaghetti with meatballs is not on the menu.
Romans invented malls
I bet you didn’t know that! Yes, ancient Romans invented the shopping malls too. I always thought this is an American creation, but it turned out that the first shopping mall on record was Trajan’s Market, built by the Greek engineer Apollodorus of Damascus in 110 AD. It covered two floors and offered all kinds of shops, restaurants, and libraries.
The Colosseum used to have another name
It’s time for some Colosseum facts. Being one of the new seven wonders of the world, the Colosseum is the trademarked symbol of Rome and one of the world’s most recognized structures. And while there’s no person on Earth today who doesn’t know the name of the ancient theater, the Colosseum wasn’t always called that.
Finished in 80 AD, the impressive amphitheater was first known as The Flavian Amphitheater before it was later renamed due to Nero’s colossal statue near its entrance.
One of my favorite facts about Rome is, once again, a Colosseum one. While the emblematic amphitheater was mostly used for gladiator battles and animal fights (500,000 gladiators and 1,000,000 animals were killed in the arena), from time to time, Romans used to flood the Colosseum and simulate naval battles.
Can you imagine going to a theater and watching ships fire at each other – live! That beats the modern 4k, 3D movies for sure!
Sistine chapel is really something
Sistine chapel is my favorite man-made building in the world. The energy of the place makes it a must-have on your Roman itinerary. I know I said Roman, while the chapel is actually in the Vatican City, but since the whole country of the Vatican is inside Rome, it’s still kinda valid.
The chapel is exactly the same size as the Temple of Solomon, described in the Old Testament, and its walls are painted by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. It’s considered the cornerstone work of High Renaissance art and a mandatory adventure to have on your Italian bucket list.
The Pantheon is eternal
Ok, maybe not eternal, but as close to eternal as it gets. The Pantheon you can see in the UNESCO recognized center of Rome dates to approximately 126 A.D., and it’s been operating ever since! Its two-millennia-old dome is the biggest one in the world, made entirely out of unreinforced concrete. Seriously guys, 2,000 years! Absolutely insane!
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you what the Pantheon is. Today it serves as a Catholic church, but two millennia ago, it used to be a temple dedicated to the Roman gods. It’s the final resting place of the artist Raphael and a popular venue for weddings.
Romans are very serious about their Cappucino
If you’ve been to Rome (or anywhere else in Italy), you know their coffee is unrivaled by anything. Rich in aroma and incredibly strong, a sip of Roman coffee is like a sip of heaven-energy. But tourists should know there are strict social rules about Roman coffee.
While espresso is the go-to drink during all hours of the day (yes, even in the evening), no self-respected roman drinks cappuccino after breakfast. In fact, if you order a cappuccino after 11:00 AM, you can expect a lot of strange looks and even be denied service.
A Pizza fact
We finish our facts about Rome with a fact about my favorite food in the world – pizza. Do you know pizza was not invented in Rome…or even Italy? Yes, I was as surprised as you. It turned out Greeks cooked the first pizza, which at the time was a flatbread topped with oils, herbs, and cheese.
This doesn’t mean pizza should be out of your Roman bucket list, though. Modern Italian pizza is way better than the Greek one, and the Eternal City has plenty of restaurants that’ll make you dream of pizza for months.
That’s it, guys; our Roman facts end with a stunning Greek one – pizza is not invented by Italians, just perfected by them.
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoyed these 20 fun facts about Rome.
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