10 Things You Didn’t Know About Rome

Rome Fun Facts and Trivia

Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller
6 Sep, 2018

Here are some things you might not know about Rome, which can add to the fun factor on your visit to one of Earth’s most visited places (that’s also a fun fact). Knowing about some of the trivia can broaden your knowledge and give you an upper hand on tours to some of the landmarks. Armed with this knowledge, you probably won’t look at a site in the same way as others.

1

Rome has more fountains than any other city on the planet

Rome is the undisputed record holder. Alongside historical monuments, the city has well over 2,000 fountains in varying forms and sizes, some of which you can even drink from. Others you definitely can’t, so we don’t recommend trying your luck unless there’s a clear indication that it’s safe.

2

The Pantheon is the only ancient building in pristine condition

It managed to withstand the destructive forces of nature since around 27 BC, thanks to a special cement mixture of limestone and volcanic ash. Most importantly, it survived any ravaging by human hands over the centuries, thanks to its function as a consecrated site.

3

A heavenly lightshow takes place at the Pantheon on Rome’s birthday

The best time to visit the Pantheon is around April 21st (Rome’s birthday) when the sun is perfectly vertical at noon, shining its rays down through the oculus (opening) of its dome. Long ago, emperors would have dramatically walked under the dome, as though being gloriously invited by Apollo, the Roman sun god, himself.

4

Cats have special rights

Stray cats are a common sight throughout the city, thanks to a Roman policy set in place in 1991 to protect them. They’re supported by the Torre Argentina Roman cat sanctuary, where volunteers provide food and care. They’re feral, so maybe don’t approach them if you don’t want your hand scratched. They do provide a unique and effective rodent control service, nevertheless.

5

It’s technically the capital of 2 countries

While mainly known as the capital of Italy, Rome also has the smaller independent city-state of Vatican City within its borders.

6

The Spanish Steps aren’t Spanish

Cascading from Trinità dei Monti church to Piazza di Spagna below, these Baroque 18th-century steps were designed by an Italian architect at the request of a French diplomat. The steps were named after the piazza, and the piazza itself was named after the adjacent Spanish Embassy to the Holy See.

7

There are more than “Seven hills of Rome”

Just like the “7 Wonders”, the number is like an established brand. Rome’s famous hills include the Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, Quirinal, Viminal and Capitoline, and the Palatine Hill as the earliest settlement. The Roman borders expanded well across the Tiber through history, covering the hills of the Vatican, Pincian and the Gianicolo (Janiculum).

8

Trevi fountain is a money machine

For the sake of tradition, almost every visitor to the Trevi Fountain chucks in three coins. On average, around €3,000 worth of coins are vacuumed out of it at the end of each day (totalling around €1.4m, annually). The government directs the funds towards charities.

9

Home to Italy’s first McDonald's

The famous brand with the golden arches opened their first outlet in March 1986 near the Spanish Steps, amid protests by precursors of the Slow Food Movement. It features cool interiors resembling colonnades, in homage to the city’s Renaissance style. The fanciest McDonald’s in Rome though, must be the Frattocchie branch, which has a 45-metre Ancient Roman road that was accidentally unearthed when they broke ground in 2014. Fancy enjoying your Big Mac and fries with a bit of archaeology?

photo by Serghei Topor (CC0 1.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

10

Romans prefer riding scooters over cars

Most practical Romans prefer riding their iconic Vespas than their Fiats, since petrol is imported and heavily taxed. Besides, scooters let you easily zip through the maze of Rome's traffic.

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