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Of all Italy's historic cities, it's perhaps Rome which exerts the most compelling fascination. There's more to see here than in any other city in the world, with the relics of over two thousand years of inhabitation packed into its sprawling urban area. You could spend a month here and still only scratch the surface. As a historic place, it is special enough; as a contemporary European capital, it is utterly unique.

For the traveller, all of this is much less evident than the sheer weight of history that the city supports. There are of course the city's classical features, most visibly the Colosseum, and the Forum and Palatine Hill; but from here there's an almost uninterrupted sequence of monuments - from early Christian basilicas, Romanesque churches, Renaissance palaces, right up to the fountains and churches of the Baroque period, which perhaps more than any other era has determined the look of the city today.

There is the modern epoch too, from the ponderous Neoclassical architecture of the post-Unification period to the self-publicizing edifices of the Mussolini years. All these various eras crowd in on one other to an almost overwhelming degree: there are medieval churches atop ancient basilicas above Roman palaces; houses and apartment blocks incorporate fragments of eroded Roman columns, carvings and inscriptions; roads and piazzas follow the lines of ancient amphitheatres and stadiums.


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