A carefully curated collection of interesting facts about Rome, to learn about the city from home or while visiting! Fun facts about Rome for kids and curious adults alike!
One of the things I love the most about Rome is how generous of stories, facts and learning opportunities the city is.
With a history spanning almost 3000 years, almost every corner of the city holds a story to tell.
Growing up in Rome, I was lucky enough to learn many of them from several generations of locals and got so passionate about them I studied Roman history in college (I graduated in Rome) and still now take regular tours of the city with expert guides to keep learning about the city.
This is a collection of my favorite and most interesting facts about Rome and curiosities.
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Facts about Ancient Rome
Rome has an exact date of birth
Rome has an exact date of birth, the 21st of April 753 BC.
The date is still celebrated in the city every year: the Italian name for it is ‘Natale di Roma’, Rome’s birthday!
Rome has (or claims to have) divine origins
The legend says that Rome was founded by Romulus, one of two twins of divine descendant.
Their mother, Rhea Silvia claimed their father was the God Mars.
Later, history added additional divine elements to this story, connecting Rhea Silvia with Aeneas, son of Venus.
This way, Rome is connected with two of the most powerful Gods of the Roman Pantheon, those presiding war and love.
Rome’ history started with two twins and a she-wolf
Romulus and his twin brother Remus were said to have been abandoned and brought up by a she-wolf.
The wolf is still nowadays the symbol of Rome and you can see her statue in the capitol museums, on the Campidoglio hill and also on the football shirts of the Rome football team!
Fun fact! In Rome, it is still possible to see where the city began and see some of the ancient Rome sights with your own eyes! The Palatine Hill is one of the best places to start: here, you can see the sights and see the archaeological digs (you cannot dig yourself though!). Planning a visit? Find out how here.
Rome started off as a Kingdom
Rome knew several political systems and the first one was a monarchy.
The old kings of Rome were: Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Ostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius and Tarquinius Superbus.
You can still see vestiges of this time in the Servian walls in several parts of Rome including Aventine and Capitol hill.
Rome has several sets of walls: the Servian walls, republican walls and much later ones, built by Emperor Aurelianus.
Then became a Republic
After its 7th king, Rome became a republic with a complex political system of honors and titles.
Part of them are remembered in the acronym SPQR still easy to come across in Rome (especially on utilities). Its meaning is: Senatus Populus Que Romanus (The Senate and People of Rome).
Then an Empire
Around the I century AD, Rome eventually became and Empire. It grew in size and power until it took over most of modern Europe.
Good to know: Rome has a wonderful museum showing maps of the expansion of the Empire. It is hosted in the ancient Trajan’s Forum so you learn about ancient Rome IN ancient Rome!
The place where Julius Ceasar was murdered is now inhabited by cats
One of the most important figures in the history of ancient Rome was Julius Caesar. He was killed in 44 BC and you can still visit the place where it happened which is now a shelter for cats!
The cats now live inside the archaeological area and you can go in for a cuddle or even distance-adopt one.
You can still walk around ancient Rome streets
The main affairs of the Rome Republic were dealt with in the Roman Forum, still now open to visitors
The roman forum should really be called roman fora (plural) as it is made of several forums from different times, including some from Republican times and some from the imperial times.
Rome has the largest amphitheater in the world
The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater in the world and stands tall in Rome city center.
It dates back to the I century AD and used to host over 50,000 spectators. You can find lots of interesting facts about the Roman Colosseum here.
Rome has the oldest shopping mall in history
Across the road from the main Roman Forum lies the Forum of Trajan.
This is said to be the first ‘shopping mall’ in history. This can now be visited and is an excellent activity also on a rainy day since part of it is covered (the main forum is all outdoors).
In Rome, you can see the first film in history (but it is not what you think!)
Emperor Trajan was functional to the impressive growth of the Roman Empire.
The history of his campaigns and victories is engraved on the Trajan’s column, which is known as the first film in history (it is in nowadays Piazza Venezia).
This is a tall column entirely covered in detailed sculptures telling the history of the Emperor’s campaigns.
It develops like a ribbon enveloping the column and it helped that story reach us – no phones, computers or even books needed!
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The Roman Empire has a specific end date
The Roman empire lasted until 476 AD when its western part fell under invasions (The Eastern part had a much longer life, coming to an end only after Constantinople was taken in 1453).
His last emperor was called Romolo Augustolo and he was only 14 years old!
Ancient Rome is in the center of the modern city
Ancient Rome sits at the center of what is now modern Rome. Its most famous monument, the Colosseum is now surrounded by cars and bus traffic!
Rome was constantly inhabited since its foundations
Rome was consistently inhabited during medieval times and vestiges of these different times are visible in the several layers of buildings the city is made of.
The best places to see this is Crypta Balbi and the Basilica di San Clemente. Here, you can go underground and visit the most ancient remains and then climb your way up back to modern Rome.
It’s literally a walk up the layers of history!
Fun facts about Rome for kids: geography
Rome is built on 7 hills
Rome is built on 7 hills. You can still catch exquisite views from some of the them such as Aventino and Quirinale.
Rome hills are: Campidoglio, Palatino, Esquilino, Aventino. Quirinale, Viminale, Celio
But really, it isn’t!
Rome was built on 7 hills but it expanded to include more.
Nowadays, two of the most beautiful views over Rome are from hills not part of the original 7: Janiculum and Monte Mario.
Rome’s river is called the Tiber
Rome is crossed by the river Tiber and has a small island called ‘Isola Tiberina’.
You can take a walk on the island and often, in summer, special events take place here, with music and games for the whole family.
Rome’s street names tell us stories about the city
Learning about the city sometimes is as easy as paying attention to the names of its streets.
Some of the streets in Rome city center are named after the professions of their inhabitants in the Middle Ages and we can still understand the language enough to know what they were!
Via dei cestari for instance had the basket weavers (basket in Italian is cesto).
An exception to this seems to be via dei sediari (chair people) which seems to make reference to those who carried the Papal Chair.
This is a fun fact about Rome I learn from a taxi driver and one of my favorite of all!
Rome curiosities for kids and adults
Rome has over 900 churches, some of them hosting famous masterpieces by artists such as Caravaggio (San Luigi dei Francesi) and Bernini, two of the most famous artists of all times.
The Trevi fountain easily collects over 1 million each year in coins thrown in by tourists.
These coins get collected and go to charity and are used to take care of families in need
Rome has over 280 fountains: this is the largest number of public fountains in the world.
The water from Rome’s nasoni is free and delicious
While Italy was formed in 1861, Rome became its capital only in 1970. The Bersaglieri (Italian army) entered the city from porta Pia, which you can still see today (Via Nomentana / Piazza di Porta Pia)
Concrete was used extensively in ancient Rome and was used to build ancient famous buildings such as the pantheon
The Pantheon dome is one of the biggest in the world and the biggest of its kind. It has a hole in its center called Oculos that yes, leaves water pour in when it rains!
If you look at its floor, you can easily see the engineering the Romans put in place to drain the water away and yes, it still works!
The saying ‘all roads lead to Rome’ is true (almost).
In ancient times, all the main roads departed from Rome and therefore connected anywhere with it.
Via Appia still now connect Rome with Brindisi and Via Aurelia is still now a main artery connecting Rome to France, just to name a couple of them. Maybe not all roads lead to Rome anymore but when the saying was born, it was almost true!
There is a law in Rome that protects cats. This explains why in some locations such as Rome’s pyramid and nearby protestant cemetery there are thriving colonies.
As well as cats, Rome has peculiar birds, the storni. They create elaborate geometries in Rome sky that look like a dance: look up at sundown for an incredible show! Have you seen the movie Gladiator? Yep, that’s them 🙂
Rome went through a period when Egyptian art was very fashionable. This is why you see in the city many Egyptian obelisks and even a pyramid!
Rome receives over 15 million tourists each year. 2017 saw over 21 million tourists visiting and August 2018 alone saw over 1 million arrivals
Rome now has 2.8 million inhabitants and 1.7 million cars
There are 2 football teams in Rome, AS Rome and SS Lazio and they are arch rivals. They both play in the Olympic Stadium, the biggest stadium in Rome
Rome’s university is the biggest in Europe and recently nominated one of the best for classical studies
Rome’s famous cobbles are called sanpietrini (Little Saint Peters). This name comes from the place where they were first used, Piazza San Pietro (St Peter’s square)
There is nothing Spanish about the Spanish steps. In fact, they were built by Italian architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi with French money. Their name seems to come from the fact that the Spanish embassy used to be beside them
While the most famous park in Rome is Villa Borghese, the biggest is Villa Doria Pamphili which offers unbelievable views over St Peter’s dome
While the Roman Colosseum always steals the show, there is also a modern, square one: you usually see it from the taxi when coming into the city from Rome Fiumicino airport.
Rome has interesting fascist architecture and one of the best places to see it is the Stadio dei Marmi, near the Olympic stadium.
Rome has a very peculiar area with architecture that is different from anywhere else in the city and slightly reminiscent of Gaudi’s work: quartiere Coppede.
Rome has pretty impressive yet little known street art: two great aces to discover it are Ostiense and tor Marancia
There is a secret passage between San Pietro and Castel Sant’Angelo that the Popes used to find safety should the basilica be under attack. The passage is called Passetto and is now open to the public.
Castel St Angelo was the mausoleum of emperor Hadrian, subsequently transformed in the defense structure we see now.
One of Rome’s most famous squares, Piazza Navona, used to be a stadium. You can still guess its original shape while standing in it.
Rome has some talking statues, the most famous of which is Pasquino, who is beside Piazza Navona.
These statues were used to share anonymous complaints again the Papal regime at a time when there was no freedom of speech.
Giordano Bruno died on the stake in Campo de’ Fiori, one of Rome’s most atmospheric squares. His statue still dominates the piazza which nowadays is a popular drinking spot thanks to its many cafe terraces.
Rome has food specialties that are specific to the city: among the most famous there are carbonara (now known around the world), fried artichokes and puntarelle (a type of salad)
Rome has incredibly delicious Jewish cuisine: the best place to learn about the important Jewish community of Rome, their history and food is the Rome ghetto, which is interesting and a truly beautiful part of the city.
In Rome, looking through a keyhole is a holy activity: if you go to the top of the Aventine and spy through the keyhole, you get a wonderful view of St Peter’s!
Rome and the Vatican
Rome has a city within the city and a state within the state: the Vatican is inside Rome and fully surrounded by the city
There is no border control between the Vatican and Rome but they are technically two member states with different laws, currency (the Vatican Euro are different from Italian ones) and postal system
The Sistine chapel inside the Vatican museums is one of the most famous attractions in the world. It has a wonderfully frescoed ceiling painted by Michelangelo.
To get it done, he had to lie on his back. As you can imagine, pain dripped on his face and eyes but he got it done anyway and it is nowadays one of the most famous attractions in Rome, Italy and the world!
The Vatican basilica and museums are open to the public but have strict rules about what you can wear and what you cannot. You can learn about their strict dress code here
Rome facts for kids: useful and fun books
I hope you enjoyed this collection of fun facts about Rome for kids! Safe travels!