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St. Peter's Basilica from the River Tiber. The iconic dome dominates the skyline of Rome.

Rome today is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable immensity of its archaeological and artistic treasures, as well as for the charm of its unique traditions, the beauty of its panoramic views, and the majesty of its magnificent "villas" (parks). Among the most significant resources: plenty of museums - (Capitoline Museums, the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, and a great many others) — aqueducts, fountains, churches, palaces, historical buildings, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum, and the Catacombs. Rome is the 3rd most visited city in the EU, after London and Paris, and receives an average of 7-10 million tourists a year, which sometimes doubles on holy years. The Colosseum (4 million tourists) and the Vatican Museums (4.2 million tourists) are the 39th and 37th (respectively) most visited places in the world, according to a recent study[1]. In 2005 the city registered 19.5 million of global visitors, up of 22.1% from 2001.[2] and also, in 2006 Rome has been visited by 6.03 million of international tourists, reaching the 8th place in the ranking of the world's 150 most visited cities.[3] The city has also been nominated 2007's fourth most desirable city to visit in the world, according to lifestyle magazine Travel + Leisure, after Florence, Buenos Aires and Bangkok.[4]

History

The interior of the Pantheon in the 18th century, painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini.[5]This is a painting from the Grand Tour.

Rome has been one of the world's most visited cities for the past two millenia. In the Roman times, Rome was the centre and the most powerful city of Western Civilization, ruling all the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, England and parts of the Middle East. Afterwords, it became one of the most important cities in Christianity, since the pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, resided and still lives in Rome[6]. It became a worldwide centre of pilgrimage, and later in the Renaissance, as the city became a major European capital of the arts, education, philosophy and trade, it became an important crossroads for bankers, artists and other people in general. Later, in the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, the city was one of the centres of the Grand Tour[7], when wealthy, young English aristocrats visited the city to learn about ancient Roman culture, art, philosophy and architecture. Towards the 1840s, the first sort of mass-tourism began, and Rome became an extremely popular attraction for not only British people, but for people of all around the world. The number of tourists, however, fell dramatically towards the 1870s, when Rome became a battle-ground for revolutionionaries and one of the homes of the Risorgimento, and remained like that except for a brief period in the 1920s. However, since Rome escaped World War II relatively unscathed, unlike Milan or Naples, it became an extremely popular and fashionable city in the 1950s and 60s, when numerous glamorous and exciting films, such as Roman Holiday, Ben Hur and more famously La Dolce Vita[8] were filmed in the city. Numerous stars, actors, actresses and celebrities, such as Federico Fellini, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck and Anita Ekberg, lived or stayed in Rome, especially along its elegant and luxurious Via Veneto, where most of the chicest and grandest of all Roman hotels were and still are found. After a brief fall in the number of tourists in the 1980s (due to some terrorist activity led by the Red Brigades and political scandals), the city has now become one of the world's most popular tourist attractions.

Most popular tourist attractions

Rome's two most popular tourist destinations are the Vatican Museums (with over 4.2 million tourists per year, making them the world's 37th most visited destination) and the Colosseum (with around 4 million tourists a year, making it the world's 39th most popular tourist destination)[9]. Other popular sites include St Peter's Basilica, the Forum Romanum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Via Condotti, Via Veneto, the Capitoline Museums, the Villa Borghese gardens, the Villa Giulia, Piazza Navona, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Piazza del Popolo, the Castel Sant'Angelo, the Campo dei Fiori, the Quirinal Palace, the Lateran Palace and the Palazzo Barberini, to name a few.

References

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