Sample Chapter from Italian Pride: 101 Reasons to be Proud You're Italian

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43. Rome

Rome is the mother of all cities. Currently the capital of Italy, Rome was for centuries the center of the known Western world. Legend has it that two brothers, Romulus and Remus, who were cast upon the Tiber River and raised by a she-wolf, founded the city. The image of the two children suckling on the beast has been the city's symbol since the earliest Roman days.

While the history of the area reaches even further back to the Etruscans, April 21, 753 B.C., is regarded by Romans as the founding date; on this day Romulus killed Remus and took control of the city. The legend goes on to say that Romulus disappeared one day in a puff of smoke, sent back to the gods, whence he came.

Although the story is just an ancient folktale, it's easy to see why it has been told for centuries. Rome feels like a mythical place. Surrounded by seven hills, the city has been toppled and rebuilt many times, each regime erecting its own monuments on top of, and next to, the remains of the previous. The result is a staggering hodgepodge of history. Roman arches stand adjacent (and inside) medieval and Renaissance buildings. Ancient Egyptian obelisks decorate piazzas. Deep below the city are catacombs, housing remnants of the Christian martyrs who were killed for sport in the Colosseum. An eighteenth-century synagogue resides in the sixteenth century Jewish ghetto, near a bridge dating from 62 B.C. Today roadways swirl around these sites, cars honking and people yelling; modern Romans, in their "chariots," taking command of their streets. The Colosseum is but a majestic ruin, a tourist hot spot and home to about a million cats that are protected by the state like an endangered species. A popular saying here is Roma, non basta una vita! (For Rome, a life is not enough) to truly enjoy the splendors of a city almost three thousand years old.

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