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