With a history spanning a whole millennia, the Eternal City has a lot of stories to tell — and a fair few secrets too. From intriguing cat legislation to ancient water fountains, here are some interesting facts you may not know about Rome.
Interesting facts about Rome
1. Cats are a pretty big deal
Rome is home to around 300,000 cats — and they have free rein of the city. Roman law stipulates that if at least five cats are living together, they cannot be separated. It essentially gives them squatters rights.
They even have an ancient temple-complex all to themselves. When the excavations of Largo di Torre Argentina began in the 1920s, feral cats moved in immediately. ‘Gattare’ (Cat Ladies) began to feed and care for them, and it’s remained a hotspot for cats with special needs ever since.
2. You can make a lot of money from the Trevi Fountain
Legend has it that anyone who tosses a coin in the Trevi Fountain is destined to come back to Rome. If you throw in two, you could even end up living here. It figures, then, that a lot of coins in the famous fountain. It’s estimated that around €3,000 plummet to the bottom of one of Italy’s most famous landmarks. That’s over €1 million a year.
Who gets the money? The coins are vacuumed up, cleaned and donated to Caritas, a Catholic charity. These donations fund everthing from domestic refugee work to international emergency responses.
3. It has more than seven hills
According to the ancient adage, Rome was built on seven hills. While that may have been true back in B.C., today it sports quite a few more.
Tradition holds that Romulus and Remus founded the hill on the Palatine hill. This, plus the Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal and Viminal, make up the proverbial Seven Hills of Rome. But the city has since sprawled out west to include a few more blockbuster hills, including Gianicolo, famous for its sweeping views of the Eternal City.
4. It only took eight years to built the Collosseum
That the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire was built in just eight-years gives you an idea of how powerful that empire was. Construction begin in 72 A.D. under the empire of Vespasian and finished in the 80 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Titus.
Completed, it measured an astonishing 188-metres in length, 156-metres in width and 57-metres in height.
5. The Spanish Steps aren’t Spanish
In fact, they aren’t even referred to as the Spanish Steps in Italy. Instead, Italians refer to them as La Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti.
No one knows exactly where the name came from but it most likely comes from the fact that the Spanish Embassy was located at the base of the stairs when it was constructed. Others say John Keats coined the title.
6. At least 90% of the ancient city has not been excavated
Experts estimate that only around 10% of Rome’s ancient sites have been excavated. The rest are still buried around 30-foot below street level, deep underneath homes and businesses.
7. There’s no need to buy water
Forget spending €3.50 for a bottle of water next to the Vatican. There are around 2,500 water fountains in Rome — and you can drink from them all. The fountains are a legacy of the ancient Emperors, who channelled millions of gallons of water into the city every day. Clean, cold and treated, the water comes from the Appenine Mountains, so there’s no need to be suspicious.
The secret is to cover the end of the spot so that the water shoots our of a hole at the top. Romans fondly refer to them as ‘nasoni’ or ‘big noses’ because of the shape of the spouts.