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Centro Storico is where you will find many of Rome's historic sites, from the Campo de' Fiori to the Pantheon to Piazza Navona. Because the city attracts millions of tourists each year, this is also where you will find a lot of the upscale shops. The pedestrian-only via dei Condotti has all the favorites, the kind of shops that you wait in line for just to get in, even when there is no one inside: MaxMara, Modigliani, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Cartier, Gucci, Hermès. The whole district is a wonderful maze of cobblestone streets. You will find mostly tourists here, including a celebrity or two. Romans head to the outskirts of town for their less expensive shopping, but this is where the big names are, so do not be put off by this fact. It is an excellent area to come to if you have limited time as you can see the sites and get in your shopping in the same area. This is the area most people think of when they envision Rome; the old center of the city and one that attracts millions of visitors every year.
Beyond the entrance staircase of Vittoriano is the Altare della Patria, by the sculptor Angelo Zanelli. From November 4, 1921 is placed inside the body of the Unknown Soldier in memory of all the Italian soldiers died in the First World War. To keep watch on the altare della Patria is a guard of honor and a great statue of the goddess Roma.
Beset on all sides by roads, the square is heavily congested with traffic. In the background, the Altare della Patria is dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele. Romans refer to it as the "wedding cake" or the "typewriter" because of its shape and color. Shortly after World War I, the body of the Unknown Soldier was brought here and placed in the center of the steps of the Vittoriano. It has a permanent armed guard. Palazzo Venezia was built during the second half of the 15th Century and was where the Venetian ambassadors to Rome stayed. Later it became the residence of the Cardinal of the Basilica of St Mark.
This is an example of a "talking statue"; one that used to represent opinions that were counter to the dominant power. This one is unique because it is of a woman, Madama Lucrezia, who was well-known to Alfonso of Aragon, the king of Naples. She came to Rome after the death of the king as a guest of Cardinal Pietro Barbo. The people of Rome named the statue in honor of her beauty.
The Fontana della Pigna stands in the Piazza San Marco near Piazza Venezia. It represents the large ancient pinecone (now held in the Vatican) after which the district was named. The fountain was designed by Pietro Lombardi who was commissioned to create ten small fountains in 1927 with the aim of beautifying the city. The fountain is made entirely from travertine stone and is formed by a small basin from which two corollas of tulips stretch as they support the pine cone. The water spurts from side jets, falling primarily into the basin and then into a larger tank at ground level.
Il Vittoriano a fine white marble structure built under the auspices of newly installed King Victor Emmanuel and was inaugurated in 1911, a symbol of Italian unity. It has been the centerpiece for many important processions and moments of glory since Italy's reunification, including the parades of Mussolini that took place outside it. The statue of Emmanuel stands tall in front of this magnificent building along with the tomb of the unknown soldier nearby. The whole edifice has a massive and grandiose appearance covered in marble and atop sit two quadrigae of the goddess Victoria. Today, it houses an interesting museum which details the international and domestic intrigue which resulted in the Risorgimento, or the Reunification of the Country. Open hours vary by season. Call before visiting.
The Church of San Marco, together with the Palazzo Venezia with which it is joined, is one of the most interesting early Renaissance buildings in Rome. It dates back to 1336 and was built by Pope Mark in honor of St. Mark the Evangelist, who is celebrated on April 25. The church has a 15th-century portico attributed to Leon Battisti Albert. The upper open gallery is designed by Giuliano da Maiano, while the beautiful 16th-century portal is credited to Isaia da Pisa. The church contains numerous medieval remains including an ancient well, and the bell tower. This church belongs to the Venetian community in Rome.
Construction of this palace begun in 1455 for the Venetian cardinal, Pietro Barbi, who made it his residence. Construction of the first palace was completed shortly before his election to the Papacy in 1464 when he adopted the name Paul II. He then decided to amplify the palace and make it a dwelling worthy of a pope. The work continued until 20 years after the Pope's death and it underwent architectural transformations on several occasions over the centuries. In 1916 it was confiscated by the state of Italy which decided to make it the Palazzo Venezia museum, a role it still plays, as well as being the library of the National Institute of Archaeology and History of Art. During the Fascist regime, the palace was made famous by newsreels of the time, showing Mussolini speaking to the crowds below from a window in the palace.
The Roman skyline is marked by several beautiful domes, one of the prominent Forum ones being Santa Maria di Loreto. This 16th century church took over 60 years to built. The work began with Donato Bramante in 1507 and was taken forward by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. The intricate dome and the bell tower were designed by Michelangelo prodigy Jacopo del Duca in 1573. The entrance portal carries the signature of Andrea Sansovino. The church is built on a central plan and is made up of semicircular chapels. It is decorated with mosaics, canvases, and six statues representing angels and saints.
Alongside the steps of Aracoeli are the remains of this "apartment block" built about 2000 years ago, providing homes for poorer people who lived in difficult conditions. Just the first six floors of the construction can be seen: it is believed to have been higher, with space for perhaps 400 people. The top three floors were partly used in the Middle Ages for the construction of a church. In the 1940s, a renovation operation uncovered three lower floors.
The beautiful church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, built on the foundations of the temple of Juno, is located on top of the Capitoline hill, near the Campidoglio. It is reached by more than 100 steps, which, according to tradition, one must climb on one's knees in order to obtain pardon for one's sins. The interior of the church is magnificently decorated with paintings by Pinturicchio, and the ceiling bears frescoes recording the battle of Lepanto. It is said that the statue of the baby Jesus, carved from a tree trunk from the garden of Gethsemane, has miraculous powers. However, the original statue was stolen and never recovered.
Statues of the Dioscuri, the twins Castor and Pollux, stand guard over the flight of steps designed by Michelangelo that leads to the piazza del Campidoglio. The twins were the sons of Zeus after he ravished Leda in the form of a swan. In Rome, the inseparable pair is always represented with two faithful horses. In fact, this last pair of statues was commissioned by Pope Paul III to stand guard over the steps of the Campidoglio but their place was won by the current pair that was discovered during that period in the nearby Piazza Cenci: a sign of fate! Since the discovery in the mid-16th century, the two colossal statues have undergone a number of restorations. That of 1744 was undertaken to repair them when the statues were damaged by the crowd that climbed on top of them after spilling over from the Piazza del Campidoglio during the Lottery.