A little history and how it has shaped the city's layout

Rome, historic city and capital of Roma province, of Lazio region, and of the country of Italy, is located in the central portion of the Italian peninsula, on the Tiber River about 24 km inland from the Tyrrhenian Sea. The capital of an ancient republic and empire whose armies and institution defined the Western world in antiquity and left permanent imprints thereafter, the spiritual and physical seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and the site of major highpoints of artistic and intellectual achievement, Rome is the Eternal City, remaining today a political capital, a religious centre, and a memorial to the creative imagination of the past.

The ancient centre of Rome is divided into 22 rioni (districts), the names of most dating from Classical times, while surrounding it are 35 quartieri urbani (urban sectors) that began to be officially absorbed into the municipality after 1911. Within the city limits on the western and northwestern sides are six large suburbi (suburbs). About 10 km out from the centre of the city, a belt highway describes a huge circle around the capital, tying together the antique viae (roads)—among them the Via Appia (Appian Way), the Via Aurelia, and the Via Flaminia—that led to ancient Rome.

Ancient city walls still enclose much of the city centre, which is the area of Rome to which tourists crowd together. The Servian Wall, named after king Servius Tullius and built after the destruction of Rome in 390 BCE, enclosed most of the Esquiline and Caelian hills and all of the other five. Although Rome grew beyond the Servian defenses, no new wall was constructed until 270 CE, when the emperor Aurelian began building the Aurelian Wall, approximately 20 km long, enclosing about 10 square km, and still largely intact.

The old city contains hundreds of hotels, more than 200 palaces, several of the city’s major parks, the residence of the Italian president, the houses of parliament, offices of local and national government, and the great historical monuments, in addition to thousands of offices, restaurants, and bars.

Many of the treasures of Rome can no longer be admired where they were placed originally: many have been moved to other cities of the world, and many others still in Rome represent the spoils of conquest brought to the city from around the ancient world or the cannibalizing of one age/faith upon the creations of an earlier one. Rome was sacked five times, placed under siege in 846, the Great Fire of Rome—Nero’s fire—occurred in 64 CE, and fires and earthquakes damaged individual buildings or whole areas quite often over the millennia. But, of all these devastations, it was the stripping of the structures of antiquity for building materials that destroyed more of Classical Rome than any other force. The heritage of the past that survives in Rome is nevertheless unsurpassed in any city of the West.