North of Rome
There is so much history in Rome that the old quarter is actually twenty-two districts, or rioni. Beyond, the city is split into up to thirty-five neighbourhoods or quartieri. The history of Rome has continued to grow over the centuries, creating new districts whilst retaining its rich heritage.
The northern districts of the city begin in Campo Marzio, at the very north of the old quarter and what better place than Piazza del Popolo to start exploring this part of Rome. Rome is dotted with magnificent, breathtaking squares and Piazza del Popolo, at the foot of Pincian Hill, is one of the most famous of all. In ancient times, it was the entry point into Rome and the very northern edge of the city.
You will find the Flaminio Obelisk and Pincio Terrace there. The latter is a spectacular vantage point adorned with beautiful marble statues. Take a few moments to enjoy views of the city from there and then move on to the Da Vinci Museum, one of the many churches or the renowned Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.
Around 1,000 years ago, Pope Paschal II commissioned the construction of a chapel that was funded by the people. It was built on the very spot where Emperor Nero was buried and it has undergone a number of changes over the years. Some of those changes involved the work of geniuses such as Raphael and Bramante and there are works of art by both of them and by Caravaggio, Carracci and Bernini inside. This is why, despite being a minor basilica in Rome, it is still one of the most significant and most visited in the city.
One way of experiencing something totally different to what you can find in the old quarter of Rome is a visit to the Catacombs of Priscilla. You won’t be disappointed. It is one of the oldest remaining Early Christian cemeteries.
Early followers of Christ sheltered and laid their bodies to rest there. In fact, it is also where martyrs and popes were buried. Inside, there are a number of different spaces such as the cryptoporticus and the Greek Chapel. They are surprisingly brimming with life since they are adorned with frescos depicting religious scenes, birds, flowers and inscriptions of all kinds. They include an image of a women with her hands held upwards in a sign of prayer, apparently asking for peace for those who have been laid to rest.
Last of all, head to the north of the city if you would like to visit the famous Ponte Milvio padlock bridge. It was on this bridge that Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to legalise Christianity, fought a battle against all the other candidates to the throne. One account of the battle tells of how Constantine was helped by God, who came to him in a vision depicting a cross with the words ‘Through this sign, you shall conquer.’ The view from the bridge is stunning and, since Federico Moccia published his successful book ‘I want you’ (which was later also successfully adapted for the big screen), it has become the ‘bridge of love’. Enamoured couples go there to attach padlocks as a sign of their everlasting commitment to one another. The current battle that the local council has to fight is one to remove the padlocks that these couples leave behind.