Italy has played a major part in many significant historical events; the Italian peninsula was the heart of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance period is said to have begun in Italy, and the headquarters of the Catholic Church are in its capital city. Both Rome and Venice are teeming with sites and stories to discover that make up just a small part of the country’s rich history.
When most people think of Italy they think of Rome; the capital city and birthplace of the mighty Roman Empire. The power of this once small settlement grew rapidly, and for centuries Rome was the wealthiest city in the entire world, controlling much of Europe and the Mediterranean. Thousands of years later, the buildings, engineering and legacy that the empire left behind are still awe-inspiring, making Rome one of the most impressive cities that you are likely to visit.
In the unlikely event that you grow tired of visiting remains such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Roman Forum on Palatine Hill, Rome contains the historical heritage of many other periods that have left their mark with stunning monuments and architecture. From the beautiful Renaissance design of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City to the Baroque details of the magical Trevi Fountain, Rome prospered throughout the ages and the marks of its later inhabitants are still everywhere.
In total contrast to the powerful beginnings of Rome, the city of Venice was founded by those who were fleeing the collapse of the Roman Empire, chased out of their homes by barbarians invading from Northern Europe. The lagoon in which Venice was built became a haven for those who managed to escape from the mainland, protecting its inhabitants and growing in size to become one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Venice was once a key part of the European trading route, and consequently had a very cosmopolitan population and culture. The wealth that this commerce brought to the city led to a period of prosperity and power, which eventually dwindled as it fell under both French and Austrian rule until joining the Italian state in the 1860s.
Venice is best known for the network of canals that connect the city and is truly unique in its layout and forms of transport. Getting lost trying to navigate the narrow, winding streets is all a part of being a tourist in the city, and often leads to stumbling across deserted squares and churches that feel like you have stepped back into the past.
For those who are really after a trip steeped in ancient history, Rome is the obvious choice as a holiday destination, particularly if you are a fan of preserved archaeological sites and remains. Venice is more suited to those who want to enjoy a more elegant city that feels like it belongs to another time, but aren’t as interested in historic sightseeing.