Interesting Facts

The Roman numerals four the number 4 are not IV as we all imagine! There is no definitive answer as to when and why it changed, in fact IIII was commonly used in Europe until the 17th century, when it was permanently changed to IV. Ancient Roman inscriptions and sundials use IIII and not the IV we are all used to. Early clocks used IIII as it was more symmetrical to VIII on the opposite side of the clock face. In the 14th century, King Charles V of France refused to use IV on clock faces because it was a subtraction of his title (Charles V). From then on French clocks continued to follow the original Roman IIII rule.

There are more obelisks in Rome than Egypt. As you walk around Rome you will see Egyptian obelisks everywhere. When Egypt became Roman at the end of the 1st century BC, the Emperor Augustus started to bring obelisks to Rome to decorate the stadiums and to be used as sundials. Only 13 of these obelisks survive today, most of which are between 3-4,000 years old.

The city of Rome has more fountains than any European city. The ancient Romans loved water, they brought water to the city from miles out of the city for drinking and for bathing - it was what made them civilised. Thanks to the ancients, the city of Rome today is blessed with over 2,000 fountains. There are the grand fancy fountains, small decorative fountains and the nasone or big nose drinking fountains. The fountains of Rome are still fed by fresh, spring water that is safe to drink and is totally free!

Rome has no skyscrapers! The tallest building in Rome is St Peter’s Basilica whose dome is 136 metres high (448 ft). By law, no building in the city can be higher, no building may surpass the house of God. These laws date back before the unification of Italy, to the reign of the popes when the Vatican was still part of Rome. Then, like in ancient times the city of Rome was delineated by the ancient Aurelian walls. In the last two hundred years the city has spread out past those walls, yet the ancient laws remain. Inside the walls, the height and character of buildings are limited by this ancient law, but outside of the walls; anything goes!

Although the Renaissance started in Florence, the Vatican has the most important works of art from the period. The art movement known as ‘the Renaissance’ began in Florence and reached its height with the well-known artists Raphael and Michelangelo. The Popes recruited the finest artists of the day to decorate the Papal palace and so we find the work of the great Florentine masters Perugino, Botticelli, Signorelli, Pinturicchio as well as Raphael and Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel was decorated by all of these artists (Raphael designed the cartoons for the original Sistine tapestries).

Rome loves Cats! Any visitor to Rome will have seen feral cats wandering freely around the city, perched on crumbling walls in the colosseum or in the archaeological area of Largo Argentina. The Romans have long recognised the humble moggy and its role in curbing rodent problems in a dense urban environment. In 1991 a law was passed to protect the feral cat population with a no-kill policy.