The capital of Italy: history, culture, and lifestyle of Rome

Did you know that Italy has had three different capital cities since its unification? And do you know what’s today’s capital of Italy? Learn more about it!
capital of italy

What city is the capital of Italy?

The capital of Italy is Rome (Roma in Italian). It is located in the central part of the Italian peninsula, and it is the largest and most populated Italian city.

Roma è la capitale d’Italia

Roma is the capital of Italy

With its famous monuments and suggestive views, Rome is one of the most picturesque Italian destinations for tourists worldwide.

Today, it is one of the most famous and visited cities in the world.

But, as you may know, Italian history has been quite chaotic and Rome hasn’t always been the capital of Italy. In fact, there have been other capitals before the gorgeous città eterna.

It all started in 1861 when Italy became a unified kingdom under the reign of the Savoy dynasty. Before that, the country didn’t exist, and there were many different states with different legislations.

After the unification, finding an administrative and political center was needed. What was the first capital of Italy?

Let’s find out more about the former capitals of Italy.

Former capital cities of Italy

After the unification of Italy in 1861, Turin (Torino) became the first capital of Italy.

first capital of italy

The city of Turin is located in the North – more precisely, in the Piedmont region (Piemonte in Italian).

At the time of the unification, it was a strategic point as it was the capital of the Piedmont region city and home of the monarchs, the Savoy dynasty.

With time, Turin became vulnerable to foreign control, mainly due to its position. In fact, Turin is located in Northwestern Italy, close to the border with France.

So it seemed crucial to find a new capital city for the newborn Italian reign.

Actually, there was a lot of pressure from the French monarch Napoleon III, who signed an agreement to move the capital of Italy from Turin to Florence (Firenze).

florence capital of italy

Most probably, the choice was dictated by its position: Florence is located in the center of Italy, so it was closer to the recently conquered Southern regions and further from the borders with France.

Florence was the Italian capital city before Rome from 1865 to 1870: during these years, it underwent a complete transformation.

Many medieval buildings were demolished, and new quarters were built.

The cradle of the Renaissance was transformed into a more modern city to adapt to its new role.

Meanwhile, there were several movements to make Rome the new capital city.

In 1870, after years of treaties and revolts, Italian troops conquered Rome, which in 1871 became the new capital of Italy.

The choice fell on Rome for many reasons: above all, political reasons.

Furthermore, Rome has a symbolic place in Italian history: it has been the cradle of the ancient Roman Empire and an important Reinassance town under the Vatican domain.

Rome: the new capital of Italy

For centuries, Rome has been the capital of the Papal States, a series of territories in Italy under the Pope’s govern.

Due to that, the city has always been under the direct influence of the Church. However, by 1861, Italy had annexed much of the territory of the Papal States.

When, in 1871, Rome became the Italian capital, the Pope didn’t accept it, so he retired to the Vatican.

The relationship between Italy and the Vatican was tense until 1929 when fascist prime minister Benito Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty (Patti Lateranensi), which gave birth to the Vatican State, a new territory governed by the Church.

In the following years, Rome became the country’s administrative center; many monuments were built, and the population increased by over one million inhabitants.

Life in Rome

Since it has become the capital of Italy, Rome has become an important political and cultural center.

Today, the most important political institutions (like the Parliament –  Parlamento in Italian – and the Quirinale – the official residence of Italian Presidents) are in Rome.

Furthermore, the city has become fashionable and trendy. Movies, books, and TV series are set in the Italian capital, which was the center of the Dolce Vita (a particularly lively period between the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s).

Learn more about how to experience la dolce vita here.

That’s not all: Rome is famous for its delicious food, shopping streets like Via del Corso and Via Condotti, and the beautiful monuments, from the ancient Roman Empire to Renaissance and Baroque churches.

If you love art and history, in Rome you can find everything you need for a perfect holiday in Italy!

Exploring the capital of Italy: what to see in Rome?

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Italy’s capital city has a huge cultural heritage due to its prominent role in the ancient Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and the Baroque period.

It is impossible to summarize the myriad of churches, fountains, statues, museums, and buildings you can see in Rome.

Here is a list of the most iconic monuments and places to see in the gorgeous capital of Italy:

  • Colosseo
  • Fontana di Trevi
  • Pantheon
  • Piazza di Spagna
  • Piazza Navona
  • Piazza san Pietro
  • Basilica di San Pietro
  • Musei Vaticani
  • Fori Imperiali
  • Castel Sant’Angelo

capital of italy rome

What to do in Rome?

walk in the capital of italy

  • Eat pasta alla carbonara or spaghetti all’amatriciana
  • Drink coffee on a terrace with a beautiful view
  • See the city from above at the Gianicolo hill
  • Go shopping in the city’s glamorous streets
  • Eat ice cream in one of the many ice cream shops (gelaterie)
  • Have a walk in one of the city’s beautiful parks, like Villa Borghese or Villa Doria Pamphilj

Living in Rome today: what is it like?

Living in Rome is an experience that everybody should try – may it be for a weekend, a couple of years, or for your whole life.

Life in Rome is more relaxed than in other European countries: after all, Italy is known for its leisure time and Italians’ attitude, which is mostly slow-paced and laid-back.

Anyway, there is a flip side. As it is the country’s political, economic, and administrative center, Rome is also very chaotic and messy.

The traffic in the urban area is relatively high, and it isn’t very easy to move by car. Due to that, the air in Rome is more polluted than its surroundings.

Moving around Rome can become a problem: buses and other infrastructure may work badly, while the metro lines are more functional.

If you want to experience an easier way of moving around, you can use bike-sharing services and electric scooters rentals.

However, living in the capital of Italy can be fulfilling due to the vast cultural offers. Rome is rich in cultural events, and there are plenty of theatres, music halls, libraries, and museums.

What are you waiting for to visit Rome?

If you love living in a culturally alive environment, eating good food, and enjoying your free time, it is definitely worth visiting Rome.

You can either go for a couple of days or stay for longer periods; either way, you will surely love the experience.

Read more about life in Italy.

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