Our countdown of past Olympic host cities continues -- we’re paying homage to Rome, as the Eternal City presses ahead with its bid to host the 2020 Games...
Just over 50 years ago, 5000 athletes flocked to Italy’s capital to compete in the 1960 Olympic Games. The first to be fully televised, the Games saw Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, win gold in light-heavyweight boxing, and Ethiopian Abebe Bikila run the marathon barefoot (going on to become the first black African Olympic champion).
Making the most of its architectural heritage, Rome used a mix of modern and ancient sites to hold the contests -- the wrestling competition took place in the Basilica of Maxentius, gymnastics in the Baths of Caracalla and the marathon runners crossed the finish line under the Arch of Constantine. A visit to the Roman Forum and the Colloseum will take in the latter two (a combined ticket for both costs from 12€), while the Baths (entry 6€) can be reached from Metro stations Circo Massimo or Piramide, both on Linea B.
If you’ve got time after a tour of the city’s top sightseeing spots (the Spanish Steps might be a tourist trap, but they can’t be missed), pay a visit to the Villaggio Olimpico. A huge complex on the outskirts of the city, the village’s streets were named after competing countries: Via Unione Sovietica, Via Portogallo and Via India. It was here that a young Cassius Clay drank from the bidet in his suite, mistaking it for a water fountain.
Head west and you’ll reach the Stadio Olimpico, first built in the ’30s under fascist rule. A lot of the seating was constructed below ground level to prevent the stadium from obscuring Monte Mario (well worth a visit for outstanding views), but it was modified for the Olympics, and again for the 1990 FIFA World Cup. If you’re there at the right time, you might be lucky enough to catch a football match -- it’s the home ground for both Lazio and AS Roma.
After all that, I’d advise dodging the barrage of pastel-coloured scooters and Fiat 500s, finding a hidden piazza (follow the cobbles and you’ll come to one eventually) and settling down with a plate-load of pasta...Click here for hot deals to the Italian capital.