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  • Our journey begins in the province of Caserta, where we explore a palace that succeeded in

  • rivalling Versailles and continued an Italian tradition of majestic water gardens.

  • Next we encounter some of Italy's ties to the Second World War, from the seaside town

  • of Anzio to an abbey in the mountains of Cassino.

  • Following the trail of the ancient Appian Way, we then enter Rome for an aerial excursion

  • over its ancient ruins and its awe-inspiring architecture, including the Colosseum, the

  • Forum, the piazza Navora and the Palatine Hill.

  • From one of the most ancient cities in the world to the most holy, we visit the sacred

  • grounds of Vatican City.

  • We conclude our adventure in the hills of Tivoli with two palatial garden estates.

  • Our excursion to the magnificent Caserta Palace, constructed by Charles III in the mid-18th

  • century, begins by exploring the 4 kilometre-long garden which stretches up to the hillside.

  • The park was designed by Caserta architect Luigi Vantivelli and completed by his son,

  • Carlo, in 1780.

  • Comprised of a system of Baroque water features, the centrepiece is the Fountain of Aeolus.

  • An enormous promenade that spans the entire 120 hectare estate.

  • Adjacent and towards the upper end is the English Garden, designed in 1782 in the English

  • style, a reaction to the formal Italianate gardens of the time.

  • We cover the last segments of the Park as it ascends from the Fountain of Venus to its

  • terminus at the Great Fountain atop of the promenade.

  • An aqueduct was built to bring water to this grotto, from where it then begins its journey

  • down the hillside.

  • The aqueduct is 38-kilometres long and runs through five mountains, keeping the waterfalls

  • and other features fully operational.

  • The water first cascades 150 meters into the ornate basin of the Great Fountain.

  • Here, we find famous sculptures in the form of the Fountains of Diana and, to the left,

  • Actaeon, which depicts the hero transformed into a stag as wolves prepare to tear him

  • to pieces, a penalty for gazing at Diana as she bathed.

  • King Charles III wanted an estate to rival Versailles and Madrid's Royal Palace. Although

  • he never resided at Caserta, the result of his vision was what the World Heritage Centre

  • deemed the "swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque".

  • Caserta provided assembly for its king, the court and the government. The 1200-room palace

  • is rectangular with four inner courtyards covering 3800 square metres.

  • We travel North up the coast to the fishing town of Anzio.

  • Situated on the Lazio coast, the port was a vital landing spot for an attack by Allied

  • forces in World War II.

  • The plan was to drive through to Rome, just 56km to the north, to liberate it from German

  • forces.

  • The ensuing battle left Anzio in ruins.

  • However, after the war much of the town was rebuilt, and in such a way that kept its fishing

  • town character.

  • And set back from the coast in the nearby town of Nettuno is a poignant reminder of

  • the scale of fighting that took place from 1943 to 1944.

  • This is the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.

  • Rich in art, architecture and landscaping, this vast World War II memorial covers over

  • 30 hectares.

  • Nearly 7900 fallen American troops are buried here amongst the rows of Roman pines.

  • Most of the casualties were sustained during the liberation of Sicily in 1943, while other

  • soldiers died in the landings of Salerno and Anzio and the heavy fighting northward.

  • We continue on to Cassino, at the southern end of the Lazio region.

  • And it's here we catch the dramatic sight of Monte Cassino Abbey.

  • Since its inception in the 6th century, it has suffered terrible fortune, repeatedly

  • attacked, pillaged or ruined by natural disaster.

  • During World War II the German forces used it as a stronghold, blocking access to Rome.

  • American led air-raids almost completely destroyed it in 1944 during the Allied forces' Italian

  • campaign.

  • The abbey, originally built by St. Benedict in 529, was reconstructed after the war in

  • its ancient architectural form, and finally re-consecrated by Pope Paul VI in 1964. With

  • relics from St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, tourists flock to the working monastery to

  • indulge themselves in its historical importance and its attractive architecture.

  • Our journey now takes us to the town of Frascati, where we encounter a magnificent exhibition

  • of Papal extravagance...

  • Villa Aldobrandini.

  • Set facing Rome, 20 kilometres away, this dramatic building was an ostentatious display

  • of the church's power and authority.

  • In 1600, Pope Clement VIII, a member of the Aldobrandini family, acquired this site, gifting

  • the property to his nephew, a cardinal.

  • The highly ornate villa and grounds were constructed during the Baroque period, at a time when

  • Popes attempted to outdo their predecessors with shows of grandeur, building palaces which

  • reflected their wealth and power. This estate served a ceremonial function for the Aldobrandinis

  • and was not used as a family residence.

  • During the second World War, there was significant damage to the Villa after bombing destroyed

  • over half of the town.

  • Today it remains an architectural treasure for its historical and cultural significance.

  • The Appian Way was once the most strategic road of ancient Rome.

  • It's also the site of the crucifixion of the gladiator Spartacus whose slave uprising ended

  • along this route.

  • It leads us to the eternal city and capital of the ancient empireRome.

  • During his journey to Italy, German novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote that "only

  • in Rome is it possible to understand Rome."

  • We're now over the heart of the Italian capital and the River Tiber - winding through the

  • city that has influenced the world politically and socially for 2500 years.

  • And it's importance lives on to this day as the spiritual centre for the world's billion

  • or so catholics.

  • The splendour of Rome's ancient treasures can be seen almost everywhere.

  • From the imposing Trajan's Column, to the temples of the Republican period dating back

  • over two millennia.

  • They nestle effortlessly amongst newer landmarks, such as the Victor Emmanuel Monument.

  • One of the best preserved structures is the mighty Pantheon, the former temple to all

  • the Gods of ancient Rome.

  • And nearby is Piazza Navona, arguably Rome's most beautiful square.

  • Once a fortified city, the original walls can still be seen today.

  • They date back to the third century, erected around the seven hills of Rome to protect

  • against German invaders.

  • Two-thirds remain intact and well-preserved, since they were used for defence right up

  • until the 19th century.

  • There were 18 grand gates, such as this one, known in ancient times as Porta Appia.

  • Flanked by two semi-circular towers, it was later renamed Porta San Sebastiano.

  • The wall incorporated many existing structures like this Egyptian-style pyramid built in

  • 12 BC as a tomb for Caius Cestius.

  • At the southeastern part of the ancient district are the red-brick ruins of the Baths of Caracalla.

  • Completed in 217 AD, and covering over 11 hectares, the massive rooms were enjoyed by

  • Romans for over 300 years.

  • The complex was able to accommodate up to 1600 citizens, providing not only bathing,

  • but a library, a gymnasium, galleries, restaurants and even brothels.

  • Today, it hosts the Rome Opera company during the summer, having staged the first concert

  • of the three tenors in 1990.

  • We arrive in the heart of the city at the imposing and impressive Colosseum, the largest

  • building constructed in the Roman Empire.

  • Despite its decay, it remains a remarkable feat of architecture and engineering.

  • The amphitheatre held 50,000 spectators who assembled, for no charge, in tiered seating

  • arrangements that reflected the hierarchies within Roman society. Below ground were rooms

  • that contained mechanical devices and cages for wild animals, which could be lifted to

  • appear centre stage.

  • Aiming to increase their popularity, the Emperors would stage fights to the death between gladiators

  • and animals or simply between gladiators themselves.

  • It was made of concrete and stone yet originally clad in marble, which was later incorporated

  • into the construction of St. Peter's Basilica and other landmark buildings.

  • In the present day, visitors are allowed to view the interior of the arena, and, recently

  • in 2010, the subterranean passageways were opened to the public.

  • The site is still used ceremoniously by the Catholic Church on Good Friday, as a starting

  • point for the torchlit procession led by the Pope, known as The Way of the Cross.

  • Although dwarfed in size by its neighbour, the Arch of Constantine is not short of historical

  • significance. One of three remaining imperial triumphal arches, the edifice, commemorates

  • Constantine's victory in a 4th century Civil War.

  • Ironically, the decorations aren't as well-preserved as those from earlier eras -- and it's almost

  • a symbol for the eventual fall of the Roman Empire.

  • We shift from the entertainment hub to the centre of Roman public life at the Forum.

  • For over 1000 years, this rectangular plaza hosted elections, Senate assemblies and triumphal

  • processions.

  • The complex of ancient ruins includes government buildings, temples, arches and basilicas,

  • giving visitors some idea of the Forum's original layout.

  • Perhaps no landmark in the Forum remains as intact and well-preserved as the Arch of Septimus

  • Severus. Erected in 203 AD to commemorate the Emperor's victory in Parthia, the structure

  • originally had a flight of stairs running through the 12 meter high centre passage.

  • The arch became property of a church in the Middle Ages, and unlike other monuments such

  • as the Colosseum, its parts were protected and not incorporated into new buildings.

  • According to legend, Rome's founding dates back to 753 BC when twin brothers Romulus

  • and Remus settled on this site, marking the beginnings of the Roman Kingdom.

  • Today, the Palatine Hill is an open-air museum containing ruins of large imperial buildings,

  • such as the Palace of Septimus Severus.

  • During the Republican era, the top of the Palatine Hill became the exclusive residential

  • area for the rich and powerful, not least for the amazing vistas over the city.

  • Augustus, Cicero and Marc Antony all resided here.

  • One of Rome's modern landmarks is the 18th century Spanish Steps, connecting a piazza

  • to a 16th century French church.

  • This symmetrical and elegant structure has twelve flights of stairs with total of 138

  • steps, and is the widest staircase in Europe.

  • Nearby is the oval-shaped square, Piazza del Popolo. Tourists flock to see the ancient

  • Egyptian obelisk in the centre, but it was the Porta del Popolo that made an impression

  • upon those arriving in the Renaissance era. The large gate welcomed pilgrims entering

  • the city along the Via Flaminia, which connected Rome to the Adriatic coast.

  • Another example of the opulent palaces built by wealthy families of Popes, is The Villa

  • Borghese.

  • Situated on the outskirts of Rome at the time of its construction, it was built by a cardinal

  • who was the nephew of Pope Paul V, and to this day showcases the Borghese family's collection

  • of paintings, sculptures and antiquities.

  • Erected during the late renaissance in a classical style, the Villa became a publicly-owned gallery

  • in 1902

  • Heading toward Vatican City, we stop first at Castel Sant' Angelo, a national museum

  • that once stood as a refuge for Popes facing an imminent threat. Originally a mausoleum,

  • the castle was fortified and incorporated into the Aurelian Wall, transforming it into

  • a Papal fortress and luxurious residence.

  • Occupying less than half a square kilometre and completely encircled by Rome, is Vatican