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The view of Vatican Square from the top of the dome of Basilica Di San Pietro (Saint Peter's Basilica). Most of Vatican city is behind and to the left of the picture. Covering just over 100 acres, it is the permanent residence for 103 people, including about 30 women.

Official age of the city (in 2000): 2,753 years

St. Peter's seen across the Vatican Square, one of the few areas of the Vatican City the public can visit. The Vatican City is the world's smallest independent sovereign state. The city has its own civil service and judicial system, shops, banks, currency, stamps, post office - even its own radio station and newspaper.

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Official population pf Rome in 2000: 2,777,882

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St. Peter's is the spiritual center of Roman Catholicism. Built between 1506 and 1626, the structure covers almost 5 acres. Inside is Michelangelo's unforgettable Pieta and the statue of St. Peter.

Number of churches within the city walls: 280

One of the hundreds of ornate corridors in the Vatican Museums. These corridors are themselves works of art. It would take 2 days and 4 miles of walking to see all the art that makes this the world's largest museum complex.

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Number of rooms that make up the Vatican Museum: 1,412

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A view of the dome of St. Peter's at the Vatican from the Castel Sant' Angelo (Castle of Saint Angelo). The castle was built in AD 130 by the Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself, his family, and his dynastic successors. It has served as an army barracks, papal citadel, imperial tomb, medieval prison, and now a museum.

Estimated annual tourists a year: 15 million

The Colleseum is the world's largest surviving structure from Roman antiquity. Begun in AD 72, it was inaugurated in AD 80 with a gala that saw 5,000 animals slaughtered in a day, and 100 days of continuous games thereafter. Gladiator games continued for over 500 years. Criminals, slaves, gladiators, and wild animals often fought to the death. The arena could even be flooded to wage mock sea battles.

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Number of popes: 168

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Rick on the balcony of our hotel, the Hotel Imperial. Our hotel was located on Via Vittorio Venata, a busy, well kept street in a good location in Rome.

Size within city limits: 577 square miles

The front of our hotel in Rome. The balcony with the flag was part of our room. On the sidewalk along the full length of both sides of this street are several enclosed sidewalk cafes, usually belonging to the hotel they are located in front of. The one at the bottom right belonged to our hotel. The street is lined for several blocks by beautifully restored buildings, many of them upscale hotels or shops, as well as several embassies, including the American.

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Click on these pictures for more images of Italy.

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