Cultural guide to the route
After the recognition in 2017 by the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, ahain for the edition of April 8, 2018, the Authority granted the organizers the patronage in consideration of the value of the initiative aimed at encouraging a more active use of the Unesco World Heritage, combining sport, art and culture.
The historic centre of Rome, one of the largest in the world, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980, together with the Vatican. The UNESCO World Heritage List encompasses cultural and natural sites of recognised universal value, with the aim of protecting and promoting these sites and handing them over to future generations. At the start line, each runner has his/her personal strategy for running and aims at finishing the marathon in his/her desired time. Some runners focus on the heart rate monitor, some run in a very Zen style, others concentrate on their bodies' reaction and, finally, some seek relief and fresh energy in the viewers' encouragement and in the beauty of the scenery where their physical effort takes place, especially in the most stressful moments. What are the main sights on the amazing route of Maratona di Roma? UNESCO included Rome in its World Heritage List due to the city's history - dating back almost 3,000 years - its urban design, its archaeological sites, its architecture reflected in Rome's many churches, monuments and palaces. The city's history is multilayered and encompasses the age of Ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque period and the Modern Age. Rome, the eternal city has been a place of cultural, arts and religious attraction for centuries. An increasing number of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world visit the city and Maratona di Roma is also increasingly participated. The start line is in a very symbolic place: via dei Fori Imperiali was created in the 30s of the 20th century, when houses and churches were demolished in order to emphasise the glory and beauty of monuments built in the years of Imperial Rome. This is where athletes warm up and start running, one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in the world. The emotions aroused by the Roman Fora translate into the powerful drive necessary to start the race. During the first kilometres, when runners are still trying to find their own pace, they pass the Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth), near the entrance to the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Although there is no time to stop and admire the Mouth, cinema fans will sure remember the famous scene from the film "Roman Holiday", where Gregory Peck, pretending his hand had been amputated by the Mouth, scared a very young Audrey Hepburn. Then, runners run along Circo Massimo, which was used by the Ancient Romans for horseracing and where the rape of the Sabine women, one of the most famous incident of Roman mythology, is said to have taken place. Today, during the summer, this huge area hosts the big names of international music, from the Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen. While running the second kilometre, runners pass the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) headquarters. This is where the city's cultural heritage, Africa and the Marathon intertwine in a strange, fascinating way. FAO carries out its activities in the African continent, the poorest in the world, but also the place with the highest number of successful marathon runners. The route of the marathon also touches Africa on its third kilometre, where runners run along Piramide Cestia, a funerary monument dating back to 12 BC which testifies to the strong cultural influence Egypt exerted after it was conquered by the Ancient Romans in 31 BC. At the seventh kilometre, outside the Mura Aureliane (Aurelian Walls) you can find the Basilica di San Paolo (Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls), the second largest basilica in Rome after the Basilica of St. Peter's. St. Paul's is the legendary burial site of the apostle beheaded under Nero, who might be considered an ancient athlete, since he had walked a great deal of the route from the Holy Land to Rome. At kilometre 13, while running on Lungotevere Aventino, runners pass the Tempio di Ercole vincitore (Temple of Hercules Victor), the most ancient marble temple preserved in Rome. It was built towards the end of the second century BC. Then, runners run along Ponte Fabricio, the access to Isola Tiberina. According to archaeologists, in this spot marathon runners follow in the footsteps of those who, in the second millennium BC, gave life to the first human settlements which would pave the way to the construction of Rome.
The following three kilometres on the Lungotevere (the Tiber enbankment) lead to Ponte Cavour (Cavour Bridge), the access to the borough of Prati. Prati was built between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, in an agricultural area converted into a residential borough in order to meet the needs of urban development brought about by the unification of Italy, with Rome as its young capital. The route runs along Castel Sant’Angelo, which was designed by Emperor Hadrian as a tomb for himself and his successors. It was later transformed by Aurelian into a fortified stronghold and further modified and strengthened under the Popes' rule. Some of the Popes used it as their residence and as to host the archives and treasure of the Church. The marathon proceeds to via della Conciliazione, which was built between 1937 and 1950 to make Michelangelo's Dome of St. Peter's more visible. Just before the eighteenth kilometre, runners feel the thrill of literally running towards St. Peter's Square, created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini's scenographic genius. Bernini designed its unique shape and framed it with 284 columns. The magnificence of the Basilica emerges from the square: its 17th -century façade and the dome designed by the great Michelangelo, who personally followed construction works until his death. At this point, marathon runners are as tired as those pilgrims who, for centuries, got to Rome from every corner of Europe on foot, who can be held as precursors of modern athletes: indeed, their route, which had often stretched for thousands of kilometres, ended here. At kilometre twenty-four, the route runs along Foro Italico, an extended area of sports facilities in classic and rationalist style whose construction started in 1928. After two kilometres, the race continues at Ponte Milvio (Milvian Bridge), a milestone in the history of Rome. The bridge was built in 109 BC as a replacement of a wooden bridge. It was destroyed several times and given its current shape by Giuseppe Valadier in 1805. Here, Emperor Constantine defeated Maxentius in 312 AD, during a battle which, according to legend, was preceded by the appearance of a big cross bearing the sentence "in this sign you will conquer" in the sky. Once left Villa Glori on their right, runners can see on their left the new Auditorium, designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano, one of the newest entries of the Capital's contemporary architecture. The Auditorium is a real city of music, hosting a wide range of music events, from classical music concerts, to pop and jazz events and, in the most recent years, the Rome Cinema Festival. At kilometre 32, the route goes back to the Lungotevere towards the centre of the city. Runners pass Ponte Matteotti, the bridge where Socialist MP Giacomo Matteotti was kidnapped in 1924 before being killed. The memory of the MP is honoured by a monument. Right on kilometre 35, the glycogen has come to an end and the marathon enters its final and hardest phase. But it is here that the route runs along some of the most important sites in the history of Rome: the Altare dell'Ara Pacis (Ara Pacis Shrine), built in honour of Emperor Augustus in 13 BC and now preserved in a structure designed by the famous US architect Richard Meier and, in front of it, the mausoleum of Augustus in Piazza Augusto Imperatore. Right before the thirty-seventh kilometre, runners run through the amazing Piazza Navona, with its unique shape derived from Domitian's ancient stadium and its three fountains (Fontana del Moro, Fountain of the Four Rivers and Fountain of Neptune). Maybe, the emotion of running in this amazing scenario will mitigate tiredness. After one kilometre, runners move to the Sacred Holy Area in Largo di Torre Argentina, a vast archaeological site dating back to the Republican age and encompassing four ancient temples. The routes then goes on to Via del Corso, which has progressively become the true heart of the city over the years. At the end of the 1,500-mt. street, the crowd of supporters cheer the exhausted athletes and support them all the way for the last 5 kilometres. Via del Corso ends in Piazza del Popolo, another scenographic testimony of the Popes' rule in Rome. The Obelisco Flaminio (Flaminio Obelisk) towering over the square is a granite obelisk dating back to 1200 BC; it was built under Egyptian king Ramsses II and brought to Rome by Augustus. The square has three churches on its three sides: Santa Maria del Popolo, with its paintings by Caravaggio, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Monte Santo, also known as "the artists' church". Once you get to the 40th kilometre, your effort will be rewarded by the sight of the Spanish Steps, one of the most famous squares in the world. The steps of Trinità dei Monti are the perfect example of the sense of theatricality in urban design during the Baroque period. The Barcaccia Fountain at the centre of the square, made by Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1629, is a testimony of a flood which took place at the end of the 16th century. After passing the Umberto I, tunnel, running under the wonderful gardens of Quirinale (the historical palace which, starting in 1870, has served as the residence of Italy's sovereigns and then, in 1946, became the official residence of Italy's President of the Republic), the route descends to via Nazionale and Piazza Venezia, hosting the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), a monument to King Vittorio Emanuele II also hosting the crypt of the Unknown Soldier. Only a few steps away from the finish line, runners can admire the Colonna Traiana (Trajan's Column), one of the few monuments of ancient Rome which are still intact. The column is nearly 40 mt high, and is covered in a helical frieze portraying the military campaigns against the Dacians. At this point, Foro Traiano (Trajan's Forum) and Foro di Augusto (Augustus's Forum) lead the final rush of the athletes towards the finish line in via dei Fori Imperiali, where the Coliseum is waiting for the finishers.