From triumphal arches to marble facades, not to mention incredibly well-preserved monuments like the Pantheon and Colosseum, Rome exhibits countless clues of its ancient past. Other landmarks have been lost to the ravages of time, or even recycled into new buildings, so getting a complete picture of how Rome really looked at the height of the empire can be difficult. However, architect Italo Gismondi created an intricate scale model of the city – a reconstruction so impressive it even featured in the film Gladiator.
Known as Il Plastico di Roma Imperiale, the model was commissioned in 1933 by dictator Benito Mussolini – whose fascist regime aspired to restore the grandeur of ancient Rome – to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Augustus. The model itself though recreates Rome at the time of Constantine I, around the 4th century AD, on a scale of 1:250.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Gismondi designed the model, made of alabaster plaster reinforced with vegetable fibre and metal, with the utmost attention to detail. While monuments like the Colosseum and Pantheon could be studied from the originals, Gismondi had to go back to the history books for others.
The Forma Urbis Romae, a massive marble map of Rome created under the emperor Septimius Severus in the 3rd century AD, was one of the principle sources for Gismondi’s work. Maps published in 1901 by Rodolfo Lanciani, a distinguished archaeologist and pioneering student of ancient Roman topography, also informed the model.
Pierino Di Carlo, an artist and master model maker who worked on the piece alongside Gismondi said: ‘The major monuments, the Temple of Claudius, that of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the Imperial Fora, the Roman Forum, the baths, the Colosseum, are accurate. In the other parts, there is a bit of fantasy.’
As well as increasing the relative height of some landmarks to allow a better view of the carefully molded buildings, Gismondi also used simplified geometric forms to represent housing districts. This was, in part, because archaeological evidence of what each individual house looked like thousands of years ago simply doesn’t exist, but had the side effect of presenting ancient Rome in an idealised and ordered manner – much to the satisfaction of Mussolini.
The original diorama represented only the monumental centre of Rome but was later expanded to include the entire urban area within the Aurelian Walls. In 1955 it was permanently installed in the Museum of Roman Civilization in the EUR neighbourhood of the city. Gismondi continued to revise the model, making adjustments and adding new sections until the early 70s.
Measuring over 200 square metres, Il Plastico di Roma is filled with extraordinary detail and is considered one of the most important visualisations of ancient Rome there is. Its original purpose as a display piece is even thought, by some scholars, to have legitimised and inspired the Fascist’s regime’s brutal town planning policy while its legacy as an authoritative replica means it continues to be used as a source in present-day – appearing in a few shots of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and also seen in cutting-edge virtual reconstructions of ancient Rome.
The Museum of Roman Civilization is currently closed to the public.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.