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March 31, 2008

Back to the Future

Rome wasn’t built in a day –- but you can rebuild the ancient metropolis at the touch of a button.

It isn’t easy being the Eternal City — Rome spends big bucks to keep up its look. Witness the $18 million, 20-year touch-up to Emperor Augustus’s Palatine Hill palace (pictured): four newly restored rooms (just open this month) now flash vivid frescoes over 2,000 years old. Meanwhile, two nearby patrician villas were recently excavated beneath Palazzo Valentini and “reconstructed” using 3-D projections. Follow lighted glass catwalks over third-century remains of private thermal baths and a multicolored mosaic floor boasting a half-million tiles. Just consider it a teaser for Rome Reborn — the most extensive 3-D image project of the ancient city ever produced. Starting next month at Teatro Colosseo, Rewind Rome turns those images into film, inviting visitors on a virtual orientation tour — circa 320 AD. And then afterwards, they can navigate those same historic streets with a customized GPS.

Of course, not all the capital’s treasures belong to antiquity. In September, Italian culture specialists White Hat lead a new five-day excursion of the city’s modern art galleries (including the Vatican’s collection), Europe’s largest mosque, and the recently restored Villa Torlonia — once home to Italy’s self-styled 20th-century “emperor,” Mussolini.

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