History enthusiasts will be able to see Ancient Rome as it would have looked to the likes of Julius Caesar, Nero and Constantine thanks to an exciting exhibition that opens here Friday .
Immaginare Roma Antica (Building Virtual Rome) features some 50 works that use computer technology to create 3D models showing archaeological sites as they were in their imperial prime .
"Our image of ancient sites is tainted by films like Ben Hur and Cleopatra," said City of Rome Culture Superintendent Eugenio La Rocca .
"I can assure you that things were different in the ancient world - narrow streets, walls so high the sun could hardly get through. Virtual archaeology enables viewers to have a complete image of the urban landscapes of ancient times." The pieces on show are the winners of an international competition run to encourage innovation in this field .
The results are fascinating. Among the places to have been rebuilt in 3D are the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Via Appia - the 'queen' of Roman roads - and the magnificent Domus Aurea ('Golden House'), the residence Emperor Nero built after the great 64 AD fire. The building was so called because its façade was supposedly coated in solid gold .
Another part of the show looks at works devoted to Roman-era sites outside the Eternal City. These include reconstructions of the port of Pompeii before it was destroyed by the 79 AD Mt Vesuvius eruption and of monuments in Turkey and Spain. There is also a section for multimedia models of historic sites that are not of Roman origin, such as the 5th-century BC Parthenon of Athens, a symbol of Greek civilisation. Visitors will be loaned special 3D glasses to be able to get the most from the reconstructions. They will also be able to meet 'virtual characters' from Roman times, a feature that is sure to be a hit with children .
The Rome Online section, meanwhile, puts the spotlight on good websites dedicated to the Roman Empire .
The exhibit is hosted at Trajan's Markets, a crescent-shaped multi-layered structure which used to be a sort of imperial shopping centre. As the name suggests, it dates back to the reign of Emperor Trajan, 98-117 AD. It was part of the forum the emperor had built to celebrate the conquest of Dacia (modern-day Romania) .
Over the forum towers Trajan's Column, bearing reliefs depicting moments from the victorious campaign .
The venue is in the heart of Rome's main area of ancient sites. So after a walk around the exhibition, visitors can compare what they have seen with the actual ruins that many of the works reconstruct .
Organizers say the show, which runs until November 20, is a "rehearsal" for the setting up of a museum of 3D reconstructions devoted to Ancient Rome in 2007 .
City Culture Councillor Gianni Borgna predicts Building Virtual Rome will be one of the "top attractions" at Saturday's White Night, when Rome's shops, bars, restaurants and museums will stay open until dawn .