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Just over an hour north of downtown Atlanta, you’ll find the small town of Rome, Georgia. If you’ve been there or get a chance to go, it likely won’t bring Rome, Italy to mind. I’ve never been to Italy, but I can assure you that one Rome is not just as good as another.
It’s a similar experience to seeing the model of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee. It won’t magically make you feel transported to France. You’ll still feel like you’re in the Deep South, so it really does make you wonder how the town of Rome got its name in the first place.
Before diving into that, I should go ahead and say that the Rome in the Peach State is a charming town, but you won’t mistake it for an Italian vacation. It’s also known for more than just being named after the famed town in Italy. It has several claims to fame all its own.
Rome, Georgia, is home to the world’s largest college campus. Berry College has 27,000 acres of land and is open to visits from the public. It also has the largest Victorian-era district in the state. Last but never least is the fact that Coke’s creator came from the city of Rome, Georgia. Dr. John Pemberton invented Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, which was later renamed Coca-Cola.
So, if it’s known for all of that, why is it named after an Italian city it has little resemblance to?
Why is Rome, GA Named After Rome, Italy?
The founders of Rome, GA were trying to decide on a name, so each one put a suggestion in a hat. Rome was among the options because the area has seven hills and three rivers much like its Italian counterpart – the Eternal city. In the end, the name Rome was picked out of that hat – and the rest is history.
This is a fact confirmed by several sources.
Although it’s not the sister city of the one in Italy, Rome, GA did receive recognition from Italy in 1929 when a status of Romulus and Remus was sent to Georgia with the following inscription:
“This statue of the Capitoline Wolf, as a forecast of prosperity and glory, has been sent from Ancient Rome to New Rome during the consulship of Benito Mussolini in the year 1929.”
It’s interesting to note that the area was still occupied by indigenous people at the time the settlement was named. Archaeologists have found that tribes existed in the area thousands of years before the arrival of colonizers.
The Cherokee tribe that called the city home was the last of the indigenous tribes to be forcibly removed from their homes and forced to relocate to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears.
The Sister Cities of Rome
It might actually surprise you to learn that Rome, Georgia’s sister city is not actually Rome, Italy. Instead, it’s Kumamoto, Japan. This international friendship was established in 1995, and the communities have shared exchange students many times over the years. Japan has 11 total sister cities in the state of Georgia, which all represent cultural and economic international partnership.
If you’re wondering about Rome, Italy’s sister city, it’s Paris, France. There’s even a saying about it: “Only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris.” That hasn’t stopped many American towns from claiming the name of Rome (or Paris) as its own.
They say that all roads lead to Rome, and that might be true. You might be interested to know that there are at least 18 Romes in the United States (with some reports of at least 32). They are located in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, there is a city named Rome on every continent, which just shows how much influence this ancient city has on the rest of the world.
Interesting Similarities Between Rome, Georgia, and Rome, Italy
Even though Rome, Georgia, and Rome, Italy, look nothing alike, there are still some similarities.
Hills and Rivers
Both cities of Rome have seven hills, making the geography similar in both cities. Both cities also have rivers running through them. In fact, these geographic similarities are why Rome was one of the suggested names of the city during its foundation.
The Capitoline Wolf Statue
Rome, Georgia, also has a replica of Rome, Italy’s Capitoline Wolf, the Romulus and Remus statue. It was gifted to the town by Dictator Benito Mussolini after the Chatillon Corporation Silk Mills of Milan was relocated to Georgia’s Rome in 1929. You’ll find it in front of City Hall today.
Another commonality between the Rome in Georgia and the one in Italy is that both have bridges that have become a symbol of forever love. Rome, Italy’s Ponte Milvio is the oldest bridge in Rome. Young couples meet on the bridge to declare their love by attaching a lock to the bridge and then throwing the key in the river below.
It’s said to be bad luck if the lock is closed without both parties present to declare their love. The tradition originated from a story by novelist and screenwriter Federico Moccia and quickly became a popular activity for couples. The American Flag bridge in Rome, Georgia, has its own locks of love tradition inspired by its Italian namesake.
In Italy’s Rome, you’ll find an underground labyrinth beneath the Colosseum. In Georgia’s Rome, you’ll find the Labyrinth of Rome, a stone maze meant for meditation purposes. While they’re both labyrinths, neither bears a resemblance to the other.
Otherwise, the city of Rome, Georgia, is distinct from the one you’ll find in Italy. Rome is an easy day trip from Atlanta, Georgia. It might not mirror the city it was named for, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. Visit the famed clock tower, which was once home to a water tower. Tour the beautiful Berry College campus. Visit local gardens or bike the city’s riverside trails.
Stroll and shop in the downtown historic district. If you travel during baseball season, you can see a game featuring the minor league Rome Braves. Don’t expect to find yourself transported to Italy on your trip, but if you’re interested in history, scenery, and architecture, you’ll enjoy your visit anyway.