Romans marked the 2,739th birthday of the Eternal City on Monday with the first celebration financed by City Hall since dictator Benito Mussolini sought to emulate the Roman Empire.
A vast swath of the capital from the Colosseum to the Via Veneto was closed to traffic Sunday, making room for bike and jogging races that initiated the festivities on the eve of the birthday. Concerts, medieval flag-throwing exhibitions and memorial ceremonies also took place under sunny skies.
As a birthday present to Romans, city fathers waived entrance fees at municipal museums Sunday and Monday.
Legend says Rome was founded April 21 in 753 BC, when Romulus--one of the twins left as infants to die in the river Tiber but saved by a she-wolf--marked out the site of the city-to-be on the Palatine hill.
Romans for centuries binged on April 21, though the celebrations were discouraged by the Roman Catholic Church when the city became a papal state in the early Middle Ages.
Mussolini revived the birthday festivities as part of his attempt to restore the glory of the Roman Empire after he took power in 1922. He was ousted from power and executed at the end of World War II.