A visit to Rome is high on most travelers 'Must See' lists when visiting Europe but it can be a little overwhelming with so much history and so much to see and do, usually in a limited amount of time. In this invaluable article, we give you all the information you need to know with background history on the top attractions, practical information on purchasing tickets, how to save money, plus advice for which tours to take. Continue reading and you can be assured of the trip of a lifetime!
Palatine Hill is the most central of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the oldest parts of the city, thought to have contained human settlements from as early as the 10th century BC making it the home of the very first Romans. Palatine Hill became the prime location for aristocrat's mansions and emperor's palaces due to its central location with stunning views, cooler temperature, and cleaner air with the emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Domitian all living in luxury on this hill in their palatial homes.
This historically important hill is famous for being at the center of various legends. Supposedly, Hercules defeated a fire-breathing giant called Cacus who lived in the Palatine cave and was terrorizing people from the neighboring Aventine Hill. Britannica.com also tell us that "According to ancient Roman legend, the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, twin sons of Mars, were abandoned as infants on the flooding Tiber River and were deposited by the receding waters at the foot of the Palatine. The legend purports that they were nurtured by a she-wolf whose cave, or Lupercal, was on the slopes of the Palatine and that they were raised by a shepherd who kept his flocks on the slopes of the Palatine." Interestingly, in 2007 a vaulted sanctuary, or grotto, buried deep inside the hill was discovered in 2007 by Italian archeologists.
BBC News reported that "The cave believed to be the Lupercal was found near the ruins of Emperor Augustus' palace on the Palatine hill. The 8m (26ft) high cave decorated with shells, mosaics and marble was found during restoration work on the palace." Francesco Rutelli, the Italian Culture Minister at the time, said "This could reasonably be the place bearing witness to the myth of Rome, one of the most well-known cities in the world - the legendary cave where the she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, saving them from death."
Today, this peaceful green haven with its fantastic panoramic views of Rome is an open archaeological site that simply cannot be missed. It contains:
The palace, otherwise known as the Domus Flavis, was built for the emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus during his reign in 92 AD and used purely for state functions. The vast and imposing ruins are still a sight to behold today, the fountains in the courtyard being particularly striking. Amongst other remains, visitors can still see part of The Basilica - The place where the emperor perForumed his legal duties and assembled his most trusted advisors.
With the appearance of a Roman circus but being too small for chariot races (measuring 146 meters long), it is unknown for sure what this was used for. Opinions vary, some experts think it could have been used for sporting competitions such as running and horse racing, but others say it was a sunken garden. This is the best preserved site on the hill pertaining to the Domitian complex.
Otherwise known as the Domus Augustana, this courtyard complex should not be confused with The House of Augustus (described below) also located on Palatine Hill. Part of the palacial complex, this was the private residence of emperor Domitian and his family, this domestic wing being connected to the Domus Flavis. Spanning 2 floors, this building was flambiently impressive even by Roman emperor standards! Today, visitors can see several rooms of the house along with the stunning decorative frescoes which cover the walls and ceiling.
The private residence of emperor Octavian Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire, this was a modest 2 storey home compared with what later emperors would build. Visitors can see the remains of the emperor's bedroom, dining room, reception hall, and more and admire the bright decorative Pompeian style frescoes that adorn the walls.
Also modestly built, this was the home of Livia, the wife of emperor Augustus. Dating back to the 1st century B.C it is one of the best preserved buildings on Palatine Hill, along with the neighboring House of Augustus. Each room was decorated with a beautiful mosaic floor and painted with different mythological scenes which can still be admired today.
On the ruins of the Palace of Tiberius, a grand villa with gardens was commissioned by
Cardinal Allessandro Farnese in the 16th century. Containing many rare plants with a fountain in the center and aviaries, this was one of the first private botanical gardens in Europe. A small part of the gardens was re-opened to the public in March 2018 following a 5 year renovation project on a prominent section; The Farnese Aviaries.
Containing important artifacts from excavations on the hill, visitors can admire frescoes and mosaics, sculptures, and more from the Golden Age of Ancient Rome (between the 1st-4th centurues) as far back as the Middle Paleolithic era.
* CAN ONLY BE VISITED ON A PRE-BOOKED PRIVATE TOUR
Standard tickets cost:
A STANDARD TICKET COVERS ALL 3 SITES AND IS VALID FOR 2 DAYS
You can also purchase audio tour tickets for €22 allowing you to explore the sites at your own pace whilst getting a good historical insight of all the monuments.
There is a ticket office at the entrance of Palatine Hill located half way down Via di San Gregorio road. Easy way is buy on line The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and The Colosseum The ticket gives you access to Palatine Hill, The Roman Forum, and the Colosseum. Tickets can be purchased at any of the 3 sites but the ticket office at Palatine Hill usually has the smallest queues.
COOP Culture is the official website you can make a reservation online or make a reservation by calling +39 06 399 67 700. Many 3rd party tour operators also offer this tour whether you book when you arrive at their ticket office or on-line.
Starting out as a bustling marketplace, this rectangular plaza became the nerve center of Ancient Rome's social, political, and commercial world containing all the cities greatest buildings either within the plaza itself or being located nearby - Just the same as the downtown city areas are today. It was the place where criminal trials, elections, public meetings, gladiator combats, and military processions all took place. The Forum also became a center for religious events and ceremonies before falling into disrepair during the medieval era when parts of the buildings were re-purposed for castles, finally lost until the 19th century when excavation work began.
The Roman Forum contains many of Ancient Rome's greatest temples, arches, basilicas, government buildings, monuments, roads/streets, even a sewage system. Notable ruins which still partially remain today include:
The Temple of Castor and Pollux
The Roman dictator Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis vowed to build a temple if the Republic were victorious at the Battle of Lake Regillus - They were and so he did. It was dedicated to Castor and Pollux, twin sons of Zeus and the brothers of Helen of Troy, because the twin brothers were supposedly seen fighting for the Republic, later appearing in the marketplace as a sign of victory. This building was where the Republic Senate met, later becoming a treasury for the Roman Empire. Today, three Corinthian columns are all that remain.
The Temple of Caesar
This temple was built in A.D 42 to honour Julius Caesar after he was deified posthumously by the Senate, meaning he was regarded as a god after his death. It replaced an alter and column that commemorated the site where Caesar was cremated and where Mark Antony read out Caesar's testament. As well as serving as a cult site for worship, the temple was also a monument to military victory and it became a speaker's Platform. In the 15th century the temple was destroyed, the marble and stones used to build churches so that what remains today is just part of the cement core.
The Temple of Saturn
Originally a temple honoring the god, Saturn, it suffered a fire and was restored by the Republic in 42 BC to become a treasury. It was also the venue for one of Ancient Rome's largest annual festivals; The feast of Saturnalia which was celebrated on December 17th in honor of the god Saturn. Today, you can still view the 8 standing Ionic columns that Forumed the front and corners of the front porch.
The Temple of Vesta
One of the earliest structures to be built in the Roman Forum, this round temple housed the sacred flame of the hearth goddess Vesta and was guarded day and night by Vestal Virgins. It was also used as a storehouse for legal documents of the Senate and to store the Palladium; a statue of Athena thought to have been moved to Rome from Troy. You'll recognise the saying "Where there are flames there are fires" - The temple had to be rebuilt several times due to the flame getting out of control and destroying the building and was then completely demolished in 1549, the stone and marble being used to build papal palaces and churches. What we see today was reconstructed in the 1930's based on the design of the A.D 191 build.
The Arch of Titus
Built to celebrate the rule of Titus after his death in A.D 82, this honorific arch measures 15 meters tall (50 feet) and has relief panels that glorify The Great Revolt, or, the first Roman-Jewish war which began in AD 66. The arch still remains relatively intact though the carvings are somewhat weathered, look closely and you'll be able to see the relief showing a crowd carrying a menorah. Though quite small and modest, this arch was the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The Arch of Septimius Severus
Built in the year 203, this triumphal arch which measures 23 meters tall (75 feet) was built to commemorate the 2 victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and his sons (Caracalla and Geta) over the Parthians. Large relief panels narrate scenes from the wars and also show Mars, the god of war, and Victoria, the goddess of victory who is holding a Parthian trophy.
The Cloaca Maxima
Thought to have been constructed around 600 BC, this is one of the world's earliest sewage systems. Used to drain nearby marshes and remove waste from the cities public bathhouses and public toilets, the sewer was covered and ended at the River Tiber. Overhauled throughout the centuries, the sewer is still in use today to drain rainwater from below the Forum and connecting up with the modern-day sewage system.
There is a ticket office at the Roman Forum which can be accessed from Via dei Fori Imperiali street or on line The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and The Colosseum Tickets . A single ticket covers entry to The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and The Colosseum. You can purchase tickets at any of these 3 sites.
This iconic ruin is famous for holding fearsome gladiator tournaments. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the gladiatorial arena was completed in A.D. 80 for the specific purpose of staging deadly gladiatorial contents, the gladiators either made to fight each other or wild animals. It was also used for other public events and spectacles including executions, reenactments of famous battles, plays of classical mythology, and, in the early days, mock sea battles. For ancient Romans going to the amphitheater was a Forum of entertainment - much like we would go to the theater today - and could hold over 50,000 eager spectators ranging from the very rich to the very poor. To mark the opening of the amphitheater, games were held for 100 days and nights. Later, this was beaten with games lasting 117 days, during these 117 days approximately 9,000 gladiators were killed and 10,000 animals.
The name Colosseum did not come about until Medieval Times, after the fall of the Roman Empire, when the building was abandoned for the use of public events and was instead used for shops and housing, later becoming a fortress, a Christian shrine, and even a quarry. Many people believe the name Colosseum refers to the colossal size but instead it comes from the fact that it was located next to a huge statue of Nero called the Colosso di Nerone.
There are several reasons for this, both natural and man made. Two huge earthquakes in 847 and 1231 weakened some of the stones which led to the southern wall falling down. Later, after the fall of the Roman Empire, looting was a big problem with the precious metals and gold the first pieces to disappear. The statues and marble floors were ripped up and re-used elsewhere in the city - It's thought that this is how the marble steps of St Peter's Cathedral were created. The outer iron clamps were melted down to make weapons, and stone was used for the defence fortification around the river Tiber. Essentially, the Colosseum was a fantastic source of building materials during the medieval times when Christianity was reshaping the city both mentally and physically.
A gladiator was expected to fight with dignity and courage and die with honor should he be defeated - To accept his fate in a way. If he died well he could become famous.
But gladiators did not always fight to the death, there were different versions of the game and also different types of gladiators, some were criminals who had been sentenced to death and therefore must die whilst others were free gladiators' volunteers who had sold themselves into the game and were generally treated with more honor, living to fight and entertain the crowd another day. A game without dismissal meant that the fight would last until a gladiator died whether his opponent be man or beast. Fighting 'to the finger' meant that a defeated gladiator could ask for mercy by raising 1 finger, whether to give mercy or not was decided by the emperor or another high ranking official observing the game. The most famous version of the game that we know (thanks to the Movie Gladiator) is the thumbs down gesture which signals death. In this case a defeated man (sometimes a woman) would be lying on the ground and the opponent would wait for the signal of the emperor (or a high ranking politician) taking into account the feeling of the crowd, to decide if the defeated gladiator deserved to live or die. If the winner was given the thumbs down/sideways signal he would stab his opponent through the neck or shoulder blade into the heart, or stab him in the throat - Game over.
The Colosseum was named one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World on the 7th July 2007. It was voted for in a poll run by a private Swiss foundation in which more than 100 million votes were received by members of the public from all over the world with 21 finalists. The Colosseum was included as one of the new seven wonders of the world based purely on public voting - Essentially it came down to numbers and luck, based purely on what the public wanted. Other sites such as the Acropolis in Athens did not receive enough votes. The Colosseum is not old enough to have made it into the original Seven Wonders Of The World list!
The ticket is valid for 2 days and includes entry to the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.
A Colosseum Express Guided Tour Ticket is also available to purchase which includes the entrance fee and a 60-90 minute guided tour by a bilingual guide.
Yes. E.U. members aged between 18-25 can get a discounted ticket costing €7.50 when they show valid ID.
The Pantheon that we see today was created by the emperor Hadrian between the years A.D. 118 and 125 as a Pagan temple to honor all gods before becoming a church in A.D. 608 which it still is today. It has remained in active use since the day it was completed over 2,000 years ago and is the best preserved Ancient Roman temple that still exists today. What makes this building special is the stunning 2nd century Roman architecture; the domed roof with the oculus, the circle cut out of the top which gives the only natural light inside and remains open to the elements, remains the world's largest unsupported dome in the world to this day - Step inside and you'll be in awe at the design, vast size, and the elegance.
The famous Renaissance artist, most well-known for painting the 'Madonnas', had a notable career working on artworks for the Vatican. He painted frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura ("Room of the Signatura") as well as in the Stanza d'Eliodoro ("Room of Heliodorus"), later being hired by Pope Julius II towork as chief architect. Some of his other notable works include the paintings Transfiguration, The Triumph of Galatea, Saint George And The Dragon as well as numerous others. He died in 1520 on his 37th birthday from a mysterious cause. His funeral mass was held at the Vatican and his body interred at the Panthen.
Vitterio Emanuele II
This Italian king reigned from 1861 until 1878, he was the first king of a united Italy having been king of Sardinia-Piedmont previously. He died in 1878 and was permitted burial in the Pantheon by Pius despite the two men being enemies.
Becoming king after the death of his Father, Emanuele II, this king, known as 'The Good' reigned from 1878-1900. He was assassinated in 1900 by anarchist due to his nationalistic and imperialistic policies. His wife, Queen Margherita, is also buried at the Parthenon.
This painter was a founder of the Baroque style. Highlights of his career include painting the frescoes in the study in the Farnese Palace, and painting the frescoes of the coved ceiling of the Galleria Farnese. Notable religious works that he painted include Domine, Quo Vadis? and the Piet�. He died in 1609 aged 48 after a long illness - It was his dying wish to be buried near to Raphael.
A great violinist, composer, and music teacher who also became musical director at the Palazzo Pamphili playing for royalty around Europe, Corelli greatly influenced the Baroque style of music with the new instrument, the violin. He was the first person to come up with the base elements of the violin technique. He died in 1713.
A feat of Roman engineering, the aqueducts were used to move water from outside sources into the city using force alone. The aqueducts helped to keep the water clean, away from contaminated river sources and the filth of the city giving people access to cleaner drinking water as well as powering the public baths and fountains.
During the Roman Empire, which spanned 500 years, 11 aqueducts were built, water traveling approximately 92 km (57 miles) into the city from the furthest source. Think of a Roman aqueduct and you'll likely envision the stone bridges with numerous arches but most were actually underground pipe systems.
Yes, because the Pantheon is an operating church, entry is free of charge to everyone though guided tours cost.
The Borghese Gallery, otherwise known as the Galleria Borghese, is an art gallery in Rome housed in the stunning 17th century family villa. The majority of the private art collection was assembled in the 17th century by Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, the favorite Nephew of Pope Paul V. A wealth of paintings, classical and neo-classical sculptures, and antiquities span 20 rooms across 2 floors. Notable pieces include a 1st-3rd century mosaic of gladiators and the Venus Victrix sculpture with sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Correggio, and Canova.
Where can I buy tickets for the Borghese Gallery?
Tickets can be purchased online or directly from the ticket office which is located in the basement of the gallery.
Yes, if you're short on time but still want to see all of Rome's most famous places book the Vatican and Colosseum Skip-The-Line Guided Tour tickets. Lasting 7-8 hours this tour, led by a knowledgeable multilingual guide, takes you to the Vatican in the morning with skip-the-line entry into the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, as well as St. Peter's Basilica. In the afternoon you'll get skip-the-line entry and a guided tour around the Colosseum as well as the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
This option means you won't waste hours queuing for the ticket office and then again to gain entry to the sites, you'll also gain invaluable inForumation from your art historian guide about all that you see.
Budget travellers shouldn't despair, with some forward planning to time your visit to Rome so that it falls during the first Sunday of the month you can actually visit The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum FREE OF CHARGE! Just be aware that the queues will be longer than ever, especially at the Colosseum, (there are no skip-the-line tickets available on this day) so arrive early in order to secure a place in the front of the queue.
Purchase Colosseum tickets at Palatine Hill, the ticket office queue is shorter here than at The Roman Forum and far, far shorter than that at The Colosseum.
Book the earliest tour possible so as to avoid the large crowds that form later in the day, alternatively, arrive at sites as late as you can, after 3pm, so that the tour groups will have left.
Look out for special combo ticket prices to save money.
To beat the heat, visit outdoor venues (Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill) first thing in the morning then head to indoor air-conditioned museums from midday onwards.
The Colosseum is wheelchair friendly, there's a smooth flat surface throughout, a lift, and disabled toilets.
The Roman Forum whilst being wheelchair accessible thanks to a lift, has an uneven surface making for a bumpy and uncomfortable ride in a wheelchair.
Disabled visitors can rent an electric scooter at Palatine Hill.
There are no amenities inside the Colosseum itself - Use the toilets in the entrance, and buy water and snacks before you go in.
The streets of Rome are not exactly stroller (pushchair) friendly - If you're traveling with a baby or toddler it's best to use a carrier or sling, you'll be able to move around the city much faster and easier.
Vatican and Colosseum skip-the-line guided tour - From €80 If you're short on time but want to see it all, this is the tour to take! Lasting 7-8 hours a multilingual guide takes you around The Vatican in the morning with skip-the-line entry to the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum, and St. Peter's Basilica. In the afternoon you'll get skip-the-line entry and a guided tour around the Colosseum as well as access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
Colosseum, Roman Forum And Palatine Hill Audio Guide Ticket - €22 - If you're a traveller who enjoys sightseeing at their own pace the audio guide ticket is the one you want. Giving you skip-the-line access to the Colosseum plus access to the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill over 1 or 2 days you'll be able to spend as much or as little time as you want exploring these historic sites as you learn all the facts. There's no need to race to keep up with a guide, if you want to sit down and reflect for a moment you can just hit the pause button on the audio guide and enjoy the moment.
Ancient Rome And Colosseum Half-Day Walking Tour - From €46 - If you like the convenience of guided walking tours with a multilingual guide, get this ticket which includes fast-track into into the Colosseum. The tour lasts 3 hours (so you won't get overwhelmed or exhausted!) and is led by a historian who will take you around the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.
Yes! The Vatican VIP Experience, ticket prices starting at €92, gets you fast-track entry into the Vatican early in the morning before it opens to general visitors ensuring your experience is not ruined by the crowds. Everyone knows you can't start the day without breakfast so upon arriving at 7.15 am or 8.15am your first stop will be at the Vatican Cafeteria where a complimentary Italian style buffet breakfast awaits you. You will then get an extensive tour of the Vatican Museum with a knowledgeable art historian guide also includes access to exhibitions that are normally closed to the general public. There's also fast-track entry to St Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel which you can explore at your own pace plus the Belvedere Courtyard and Pinecone Courtyard to enjoy.
Yes, but just remember the walking tours are tip-based and therefore not actually free. There are several Free Rome and Vatican Walking Tours to choose from which are a great way to learn more about Rome and The Vatican City:
Lasting 2.5 hours this free walking tour guides you around the unique city-state stopping off at Saint Peter's Square and Saint Peter's Dome giving you invaluable inForumation on the Pope and Vatican City as you admire the views from Castel Sant' Angelo. The walking tour also includes the Bernini Fountain and the Pantheon.
Starting from the Spanish Steps and ending outside the Colosseum, this free walking tour takes you past some of Rome's most beautiful monuments including the Trevi Fountain and The Roman Forum.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FREE WALKING TOURS DO NOT ENTER INSIDE THE VATICAN, THE COLOSSEUM, OR THE ROMAN FORUM AS ALL OF THESE SITES HAVE ENTRANCE FEES.These walking tours are also great value for the money conscious traveler:
See all the key areas of Central Rome on an 8 hour walking tour led by a professional English speaking guide, this special combo ticket encompassing both the Rome Colosseum walking tour and The Best of Rome Walking Tour. You'll enjoy a guided tour with fast-track-entry to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum as well as getting to see the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona amongst many other of the top sites. Stop for a breather with a complementary coffee in Winter or Ice-cream in summer.
Lasting 2.5 hours this tour, as the name suggests, shows you the best of Rome, a great way to get a quick introduction to the city for first time visitors. See the Trevi Fountain, The Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Parthenon, St Peter's Basilica, and more as you learn all the must-know facts and history of this ancient city. In the Summer you'll be treated to a free Ice-cream and winter can enjoy a free hot beverage whilst you rest for a moment.
There are a variety of city cards / passes for Rome and The Vatican. If you know you want to see a lot of the sites that have an entry fee and will use a lot of public transport to travel between the different areas of the city you can save money by purchasing a pass. Which one you opt for will depend on what exactly you want to do and for how many days. Your options are as follows:
2 Day or 3 Day pass
Access to 2 sites from a choice of 40, free of charge
Free transportation - Metro, tram, and bus
Additional discounts for shopping, nightlife, etc
3 Day pass
Includes FREE fast-track-entry to the Vatican Museum
Access to 2 other sites from a choice of 13, free of charge
Free transportation - Metrol, tram, and bus
Roma City Pass
2, 3, or 6 day pass
Access to 4 Attractions Free of Charge from a choice of 32 sites
Includes free fast-track-entry to the Vatican
Numerous other attractions at discounted prices
Free transportation - Metro, tram, and bus
Vatican & Rome Travel Card
1 or 3 day pass
Free hop-on-hop-off bus
Free public transportation, Metro, tram, bus, and Ostia trains
National Roman Museums Pass
3 day pass
Skip-the-line access to 4 national museums in Rome; The Baths of Diocletian, Palazzo Altempts, Crypta Balbi, and Palazzo Massimo.
Tripindicator is doing unbiased Comparison of Roma Pass vs Omnia Pass vs Rome City Pass
Generally speaking, Yes! Although you will still have to queue with others who have purchased fast-track tickets to get past security, the lines will be shorter and move faster saving you a lot of time - Regular queues for purchasing tickets and getting inside the Colosseum are known to last 3 hours, and about the same amount of time for The Vatican during peak times.
Remember that you get fast-track entry with most of the Rome/Vatican passes so do some price crunching and planning to see if you're better buying skip-the-line single tickets or a city pass.
If you're an early-bird and can be out of your accommodation and at location for 8am fast-track entry is not needed as you'll be one of the first in the queue.
There's no single best way, it depends on your budget and your preferences! In this list you're sure to find something suitable for your travels...
3 Day OMNIA Vatican And Rome City Pass With Free Transport - From €113 - Take your time to explore the sights with this 3-day city pass. You can enjoy free fast-track entry into The Vatican (Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica) with free entrance to The Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum plus free entry to 1 other site; Choose between Castel Sant'Angelo, Capitoline Museums, or the Borghese Gallery. There's also free transport between the sites on the hop-on-hop-off open-top double decker sightseeing bus allowing you to see even more of Rome in comfort and with ease.
Colosseum Express Guided Tour - From €28 - A short and sweet 60 minute guided tour of the Colosseum with skip-the-line entry. Great for travelers who are either short on time or just want to 'see inside' the Colosseum, take the most famous shots including a selfie in-front of the arena but without learning the history in too much detail.
Colosseum Arena Floor Access & Roman Forum & Palantine Hill Skip The Line Ticket - From €32 - Get access to the arena floor, not included in regular ticket prices and other tours, and see how the Colosseum looked from a Gladiators point of view. You'll also have fast-track-entry to the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill, all at your own pace.
Duration: 3 Hours
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