The idea for Eurovision was first proposed by Italian TV writer Sergio Pugliese, who worked for the country’s state broadcaster RAI in the early 1950s.Modelled on Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival – inaugurated in 1951 and held in Liguria every year since – the contest was intended to serve as a bonding exercise in the difficult post-war years, bringing European neighbours together in the spirit of harmless fun while testing the capabilities of live broadcast television to the limit.
Hourly tours take 50 minutes and have a multimedia introduction (available in English).Far more interesting is its predecessor, nicknamed the Rotonda for its drum-like shape.Inside this massive 11th-12th-century cathedral, look for a carved red marble sarcophagus, carved wooden choir stalls, and stairways leading down into the crypt, built in the 9th-11th centuries as part of the first basilica.Take advantage of this chance to mingle with locals as you walk through the forum down a street that was once part of the major Roman route from Bologna through the Alps.And don't miss one of Italy's finest historical museums, encompassing an original Roman villa.The competition’s rules have become ever-more convoluted as new entrants were added over the years, with the breakup of the USSR in the early 1990s in particular contributing to the swelling as a wealth of nations freshly-liberated from the Eastern Bloc sought their turn in the limelight.
Contestants were initially expected to sing in their native languages but the stipulation was gradually relaxed, culminating in ABBA’s 1974 win for “Waterloo”, the Swedish disco titans singing entirely in English.
Rising on a hillside above the forum, and originally reached by a pair of stairways, the temple must have made a dramatic background to the hub of Roman activity.
Today, only six of the Corinthian columns stand, their original white marble parts contrasting clearly with the 19th-century brick restoration that holds them in place.
Pugliese’s suggestion was picked up and approved by Marcel Bezencon, president of the European Broadcasting Union, in January 1955, who developed the concept with the body’s international members, including the BBC, at a General Assembly gathering at Rome’s Palazzo Corsini on 19 October 1955 – a date to live in infamy.
The first Eurovision Song Contest was duly staged seven months later in Lugano, Switzerland, on , with Swiss entry Lys Assia winning for her song “Refrain”.
Look for bits of Roman stonework that were recycled to build it.