The Colosseum is perhaps the most iconic symbol of ancient Rome, and the largest remaining structure of Roman antiquity. It was built to hold 50,000 spectators, who came to watch the gladiators.
The Roman Forum was once the political heart of ancient Rome. The existing remains do not give an adequate picture of what the area once looked like, but are nonetheless impressive for the history they convey.
Palatine Hill is the site of the earliest settlement in the region. On the hill are the remains of palaces which belonged to Roman Emperors and other aristocrats.
The well preserved Forum of Trajan is the largest on the Imperial fora. Here can be found a temple, basilica, and monuments honoring the Emperor Trajan.
The Arch of Constantine was created to celebrate Emperor Constantine following a strategic battle. It is the largest and most well preserved triumphal arch of Roman times.
Basilica of Maxentius
The ruins of the Basilica of Maxentius or of Constantine (begun in A.D. 306-312 by Maxentius and completed by Constantine), between the Via dei Fori Imperiali and the Forum, still give an imposing impression of this great building, which, like other Roman basilicas, served both as a law court and a place for doing business. The central aisle, with a vaulted roof, measured 60x25m/220x80ft, and rose to a height of 35m/115ft; the lateral aisles were 24.5m/80ft high. The basilica was modeled on the gigantic Baths erected by Caracalla and Diocletian. The main piers were fronted by massive Corinthian columns, one of which, bearing a statue of the Virgin, now stands in front of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. This last great building of the Roman Imperial period - inaugurated in the year in which the capital was moved to Constantinople - provided the inspiration for later European architecture, including St Peter's. The ruin of the basilica was hastened when Pope Honorius I removed the bronze roof-tiles and used them to roof Old St Peter's. An earthquake in the ninth century caused further damage. The remains of a statue of Constantine, which once stood in the first apse of the basilica, may be seen in the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla to the south of Rome, begun by Septimus Severus in A.D. 206 and completed by Caracalla in 216, were much more than public baths. Nowadays they would be called a "leisure center", containing as they did a whole system of baths (hot and cold baths, a swimming pool, sweat baths with both dry and damp heat), facilities for gymnastics and sport, pleasant rooms for social intercourse, gardens to walk in, lecture rooms and libraries, hairdressers and shops. These various needs were met in a massively imposing structure covering an area 300m/1,100ft square, a complex of gigantic halls with huge columns and piers, domes and semi-domes, barrel vaulting and cross vaulting, which could accommodate some 1,500 people at a time. The floors and walls were covered with marbles, mosaics and frescoes. The leisure needs of the population have never been catered for with such magnificence as in the Roman baths; even in ruin their splendor is still apparent.
Address: Via delle Terme di Caracalla 52, I-00186 Rome, Italy
Opening hours: 9am-5pm; Sun: 9am-2pm
Always closed on: Epiphany (3 Kings' Day ) - Christian (Jan 6), New Year's Day (Jan 1), Liberation Day - Italy (Apr 25), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Festival of the Tricolor - Italy (May 12), Feast of St John the Baptist - Christian (Jun 24), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), Victory Day / National Unity Day - Italy (Nov 4), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Easter - Christian, Easter Monday - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Transit: Metro: Circo Massimo (line B); Bus: 11, 27, 90, 90b, 94, 118, 673; Tram: 13, 30, 30b.
Santi Giovanni e Paolo
According to legend a church was built on this site in the fifth century by a Roman senator names Byzantius and his son Pammachius in honor of the martyrs John and Paul, officers in the Roman army who were executed in the time of Julian the Apostate. The church is said to have been built over the remains of the house on the Caelian hill in which they were killed. Around 1150 it was rebuilt by Cardinal Giovanni di Sutri, with the addition of the porch, the campanile and the dwarf gallery in the apse. During the Baroque period the interior was redecorated. Excavations in the present century have revealed the Roman house under the church, so it is now possible to follow the history of the site in an unbroken line from the original Roman house with its fine brick masonry and lively frescoes (the best preserved wall paintings in Rome, depicting Venus and a male divinity), the antique columns and the two lions in the porch, by way of the medieval building, with its marble columns and the campanile built over the walls of the large temple of Claudius on the Caelian, to the basilica we see today.
From the fourth century B.C. onwards the state prison of Rome stood at the foot of the Capitol hill, on the side nearest the Foro Romano. It consisted of two vaulted chambers, one on top of the other. In the lower chamber, also known as the Tullianum (after a water cistern), we are told by the Roman historians that the Numidian king Jugurtha (140 B.C.), the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix (46 B.C.) and Catiline's fellow conspirators were confined. According to Christian tradition the Apostles Peter and Paul were also imprisoned here, and during his confinement Peter is said to have baptized the other prisoners with water from the Tullianum spring. Accordingly the chapel which was later constructed in the prison was named San Pietro in Carcere (St Peter in Prison). the church above it is dedicated to St Joseph the Carpenter (San Giuseppe dei Falegnami).
San Gregorio Magno
The church of San Gregorio, which is approached by a large flight of steps, was founded in 575 - before he became Pope - by Gregory the Great, a member of the Antitii family, who converted his family house on this site into a convent. It was rebuilt in the medieval period and completely re-fashioned in the Baroque period, by Giovanni Battista Sorià (1629-33), on the model of the church of Sant'Ignazio, though on a smaller scale. The interior was remodeled by Francesco Ferrari in the mid 18th century; the ceiling painting (1727) is by Placido Constanzi. The atrium, the church itself, the oratory and the three chapels of St Andrew (frescoes by Guido Reni and Domenichino, 17th century), St Silvia ("Angel fresco" by Reni, 1608) and St Barbara (wall painting by Antonio Viviani, 1602) combine to form a unity of impressive effect.
Forum of Caesar
The Forum of Caesar or Forum Julium lies at the foot of the Capitol hill, part of its area being now occupied by the gardens and parking lots of the Via dei Fori Imperiali. It was built between 54 and 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar at his personal expense, with the object both of enhancing his own fame and meeting the needs of the citizens, for which the old Forum Romanum was no longer adequate. The scanty remains give little impression of the original structure, which covered an area 170x75m/550x250ft. Around the forum were shops, the Basilica Argentaria (occupied by money-changers' offices and the exchange) and the temple of Venus Genetrix. Nothing has survived of the sculptural decoration of the forum, including an equestrian statue of Caesar which is described by ancient writers.
Santa Francesca Romana
To replace the church of Santa Maria Antique a new church dedicated to the Virgin, Santa Maria Nuova, was built in the second half of the 10th century on the other side of the Forum, on what is now the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The church occupied part of the site of the old temple of Venus and Rome. The tower, a characteristic example of a medieval Roman campanile, was added in the 13th century. The church received its present name when it was dedicated to the foundress of the Oblates, St Frances of Rome. Notable features of the interior, which is richly adorned with marble stucco and pictures, are the Confessio, the apse mosaic and the sixth century Madonna on the high altar (ascribed to St Luke).
According to legend, the Circus Maximus, lying to the south of the Palatine, was constructed by Tarquinius Priscus on the site of the rape of the Sabine women. The Circus was, in fact, established in the A.D. second century as a stadium for chariot races. It consisted of two tracks, 500m/547yd in length and could accommodate 300,000 spectators. The remains of the buildings date from the time of Trajan. An obelisk erected at the Circus during the reign of Augustus, now stands on Piazza del Popolo.
Foro di Vespasiano
Adjoining the Forum of Nerva at the point where Via Cavour now joins the Via dei Fori Imperiali, was the Forum of the Emperor Vespasian (A.D. 69-79), in the center of which was the Temple of Peace (after which it was also known as the Forum of Peace). The forum, of which only a few fragments remain, was built by Vespasian and paid for from the booty won in the Jewish War.
Forum of Augustus
Little is left of the Forum of Augustus but three columns from the temple of Mars Ultor (Vengeful Mars), built by Augustus in 2 B.C. (which avenged the murder of Julius Caesar). About 1200 the Knights of St John (later of Rhodes and Malta) used the ruins of the forum to build their palaces. In an exedra and in the Antiquarium are remains of the Priory of the Knights of Malta.
Via dei Fori Imperiali
This six-lane highway, built by Mussolini in 1932, runs from the Capitol to the Colosseum, passing along one side of the Forum. In 1980 the city council, giving priority to archeology over traffic, decided to remove the road and thus make it possible to excavate the remains of the great days of the Empire which lie concealed under its 64,000sq.m/76,500sq.yd of asphalt.
Via di San Gregorio
This broad tree-lined street, in ancient times the Triumphal Way followed by victorious generals, runs south from the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine between the Palatine and Caelian Hills, past the church of San Gregorio Magno, to the southeast end of the Circus Maximus.
Obelisk of Axum
Piazza Mattei is situated in the center of Renaissance Rome and is flanked by Palazzo Costaguti. In the middle of the piazza is the Tortoise fountain which is one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome designed by Giacomo Della Porta.