This tour, which takes at least a whole day, is a veritable walk backwards, into the past, to the time of the Caesars. It is of particular archaeological interest, as the scope and grandeur of these impressive ruins mirror that of its powerful and influential builders: Roman 'Caput Mundi' (to the Ends of the Earth). Week-long passes are available which allow the bearer entrance to the Cecilia Metella mausoleum, the Caracalla baths, the Villa dei Quintilli and the four sections of the Roman National Museum. There are also other pass day-pass options available which include the Colosseum and the Palatine museum.
The itinerary begins atop the panoramic terrace on Via del Campidoglio (Capitol hill), to the right hand side of the Senatorial Palace, and ends in Piazza Venezia.
Public transportation to and from Piazza Venezia: buses 30, 62, 63, 64, 87,186, 492, 628, 810, 916
Public transportation to and from Campidoglio: buses 63,81,95,170,628,715,716,780
THE ROMAN FORUM
Via dei Fori imperiali
Hours: 9:00 A.M.- one hour before sunset
Tel.: 06 3997700
After having surveyed the entire forum complex from high above on Capitoline hill, start walking down Via del Campidoglio, to Via del Foro Romano which takes you along the Forum's fenced-off boundaries towards Via foro Imperiale, where the entrance to the ruins is located.
The Roman Forum rises before you for about half a kilometre on a Northwest/Southeast axis, and is surrounded by the Palatine and Capitoline hills, the Imperial Forum, and the looming hulk of the Coliseum.
Succesive barbarian invasions caused untold damage to the Forum, however, to bring it back to light, there have been on-going excavations since about 1700.
Just beyond the entrance, on the right is the Emilia Basilica. Its original foundations were laid in 1799 B.C. and it served as a centre of commerce, and as a conference and tribunal hall. The original coloured marble floor still stands, along with the column bases and fragments of the wooden rafters.
The Curia: or the Senate Hall, was originally founded by king Tullo Ostilio. Its present brick fašade was added later by Diocletian (303 A.D.). The interior is a rectangular shaped hall with a polychrome marble floor.
A square, black 'lapis niger' marble headstone indicates the place, believed, by the ancients, to hold the remains of Romulus. To the side is a funerary plaque with an inscription from the 4th century B.C.. It is believed to be the oldest written example of the Latin language.
The Arch of Setimus Severus: At the far end of the Via Sacra (sacred street) rises the arch with its three openings, standing at 23 meters high and 25 meters wide. It was erected to commemorate the military victories of Severus and his sons, Caracalla and Geta.
In front of the arch are the Rostri, or traditional orators platforms.
Piazza del Foro: The Forum plaza, beyond the Rostri, is paved in Travertine marble, and houses the colonna Foca, the last monument to be built here, in honour of Emperor Oriente Foca.
Tempio di Saturno: The temple of Saturn, originally built in the 5th century B.C., the existing 8 ionic columns were added during the 3rd century A.D.
Basilica Giulia: seat of the Roman tribunal and meting hall of the centumviri (105 member civil council) located in front of the Basilica Emiliana; named after Julius Caesar, who commissioned it, later finished by Agustus, then renovated by Diocletian in 284 A.D.
THE CHURCH OF COSMOS AND DAMIAN
Built during the 6th century within the so-called Templum Sacrae Urbus (sacred city temple) of the Roman Forum, and renovated during the 17th century, the church's vestibule was built in the temple of Romulo Divino, Massenzio's son, and now houses a 17th century Neapolitan nativity scene.
Built on a circular plan, it still has the original bronze door. Worth note, the ceiling from 1632 and the 16th century mosaics located in the apse.
Now, exit the Roman forum enclosure and head towards Via dei Fori Imperiali.
VIA DEI FORI IMPERIALI
Built by Mussolini, this avenue connects Piazza Venezia with the Coliseum, terminating between the Roman and Imperial Forums. Both forums greet the visitor with a statue of the Emperor who built them.
Via dei Fori Imperiali
Hours: 9:00 A.M. - one hour before sunset
Entrance is free with the exception of certain monuments
Tel.: 06 3997700
The Imperial Forum was established during the last years of the Republic, as a result of Rome's rapid urbanization; therefore, rendering the original forum inadequate to handle the city's role as capital of the ancient world. Located north of the Roman Forum along Via dei Fori Imperiali, every emperor built his own complex, which consisted of a large piazza, surrounded by a portico, in the middle of which, stood a temple or basilica, immortalizing his particular contributions to the empire. Excavations of this monumental complex, devastated during Medieval times, then later buried under centuries of dirt, began in 1924.
JULIUS CEASAR'S FORUM
The first to be inaugurated, in 44B.C., this forum commemorated Caesar's victory at Farasglia. Still standing are 3 Corinthian columns belonging to the temple of 'Venus the mother', commissioned by him, in homage to her, in 46 A.D. Reconstructed by Trajan in 113 B.C., still visible are the remains of a portico of late empire style, as well as what's left of Trajan's Basilica Argentaria, which became a centre for banking and money exchange. The bronze statue of Julius Caesar is a copy. The original can be found in the Museo Capitalino.
BASILICA DI MASSENZIO
This emperor was never to see his finished Basilica, one of the grandest and most impressive in all of ancient Rome, on which construction began, in 307 A.D. Massenzio was, in fact defeated by Constantine in 312, at the famous battle of Ponte Milvio. He drowned while trying to escape from Constantine, who later finished the basilica. Built of brick and concrete on the northeast side of the Roman Forum, it partly occupies the vestibule of Nero's 'Domus Aurea'. It is rectangular in form, measuring 100x76 meters on the exterior and 86x60 meters on the interior. Its three naves are divided-up by four enormous pillars. The main nave is covered with groined vaulting while the lesser ones contain square vaulting. Constantine made a few modifications to the original plans, which had designed the fašade facing the coliseum, Instead, he opened an entrance towards the Roman Forum.
On the opposite side he added a deeply indented apse, thus creating a new architectural perspective, perpendicular to the original. In the apse of the main nave stood an enormous statue of Constantine, of which fragments excavated in the 15th century, may be still seen today in the Museo Capitolini . The basilica was severly damaged and looted during the Barbarian invasions. In 626 Pope Onorio removed the guilded bronze roof panels, rendering it little more than a pit for the city's building materials. Of the eight original gigantic columns, only one remains in the piazza of Santa Maria Maggiore, its nearly 14 meters of grooved marble, transformed into a pedestal for the statue of the Madonna and child.
Both man and nature continue to conspire against the building. An earthquake in 1349 caused the central nave to collapse. By the time of the renaissance, such artists as Michelangelo and Raphael recognized its magnificence and finally the destruction ceased.
Piazza del Colosseo
Hours: 9:00- one hour before sunset; closed Christmas day, New Year's Day
Entrance fee charged, ticket office closes one hour before closing
Tel.: 06 39967700
The ticket price also includes the Palatine Museum
When the Coliseum falls, Rome will fall; but when Rome falls, the world will end (Bede: 8th century).
The celebrated prophecy of this English monk reflects how the medieval world admired, that which, even today, is considered to be the symbol of the Roman empire. Originally named 'Anfiteatro Flavio' (the name'Coliseum' was a Barbarian addition), it was commissioned by Vespasian in 72 A.D. and inaugurated by Titus in 80 A.D. Additions were made a few years later by Domitian. Elliptical in shape, it measures 188 meters by 156 meters, with a height of 56 meters. Its 76 entrances made it possible for 5000 people per minute, to enter or exit. With a capacity of 50,000, in the case of an emergency, the entire amphitheatre could be evacuated in a matter of 10 minutes. Built from brick and concrete, the exteriors were faced in travertine and the interiors, in marble. Set on three levels of arcades, each one in a distinct style, from bottom to top: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The arcade is topped by a wall, imbedded with half Corinthian columns and window openings, followed by another arcade topped with cornices that at one time held the pillars which supported the huge 'Velario' or series of awnings, which protected the spectators from the sun. The 'cavea' (spectators)bleachers were set on three different levels: the 'podium' with the imperial box, which was reserved for the nobles; the 'ordine del mezzo', for Roman citizens and people of a certain standing; and the 'summa', which was for the rest of the populous. Gladiatorial combat was outlawed in 404 A.D., however, ferocious animal fights continued until the 6th century. The structure, having undergone damage numerous times by earthquakes (1231, 1255, 1349), became little more than a rubble heap, with its materials repeatedly being used for the building of fortresses, churches and palaces. Finally, it was saved by Pope Benedict XIV, when, in 1750, he declaired: "This is a holy place, where Christian martyrs' blood was shed.."
Erected by the senate in 312 A.D., to celebrate the emperor's victory over Massenzio at Ponte Milvio. Its apertures are decorated with friezes and bas-relief, taken from pre-existing monuments, which illustrated the exploits of Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. Of particular note, on the upper wall facing the coliseum, can be found a bas-relief representing the battle between Marcus Aurelius and the Daci (ancient Romanians). The relief work done expressly for the arch itself, is of much lesser quality than that of the classic era.
Via della Domus Aurea
Giardini di Colle Oppio
Hours: 9:00 A.M.-7:45 P.M.
Entrance fee charged (reservations required)
Tel.: 06 39967700
Due to water infiltration, the Domus Aurea was closed to the public on December 13, 2005.
Located on Colle Oppio, one of the three Esqualine peaks, its entrance is on Via Labicana.
Commissioned by Nero for his Imperial Villa after the fire of 64 A.D., he died before it was ever completed. The part of the villa on Colle Oppio was interred during the construction of Trajan's thermal baths. Around its300 meter front wall ran a triple tiered, marble columned portico. The cupola covering its grand octagonal salon, is still visible today. The painted vaults were admired and copied during the Renaissance (referred to as the 'grottesche' style).
Built in memory of the battle of Filippi (42 B.C.), it was dedicated to Mars, god of vengeance. Closed on the far end by a surrounding rock wall upon which rests the remains of the temple to Mars of vengeance. Three horizontal columns are still visible, with the remains of two semicircular porticos on either side.
TRAIANO'S MARKET AND FORUM
Via 4 November, 94
Hours: 9:00 A.M.- one hour before sunset
Entrance fee charged
This enormous complex, adjacent to the Foro Traiano, was designed by Apollodoro of Damascus, and built to support the Quirinale hill, which was in danger of collapse, after a saddle had been cut into it. The huge 'esedra' (semicircular) fašade, flanked by two smaller ones, consists of two levels of shops, with a third, terrace level above. Behind the main 'esedra' runs Via Beberatica with shops running along its length, which leads to a huge, two story, covered rectangular hall, also filled with shops. This was believed to be where the money changers worked. This huge ancient mall is a unique example of public architecture in antiquity. Located on the ground floor of the main 'esedra', are partial reconstructions of some of the shops.
Access to the forum is provided by an underpass from the Traiano Market. Little remains of this once majestic complex, which boasted temples, libraries and basilicas. The four rows of columns from the central part of the Ulpia basilica is still visible, along with the Colonna Traiana. The archaeological zone also houses the Museo Palatino.
Erected in 113 A.D., out of solid blocks of marble, this 40 meter column, with it's carved spiral friezes, provides a splendid document for the customs and design of that era. Built to celebrate the victory at Daci, its bas-reliefs, which run the entire length of the column, celebrate not only the defeat of the barbarians, but also scenes from everyday life, such as: farming and the loading and unloading of cargo.
Piazza Santa Maria Nova, 53
Via San Gregorio, 30
Hours: 9:00 A.M. - one hour before sunset; closet Christmas and New Year's day
Entrance fee charged (ticket booth closes one hour before museum closing)
Ticket price includes a visit to the Coliseum
Tel.: 06 39967700
On display in the museum are sculptures, detached frescoes and artefacts spanning Rome's history, from its beginnings, through the bronze age, Republic, and up until the Imperial age. Items of note: Detached frescoes from the 'Domus Transitoria', Nero's residence that was destroyed in the great fire of 64 A.D. , then later replaced with the Domus Aurea; An imperial age statue of Augustus; Adriano and Antonio, a fragment of the 'Doriforo' by Polycleitus, and splendid architectural fragments from Augustinian buildings.