Last week I went to ROME! A dream come true….and while I was able to explore all the city had to offer, which was ALOT. I realize that not everyone has the ability to take a full 5 days in Rome – which means not being able to do/see EVERYTHING. So this week I’m splitting my Rome Travel Guide into 3 separate parts: Ancient Ruins of Rome, Sight-Seeing Rome, and Religion in Rome. For those planning a shorter trip – you decide which tour/sights are right for your interest. Today I am starting with the Ancient Ruins of Rome (my personal favorite).
Ancient Ruins of Rome
I don’t know why but I have this obsession with touring ancient ruins. For me it’s like stepping into a time machine. Seeing these ancient cities and learning their history, paired with cinematic images gives me the ability to “imagine” life back then. It’s especially fun once you start visiting enough countries & capitals to build the full picture and make the connections!
Needless to say the Roman Empire was vast & mighty and Rome has a lot to show of it. While now in disrepair, remnants of this Empire still exist (all over the city) and touring these Ancient Ruins would be a great way to spend your time in Rome.
What better place to start than with one of the most notable monuments from the Roman Empire – The Colosseum. This was one of the first sights we went to see upon our arrival (4 pm) and it was breathtaking! Yes Gerard Butler I am entertained…
- This is one of the MOST visited sites in Italy – go early! We went right as it was opening (8:30) and had NO line. You can reserve tickets online. We didn’t and actually had a shorter line in the A.M. because everyone had reserved tickets. This may change as it gets more into summer – aka tourist season.
- Our hotel advised us to skip the morning and go closer to closing (last entry timing). While we didn’t follow this advice (we are early risers), we did visit in the early evening the first night (just to view) and there were less people out.
- There is an audio/video guide for purchase. While it did have some information – to help you re-construct the stadium – I don’t think it was necessary. It is actually very hard to follow and took away from just enjoying the wonder that was this monument.
- We took a lap with the audio guide, intently trying to see/find everything it mentions and understand the layout of the amphitheater. Then took a separate lap without the guide to just enjoy the sight!
- They have a portion of the floor reconstructed, BUT only guided tours are allowed entry. If you have the money/time take the tour. However, I didn’t find it necessary and we were able to see the same sights! Just not walk on this “reconstructed” platform (but same view from opposite end).
The Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine can be seen right outside the Colosseum. Built to commemorate a victory – it is a grand structure seemingly intact (very well preserved). You can learn more about this arch and the area surrounding via The Colosseum audio guide! BUT to view this arch no ticket is require.
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is located directly across from the Colosseum…and your ticket from the Colosseum includes entrance to the Roman Forum as well as Palatine Hill (below). I found the Roman Forum to be AMAZING – seeing those iconic marble columns!
What I found most interesting was the contrast with modern day cinematic re-creation. In movies based on the Roman Empire the iconic building attributes of marble, large columns, and grandeur are depicted as senatorial/government structures. When in reality buildings containing these GREAT architectural details seem to only be temples – which actually makes more sense for an early period civilization. I find it interesting that when “we” depict the Roman Empire we give these “Godly” attributes to government offices. Maybe because we view the Roman’s great achievement as their early government & concepts of democracy? Interesting…
- The Roman Forum is ALOT of walking so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared! Be ready to be out in the sun for awhile…
- There is an audio guide available for the forum….we didn’t see the booth until we had completely covered the area so I am unsure how helpful it is. There are descriptions available at every “site” to explain the area you are viewing.
- Guides: if you go into the forum via the entrance across form The Colosseum the guides are available in a booth to the left of the arch.
Within the Roman Forum you gain access to Palatine Hill – once home to the emperors of Rome. Atop the hill you are able to get breathtaking views of the ancient ruins of the forum, as well as explore the hilltop ruins (palaces of Roman Emperors). On the opposite side of the hill you can see the Circus Maximus – an ancient chariot racing stadium. An important historical site for Christianity, as many early Christians were executed in this stadium.
- Wear appropriate walking shoes – it is a HUGE space to cover if you want to see everything
- Take your time – we skipped out on most of the hill top because it was HOT and we were exhausted – but there is a lot to view up there (especially of the city below)
- There is a newly constructed museum on top of the hill (not open yet – but I assume soon)…if you have time and it’s open let me know what’s in there!
- A great place to enjoy a picnic for lunch (bring food in advance?)
While not technically in ruin, this large monument is a piece of Ancient Rome you MUST visit. The Pantheon is the best preserved Roman Monument (due in part to it’s continued use as a church). And it is an AMAZING sight to withhold. Everything you just saw in ruin at the Roman Forum is brought back to life with this temple.
Not only is this temple full of history – it is the final resting place for Rafael. It is also an architectural wonder with the largest unsupported dome structure in the world!
- The pantheon is close to the Roman Forum (~1 mile walk) and is tucked away between the city scape
- It is FREE – so definitely do it
- We went multiple times, never encountering a line
- While still considered a church – the sight has become more of a historical tourist attraction – but silence is encourage (for respect)
- The Pantheon is located in a small square with a fun fountain across. Take an afternoon to enjoy a gelato and watch the street performers when visiting the Pantheon
Mausoleum of Augustus
From The Pantheon another short walk (~ 1 mile) will bring you to the Mausoleum of Augustus. Currently (May 2017) under construction the site is still amazing. While the mausoleum is walled during the construction, you can still catch a few great views. BUT even better – the surrounding wall has detailed information about this history of this structure (from creation – excavation)!
Other Ancient Ruins
Above I have detailed the MAIN iconic Ancient Ruins of Rome. BUT there are many more to view – all throughout the city! That’s why I recommend walking between sites. You never know what you’ll come upon…
Most of the ruins are located within the city center (The Colosseum, The Roman Forum) and are short distances apart (about 1 mile between). While public transportation is cheap and easy to navigate, it’s not worth the crowd for the distance. Uber does exist in Rome but only as a luxury and is quite expensive! Taxi’s are available but hard to hail & are known to scam travelers.
- The Hop on Hop off busses are not great for transport between these sites. The each contain one single route with 7-9 stops (at the MAJOR attractions). So these sites that are close between and tucked away within the city buildings can only be accessed via walking from the scarce stops.
Shop what I wore for touring the Ancient Ruins of Rome!