For as long as I can remember if anyone asked me what my dream destination was, I would say “Italy!” I imagined creating the perfect Italy itinerary, seeing Ancient Rome, especially the Colosseum and Roman Forum, walking down the Appian Way, drinking lots of wine, and eating delicious pasta.
In my imagination, everyone talked passionately while gesturing with their hands, and lovers kissed in the middle of grand piazzas.
What I found in Rome wasn’t far from what I had imagined, and there were so many awesome things to do in Rome.
I discovered this tremendous collision of ancient and modern.
A place where two worlds seemed to meld seamlessly together to create this exciting fusion that not only works but is perfectly normal.
The Rome I found was full of life and passion just like I imagined. A city that engulfs you in history while the modern world continues around it.
I found Rome, the Eternal City!
And I couldn’t wait to explore the Roman history and this ancient city firsthand! There is no better way to do that than by exploring the ancient ruins in Rome!
In a city with so many UNESCO World Heritage sites, you are in for a treat for sure!
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Roman Ruins in Rome
1. Roman Colosseum
The Colosseum is the icon of Rome.
Standing for almost 2,000 years, the Colosseum, once named the Flavian Amphitheater, is probably one of the most recognizable monuments in the Roman world and in the world today, which stands to reason that it is a valuable piece of Roman history.
Of course, the structure that you see before you today is not the Colosseum that Titus saw in 80 AD during his rule of the Roman Empire. The Colosseum was a bright white structure with painted trim. The interior housed colorful frescos and statues of gods.
An awesome fact about the Colosseum is that the design of the building would allow 50,000 fans to enter and exit in about 15 minutes!
During the middle ages, chariot races and gladiator fights are some of the “games” that would be shown in the Colosseum to entertain the Roman people.
Sadly, the gladiators would fight one another or the wild animals, “the beasts,” to death.
The beasts here were from all over the world, especially North Africa, and included bears, lions, crocodiles, giraffes, and more, all of which were housed in the tunnels below the Colosseum, waiting for their turn to enter the ring.
Today, you can make your way to the stands and look down into the arena to see the underground tunnels, and personally witness this piece of ancient history.
We highly recommend taking an underground guided tour. This tour will take you into the underground tunnels to see them firsthand. You cannot get to the underground tunnels of the Colosseum without a guided tour, so book yours today, as they often sell out!
The Colosseum in Rome is truly a wonder of Ancient Rome! Consider doing this tour:
Getting Colosseum Rome Tickets
As one of the major attractions in Rome, the Colosseum is always busy. You can save time and money by following our tips for getting Colosseum Rome tickets.
Don’t waste your valuable vacation time standing in the long lines outside of the Colosseum. Instead, opt for one of the “skip the line at the Colosseum” options.
To skip the line, you can purchase your ticket in advance online at www.coopculture.it, buy a Roma Pass at the tobacco shop in the Metro station, or purchase a ticket at the entrance of Palatine Hill.
Of course, if it were me, I would pay for a guided tour to ensure that I learned all I could about the Colosseum.
If you purchase your ticket in advance at Palatine Hill or online, or if you buy a Roma pass, grab your ticket and look for the entrance marked ticket holders or Roma Pass. This allows you to bypass the line and just walk right up to the entrance!
Of course, if you purchase a guided tour that includes entry, then follow the instructions from your tour guide to see this piece of ancient history.
Recommended Colosseum Tours:
2. Palatine Hill
Located above the Roman Forum and across the street from the Colosseum in Rome, Palatine Hill is one of the city’s oldest parts, making it a genuine part of Ancient Rome and Roman history.
Inhabited since 1000 B.C., this area is a treasure trove of history.
According to the legend of Ancient Rome, there were two brothers, Romulus and Remus, who were raised by a she-wolf in a cave on this hill. The brothers grew up and decided to start a city by the river, but when they disagreed, Romulus killed Remus and then founded the city of Rome.
Thus how the ancient city of Rome got its name. It dates back to ancient times.
During the Republic, this area was regarded as one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Rome and the Roman world.
Palatine allowed the residents to escape the noise and dirt while still in the city’s center. The remains of these luxury villas, including that of Rome’s first Emporer, Augustus, can still be seen today.
You can take this tour which includes access to the Colosseum arena floor, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill if you would like a guide during your visit to these ancient Roman sites.
3. House of Augustus-Palatine Hill
The House of Augustus was one of the most prestigious houses in ancient times.
The two-story home was located on a sacred hill area near the Temple of Appollo and on top of the Cave of Lupercal, where the She-Wolf of Rome is said to have nursed the twins Romulus and Remus.
This was the primary home of Emperor Augustus during his reign.
The two-story house was centered around two courtyards and is still strikingly beautiful.
While touring, notice how the home is separated into different areas. The western portion of the home housed the domestic rooms, and the eastern portion the reception rooms, a common theme in Roman times.
Behind the glass covering the walls, you can still see many of the vibrant-colored frescos that adorned the lavish home. These frescos highlight the home and are one of the highlights of these Roman ruins in Rome.
4. House of Livia-Palatine Hill
Livia was the third wife of Augustus, and if you bought a ticket to see the House of Augustus, you could also see the House of Livia.
The House of Livia was built in the 1st century B.C.
Surprisingly, Livia’s house was a bit larger than Augustus’ house. If the house is open, go inside and see the mosaics and frescoes painted on the walls and ceiling. You can still peek in the windows if the house is not open.
The most notable is the fresco in the central room showing Mercury kidnapping the nymph lo. Another notable fresco is the garden scene in the dining room which depicts flowering trees and birds.
It is important to note that the 1st century BC garden fresco was moved to the Palazzo Massimo all Terme Museum.
5. Domitian’s Palace-Palatine Hill
Domitian’s Palaces is an imperial palace built around 81 AD by Emperor Domitian.
This ancient ruin was so grand that it was home to the emperors of Rome for three centuries!
The palace was different than other palaces as Emperor Domitian wanted to show his status as, in his words, “lord and god.”
Domitian’s Palace was grand, for sure. It included a basilica, a stadium, an audience hall, a sunken garden, and baths!
Notice that there is even part of the palace above Circus Maximus. The Circus Maximus is a grassy area that was once the area where the chariot races were once held. It is said that people would often visit the Circus Maximus when the Colosseum in Rome wasn’t in session or was filled.
Emperor Severus added this portion of the palace.
Exploring this part of ancient Rome is so intriguing. They are such excellently preserved ancient sites showcasing Roman history.
6. Arch of Titus-The Roman Forum
The triumphal Arch of Titus was erected to commemorate the Romans conquering Judea (Israel) and serves as the entrance to the Roman Forum.
Notice all of the reliefs inside the Arch of Titus that celebrates the leader, Titus.
Today, the scenes of the Roman troops conquering and ransacking Jerusalem seem anti-Semitic, but in ancient Rome, this was just the business of expanding their empire.
These graphic scenes made many Jews refuse to walk under the Arch of Titus.
While standing in this part of the Roman Forum, try to imagine the arch over a thousand years of age. It, like most ancient Roman ruins, would have been ornately decorated with colored marble and bronze during the height of the Roman Empire.
7. The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was the hub of activity during Caesar’s time, housing political, religious, and commercial entities for imperial Rome. You can feel the strength of the Roman Empire surrounding you while visiting the Imperial Forums.
A little fun modern side note, check out the Forum on Google maps before your visit to see the complexity of it still today.
Still today it is one of the greatest tributes to the splendor of ancient Roman society. Unfortunately, after the fall of the Empire, the Roman Forum was pillaged and later forgotten.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that archaeologists began excavating the Roman Forum and uncovering this amazing area, and excavations are still ongoing today.
Walk down the Via Sacra, the main road leading into the Roman Forum, and realize that you are walking in the same area that Julius Caesar walked!
Notice the triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus, the Basilica of Constantine, which served as the Roman hall of justice and one of the most significant buildings in the Roman Empire.
The Temple of Vesta is a circular hut in the Roman Forum with columns surrounding it. This was said to be a sacred spot for Romans as they believed that as long as the sacred eternal flame burned inside, then Rome would stand. To ensure that the flame burned, priestesses tended the fire 24/7.
Also, see the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the temple dedicated to the twins of Gemini. these ancient ruins are one of the city’s oldest temples, built in the 5th century B.C. and also served as a meeting place for the Senate
Be sure to visit the Temple of Julius Caesar. The Temple of Julius Caesar is easy to spot; look for the metal-roofed structure with crowds of people and head in that direction.
In the Roman Forum on March 15, 44 B.C., the famous Emperor, Julius Caesar, was cremated after being stabbed to death.
You will also find the Curia (Senate House) was once the site of Rome’s official government and the heart of the Roman Empire.
The Temple of Divus Romulus is an excellent example of a well-preserved monument. I loved that the bronze door was original still on its original hinges. I bet it will last another thousand years or more!
These are all significant landmarks in Rome.
8. Trajan’s Forum & Trajan’s Market
Across from the Roman Forum is another of the imperial forums built as Rome outgrew the Roman Forum that was added onto by many Roman rulers.
Most of what you see today can be attributed to Trajan, starting with the vast column erected in his honor, similar to the column dedicated to Marcus Aurelius in Piazza Colonna.
You will recognize it by the bronze statue of Emperor Trajan at the top, which is still in good condition.
The Forum of Trajan is actually the final Imperial Forum from ancient Rome.
Built in the 2nd century AD, Trajan’s Market is considered the world’s first shopping mall.
This building was a dense complex that stood six stories tall and contained over 150 shops and offices in Imperial Rome.
The column is hollow, and a staircase leads up to the balcony! In this area, you will also find Trajan’s Market, statues of Roman Emporers, and the remains of a medieval tower.
Take the time to explore this 2nd-century area and these interesting Roman ruins while you’re in the area.
This private tour of the area is so informative and well worth the extra money as your guide caters completely to you and your needs. We also prefer private tours or tours with small groups.
9. Domus Aurea
The Domus Aurea, also known as Nero’s Golden House, is a sight that is easily overlooked by tourists but trust us when we tell you that it is well worth visiting these Roman ruins in Rome.
Domus Aurea was built by Emperor Nero around 68 AD; this property once covered over 300 acres and was considered one of the grandest properties in the world.
Legend says that the walls seemed of Domus Aurea to have a golden hue to them. This is thanks to the frescos, pearl, gold leaf, and glass mosaics adorning the walls.
Of course, much of this did not survive the fall of Nero, but you can still witness the beautiful frescos.
The Domus Aurea is open for weekend tours and is still an active Roman archaeological site today. Book your tour in advance, so they don’t sell out!
This is a must-see, so you want to add this to your list of Roman ruins.
10. The Pantheon
When you first visit the Pantheon, you might wonder why it is on our list of Roman ruins. Believe it or not, it is one of the Roman ruins, it is just one of the very well-preserved Roman ruins in Rome.
The Pantheon was first erected as an ancient temple and was constructed in the 27th century BC. The original structure was destroyed in a fire before the Pantheon you see today was created.
The Pantheon is said to be an engineering marvel. Still, to this day, engineers are perplexed at how the unsupported dome structure was created.
The dome, modeled after Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s Basilica, is made from lightweight concrete and covered inside in a beautiful coffered ceiling.
Nonetheless, it worked. The magnificent dome contains an oculus or eye directly in the center, allowing light to enter the Pantheon.
The incredible marble floor and walls and the beautiful coffered ceiling only add to the grandeur of this Roman ruin.
Lining the walls of the Pantheon are the tombs of several prominent ancient Romans, including the artist Raphael.
While the Pantheon is one of the free things to do in Rome, I recommend visiting it on a tour so that you can learn more about this incredible Roman ruin.
This is one of the best landmarks in Rome and a must-see.
Consider taking the Wonders of Ancient Rome at Dusk tour to see these amazing structures at night with a fantastic tour guide.
11. Baths of Diocletian
You cannot have a list of Roman ruins and not include the Roman Baths of Diocletian.
Constructed between 298 and 306, the thermal Baths of Diocletian were a place to bathe, swim, and socialize for the ancient Romans.
As one of the largest bathhouses in Rome, the Diocletian Baths could accommodate 3,000 people!
As part of the National Roman Museum, you can visit these Roman ruins in Rome today.
The Baths of Diocletian are built in the typical Roman bath style, with cold, warm, and hot water flowing. The water was used to fill the large bath complex and the small, private bathing rooms.
There is also a gymnasium and changing rooms in the complex.
During your visit, we recommend taking a guided tour of the Baths of Diocletian and the Museo Nazionale Romano.
This is one of the best Roman ruins to visit.
12. Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica is an ancient harbor town located about 40 minutes outside Rome, Italy, and contains some impressive Roman ruins.
Founded in the 4th century BC, Ostia Antica was an essential commercial hub that helped transport food and grain to Rome’s citizens.
The 4th-century ancient town of Ostia Antica has been meticulously excavated and contains some of the best Roman ruins in Rome, Italy.
During your visit to the historic ruins, you can see the Baths of Neptune, gorgeous mosaic floors, ancient temples, a necropolis, an amphitheater, and more!
You can imagine how it looked in its former grandeur during the 4th century.
For the best experience while visiting these Roman ruins, book one of the guided tours offered.
13. Baths of Caracalla
Another of the Roman ruins in Rome, Italy that is worth your time is the Baths of Caracalla.
Commissioned in 206 AD by Emperor Septimius Severus, the baths could hold 1600 people.
Looking at the original brick walls, use your imagination to picture how they looked in their inception, covered with beautiful stucco and marble. Unfortunately, like many Roman ruins, looters made off with those materials long ago.
However, many of the mosaics and statues from the Baths of Caracalla could be saved. You can see them in museums throughout Rome, including the Vatican.
During your visit, you can still see the black and white floor mosaics and visit the underground tunnels of the bath complex.
As one of the best ancient Roman ruins, the Baths of Caracalla has to be on your list of Roman ruins to visit.
This tour not only gives you a guide to the Baths of Caracalla but also includes Circus Maximus.
14. Castel Sant’Angelo
Another of the well-preserved ancient Roman ruins that sit standing guard by the Tiber River is Castel Sant’Angelo.
Standing tall on the banks of the Tiber River is the Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as Hadrian’s Mausoleum.
Initially built in 139 to serve as a final resting place for Emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant’Angelo has served many purposes throughout its history.
Emperor Hadrian also commissioned the beautiful Bridge of Angels that spans the Tiber River and connects central Rome to his mausoleum. Emperor Hadrian had big plans!
Since its construction, Pope Clementine IX commissioned the artist Bernini to create the ten angels you see on the bridge, each of which holds an object of Christ’s passion.
During its history, Castel Sant’Angelo has served as a military fortress, a papal residence, and a museum.
When you visit, visit the Terrace of the Angel for magnificent views of Rome and Saint Peter’s Basilica.
If you would like, consider this tour which gives you a guided tour of Castel Sant’Angelo and allows you fast-track entry.
This is one of the Roman ruins that you will want to visit!
15. Catacombs of Priscilla
The Catacombs of Priscilla dated back over two thousand years and were built by the early Christians in Rome.
Hidden under Villa Ada Park, the Catacombs of Priscilla house the bones of many early Christian martyrs and many early popes.
After a meticulous restoration and excavation, the catacombs were opened to the public in 2018.
You can book a guided tour to visit the catacombs and see the incredible frescos housed inside.
16. Hadrian’s Villa
Located about 30 minutes outside Rome, in Tivoli’s town, is the incredible Roman ruins of Hadrian’s Villa.
Built in 118-133 A.D., Hadrian’s Villa is one of the most extensive and most incredible villas of ancient Rome. To put the size into perspective, it is three times the size of the city of Pompeii!
Just like the Pantheon, the villa was designed by Emperor Hadrian himself. The scale and luxury here still showcase the wealth of the vast Roman Empire during ancient times.
Covering more than 300 acres, Hadrian’s Villa is much more than a villa. It is more like a city.
Here you will find libraries, baths, palaces, and incredible gardens.
You can book a tour of Hadrian’s Villa and the Villa d’Este using this link.
Be sure to read our guide outlining the Villa d’Este before you visit. It is a fascinating place also.
17. Church of Santa Costanza
Emperor Constantine originally built this church as a mausoleum for his daughter, Constantina.
The Church of Santa Constanza was excavated in the early 90s. It was discovered that Emperor Constantine might not have built it at all, but instead by Emperor Julian for his wife, Helena.
Regardless, the 4th-century mausoleum is a testament to the grandeur of the ancient Roman architecture.
The interior houses 12 pairs of Corinthian columns arranged in a ring. To accompany the Corinthian columns are 12 windows that allow light into the space.
The mosaics that you see before you today are mostly restorations, but they do give you an idea of the beauty and artistry that went into the structure.
18. Arch of Constantine
Outside the Colosseum, you will see a large, imposing arch. This is the Arch of Constantine.
Dedicated to Emperor Constantine the Great, this arch carries significant historical value as this was when the western world switched to Christianity.
It was in 312 AD that Emperor Constantine saw a vision in the sky. Based on this vision, he legalized Christianity.
The Arch of Constantine was constructed to show this historical shift and glorify Constantine as one of the great leaders in ancient Rome.
19. Aqua Marcia
The Aqua Marcia is one of seven aqueducts in Rome and is fantastic to see.
This large stone structure was built between 44 and 42 B.C. Although today, it is not much more than ancient ruins, it is still an essential piece of ancient Roman history as it helped to get water into the city.
This guided tour allows you to see some Roman aqueducts and takes you underground to the Roman catacombs.
20. Area Sacra di Largo Argentina
The Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is the name given to one of the many active archaeological sites in Rome.
Located in the square of Largo di Torre Argentina, this site is home to four ancient temples named A, B, C, and D.
Each temple consists of gorgeous columns, and the oldest one, temple C, dates back to the 3rd century B.C.
21. Catacombs of San Callisto
The Catacombs of San Callisto date back to around 150 AD. These 1st-century underground tunnels served as the burial place for Christians.
The fascinating thing about the Catacombs of San Callisto is the size of the complex. Housed on over five floors, archaeologists have found over 500,000 bodies here.
22. Circus Maximus
We mentioned Circus Maximus above, but if you have time, you should visit it.
Circus Maximus served as the most prominent sports stadium in Ancient Rome. Although it was mainly used for chariot races, there is historical evidence to show that other events also took place here.
Today, you can see the arena, which dates back as far as the 4th century BC during your time touring Roman ruins.
23. Claudio Aqueduct
During our visit to Rome, we made the journey out to the Appia Antica Regional Park to see the remains of the Claudio Aqueduct. (Don’t judge the photo; this was in our pre-blogging days. LOL!)
The Claudio Aqueducts were started in 38 AD by Emperor Caligula.
The sections of aqueducts that remain are incredible to see. We were amazed at their size!
24. Ludus Magnus
The Ludus Magus is the famous gladiator training school.
Built between 81 and 96 AD, the Ludus Magnus was commissioned by Emperor Domitian and was later added on to by Emperor Trajan.
The ruins of Ludus Magnus are located near the Colosseum. Today, you can see the foundation of the spectator stands, the arena and gladiator barracks, and the gladiator cells.
25. Mausoleum of Augustus
Emperor Augustus was the first emperor of Rome and the great nephew of Julius Caesar. Augustus ruled between 63 BC and 14 AD.
His mausoleum was built around 28 BC and became the final resting place for Emperor Augustus, his wife, Livia, and several other Roman Emperors and prominent figures of ancient Rome.
While the ruins are closed to the public, you can still admire the grandeur of the ancient structure and image its former beauty.
Well, there you have it, our guide to some of the famous Roman ruins in Rome. I hope you will consider booking one of the tours that we mentioned. Also, be sure to check out our other Italy posts listed below.
Happy Travels, friends!
Here are some other great tours in Rome that we suggest!
Check Out Our Other Italy Posts:
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About The Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight:
We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best prices on flights. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines all over the world to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.
Book Your Vacation Package:
If you want to book an entire vacation package, then we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.
Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!
For full guided vacations including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all of your needs while ensuring that you have a great experience.
Trip.com allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop-shop.”
Book Your Accommodations:
We always begin our search by checking out the honest review on hotels at TripAdvisor. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site as well!
There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is Booking.com because it gives you a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.
Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is Hotels.com. We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!
If you are looking for a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, then consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.
Tour Companies We Trust:
We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are Viator.com and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!
CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.
Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.
Looking to Save Time and Money?
Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!