Once the home of one of the most important empires in the world, Rome is indeed a place to visit if you want to see history first-hand. The city by itself is already a must-visit in the list of any traveler and keeps centuries of history preserve in its walls and streets.
Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hills are definitely the most famous ancient Roman ruins in Rome, however, there are many more famous roman buildings that adorn the city and its outskirts, but here in this post, we will highlight the must-see ancient monuments in Rome, those that you should not miss!
Ancient Monuments in Rome: A must-see list of Roman ruins in Rome
As the saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and since day one, Rome has experienced different people, cultures, and events.
Which one of them, left their own marks in the Italian Capital that can still be seen nowadays, turning Rome into a special place for history lovers who want to learn more about the history of the civilization.
Since the beginning, Rome has been the most important city in the region, and we can pretty much say that ancient Italy was summarized in Rome, as this was the biggest city in the region, being the rest, just small villages.
With that said, it is completely safe to assume that if you are looking for the best Roman ruins in Italy, Rome is the right place to go.
Nearby Rome, there are many other ancient Roman cities to visit, for those interested, many of these roman cities can be easily be visited as a day trip from Rome.
Unfortunately, these cities are all ancient roman ruins now, but it is still possible to have a good idea of how life was back when the cities were crowded by pedestrians and wagons.
Learn how to get to Pompeii leaving from Rome here.
Early Rome to Roman Empire
The history of Rome begins around 753 BC with its foundation by Romulus. Accordingly, to the famous legend, Romulus was one of the twin brothers, descendants of Aeneas, who were suckled by the Capitoline Wolf, a she-wolf who found the boys abandoned on the banks of the Tiber river.
The boys were then found and cared for by two shepherds.
Years later, during a disagreement on where would be the perfect hill to start their city, Romulus ended up killing his own brother Remus and fixing settlement in Palatine Hill, where he founded Rome and became the first king of the Roman Kingdom.
Romulus was the first king of Rome and after his death, or disappearance, as some claim, six other kings ruled the kingdom, been replaced in 509BC when Rome became a Republic and was ruled by elected senators.
It was in this period that Rome started to expand, dominating the Italian peninsula entirely spreading all the way over the Mediterranean.
After the death of Julius Caesar in 44BC and the victory of his adopted son Octavian over Mark Antony and Cleopatra, the Roman Senate granted him overarching power, turning him into the first Roman Emperor, and giving him the title “Augustus”.
Best Roman ruins in Rome
Palatine Hill is one of the sevens hills in Rome, associated with the myth of Romulus and Remus and considered to be the cradle of the Roma.
Palatine Hill was the most desired neighborhood in Ancient Rome, home of aristocrats and emperors. Nowadays it is one of the most important archaeological sites in Rome.
It is still possible to see nowadays the ruins of the House of Augustus and the House of Livia, as well as the Flavian Palace and Stadium of Domitian.
Both the Palatine and the Roman Forum are ruins near the Colosseum and it is necessary to buy a ticket to visit them, the good news though is that the same ticket gives you entrance to all these 3 famous landmarks in Rome.
They are located next to each other and can totally be visited on the same day, to help you build your itinerary, have a look in the 3 days guide to Rome.
You can buy the combo ticket for Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum here, they are skip-the-line tickets, so it will save you time and money. The tickets are valid for two days.
The iconic symbol of Italy and the Roman Empire, Colosseum is without a doubt the most famous monument in Rome to visit.
Located next to Palatine Hill, it is definitely one of the most iconic buildings in the world. Also known as Flavian Amphitheater, its construction began in 70 AD and was completed in 80 AD. During the rule of the emperor Titus.
The Colosseum has a capacity for more than 50,000 and was used as an entertainment place where people had the chance to see exotic animals, prisoners executions, gladiator battles, etc. The complete personification of the Bread and Circus policy.
Titus inaugurated the Colosseum with a 100 days game that took the life of around 2,000 gladiators. It is estimated that during the 390 years that the Amphitheater were used for battles, around 400,000 died inside, and about 1,000,000 were killed.
In fact, the Colosseum was the reason for the complete disappearance of some species in North Africa, Hippos were completely wiped from the Nile river banks and North African Elephants were extinct, in order to entertain the Roman population.
The ticket for the Colosseum, is the same as the one mention above (see Palatine Hill), to buy the ticket, click here!
Located directly east of the Colosseum, there is a group of ruins that Rome is restoring at the moment, where it used to be one of the three most important gladiatorial schools of the Roman Empire.
Gladiators from all over the Empire used to come here to live, practice and prepare themselves for the games held in the Colosseum next door.
Nowadays it is still possible to recognize the barracks used by the gladiators and the areas where they used to practice. It is believed that there was an underground passage that linked the gladiatorial school with the Colosseum.
Today you can visit the ruins for free by walking alongside them on the streets, there is no much information in the place, however as Rome is investing in a restoration of the gladiatorial school, I believe soon it will be way easier to recognize the buildings.
Back in the Roman Empire times, forums were the heart of the city and daily life of its citizens. They were big rectangular plazas surrounded by important buildings such as government buildings, temples, and markets. It was here that people used to buy goods, watch public speeches, criminal trials and gossip around.
Inside the complex you will be able to see countless ruins, some of them are into pieces, but others are relatively well preserved, as it is the case of the Temple of Saturn, the Roman god associated with wealth, it was built in 497 BC and where the reserve of gold and silver of Rome were stored; The House of Vestals, located behind a circular building known as the Temple of Vestals, the house used to be the residence of the Vestals Virgins, venerated priestess; and Arch of Titus, built after the death of Emperor Titus to commemorate the victory over Jerusalem.
Another point of interest is the famous Via Sacra, which used to be the main street in Ancient Rome, linking Colosseum to Piazza del Campidoglio.
It is hard to understand nowadays the importance of the Roman Forum back in ancient Rome, but bear in mind that it was here that the citizens of Rome witnessed the funeral of Julius Cesar and the execution of Ciceros, to have an idea of the historical weight of this plaza.
The tickets for the Roman Forum is the same as for Palatine Hill and Colosseum, buy it here!
Located nowadays in the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the avenue that links the Colosseum to the Piazza Venezia, it is a complex of buildings known as the Trajan’s Market. It is a well-preserved ruin that despite the name, it was not limited to shops only.
The construction includes a covered market, front shops, and a residential apartment block. The products sold in the market would have come from all parts of the empire and would include fruits, vegetables, fish, wine, etc.
Although there is no much to see nowadays in this ruins, it is really beautiful and worths a short visit.
It had a capacity for around 30.000 spectators and after fire damage to the Colosseum, the Stadio di Domiziano held gladiator shows for a few years.
Today, Piazza Navona is probably the most famous piazza in the city, and one of the main monuments in Rome. But only a few people realize the historical value of this square.
Two other buildings were erected in this same site and the one that resisted until today was built in 125 CE during the reign of emperor Hadrian. Although we can’t assure the real function of the building, it is believed that the Pantheon was used as a sort of temple.
Accordingly to Pliny, a famous Roman author in the 1st century, inside the Pantheon, there were statues of the many Roman gods and famous Roman figures, including a statue of Venus wearing a pearl that was once owned by Cleopatra, Mars and Julius Cesar.
One of the reasons why the Pantheon might have survived in such a perfect state until our days is the fact that in an early period, around 608 CE, it was converted to the church of St. Mary of the Martyrs.
To get a guided tour in the Pantheon, buy your ticket here.
Castel Sant Angelo
Famous for being the refuge for popes in times of difficulties, as well as a prison and military base, Castel Sant Angelo is nowadays a museum of military history.
What most people don’t know is that the Castel Sant Angelo was actually built much earlier than the Catholic Roman period. It is also known as Hadrianeum and was erected to e the mausoleum of the emperor Hadrian, later it was used as the burial place for the Antonine emperors and then turned into a fortress.
Buy your ticket here for the Castel Sant Angelo.
Like many other cities, Rome had its own defensive wall, known as the Aurelian Walls, which is considered one of the oldest defensive walls still standing in the World. It was build in the 3rd century by Emperor Aurelian of Rome, in order to defend the city from the Germanic tribes.
The Aurelian Walls surrounded the entire ancient city of Rome, stretching across12 miles. All the famous tourist point in Rome nowadays are located inside these walls, including all the seven hills and famous neighborhoods like Trastevere.
The Appian Way
Äll roads lead to Rome” there it goes, another opportunity to insert popular saying. But the thing is, this saying was based on the Appian Way, by the fact that this was the only road leading to Rome from the south, all the other roads used to convert into the Appian Way, on its way to Rome.
The Appian Way can be considered Europe’s first highway and one of the oldest roads in the world. Built by the censor of Rome, Appius Claudius Caecus, in 312 B.C., the Appian Way used to link Rome to Brindisi, a city in the southern part of Italy, covering over 300 miles (563 km).
A great part of the road are well preserved and can be visited. Alongside the road, it is possible to see many tombs and beautiful ancient buildings. Most of the tombs, belong to important aka rich people from ancient Rome, being most of the merchants.
Their tombs were elaborated and decored with paintings and beautiful architecture, there are tours that offer a visit to some of the most relevant ones.
You can take a tour through the Via Appia to see the ancient ruins and the catacombs, click here to book the tour.