Being the mains attractions in Rome alongside Colosseum, anyone who visits the city will want to see the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Although today they are more like a pile of ruins, these two ancient sites help to tell the history of ancient Rome, since they were the center of the daily life of the Roman Empire.
I love history, so I can assure you that the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill were one of the highlights of my visit to the eternal city. I love ruins, and although most of the buildings here are, unfortunately, in a bad condition, some of them being just piles of rocks, they still help you understand and picture how life was back in ancient times.
Guide for the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Why Visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill?
Well, I guess I need to ask you why not visit the Forum and Palatine Hill? These two locations hold a significant spot in Rome’s history. They both were major players in the formation of Rome and its imperial lineage.
The Roman Forum and Palatine hill get overshadowed by their more famous neighbor the Colosseum. Many people choose to miss these two in favor of seeing a more noticeable attraction. I really encourage you to make time to see all three of these great monuments.
Take a look in the list of the best Roman Monuments to visit in Rome
Basic Information about the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
There are plenty of tours available to see all three attractions. I suggest you get one that lets you have two days to see it all. Here is my first real tip, use the two days! Do not try to see all three in one day, you will regret it.
Use one day to see the Colosseum and the second day to see the Forum and Palatine Hill. You will get way more value for your money. Some offer a guided tour while others allow you to see it all on your own.
Take the time to really read the description, as it will give you a much more immersive experience, some buildings are just ruins by now and it is hard to have a good idea of the extension of the area, but with the description and/or explanations of your guide, you will have enough information to map it on your mind.
I really recommend that you book your ticket online, to skip getting in line at the Colosseum and save yourself time. However if for some reason you miss the chance of buying your ticket prior to your visit, start your tour at Palatine Hill and get your tickets there, the lines are smaller and faster.
All these monuments open at 8:30 am and close at 7 pm. Now, I know that sounds like a lot of time but all three have so much to see and digest that you really need that second day.
You can check this map, to have an idea of all the ruins you can visit around this are.
Just one of Rome’s seven hills but by far the most famous. This hill is known to be the home of Romulus and Remus, as according to the mythology, it was in this hill that the brothers were found by the she-wolf inside a cave called Lupercal.
Later, during the time of Augustus, the emperors and aristocrats made this hill the spot for their lavish villas.
Palatine Hill offers the most spectacular view over Rome and Circus Maximus. In the picture below, do you see the tents? That is where the chariot races were run, and this was the vantage point of the emperor.
Every turn has remnants of the past residents, you can see the leftover marble on what remains of the walls. Though it is very hard to visualize it in its heyday. If you try hard you can make out what once was a high noble location. What is left behind shows that every home was filled with luxurious we could only dream of.
Highlights at Palatine Hill
Palace of Domitian
This is the most the building that catches the first glimpse at Palatine hill. A massive palace divided into three sections, this allowed the owner to divide their business matters and social life. The private wing of the palace, known today was Domus Augustana follows adjacent to it, a beautiful garden is the following the format of a hippodrome.
House of Augustus
This is another good example of the rich architecture of ancient Rome, the house counts with amazing frescos, that despite the age, still preserves the details and bright colors.
Temple of Cybele
Also known as the Temple of Magna Mater (The Great Mother), was the biggest temple dedicated to this deity. The temple was built to house a black stone(symbolizing the goddess), the meteoric stone was brought to Rome in 204 BC from Pessinus in Asia Minor.
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was the main gathering plaza, located in the heart of ancient Rome, and was surrounded by numerous government buildings. The Forum and Palatine Hill were the go-to spots in ancient Rome, for political, social and religious purposes. The forum also held the market place where Romans came to shop.
The location chosen for the construction of the Roman forum has to do with the alliance made between Romulus, the first King f Rome, who controlled the Palatine Hill and his rival Titus Tatius, whose people occupied the Capitoline Hill.
Roman Forum is located in the middle of the two settlements, giving both people, access to the market and public plaza.
For a long time, this has been the most important plaza and only Forum of Rome, later though, others began to emerge throughout the city, most of them attending to specific needs, as specialized Forums for wine, vegetables, cattle, pork, and other products, surrounding the markets in these Forums, temples to deities associated to each product were also built.
It is hard to believe that where the Forum sat was once a swamp and burial ground. It was first developed in the 7th century. During its golden age, the Roman Forum was home to the ancient Rome’s most impressive temples and monuments.
After the fall of the Roman empire like most of Rome, it fell into disrepair and at one time was a cow pasture. Like all ancient sites in the eternal city, it was plundered for its marble, stone, and iron.
Very little is left of the beautiful marble facades or intricately designed homes. Still what is left can give you an inkling as to how marvelous this place once was. Still, the Forum is a peaceful place to visit even on busy days it is a relaxing spot.
Accordingly, to the legend, it was Romulus that turned Roman Forum into a peaceful and neutral meeting point for the population, after defeating his own brother Remus (hence becoming King) and starting an alliance with Titus Tatius, his rival.
For a better comprehension of your visit to the Roman Forum, I suggest you download this map. You will feel less loss among the ruins.
Highlights of Roman Forum
Temple of Saturn
The temple was firstly built to Jupiter, but later dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture, the temple is considered one of the earliest temples built in the Roman Forum. The temple was not only used for religious reasons but also worked as a bank, managing and storing the money of ancient Rome’s society. Today, only part of the base, the eight columns remain.
Arch of Titus
Built by Emperor Domitian, in honor of his brother Emperor Titus, the triumphal arch commemorates Rome’s victory over Jerusalem.
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
One of the most well-preserved buildings in the Roman Forum. Built-in honor of Emperor Antoninus Pius’s wife, Faustina the Elder. When Emperor Antoninus died, the temple was rededicated to both of them.
The Curia (Senate House)
Another well-preserved building, located next Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. This building was where the Senate used to meet to discuss administrative matters and take decisions about the Roman government. Later it was converted into a church.
Extensive Archeological Projects
Today both the Forum and Palatine Hill are historical archeological sites. You can see the ruins of the Flavian Palace and the Stadium of Domitian. The legendary Hut of Romulus is there to discover also. The remains of the House of Augustus and the House of Livia have recently been opened to the public.
Insider Tips for Visiting the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
• When you visit aim to do the Roman Forum during the hottest part of the day. You will find welcoming shade and free-flowing water fountains to refresh you.
• Pack a picnic lunch, both the Forum or Palatine Hill provide great locations for a picnic. Not to mention much-appreciated shade.
• To fully get the history of these two ancient monuments to try to go with a group tour. The tour guide I had was fantastic. He was a wealth of knowledge but also full of stories that brought the places to life.
•Book your tickets online to see the House of Augustus and the House of Livia. Many tourists visit the Forum and Palatine hill without even knowing these sites exist. Planning ahead will be your best tool.
•I suggest you go early in the morning so that you have a full day to see it all. Start with the House of Augustus and House of Livia, then move on to the Palatine Hill and lastly the Forum. Most public transportation goes to the Colosseum which is not far from the Forum or Palatine hill.
I firmly believe that no trip to Rome is complete without seeing the Forum and Palatine Hill. If you choose to skip these two attractions you are missing a large part of Roman history. Not to mention a great location to wander and relax.
Save a day and make sure you take the time to visit both of these sites. I doubt you will regret seeing them but I know you will regret it if you don’t.