Top Ten Ancient Ruins of Rome, Italy

Ancient Ruins of Rome

Though many travelers like to get off the beaten track, avoiding the sights that attract hordes of tourists, sometimes there's a good reason everyone visits a place—and perhaps you should too. With that in mind, here are ten places in Rome, Italy that are well worth seeing. When you're planning your trip to Rome, give yourself time for these ancient highlights!

Rome's Ancient Ruins

Roman forum. Photo by kerryvaughan (flickr)
Roman forum. Photo by kerryvaughan (flickr)
Roman Coliseum.  Photo by David Paul Ohmer (flickr)
Roman Coliseum. Photo by David Paul Ohmer (flickr)

Monuments of Rome

  • Watching Ben Hur on television will never be the same once you've stepped inside the Colosseum, Rome's enormous amphitheater, that held up to 55,000 people. It was begun by the Emperor Vespasian in A.D. 70, and was the scene of hundreds of bloody gladiator and wild animal fights.

    Though men no longer battle for their lives at the Colosseum, you'll find some dressed in period costumes as you walk between the Colosseum and the nearby Arch of Constantine, which was built in A.D. 315. If you can, visit on a Sunday, as the Via dei Fori Imperiali leading to the Colosseum is closed to traffic. Mind you, ticket lines can be long, so try to buy your ticket elsewhere. You can get a ticket at the forum or Palatine that’s also good for the Colosseum, and save yourself some line-up time..
  • Rome's Pantheon (the temple of all the gods) was built by Emperor Hadrian in 118 - 125 AD, after the previous structure built by Agrippa was destroyed. Unlike most of the ancient Roman temples, this one retains much of its original decoration, and it’s stunning to see how the Roman temples really looked in their heyday.

    The reason is that in the 7th century, the pantheon was converted to a church by early Christians (hence, it's also known as Chiesa di Santa Maria ad Martyres). The church is still active today, and if you're lucky, you'll see an Italian couple tie the knot, as it's a popular place for weddings. If you’re not getting married, go inside anyway and check out its dome, not just because it's free, but because it's spectacular and because it's ancient Rome's best preserved and most complete building. Michelangelo spent a lot of time here studying the Pantheon's dome before starting work on St. Peter's Basilica. Perhaps his muse is still hanging around.

Pantheon and Ancient Ruins

Trajan's Market

Trajan's Markets. Photo by Dave Hamster (flickr)
Trajan's Markets. Photo by Dave Hamster (flickr)
The Appian Way. Photo by Phil Wiffen (flickr)
The Appian Way. Photo by Phil Wiffen (flickr)
Ostia Antica, Castello di Giulio II at sunset. Photo by foodriver (flickr)
Ostia Antica, Castello di Giulio II at sunset. Photo by foodriver (flickr)

Rome's ancient business center

  • You'll need at least two hours to wander about the ancient Roman Forum, which is an immense complex of crumbling temples, ruined basilicas, and fallen arches. The forum, which was once marshland, served as Rome's ceremonial, legal, social, and business center, as well as a marketplace. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Forum was abandoned and forgotten. In the Middle Ages, it was used as a cattle pasture. Thankfully, it was eventually unearthed so that tourists everywhere would have this major historic site to visit.
  • The world's oldest shopping mall is in Rome, though it’s no longer open for business. The shops (about 150 of them) in Trajan's Market were built in a multi-level structure with delicate marble floors. The stores, which lined the walls on two floors, probably sold oil, wine, seafood, groceries, and fruits and vegetables. The Trajan Market is most definitely the ancient equivalent of today’s modern shopping center, though hopefully, without the mall rats. Trajan's Market is at Via dei Fori Imperiali and Via Quattro Novembre, and is closed on Mondays.
  • The Via Appia (The Appian Way), once the major road that lead to ancient Rome, is now a 38-mile long archaeological park brimming with ruins of tombs and monuments. The road went south from the Servian Wall in Rome to Capua and passed through Appii Forum and Terracina. It was later extended to Brundisium, now called Brindisi. The Appian Way was more than 330 miles long and was the main route to Greece. Closer to Rome, the road was lined with tombs, which visitors can still see today.
  • The ruins of the ancient Rome port of Ostia Antica, accessible from Rome by public transportation (Metro Line B to Magliana, then the Ostia Lido train), are well worth the trek. Give yourself at least half a day to roam the old streets, ancient docks, warehouses, mansions, shops, and baths. Legend has it, Ostia was founded by Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, in the 7th century B.C. Although it was probably founded for the sole purpose of military defense, the port eventually became a very important commercial harbor. Ostia was abandoned in the 9th century after the fall of the Empire, thanks to the repeated invasions and sackings by Arab pirates.

Whether you have time to see all of these ancient ruins or just a few, they can to add another fascinating dimension to your visit. You're sure to end up with wonderful memories of your trip to Rome, Italy.

Roman Baths

The Baths of Caracalla. The Romans took their baths seriously! Photo by Patrick Denker (flickr)
The Baths of Caracalla. The Romans took their baths seriously! Photo by Patrick Denker (flickr)
  • For a long time, the Capitoline Hill—the highest and rockiest hill in Rome—was the defensive center of Rome. It was also a place where many Roman criminals met their maker. The western side of the hill, known as the Tarpeian Rock, was a place where criminals often were thrown off (instead of being crucified or burned at the stake).

    The United States of America's Senate and House of Representatives took its name from Capitoline Hill (Capital Hill), but thankfully, did not adopt Rome's ways when it came to capital punishment. Capitoline Hill also boasts two of the world's oldest public museums (The Capitoline Museums)—the Palazzo Nuovo, which houses Greek and Roman sculptures; and the Palazzo dei Conservatori, which has numerous art galleries, sculptures, and frescoes. One ticket provides admission to both.
  • The Romans were very clean people, at least, that's what you'd think considering all the bath houses they built (more than 50 in imperial Rome itself!). The Baths of Caracalla were used from the 3rd to 6th century AD. Bathing was a social event for ancient Romans, who weren't shy, as the baths held up to 1600 bathers at a time.

    A typical bath started with a dip in the cold frigidarium, then a lukewarm bath in the tepidarium, followed by a hot soak in the calidarium, and finally, finished off with a swim in the natatio, an outdoor swimming pool. The baths, which used an estimated 15-20,000 cubic meters of water per day, had other amenities—a gym, art galleries, gardens, and shops selling food and drinks.
  • Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) consists of twenty-eight white marble steps located in a building that incorporates part of the old Lateran Palace. Supposedly, these steps (brought to Italy in 326 A.D.) are the very same steps Christ walked on during his Passion. The Scala Sancta is now encased in protective wood boards and flanked by four other stairs, two on each side, for common use, since the Holy Stairs may only be ascended on the knees, a practice used by pilgrims and the faithful, especially on Fridays and during Lent.
  • Villa Celimontana (formerly Villa Mattei) is a public park in Rome that dates back to the sixteenth century. Originally, the Villa was a vineyard that was purchased by the Mattei family who redesigned its gardens. Visitors today will find ancient marble and an obelisk from the time of Egypt's Ramses II era. Various foreigners bought and sold the property over the years, and in 1918, it was confiscated by the Italian state. Baron Riccardo Hoffmann, who was the Villa's last owner, expanded the gardens and added a small Neo-Gothic Temple that currently houses the Italian Geographic Society.

Explore the Ancient Ruins of Rome

show route and directions
A markerColosseum, Rome -
Piazza del Colosseo, Rome, Italy
[get directions]

B markerPantheon, Rome -
Fontana del Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda, 64, 00186 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

C markerRoman Forum, Rome -
Forum of Caesar, Via dei Fori Imperiali, 00186 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

D markerTrajan, Rome -
Trajan's Column, Via dei Fori Imperiali, 00187 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

E markerThe Baths of Caracalla -
Baths of Caracalla, Terme di Caracalla, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 52, 00153 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

F markerScala Santa -
Scala Santa, Via Domenico Fontana, 00185 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

G markerVilla Celimontana, Rome -
Villa Celimontana, Via della Navicella, 12, 00184 Rome, Italy
[get directions]

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Comments? 5 comments

Charles 6 years ago

Your ranking is very interesting. Please submit your ranking to my website and you can link back to the original article

knell63 profile image

knell63 6 years ago from Umbria, Italy

Hi Happy Explorer, great hub, the scale of all the old buildings in Rome is just something you have to experience for yourself up close.

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

knell63 - Thanks! You're right - pictures just can't do it justice. It's different being there. Something like the Baths of Caracalla - so huge, it's amazing!

tinaweha profile image

tinaweha 5 years ago from Seattle (and the world)

The Pantheon is the coolest thing in Rome.

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Right on tinaweha! 8-)

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