A guide to Ancient Rome

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Rome was once the bustling central hub of the Roman Empire, a city of immeasurable importance and beauty. Today it’s one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, with multiple attractions and preserved ruins to visit.

Be sure to plan ahead for your trip to Rome. Check expenses of hotel accommodation in the city, check which attractions are wheelchair-accessible if applicable, and in order to save time bear in mind that many tours can be booked in advance. This guide to Ancient Rome will help you make the most of your time in one of the most timeless cities in the world, so here are some of the most popular places to visit here, and their official websites which can give you more information.

Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica was the harbour city of Rome in ancient times. Kept well preserved and well presented (and with modern amenities), it is considered a bit of a hidden gem. Like Pompeii, the excavated city is now set up to give visitors a snapshot of what day-to-day life was like for people of the time period. Ostia therefore houses not only mosaics and marble, but also the preserved apartments of the Roman dock workers – and even the latrines they would have used.

Buy a guidebook or hire a tour guide to really get the most out of the experience, and wear shoes that are easy to walk in.

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The Colosseum

Perhaps Rome’s best-known attraction and certainly the most busy, the Colosseum is a breathtaking sight and a source of never-ending fascination for tourists to Rome. Built in 70-80 AD and still standing today, it has a long and bloody history of executions, animal maulings, and gladiator battles to the death.

True to its original purpose (sort of), the Colosseum is still used for events and ceremonies, and there is a museum dedicated to the god Eros on the upper floor. You can also visit the rooms and passages in which gladiators prepared for battle.

The Colosseum’s official website

San Clemente

The Basilica of St Clemente is a Roman Catholic minor basilica dedicated to Pope Clement I, a 1st-century Christian convert. The building as it is has many layers of history: it has been a Roman industrial building (possibly an imperial mint), a sanctuary of the Cult Of Mithras, a church, and a second church that became one of the most richly adorned in Rome.

These days it’s a place of great historical interest and the fifth most popular attraction in the city. All the layers of San Clemente can be explored, and all of them contain treasures that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.

San Clemente’s virtual tour

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Roman Forum

Once the beating heart of Roman life – it was the setting for everything from public speeches to prostitution – the remains of the Roman forum now attract over four million sightseers every year. It houses, among other things, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Saturn, and the Rostrum, where Mark Anthony made his famous speech in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. You can book an English-language tour for an extra five euros.

The Vatican Museums

Founded in the sixteenth century, these museums house countless works of art by countless artists, including Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. But arguably the main attraction is the Sistine Chapel, featuring Michelangelo’s iconic and stunningly beautiful frescoes.

The Museums are usually busy and crowded but the general consensus is that it’s still very much worth it. If you need a wheelchair, they are available for free on presenting a valid identity document. Also, bear in mind that due to much of the Museums being a sacred place, only appropriate clothing is allowed (no miniskirts, shirts, hats or sleeveless tops) and no flash photography.

Official website of the Vatican Museums

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Hadrian’s Villa

The Villa Adriana (its official name) is located in Tivoli, and was constructed as a retreat from Rome for Emperor Hadrian, the 14th Emperor of the Roman Empire. It was obviously beautiful in its heyday, and is still beautiful today, albeit in a different way.

The most important buildings of the complex – including the Maritime Theatre and the rooms in which Hadrian himself practised art and philosophy – are signposted, and guided tours are available.

Official website of Hadrian’s Villa (in Italian)

Of course, part of the attraction of Rome is the exploration – these are just some of the most popular of the many, many things it has to offer. But whatever you choose to do in Rome, you’ll leave it feeling like a part of human history.

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