While Rome has modern charms galore, this read is for the historians at heart. The champions of Roman tourism are undoubtedly the buildings remaining from the Ancient Roman times. So much so, there are far too many to mention, but here is a rundown of the spots that are unmissable.
Rome has long been a city of sports, from the original Olympians to Giuseppe Festa, the local boy turned poker champion, to the daredevil chariot racers, to Pietro Mennea, the legendary sprinter. Rome is a hub for competitive sports, though perhaps none as frightening as the gladiators that made the Colosseum their home. Built of travertine, a form of limestone deposited from hot mineral springs and tuff and rock made from volcanic ash, even the blocks of this building came from fire. Under the instruction of Emperor Vespasian, who founded the Flavian dynasty, around 70 A.D. the imposing structure first erected. It is without a doubt the most famous piece of Roman architecture, and although, sometimes, it’s nice to stray from the beaten track, this monument is not one to miss.
The Temple of Jupiter
The Romans were famed for their incredible temples and their building to honor Jupiter is no exception. Still one of the most significant temples in Rome today, the Temple of Jupiter, situated on Capitoline Hill, was undisputedly the most significant temple of its time. Originally constructed in 509 B.C., it was burned down in 83 B.C. and reconstructed in a Greek style in 69 B.C. During its final reincarnation, Domitian used 12,000 units of gold to gild the roof tiles, one can only imagine the incredible luster this would’ve given under the Italian sun. Since then, the roof tiles have long since disappeared, allegedly taken by vandals during the sack of Rome. This building suffered the test of time, but nonetheless, the single enormous column that remains serves as a reminder of the vast porch it once was.
The Temple of Vesta
The stunning relic that is the Temple of Vesta is a perfect cylindrical building on the banks of the Tiber River is a popular tourist sight. However, its name is often disputed as it is not known for sure whom the temple was built: Vesta or Hercules. Originally made from stunning and expensive Pentelic marble favored by the Greek architects of the time was the exterior while the inner was mostly stucco or tufa. Today, no less than 10 of the columns to the north side are made from Luna marble and are thought replaced around 1 B.C. after a disaster struck the building. Either way, this beautiful example of Eastern Greek architecture is not one to miss, with unusually tall and slim columns of more than 10 meters in height.
The Baths of Diocletian The Baths of Diocletian took a backbreaking eight years to complete. Spanning 120,000 square meters, they are the largest public baths in Rome. The building itself is made from bricks, individually coated in marble. Today, visitors still come by to take in the incredible vaulted ceilings and complex mosaics, though they must enter through the museum. If you happen to be in Rome on the first Sunday of the month, then the entry is free. Although if you’re not, it’s still well worth exploring — it could be the best 10 euros you ever spend! As well as the building above ground, visitors can explore the tombs — often the best parts of Ancient Rome are seen underground!
The Theatre of Marcellus Built in 1 B.C., the Theatre of Marcellus is often credited with inspiring the design of the Colosseum, and it’s not hard to see why as its intricate facade of arches is quite similar in appearance. The theatre held around 20,000 spectators in its prime, who would have viewed poetry recitals and theatre, but as the gladiators of the Colosseum grew in popularity, the theatre fell into relative disuse. This lack of popularity sadly led to the raw materials from the theatre being repurposed into building blocks for the Pons Cestius — an arch bridge spanning from the eastern bank of the Tiber River to Tiber Island.