One of the largest and most impressive Roman thermae
The Ancient Romans were somewhat obsessed with the terme. These were the places to socialize, relax, and take care of your body – and even the poorest people could access them. It would be an understatement to say they were a big part of Roman life and culture.
The Baths of Caracalla stand as a testament to Rome’s grandeur, ranking among the largest thermae constructed in antiquity.
Today, in a brilliant collaborative effort led by the Soprintendenza Speciale of Rome and CoopCulture, visitors can don a visor and embark on a time-traveling journey, experiencing the Baths as they once were.
History of the Baths of Caracalla
The construction of the Baths of Caracalla commenced under the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus in AD 206 and reached completion in 216 by his son, Emperor Caracalla. This architectural marvel was designed to host approximately 1,600 bathers. The allure of the Baths of Caracalla endured for centuries, remaining in active use until the 6th century.
In a span from 1824 through the 1990s, a dedicated effort of systematic excavation work revealed the grandeur and splendor of this historical complex.
The stunning architecture of the terme now serve as inspiration for many landmarks around the world, such as Chicago Union Station and New York City’s original Pennsylvania Station. The baths were once full of statues which are now either lost, repurposed long ago or sent away to places like the Archaeological Museum of Naples.
And the structures aren’t just aesthetically pleasing — they’re also a testament to the scientific and mathematical knowledge of the ancient world. The buildings were specifically designed to manipulate sunlight and turn regular baths into soothing hot tubs. Each room had a purpose: there was the laconica, which had steam baths; the frigidarium, which had freezing cold water; the caldarium, which had extremely hot water; the tepidarium, a transitional space between rooms; and there was even the Mithraeum, a whole sanctuary dedicated to the ancient deity Mithras.
However, the ancient Romans also knew how to have a bit of fun. The Baths were a popular venue for playing tabulae lusoriae, or board games.
Natural Thermal Baths Near Rome
Ancient and Modern Art
Our modern bathroom tiles are nothing compared to the palestrae mosaics which once lined two whole floors of the Baths. These stunning mosaics represent the most important Roman mosaics in terms of the quantity and quality in which they’re preserved. Closely look at their colors, from the white to the yellow and red, you’ll be surprised to learn that only the white mosaics were from Italy, the rest of them came from all corners of the Roman Empire.
Today, the Baths of Caracalla also serve as a captivating venue for contemporary art exhibitions. Currently on display right outside the baths is Michelangelo Pistoletto’s The Third Paradise, a swirling arrangement of broken columns and rock.
Another current exhibit, Letizia Battaglia: Senza Fine, shows fifty years of the titular photographer’s work. Visitors can go inside the baths and see supersized copies of her skillful, socially-conscious black-and-white photos. The exhibition runs until November 11, 2023.
Imagine if you could go back in time and visit these baths – walk through the locker rooms, admire the pools, and gaze at the gyms and the Frigidarium and Calidarium – wouldn’t that be something?
But what if I told you you wouldn’t have to imagine how these baths looked? What if I told you you’d only have to put on a pair of goggles to travel back in time to 216 AD, to when the notorious Emperor Caracalla from the Severi dynasty inaugurated the Baths of Caracalla – “the baths of the people”?
Thanks to the Sopraintendenza Speciale of Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio of Rome, there aren’t any time travelling barriers, this time. The Baths of Caracalla are the first great Italian archeological site entirely seen in 4D, and the only monumental baths of Ancient Rome to have maintained their architectural structure in such a complete and preserved from.
Just put on your pair of goggles, select the area you want to see and buckle up – you’ll be caught up in a world between physical and virtual reality, allowing you to go on a journey back in time through the fourth dimension. It’s called augmented reality, and thanks to geo-referencing and orientation systems, visitors have the possibility to continuously compare what they see around them to the reconstruction of the baths in 4D.
The 4D audio-video-guide is available in Italian, English, French, Spanish and German.
If you’re a night owl, you’ll want to take an evening tour of the Baths of Caracalla, available on select days until October 26, 2023. This moonlit tour can be unguided, which allows you to go through the undergrounds and the Mithraeum with a staff chaperone, or guided, which allows you to see more of the Baths, including the gymnasium, natatio (swimming pool), frigidarium and mosaics.
Whichever tour you select, the Baths come alive in a whole new light during these evening excursions, offering a memorable and atmospheric experience that’s not to be missed.
Opera at the Baths of Caracalla
Every summer, the Baths of Caracalla come alive with the enchanting melodies and performances of the Festival di Caracalla, a months-long celebration of music, opera, and dance organized by Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera. This historical venue provides a truly unique and extraordinary setting for this festival, infusing ancient grandeur with the magic of live performances.
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
January 1 to February 28
9am – 4:30pm
March 1 to last Saturday of March
9am – 5:30pm
August 1 to 31
9am – 7:15pm
September 1 to 30
9am – 7pm
October 1 to last Saturday of October
9am – 6:30pm
last Sunday of October to December 31
9am – 4:30pm
Full price: €8; Reduced: €2
Tickets for special experiences:
4D guide: €17 full price; €12 reduced
Unguided night tour: €8 (14 & 28 September, 26 October); Guided night tour: €20 (21 & 30 September, 5-12-19-20 October)
Tickets are completely free — no additional charges — on the first Sunday of each month; simply go up to the cash desk and collect your ticket there.