Relive the ancient splendours of the Circo Massimo through this 40-minute augmented and virtual reality experience
There is little left of the famous Circus Maximus, once the heart of Roman entertainment and a social hub for the city. But with the new Circo Maximo Experience, this is about to change – the cutting-edge project allows us to see into the past and experience Roman life at the famous arena, using interactive display technologies never before realized in an outdoor area of such large dimensions.
The immersive experience takes us on a journey through time, seeing the Circus Maximus evolve from the origins of Rome to the current day: from a simple green valley, to the area’s first primitive arena, to the splendour of Roman imperialism and beyond. Zeiss VR One Plus viewers with iPhone-type smartphones and stereo earphone systems create a truly unique experience, with reconstructions of every period overlapping with the view of the site as we see it now and bringing the famous ruins to life.
The journey starts with the Circus Maximus right at the beginning of its history, when it was just a field in the ancient Murcia Valley between Palatine Hill and Aventine Hill. This place strongly linked to the origins of the Eternal city and is said to be where the infamous Rape of the Sabines took place. Putting on the goggles, you’re immediately immersed in the surrounding, taking part in exchanges between local people and worshipping the goddesses Murcia and Ceres alongside the cults of the area.
We then move on to the transformations of the Circus from the first century BC to the first century AD, during the times of Giulio Cesare and Augusto, and on to the impressive Circus Maximus of the imperial age. We see the famous race track as it once was, from up high in the stands where the emperor sat to down on the benches with the locals, taking in the statues and monuments in the centre, many of which can still be found around Rome today.
One of the most striking aspects of the exhibition is the reconstruction of the ancient imposing Arch of Titus, dedicated in 81 AD from the Senate and the Roman people to the Emperor Flavius to celebrate the conquest of Jerusalem. Now reduced to chunks of marble strewn across the site’s floor, we see that it once stood about 20 meters high, a construction of unbelievable grandeur and expertise.
Continuing round the exhibition, one video shows us what happened to the area after the fall of the Romans, with some surprising details – from a milling area, to gas fields and even a Fascist party exhibition space, it has remained a constant presence throughout the city’s history.
The final step pulls it all together by plunging us straight into the middle of a chariot race, taking to the stands and cheering alongside the Romans. After being taken back in time to experience how exciting these ruins once were, taking off the AR glasses and seeing the site as it is now comes as a surprise – all the glamour and splendour of the Roman times vanishes, and we are reminded of the fall of the Roman Empire and how quickly fortunes can change. The new Circo Maximo Experience is a great way to bring that rich history back to life.
The 40-minute walking itinerary is available in eight languages (Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Japanese).
The eight stops are the following: the valley floor of the Circus in the archaic period, the Circus from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD, the Circus in the imperial period, the seating tiers (cavea), the Arch of Titus, the shops (tabernae), the Circus in the Middle Ages and in modern times and lastly, “A Day at the Circus”.
Circo Maximo Experience – Viale Aventino (Aventine)
September 1 – 30
Tuesday – Saturday 5pm – 8pm (Sep 1 – 12)
Tuesday – Saturday 4pm – 7pm (Sep 15– 30)
Closed on September 5th
“Circo Maximo Experience” (multimedia visit)
Family (2 adults + 2 kids under 18): €22