Enter the Colosseum, the Roman Forum & Palatine plus 7 new sites in Rome
As I shuffled around the Palatine Hill this past weekend, a new option for visitors to Rome as of April 21, 2018, I bumped into a young couple visiting from India who wanted to see inside the Temple of Romulus, (site 6) as I had just done. The young docent at the entrance politely told them they would have to buy a SUPER ticket to get inside, and as she explained the price structure and what was included, they asked if they could exchange their Palatine/Colosseum tickets. The SUPER offers more for a better price. They wished they had known about it! But exchanges are not easy to negotiate in a country that is convinced wine is the only commodity that should ever be returned.
Soon after, at the entrance to the Criptoportico Neroniano, (site 1) a long underground corridor with music and projections of art from the other SUPER sights, the next docent expressed great relief that I had the SUPER. “Thank goodness you have the right ticket!” It was only 10am, but she had already turned away many tourists who wanted entry, and she was tired of arguing and explaining.
Allora, what is this new SUPER ticket causing excitement and vexation on the Palatine Hill, and is it the right choice for you? SUPER stands for Seven Unique Places to Experience in Rome. For 18 euros, (13.50 for EU citizens between 18 and 25 years old), the SUPER ticket includes one entrance to the Colosseum, two entrances to the Roman Forum – Palatine, where seven historical sites can be accessed. The seven sites are the Criptoportico Neroniano, Museo Palatino, Aula Isiaca – Loggia Mattei, House of Augustus, House of Livia, Temple of Romulus and Santa Maria Antiqua. The ticket has to be used within two consecutive days.
The SUPER ticket makes six sites newly accessible to the public. Antiquity fans, pay attention! Santa Maria Antiqua and the Temple of Romulus used to be open only with guided tours or for temporary exhibitions; the houses of Augustus and Livia are newly reopened; and Loggia Mattei and Isiaca Hall are open for the first time.
In all seven SUPER sights, special attention has been given to multi-media curation, projections that retrace outlines of frescoes, fill in colors, atmospheric music, and the kind of narrative commentary that is immediately engaging, and doesn’t count on the visitor being an ‘expert’ already. This alone sets the experience apart from other tours.
Enter the cool rotunda of Santa Maria Antiqua, (site 7) and you are surrounded by monastic chants. In one corner of the temple, dedicated to medical saints, the light show highlights the surgical instruments they carried. Imagine a sick person who lived between the 6th and 9th centuries lying in this room, praying to the saints, the exhibit suggests. This kind of narrative tells the visitor not only what to focus on, but also how their ancient ancestors would have regarded the place. The fresco of Christian martyrs with their lower legs turning blue in cold water is still visible enough to communicate its dramatic story, even without a video projector.
In the subterranean den of what was once the reception room for The House of Augustus, (site 3), a projector paints the floor with light, showing what the mosaic tiling looked like at various points in time. The worn-away flooring becomes smooth and flat. For the somewhat weary tourist, the moving projections, dark rooms, and soothing music also has a restorative quality. Further down the corridor, the projector repaints a fresco of two-story home in perspective, highlighting the foreground and background.
The SUPER ticket has been offered for one month now, and there are a few kinks still to be ironed out. The most pressing is the tour schedule for the House of Augustus and the House of Livia. Visitors are only allowed inside on a tour; the timings of the tour are not online; some of the tours are private; not all are in English. In other words, your chances of arriving at the right time for a tour in your language are low. Both days that I visited, the only place where I could find tour times were on hand-written slips of paper in the pockets of the docents.
Not every site is open every day. The House of Augustus, House of Livia and Aula Isiaca are open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Sunday morning until 2 pm, while the Temple of Romulus, Santa Maria Antiqua are open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and Sunday afternoon after 2 pm. The reason for this is preservation – to limit their exposure, but the schedule requires an attention to detail that not every tourist is going to master.
Navigation is a challenge. When you buy the SUPER ticket, you are given a map with the sites highlighted, but once you’re inside, the only signs that indicate you’re in the right place are the ones at your destination. Looking for the House of Livia? You’ll see the sign once you are already there. Luckily, google maps knows where some of the sites are.
Finally, the SUPER ticket requires a certain level of physical endurance. Once you’re inside the Forum Palatine area, there are scarce snacks, bathrooms, or shady places to sit. A few vending machines sell coffee, soda, water, and snacks like chips or candy, and there are also a few fountains to refill a water bottle. But otherwise, the SUPER ticket only allows for two entrances into the Palatine complex. So pack some snacks, wear comfortable shoes, and stretch out those hamstrings before you set off. An early start helps to beat both crowds and the blazing Roman sunshine. Gates open at 9 am.
Parco archeologico del Colosseo
Mon, Wed, Fri 9am-6.30pm, Sun 9am-2pm (House of Augustus, House of Livia, Aula Isiaca)
Tue, Thur, Sat 9am-6.30pm, Sun 9am-2pm (Temple of Romolus, Santa Maria Antiqua, Oratory of Forty Martyrs and Domitian’s Ramp)
€13.50 – 18 (13.50 for EU citizens between 18 - 25)