Ever experienced the mystic romance of walking down ancient streets while admiring grandiose facades of 2000 year old buildings? If not, a stroll down the alleys in Roman Forum (Fora Romano) is tailor-made for you. From the remnants of the ancient buildings, visualize an established society with its courthouses, market place and religious hubs with the Colosseum in the backdrop.
Suggested Time Spent: 2-3 Hours | Admission: € 12 for Adults | Hours: 9AM – 7PM
As your journey to probably the oldest ruins in the city, begin walking west from Forum of Nerva on via dei Fori Imperialli. Looking east, you should be able to see a portion of the Colosseum. Even before you enter the Roman Forum, try taking a walk along the street with your view of the Foro di Nerva to the right. Walk straight up west towards the Campidoglio.
It is apt that diving into the ancient stories begin from the solemn Capitol, the acropolis of the ancient Rome. Up the stairs from the street level, you will enter the Piazza di Michaelangelo and a view of the equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The capitol building was actually used as a prison in the middle ages, but in 1500’s, Pope Paull III commissioned Michaelangelo to build the structure. Three palaces with very identical facades around the piazza (Palazzo Senatario, Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori mark the boundaries. Be sure to check out the balustrades with statues placed over the cornices all around.
Walk to the left of the twin statues (8 o’clock from the statue of Marcus Aurelis), for a view of the Roman forum from a higher vantage point in the Palatine Hill. From here you can see most of the major spots within and outside the Roman Forum including the Temple of Saturn, Foro di Cesar, Septimius Severus arch, etc. Numerous photos later, trace back the path to the street level and walk back to the entrance of Roman Forum.
This was the center of ancient Rome; it was the hub of political, commercial and religious activities back then. Take a right after entering the forum, and walk to the archaic black stone (Lapis Niger), the arch of Settimus Severius (built 203 A.D.). Like many others built in this era, this arch was to commemorate his win in the Parthians war. Check out the details in the outer flanks of the arch, possibly some narrative of the victorious but the artistry is phenomenal. Towards the foot of the capitoline hills, the remains of the Temple of Saturn stand upright. It was used to keep public treasury.
Looking away from the arch of Settimus Severius, on the left sits the most important building of that time, the Curia or the senate. It was the political center of ancient Rome. Next to the Curia, is the oldest Basilica (Basilica Emilia) of which only a few relics remain. From the arch, walk south towards the Temple of Antonius and Faustina which is one of the most preserved buildings. This was built in 141 A.D. in memory of Antonius’ wife, is now converted to a church. Placed on a high podium, the facade and the bronze door is one of the key marvels in the Roman Forum.
On the right you will find the remaining three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux. It was erected to commemorate the twin brothers’ key contributions in defeating the Etruscans and Latins. At the south end of the forum, closest to the Colosseum, you will find the simpler but elegant Arch of Titus, built in 81 A.D. Look underneath the arch for splendid relief showing the processing of bringing the spoils from Jerusalem.
- Although not as busy as the Colosseum, it is better to buy tickets online (combo of Roman Forum and Colosseum) to save time. There are discounted tickets and free entrance on the first Sunday of a month. Check out the details here.
- Guided tours are available, and are recommended as there are virtually no signage, especially in English. Smartphone apps like eTips can also be handy. We did not take a guide but followed the smartphone app guide; much cheaper but obviously not as entertaining as a human guide.
- Take time to learn a little bit about the forum and its buildings lest it becomes boring to walk around the ruins.
- If you are using a smartphone map, use the bolded location names in this page to navigate easily from point to point.