Ancient Rome, Rome
Insula Romana is a building (Roman block) dating back to the 2nd century AD, at the base of the Capitoline Hill and close to the basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. The building, formerly five or six floors high, is an testimony of the extensive city planning in Rome during imperial age. It was a kind of apartment building that housed most of the urban citizen population of ancient Rome, including ordinary people of lower or middle class status (so-called plebs) and all but the wealthiest from the upper middle class (the equites). The traditional elite and the very wealthy lived in "domus", large single-family residences.
The ground level floor of the "insula" (island) was used for "tabernae" - single-room shops with a wooden attic for storage and had a wide doorway. Shops and the living space upstairs had running water and sanitation, because of safety issues and extra flights of stairs, the uppermost floors were the least desirable and thus the cheapest to rent. Often those floors were without heating, running water or lavatories which meant their occupants had to use Rome's extensive system of public restrooms (latrinae). Because of the danger of fire and collaps, the height of the insula .....
I've passed through Termini station many, many times on my visits to Rome but it was only on this last visit that I spotted a *huge* chunk of Roman wall standing near the bus station area.
I originally made this tip thinking the chunk was part of the Aurelian Walls ( built between 271 and 275AD, enclosing all of Rome's seven hills as well as what is now Trastevere) but it seems I was wrong. I'm told it is part of the Servian Wall, dating from the 4th century AD (300s) and constructed from blocks of tufa..
The whole bus station is undergoing major building work and refurbishment (partly linked, I think, to the new Metro line which is under construction). So I suspect this bit of wall simply hasn't been so easily visible before.
Anyway,. it's worth having a look if you are in or near Termini station (as you almost certainly will be at some point during your stay). Go out through the main station concourse, where the ticket office is, and turn to your right...you can't miss the wall.
This is a truly amazing ancient Roman sight/site...a vast mountain created from the billions of olive oil amphorae which were thrown away during Rome's ancient times.
I had to see it at least once, just to get a feel for its size. And it is truly enormous, with a circumference of almost a kilometre and a height of 35 metres (probably higher in ancient times).
And it was not constructed simply by chucking the broken amphorae in a heap at random. This was organised building, with shards were carefully layered, terraces created with retaining walls (made from intact amphorae). When it came to building, the Romans knew what they were doing!
The site was no longer used as a dump from around 260AD, and in the subsequent centuries it simply remained pretty much a wasteland, although jousts and tournaments were held on it in Medieval times. Caves were excavated into it for wine storage purposes and (I suspect) many of those caves are still part of the various premises which line its base today.
I'd have loved to explore the mound properly but the gated entrance was firmly locked. It is, after all, a major archaeological site and I suspect the authorities have become concerned at its use for other, less appropriate purposes. But even if you can't walk up and explore (amphorae shards are still visible through the covering of vegetation and soil) you cannot but be amazed by the sheer size of Monte Testaccio, and it is worth a visit for that reason alone.
You can see Monte Testaccio from Via Nicola Zabaglia, or walk around its base on Via di Monte Testaccio. Take the Metro to Piramide then cross the busy roads and walk along Viale di Campo Boario, with the pyramid of Cestius behind you, to reach Via Nicola Zabaglia.
I first saw this rather wonderful (and somewhat exotic) Roman site on my second visit to Rome, when I was making my way to Ostia Antica. The nearby Metro station is, of course, called 'Piramide'.
I returned in July 2012 to have a proper look at it.
The pyramid of Gaius Cestius is actually his tomb, standing at the junction of two ancient Roman roads. It was forbidden to bury the dead within the walls of any Roman setllement (except for babes under 10 days old), so the approach roads to all towns and cities were lined with tombs.
The rich, of course, liked to ensure that their tombs were magnificent enough to be noticed by travellers. And Gaius Cestius' pyramid is certainly a impressive. It was built 12-18BC, not of stone blocks (which is what it looks like) but of brick, faced with concrete and then faced again with marble slabs. Each side of the square base measures almost 30m and the whole structure is around 37m high.
Gaius Cestius was a magistrate in ancient Rome and, on his death, his will freed all his slaves. It was his slaves who raised the pyramid to mark his burial spot.
There is a burial vault inside, although it was robbed in ancient times, and frescoes. The pyramid is not generally accessible to the public, although my guidebook says it is open on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.
The pyramid was built into the Aurelian Walls (in the 200s AD): you can still see lengthy chunks of those walls in this area.
For centuries, Medieval Romans thought the pyramid was the tomb of Remus (joint founder, with his brother Romulus, of the city) but investigations in the 1660s (courtesy of Pope Alexander Vll) revealed its inscriptions.
If you have time to spare, or if you are on your way to Ostia Antica, it's worth crossing the busy roads to get a closer look at Cestius' tomb. It is just as impressive now as it must have been when first constructed.
“Through this sign, you shall conquer.”
— the prophecy, accompanying a crucifix, which Constantine saw in sky as he and his army rode to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge
Bridging the River Tiber, Ponte Milvio (Milvian Bridge) saw history made when Constantine and Maxentius battled for the position of emperor of Rome on 28.October.312. Constantine won, believing in part that the new Christian God blessed his victory. First he stopped persecution of Christians; then, he made Christianity the state religion.
At the time the area around the bridge was far outside the city center. Still outside the historic center, to the north, the bridge is close to Foro Italico, the sports center where soccer, track & field, tennis, swimming, etc. competitions are held. See my Off-the-Beaten Path Tips “Foro Italico : Stadio dei Marmi” and “Foro Italico : Black + White Mosaics” for a look at parts of the stadium grounds and the arenas.
A bridge has stood here since the first built was built in 206 BC. Renovated or rebuilt through to the 20th century, the bridge took on a romantic air in 2006 when young couples, to prove their love for each other, put a padlock on one of the bridge’s lampposts, then tossing the key into the River Tiber. Six months later when the lamppost fell, lovers began to use other stationary objects, including trashcans and traffic signposts for their ritual.
One of the best preserved ancient structures in Rome, the Pyramid of Caius Cestius was built in 12 BC as a tomb for Caius Cestius. It was modelled after pyramid tombs in Nubia, which was attacked by Rome in 23 BC, and its construction came at a time when the influence of Ancient Egyptian culture on Rome had reached its peak. The pyramid was later incorporated into the Aurelian Wall, now at Piazza di Porta San Paolo, south of the centre of Rome (in Testaccio/Ostiense).
Here, you can plan to spend a whole day. You'll probably discover many places that make you return.
Easy to reach, take La Metropolitana to Piramide. Admire the pyramide of Caio Cestio.
See the Cimetero acattolico di Roma (Non-Catholic Cemetary for Foreigners in Testaccio, Rome) aka Protestant Cemetary. Also contains the graves of Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and others. A quiet, beautiful, reverential place, with a profound spiritual vibe.
Cross over from the Piramide and walk along the Aurelian Wall on viale del Campo Boario. There's a small cemetary there too, the Rome War Cemetary (1939-1945) that's very moving.
Wander through the plain streets (this is a popular neighbourhood, authentic and lively.) Reach the wonderful covered market, buy some fresh fruits for next to nothing and everything else your heart desires. Lunch in one of the many good restaurants.
The Via Appia was the main Roman highway that went south towards Naples. Outside the city limits, Romans buried their dead (as required by law), so the Via Appia collected a lot of tombs.
On Sundays, Romans since ancient times have ridden out the Via Appia for a pleasant drive and a picnic among the tombs - it's not macabre, it's actually very pretty.
The attached photo is of the Via Appia in one of the sections that has been paved over with asphalt. Note that there are sections that still have the original Roman stones.
Much of this area is now a park. See http://www.parcoappiaantica.org/en/default.asp for a great website in English for the park that contains monuments, catacombs, and the Via Appia Antica.
You will see that on Sundays and holidays, that the park is shut down to traffic and becomes a giant pedestrian zone, so I would say that walking on those days is not only safe, but encouraged.
This grand tomb was used as a fortress by the Caetani family in the early 14th century. It was built way ealier for Cecilia Metella. Het father and husband were very rich, and were thus able to built such a big tomb for her. Hardly anything is known about Cecilia though.
Open: Tue-Sat 9:00-18:00 (to 16:00 Nov-Mar), Sun-Mon 9:00-13:00
Had quite a bit of laughter at the Mouth of Truth. One sky-larker pretended to be really frightened that he might have been going to lose his hand.................he had everyone waiting in stitches while he put his hand in and hurriedly pulled it out repeatedly.
Don't know whether this young lady felt nervous about it or not really.
Have you ever wondered what it is or what it was used for?
The Temple of Minerva Medica now in ruins and no longer open to the public even on a good day, has the most unusual feel to it .
I took quite a few photo's of it but never did find out why I was getting the unusual feel.........maybe the history will tell you.
The New Museo dell'Ara Pacis opened in 2006. It's at Lungotevere in Augusta, corner of via Tomacelli. To help you situate yourself right off the bat, it's beside the Mausoleum di Augusto by the Tiber. The general area would be Metro Spagna.
I was attracted to it by a giant poster advertising an exhibition on Fabrizio de André, a poet and chansonnier from Genoa, whose Creuza de mä album accompanied me throughout my year in China and made me feel as though I was home... and in Genoa all at the same time.
I was in fact most attracted to this intriguing, scaled contemporary building by the Tiber. And happy that I went in, the visit is very worthwhile!
I discovered the Ara Pacis inside, an classical era altar to Peace celebrating the Emperor Augustus, ensconced in a spatial and light design that took my breath away with its majesty and splendour. Very powerful monument, in a contemporary setting (at last!)
The architecture is by Richard Meier, an American architect reputed for his museums. The Ara Pacis was preserved inside the construction. Open environment, joined to neo-classic churches in front by a wide staircase where passers-by sit and rest their feet. Mostly, the place attracts a vibrant crowd, and inside too. Outside, there is a fountain to remind us of Porto di Ripetta, a former port in Rome, closed down by the construction of Ponte Cavour nearby.
There is also a column measuring from the Ara the ssme distance which separated it from the obelisk of the Great Meridian, in the time of August.
From the Museum terrace, there's a view on the Mausoleum of August. See also the remains of the Muro delle Res Gestae.
The marble is the same as that used by Richard Meier for the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The system was carefully engineered to maintain an ideal microclimate inside -- and I can attest to a most comfortable, pleasant visit.
Near the entrance, a small library, inviting and filled with light. It has a text of the Res Gestae & many works on classic architecture & Roman history. Mainly, it offers books on contemporary architecture & modern design.
While I was there in May, there was a controversy over the building's location in the Baroque historical centre of Rome, and talk of reconstructing it elsewhere. Hopefully this has quieted down and the high rate of support for the Museum by the population will allow it to remain where it stands.
When you visit the Capitoline Museums, take the underground passageway between Palazzo Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo. Admire the interesting fragments with inscriptions along the tunnel, but also be sure to take the side stairs and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Roman Forum. You are standing in one of the arches of the Tabularium, which is where the ancient Romans kept their official records. Look to the right and see the Temple of Vespasian and the Temple of Saturn. To the left you will see the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Church of Santi Luca e Martina. We were lucky enough to visit at dusk and get a couple of reasonable time exposures that show off the dramatic monuments.
On the Palatine hill, next to Casa di Augusto
Capanne di Romolo, or 'the House of Romulus', if the place, where, according to the legends, Remus and Romulus where brought up. While it would be difficult to establish who exactly did the house belong to, according to archaeologists there was a hut on the spot in 9th century BC, so who knows?
This ancient Monument is often never seen by many Tourists because it is not on the main Tourist Routes. It is really easy to find and worth a quick look. Just get off the Metro at the Piramide stop and there it is outside! There is a theory that it has survived because it became part of the Aurelian Walls. It is just to the right of the Porto San Paulo gate, which is the start of the Via Ostiense route.
The Pyramid is the tomb of Caius Cestius, Roman Praetor, tribune and wealthy man. It was built in the year 12 A.D. in about 300 days. It stands 27 meters high and the east side is inscribed with part of his will outlining which relatives benefited from his death. It is amazing that this monument was not looted over the years for building materials. Many other ancient monuments were looted as Rome expanded. It is made from brick and covered in marble.
Directions: Metro Stop Piramide on Linnea (Metro) 'B'
You can't miss it!