Tradition tells us that Rome was founded on seven hills, with Romulus living on one of these hills, the Palatine Hill. When Hubby and I first arrived in Rome and stood upon our balcony from our hotel room overlooking the city, we looked out and tried to find these famed seven hills. We scanned the horizon and saw some larger hills (or small mountains) in the background; we counted and found at least seven so we assumed that those must be the Seven Hills of Rome. Oh – we were wrong! Little did we realize at the time that the Seven Hills of Rome were merely small hills within the ancient part of the city – and we climbed a number of them in the course of our week in Rome.
If you visit the Roman Forum and go to the top of the Palatine Hill, you are on top of one of the original seven hills – the one on which Romulus is said to have lived. At the other end of the Forum you can exit and climb up another of the hills – the Capitoline Hill with the current Capitoline Museum and nearby Vittorio Emanuele II monument that sits high on this hill and can be seen from all around the city.
The others are a bit harder to find – so I’ve included a map with the hills marked. As you are climbing up the streets in Rome, you just may be climbing up one of these original seven.
Essentially, the hills and a general location are:
Aventine Hill – next to the Tiber, southwest of the Palatine
Palatine Hill – part of the Roman Forum
Caelian Hill – east of the Palatine and Colosseum and west of St. John Lateran
Capitoline Hill – the west end of the Roman Forum and next to the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument
Esquline Hill – north and across the street from the Colosseum, southeast of San Pietro in Vincoli
Viminal Hill – the smallest of the hills, located by the Termini train station; at the top of this hill is the Ministry of Interior located in the palace of Viminale
Quirinal Hill – the northernmost of the seven hills; just east of the Trevi Fountain; the Palazzo del Quirinale is on this hill.
You will see (and maybe climb) other hills in Rome, such as the Vatican Hill, the Pincian Hill, and Janiculum Hill; but these are not part of the original Seven Hills of Rome.
Never miss to visit this place should you have enough time going around Rome. I suggest take the Archeobus from Termini Station (Pizza del Cinquecento) and book yourself to the next trip to Via Appia Antica. It will be a rolling trip (no stops with the guide, simply viewing while on the bus) with a bi-ligual guide (English and Italian) and you can hop on and hop off at Archeobus stops if you want to visit the museums-catacombs and the like. However, best suggested that you finish the trip (trip takes to an fro (Termini-Aquiducts-Termini) up to the Aquiducts and then hop off on your way back to sites you desire to visit. At the Roman aquiducts, you'll be given 5 minutes to get off the bus and take pictures.
The aquiducts are one of the best engineering works of the Romans that are worth a genius' mind. It used to be a water-system supplying the water needs of the Roman baths. Other than that, the place is also very, very scenic especially on a nice sunny day.
Ticket cost 8euros.
Who knew you could take a guided tour of the INSIDE of the Pyramid ?
VT friend Antonio Barbieri did!
We agreed to meet in front of the huge (36 meters) pyramid 15 minutes before the scheduled Saturday morning tour. Most guide books say you can’t visit the inside – but you can when the twice monthly tour is given.
To check for the next tour when you’re in town, buy the publication “Roma C’è” at newsstands. Unfortunately, the listings are mostly in Italian – so ask your hotel to make a reservation for you. The tour of the Pyramid was given only in Italian, but interestingly enough, 2/3rds of the visitors in our group were not native speakers of Italian. The tour guide kindly spoke very slowly for us!
After the Roman conquest of Egypt, in 30BC during the reign of Augustus, tourism boomed. Rich Roman tourists were so impressed with the pyramids as burial monuments, several were built in Rome, but only this one survives. It was built, according to the Latin inscription on this marble-clad tomb, in just 330 days. Not much is known about Cestius, but the inscription says he was a praetor (magistrate).
Entrance to the burial chamber requires stooping a bit through a low door and tunnel. Like its much larger Egyptian cousins, this pyramid was broken into and robbed. The chamber is about 6 meters by 4 meters by 5 meters high. While most of the decorative fresco medallions on the white walls have been stolen (literally chiseled out of the wall) there are enough left that you can imagine the original design.
The pyramid was incorporated in the Aurelian Wall, around 271 A.D. The Pyramid is also home to one of Rome’s cat sanctuaries, like the one at Largo Argentina, but smaller.
The Pyramid of Caius Cestius (Pyramide Cestia, pronounced "peer RAH mee day CHESS tee ah) is easy to find, just a little outside of the center of Rome, south of the Aventine Hill, at the Porta Ostiense, also called the Porta San Paulo.
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!
Roman Goddess of the moon, free nature, wild beasts and hunting. Her cult centers were holy groves all over Italy (f.e. Capua/Aricia).
She also had a main temple in Rome on the Aventine - the statue which was kept in this temple was a copy of the Artemis of Massalia (which was a copy of the Artemis of Ephesus).
Diana was a patron of women and hunters. She was considered the protector of the lower classes, especially slaves. Her festival on August 13, in both Rome and Aricia was a holiday for slaves and on her feast day, all Romans had to give their slaves the day off. Her temple became a sanctuary for runaway slaves. The late Princess Diana comes to mind often as we read of this ancient Roman Goddess - the eulogy of her brother, Earl Charles Spencer, at the funeral of Pricess Diana noted both striking coincidences and sad similarities.
In psychotherapy and Jungian psychology, Artemis/Diana has come to represent the multifaceted, contradictory, beautiful, violent aspects of the feminine psyche. Her temple at Ephesus was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World and the site of one of Saint Paul's least-successful missions - built probably by Mario Asprucci, based of course on classical models, it is an example of a circular peripteral temple.
Photo 1 - Temple full view
Photo 2 - Ceiling detail - In the center medallion, the goddess Diana with one of her hunting dogs; the octagonal spaces are given over to hunting motifs
Photo 3 - Hunting dogs detail in octagon spaces
Immerse yourself in ancient, Christian Rome along the Appian Way. HISTORY – In 71 BC six thousand slaves rebelling under Spartacus, having been captured after his final defeat and death, were crucified along this road by Marcus Licinius Crassus.
The Appian Way was begun in 312 BC by the consul Appius Claudius Caecus over an existing track that connected Rome with the Alban Hills. Supposedly, to be the one that originally brought Latins from Albalonga to Rome when it was founded.
The original path of the Appian Way connected Rome (heading in the area of Baths of Caracalla) with Ariccia, Forum Appii, Terracina, Fondi, Formia, Minturnae (Minturno), Sinuessa (Mondragone) and finally Capua – extended in 190 BC to Benevento (Beneventum) and Venosa which was founded at that time and populated by 20,000 Roman farmers – then to Taranto (Tarentum) and Brindisi (Brundisium).
Via Appia Antica was the most famous of all road that led to Rome, stretching all the way from Rome to the seaport of Brindisi, which accommodated trade with the colonies in Greece and the East.
A new Appian Way was built in parallel with the old one in 1784. After the fall of the Roman empire, the road was not as used as before; Pope Pius VI ordered its restoration and brought it into new use.
You will see many tombs and catacombs of Roman and early Christian origin along the road close to Rome with great monuments and ancient tombs of patrician Roman families. Burials were forbidden within the city walls as early as the 5th century B.C. and, beneath the surface, miles of tunnels were hewn from tufa stone.
Also the Church of Domine Quo Vadis is in the first mile of the road. It was along the Appian Way that an escaping Peter encountered the vision of Christ, causing him to go back to the city to face subsequent martyrdom.
These tunnels, or catacombs, were where early Christians buried their dead and, during the worst times of persecution, held church services discreetly out of the public eye. A few of them are open to the public, so you can wander through mile after mile of musty-smelling tunnels whose soft walls are gouged out with tens of thousands of burial niches (long shelves made for 2-3 bodies each). In some dank, dark grottoes, you can still discover the remains of early Christian art. The requisite guided tours feature a small dose of extremely biased history and a large dose of sermonizing.
It might seem a bit of a trek to get to the Via Appia Antica (although you can use he Archaeobus hop-on, hop-off service if you are willing to pay a bit extra) but it really is worth going if you can.
I like to combine it with a visit to the catacombs (S. Sebastiano is the nearest). Walk from there up the ancient roadway, which becomes narrower and almost traffic-free as you leave Piazza S. Sebastiano.
You'll pass many tombs; Roman law prevented burials within towns and cities, apart from infants less than 10 days old, so all the roads were lined with tombs, mausoleums and graves.
The Circus of Maxentius is one the left: visit when it's empty (as I did) and you can still, almost, hear the roar of the crowd as they watched the chariot-racing. Look carefully and you can still see large terracotta amphorae placed above the stands: they functioned as an amplification system, to make the cheers and roars of triumph even louder.
The tomb of Cecilia Metella, with its huge brick-built drum-shape, was a Roman landmark for centuries. And then you are on the Via Appia proper, its road-stones much as they were when the hundreds of crucified slaves who took part in Spartacus' slave revolt lined it. The road leads out into the countryside: hiring a bike, or planning a long walk, will bring you eventually to the Villa Dei Quintilli.
If the weather's good, take a picnic and make a day of it (avoid weekends if you can, for Romans like to visit here too). It's a completely different side of Rome, away from the crowds and fumes, taking you back into what once was.
You can take bus 118 or 218 from P. S. Giovanni in Laterano. The 218 stops at S. Callisto catacombs (walk up through the entrance and then turn right down the main drive towards S. Sebastiano..maybe 10 minutes walk), the 118 at P. S. Sebastiano.
Off the small street that goes South on the East side of the Pantheon (to your right when exiting) there is a small square called piazza della Minerva. It will be on your left when walking towards Corso Vittorio Emanuel II.
In the middle of the square stands this small obelisk perched on the back of a baby elephant (a baby obelisk deserves a baby elephant, I guess). It was designed by Bernini in 1667. It's a neat litle curiosity to look for when leaving the Pantheon area.
In the center of old Rome is a block of ruins and artifacts that has been taken over by the cats of Rome. Largo or Torre Argentina is now known as a cat sanctuary and is now regularly visited by folks who care for these inhabitants.
Torre Argentina is located at the intersection of Via Arenula and Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
I visited Trajan's Market as an after thought. It was not high on my list of to do things in Rome. There are so many ruins in Rome that it is so easy to overlook a few. It seems that many tourists do (this is the advantage of traveling solo, you hit the unjustly overlooked). Here there were more cats than tourists.
Trajan's Market has an interesting history for it survived as a place of civic importance beyond the days of the Roman Empire. The market was designed by the Emperor Trajan's favourite architects, Apollodorus of Damascus, in the early days of the 2nd century A.D. It is semi-circular in shape and multi-leveled. In many ways it was used as we today use a modern shopping mall. There were many shops here selling all kinds of foodstuffs and clothing. These products came from the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. Unlike many of the other ruins in Rome, it survived the empire and was restored many times. During the Medieval Era, additional buildings overlooking the market were built. My big complaint about the Trajan Market was that there was nothing in the way of information provided such as brocheres and signage to let you know what it is you are exploring.
Trajan's Market is located at Via Quattro Novembre 144 which in just north of the Colosseum.
The pyramid of Cestius was built during the reign of the emperor Augustus, probably between 18 and 12 BCE. It is a remarkable monument, made of white Carrara marble and exactly 100 Roman feet (30 meters) high.
Address:Aventine Hill, Rome
I suspect many people don't really explore this area. Certainly every time I've been there there have been just one or two other couples/small groups pootling around.
The area has been sorted out a bit snce my last visit in 2004, although there are still piles of seemingly random stones around, safety fencing and poor signage. But it's worth a wander, not least for the typically Roman fusion of old and new. You'll see more modern structures on top of the ancient theatre (it was utilised as a fortified palace for sundry families in Medieval and later times), more buildings using what remains of the Potico d'Ottavia (a poorly-preserved gate dating from the second century BC), and what seems to be the remains of a Roman temple incorporated into the sides of San Nicola de Carcare.
Linking this area with an exloration of Rome's Jewish district (see tip) is worth an hour or so of your time.
The easiest way to find it is to walk down the Via Del Teatro di Marcello from Piazza Venezia (where the huge 'wedding-cake' monument to Victor Emmanuel is).
This site is not open to the public but you can take part to a private visit organized by the well known Pierreci company. Reservation is essential and I suggest to call at least 10 days in advance. Visits are available the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month at 11am.
There are many other sites not open to the public that you can be visited the same way and they are all included in the "Archeologia Nascosta" programme (find full listing on the web site)
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).
Once it was a prestigious graveyard, but today it is a grassy hill. 28BC emperor Augustus ordered the mausoleum to be built. It is a round building with a diameter of 87 meters. It had four round corridors, in which the ashes of the emperors family were kept. Because there were many cases of poisoning there were new ashes intered with regular intervals.
Later the building was used as a medieval fort, a vinyard, a theater and auditorium. Today it is closed and can only be visited by appointment.
Address: Piazza Augusto Imperatore