Downtown Ancient Rome

The area around the Roman Forum and Colosseum

OK, ancient ruins are spread all over the city, which is why I call the heart of the ancient city—home to the Roman ForumImperial Fori, and the Colosseum—"Downtown Ancient Rome."

It's easy to find because it's still pretty much at the center of town, just south of Piazza Venezia. Back at Piazza Venezia and facing south, go to the right around the Vittorio Emanuele Monument and you'll see a Michelangelo-designed stair ramp leading up behind it to the Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill), Rome's seat of government. 

Around the left side of the monument is Via dei Fori Imperiali, a wide boulevard making a beeline from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, passing the archaeological zone of the Roman Forum on the right (slung into the low land between the Capitoline and Palatine Hills) and the Imperial Fori on the left.

Antiquity buffs will want to spend a lot of their visit in this vast archaeological zone, but it offers few good hotels and even fewer decent restaurants (most cater to entire tour buses with bad food at high prices).

Sights in Downtown Ancient Rome

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The Arch of Septimus Severus flanked by the three columns of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus on the left, and the eight columns of the Temple of Saturn on the right. Just to the right of the arch are the Umbilicus Urbus and the broken, curving bits of stone marking the Rostra. (Behind the arch: the brick cube of the Curia; that dome and facade are the Santi Lucia e Martina church designed by Pietro da Cortona, just outside the Forum) (Photo by Bert Kaufmann)
Roman Forum
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

Downtown Ancient Rome: The Roman Forum (Foro Romano), Palatine Hill, temple of the Vestal Virgins, Roman Senate, and Triumphal Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus

 
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The Colosseum at sunrise (Photo by picmasta)
The Colosseum
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

Rome's Colosseo still ranks as the world's most famous sports arena, site of gladiator combat and the wholesale slaughter of wild beasts to amuse the public

 
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The Stadium of the Palace of Domitian garden on the eastern side of the Domus Augustana (Photo by Markus L)
Palatine Hill
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The birthplace of palaces is the Palatine Hill above the Roman Forum

 
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The Mithraeum at the lowest level of San Clemente (Photo by Allie Caulfield)
Free
San Clemente
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

A few blocks from the Colosseum is the best place in Rome to see the layer-cake effect of its history in action: church piled atop church piled atop pagan temple

 
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AD 2C equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (Photo by schizoform)
Capitoline Museums
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

These museums atop Rome's Campidoglio connected by the Tabularium house iconic ancient statues (she-wolf, colossal statue of Constantine, Lo Spinario, Dying Gaul, etc.) and great art by Caravaggio, Titian, and Rubens

 
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The Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth) in the church portico (Photo by nekotank)
Free
Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

It's a shame that so many who stop to see the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) on the porch don't take the time to go inside the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin itself

 
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The Imperial Fori of Rome (Photo Public Domain)
Imperial Fori
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The Fori Imperiali represent Rome's first major urban expansion of public areas beyond the Forum—most importantly the Forum of Caesar, Forum of Augustus, and Forum of Trajan

 
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The Markets of Trajan, the world's first multi-story shopping mall (Photo by Jebulon)
Trajan's Markets
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The world's first multi-level shopping mall gives unparalleled insight into the daily life of Ancient Rome

 
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The octagonal room was once a banqueting hall (Photo by Andy Montgomery)
Domus Aurea
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The Domus Aurea—Nero's personal pleasure palace across from the Colosseum—offers a rare glimpse into the privileged world of a Roman emperor

 
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Panorama of the Thermae of Caracalla (Photo by Chris 73)
Baths of Caracalla
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The Terme di Caracalla is vast ancient baths complex and spectacular setting for opera under the stars

 
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 (Photo by Mike)
Free
Campidoglio
Rome: Tiber Bend

The Capitoline Museums, a Michelangelo-designed piazza, and killer views atop Rome's Campidoglio

 
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Via dei Fori Imperiali (Photo by Alexander Gorlin)
Free
Via dei Fori Imperiali
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

Mussolini's grand Via dei Fori Imperiali, central Rome's would-be grand Archaeological Park

 
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Arco di Constantino (Photo by Mike)
Free
Arch of Constantine
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

This triumphal arch celebrates the battle that made Christianity the religion of Rome

 
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A nighttime panorama over the Forum from the back of the Capitoline Hill (Photo by Laruse Junior)
Free
Campidoglio Forum view
Rome: Tiber Bend

A secret panorama over the Roman Forum from the back of the Capitoline Hill

 
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The National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, aka Il Vittoriano, aka the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Nation) (Photo by Paolo Costa Baldi)
Il Vittoriano
Rome: Tiber Bend

Universally known as "The Wedding Cake" or "The Giant Typewriter," the Victory Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II at the very center of Rome is the hideously ugly monument you gotta love anyway

 
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The columns of the Basilica Ulpia backed by Trajan's Column (and a pair of baroque church domes— Santa Maria di Loreto on the left and Santissimo Nome di Maria on the right) in the Forum of Trajan, part of Rome's Imperial Fori (Photo by Ade Russell)
Trajan's Forum
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The Forum of Trajan's is home to Trajan's Column, a massive carved marble comic strip of the emperors accomplishments

 
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The Forum of Caesar, also known as Forum Iulium or Forum Julium, Forum Caesaris, is a forum built by Augustus Caesar in honor of his adoptive father, Julius Caesar, near the Forum Romanum in Rome in 46 BC (Photo by Ade Russell)
Forum of Caesar
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The Forum of Caesar, part of the Imperial Fori in Rome

 
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 (Photo by Mikhail Malykh)
Forum of Augustus
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The Foro di Augusto was built by Augustus Caesar

 
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A view of the Circo Massimo from the FAO headquarters (Photo by Le Mai)
Circus Maximus
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The greatest racing arena in ancient Rome is now a grassy jogging oval and outdoor concert venue

 
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 (Photo by MM)
Roseto Comunale
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

A hidden Aventine rose garden overlooking the Circus Maximus

 
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 (Photo by Ricardo André Frantz)
Free
Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Rome: Tiber Bend

The sad story of the Santo Bambino at the Capitoline church

 
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The Forum Boarium, with the round Temple of Hercules Victor on the left and the rectangular Temple of Portunus on the right (Photo by Carole Raddato)
Free
Foro Boario
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

Fraternal twin temples and the world's first sewer on lovely little "Cow Forum" by the Mouth of Truth

 
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The Teatro di Marcello and trio of columns of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus (Photo by Joadl)
Free
Teatro di Marcello
Rome: Tiber Bend

Marcellus's Theater was the Colosseum 1.0, the original Roman amphitheater

 
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The lower register of Michelangelo's Monument to Julius II (1505–45) (Photo by Andrea Moroni)
Free
San Pietro in Vincoli
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

Michelangelo's famous Moses statue on tomb of Pope Julius II—plus the chains that bound St. Peter—at the chruch of "St. Peter in Chains"

 

Lodgings in Downtown Ancient Rome

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A room at the Kolbe Hotel (Photo courtesy of the hotel)
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Kolbe
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

A classy hotel in a former monastery at the Forum's back door

 

Dining in Downtown Ancient Rome

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 (Photo by Tony L.)
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Birreria Peroni
Rome: Tridente

A German-style beer hall restaurant

 
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 (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)
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Cavour 313
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

A great old-school wine bar

 
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 (Photo )
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Abruzzi
Rome: Tridente

An abruzzese restaurant

 
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for rail travel

English (inglese) Italian (italiano)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...train station la ferroviaria [or] la stazione lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah [or] lah stat-zee-YO-nay
ticket un biglietto oon beel-YET-toh
first class prima classe PREE-mah CLAH-say
second class seconda classe say-CONE-dah CLAH-say
one way solo andata SO-low ahn-DAHT-tah
round trip (return) andata e ritorno ahn-DAH-tah ay ree-TOUR-noh
Just the supplement Soltanto il supplemento soul-TAHN-toh eel sou-play-MEN-toh
Just a seat reservation Soltanto una prenotazione soal-TAHN-toh oo-nah pray-no-tah-tsee-YOH-nay
I have a Eurailpass Ho il Eurailpass oh eel YOO-rail-pahs
sleeping couchette una cucetta oo-nah koo-CHET-tah
berth in a sleeping car un posto nel vagone letto oon POH-sto nell vah-GOAN-nay LET-toh
track binario been-AR-ree-yoh
train treno TRE-no
car (carriage) carozza ka-RO-tza
seat posto PO-sto
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay
left luggage deposito bagagli day-PO-zee-toh ba-GAHL-yee
     
punch your ticket timbrare il biglietto teem-BRA-ray eel beel-YET-toh
Is this the right platform for the Rome train? E questo il binario per il treno à Roma? ay KWAY-sto eel been-AR-ree-yo pair eel TRE-no ah RO-ma? 
delayed in retardo een ree-TAR-do
strike sciopero SHO-pair-oh
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
City / Train station names
English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Main station
Rome Roma Termini
Florence Firenze Santa Maria Novella
Venice Venezia Santa Lucia
Milan Milano Centrale
Genoa Genova Porta Principe
Naples Napoli Centrale
Leghorn Livorno Centrale
Turin Torino Porta Nuova

Useful Italian for air travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)   Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
the airport l'aeroporto LAHW-ro-port-oh
the airplane l'aereo LAIR-reh-oh
terminal terminal TEAR-me-nahl
flight volo VOH-lo
gate uscita d'imbarco oo-SHEE-tah deem-BARK-oh
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
delayed in ritardo een ree-TAR-doh
on time in orario een oh-RAH-ree-yo
early in avanti een ah-VAHN-tee
boarding imbarco eem-BARK-o
connecting flight la coincidenza la ko-een-chee-DEN-za
check-in accettazione ah-chet-ta-zee-YO-nee
immigration controllo passaporti cone-TRO-lo pah-sa-POR-tee
security check controllo di sicurezza kohn-TRO-lo dee see-kur-AY-tzah
customs dogana do-GA-na
shuttle la navetta lah na-VET-tah
boarding pass carta d'imbarco kart-ta deem-BARK-o
baggage claim ritiro bagagli ree-TEER-oh bah-GA-lyee
carry-on luggage bagaglio à mano bah-GA-lyo ah MA_no
checked luggage bagalio bah-GA-lyo

Useful Italian for car travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
car automobile ow-toh-MO-bee-lay
scooter/motorboke un motorino oon mo-tair-EE-no
gas station stazione di servizio stah-zee-YO-nay dee sair-VEE-tzee-yo
gas benzina ben-ZEE-nah
diesel gasolio [or] diesel gah-ZOH-lee-oh [or] DEE-zell
Fill it up, please al pieno, per favore ahl pee-YAY-noh, pair fa-VOHR-ray
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the highway l'autostrada lout-oh-STRA-dah
...the state highway la statale [written "SS"] lah sta-TAHL-eh
...the road for Rome la strada per Roma lah STRA-dah pair RO-mah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
to cross attraversare ah-tra-vair-SAR-ay
toll pedaggio peh-DA-jo
parking parcheggio par-KEH-jo
road map carta stradale kar-ta stra-DA-lay
where can I pay the fine? dove posso pagare la multa DOH-veh Po-so pag-GAR-ray la MOOL-tah


Typical road signs / terms » more

English (anglais) French (français) 
Stop Stop
Exit  Uscita
Staffic light Semaforo
One-way Senso unico
Dead-end Strada senza uscita
Parking prohibited No parcheggio or parcheggio proibito
Pedestrian zone Area pedonale
Limited Traffic Zone (you pay to drive in) ZTL or Zona Traffico Limitato

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).