Forum: Palatine Hill ☆☆

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

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

The Palatine Hill was where Rome began as a tiny Latin village (supposedly founded by Romulus) in the 8th century BC. Later it was covered with the palaces of patrician families and the early emperors.

Today it's an overgrown, tree-shaded hilltop of pretty gardens and fragments of ancient villas (only a handful of which are open to the public) that few visitors bother to climb.

(Most people actually enter it from within the Roman Forum—though it now has its own dedicated entrance south of the Colosseum on Via S. Gregorio.)

Truly palatial
The Palatine HillPalatium in Latin—was the poshest address in Ancient Rome, a veritable Beverly Hills where everyone from Cicero to Catullus to Marc Antony lived.

Augustus Caesar was born here, and Emperors from Caligula and Nero to Domitian and Septimius Severus made it their home. Naturally, they built magnificent mansions, sprawling villas filled with architectural wonders and great art.

In ancient times, you didn't have to say someone lived in a posh pad; you merely had to say they lived in a palatium, and it was understood.

Today, Italians pronounce the word palatium as "palazzo;" the French turned this into palais, and in English we pronounce it "palace."

As such, it can make for a romantic, scenic escape from the crowds, a place where you can wander across the grassy floors of ancient Imperial palaces and peer down the gated passageways that were once the homes of Rome's rich and famous (see sidebar).

In 1998, the Museo Palatino up here finally reopened after 13 years, displaying an excellent collection of Roman sculpture and finds from the ongoing digs in the Palatine palazzi.

Many later palaces, built up on buttresses as they slowly expanded to extend beyond the crown of the hill, had a room that served as a sort of box seats section overlooking the Palatine's southern flank.

This was so that Emperors and their guests could easily watch the chariot races and other games taking place at the Circus Maximus below, now a long grassy oval used mainly by joggers.

Currently open on the Palatine Hill

The new S.U.P.E.R. ticket (which stands for Seven Unique Places to Experience in Rome—why an acronym in English? Marketing, I guess) is your key to entering the palaces to see the art, mosaics, and architecture.

Admission to most of the palaces and sites is limited by time and number of visitors to preserve their delicate artifacts. Open hours are as follows:

April to October, 9am–6:30pm

  • Open daily
    • Museo Palatino (max 225 people and 60 min.)
    • Criptoportico neroniano (max 35 people and 12 min.)
  • Open Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun (but not the first Sun of the month)
    • Casa di Augusto (max 23 people and 40 min.)
    • Casa di Livia (max 23 people and 30 min.)
    • Aula Isiaca and Loggia Mattei (max 15 people and 15 min.)
  • Open Tues, Thurs, and Sat (plus Sun 2pm–6:30pm)
    • Tempio di Romolo (max 30 people and 15 min.)
    • Santa Maria Antiqua, Oratorio dei Quaranta Martiri, and Rampa di Domiziano (max 60 people and 30 min.)

November to March, 9am–3:30pm

  • Open daily
    • Museo Palatino (max 225 people and 60 min.)
    • Criptoportico neroniano (max 35 people and 12 min.)
  • Open Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun (but not the first Sun of the month)
    • Casa di Augusto (max 23 people and 40 min.)
    • Casa di Livia (max 23 people and 30 min.)
    • Aula Isiaca and Loggia Mattei (max 15 people and 15 min.)
  • Open Tues, Thurs, Sat (plus Sun 2pm–3:30pm)
    • Tempio di Romolo (max 30 people and 15 min.)
    • Santa Maria Antiqua, Oratorio dei Quaranta Martiri, and Rampa di Domiziano (max 60 people and 30 min.)
 
Tickets
 
Photo gallery
  • The Stadium of the Palace of Domitian garden on the eastern side of the Domus Augustana, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Markus L)
  • Ruins of the Domus Augustana, with the Circus Maximus in the foreground, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT)
  • , Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Mister No)
  • La Terrazza del Ninfeo in the Farnese Gardens, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Unknown)
  • The Domus Augustana, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta)
  • Frescoes in the Casa di Augusto, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Cassius Ahenobarbus)
  • Detail of the east wall of the Mask Room, 2nd Pompeian style, House of Augustus (Domus Augusti), Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • Frescoes in the Casa di Augusto, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Cassius Ahenobarbus)
  • Roman fresco, House of Augustus, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Apollo Kitharoidos, a fresco from the Scalae Caci, now in the Museo Palatino, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen)
  • Head of Ganymede with Phrygian hat, a Roman copy from the Severian era after a Greek original from the 4C BC in the Palatine Museum, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen)
  • The Villa di Livia Drusilla, Forum: Palatine Hill, Italy (Photo by E. Schiaroli)
Forum: Palatine Hill tours
 
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Tips

Free or reduced admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Forum: Palatine Hill for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
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
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

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.).