Now little more than a huge basin of dusty grass, the Circo Massimo was ancient Rome’s largest chariot racetrack, a 250,000-seater capable of holding up to a quarter of the city’s entire population. The 600m track circled a wooden dividing island with ornate lap indicators and Egyptian obelisks.

Chariot races were held here as far back as the 4th century BC, but it wasn’t until Trajan rebuilt it after the AD 64 fire that it reached its maximum grandeur.

Restoration work, which is ongoing at the southern end, has unearthed evidence of the taverns and shops that used to flank the track.