Walking Tour: Explore the Ruins

  • Start Colosseum
  • End Capitoline Museums
  • Length 1.5km; four hours

Follow in the footsteps of an ancient Roman on this whistle-stop tour of the city’s most famous ruins.

Start at the Colosseum, the great gladiatorial arena that more than any other monument encapsulates the drama of the ancient city. From there, follow Via di San Gregorio along to the Palatino, 1st-century Rome’s most sought-after neighbourhood, which was home to the emperor and the cream of imperial society. The ruins here are confusing, but their scale gives some sense of the luxury in which the ancient VIPs liked to live.

Beyond the stadio, you can still make out parts of the Domus Augustana, the emperor’s private palace quarters, and the Domus Flavia, where he would hold official audiences. Pop into the nearby Museo Palatino, before heading up to the Orti Farnesiani. These 16th-century gardens weren’t part of the ancient city but command stunning views over the Roman Forum. Next, work your way down to the Forum, entering near the Arco di Tito, one of the site’s great triumphal arches. Beyond this, pick up Via Sacra, the Forum’s main drag. Follow this down, passing the hulking Basilica di Massenzio, and after 100 metres or so you’ll come to the Casa delle Vestali, where the legendary Vestal Virgins lived tending to their duties and guarding their virtue. Beyond the three columns of the Tempio di Castore e Polluce, you’ll see a flattened area littered with column bases and brick stumps. This is the Basilica Giulia, where lawyers and magistrates worked in the crowded law courts. Meanwhile, senators debated matters of state in the Curia, over on the other side of the Forum. Nearby, the Arco di Settimio Severo commemorates the military victories of the emperor Septimius Severus.

From the Arco (cordoned off at the time of research), double back to exit the Forum at Largo della Salara Vecchia, from where it's a short stroll up to Piazza del Campidoglio. Here you can round things off in style at the Capitoline Museums whose collection of classical art includes some of the city's finest ancient sculpture.