The Very Best Roman Ruins in Italy

What are the top Roman remains in Italy?

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For almost a thousand years, Italy was Rome. Small wonder then that there's a host of top Roman ruins, monuments and landmarks in Italy to visit today. Among the very best are the Pantheon, Herculaneum and Ostia Antica. Other popular sites tend to include Villa dei Quintili, the Colosseum and the Ara Pacis Museum.

We’ve put together an experts guide to Ancient Roman sites to visit in Italy, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Roman ruins in Italy, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.

1. Pantheon

The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most famous and well-preserved ancient buildings in the world. Originally built in 25BC, the building was destroyed by the great fire of 80AD and the structure which stands today was completed around 125AD, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. 

Today, the Pantheon stands as a magnificent site in central Rome, and one of the most popular destinations for tourists. The vast structure is topped by the spectacular original domed roof which contains a circular opening at the peak. Made of cast concrete, it is a monumental engineering feat. Indeed, the roof of the Pantheon remained the largest dome in the world until the 15th century. The Pantheon is free to visit and is a must-see for both the general tourist and the history enthusiast.

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2. Herculaneum

Herculaneum was a port town established by the ancient Romans in what is now modern Ercolano. Like nearby Pompeii, Herculaneum was engulfed by the lava and mud which spewed from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. In fact, Herculaneum arguably withstood the natural disaster better than Pompeii with many of its upper floors still being intact. This, combined with the fact that Herculaneum is less crowded and easier to walk through makes it a great site to visit.

Even the streets of Herculaneum are fascinating, displaying the high degree of planning employed by the Romans. Some of the most stunning sites at Herculaneum include the thermal spas and baths, the gymnasium, the House with the Mosaic Atrium and the House of Neptune.

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3. Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica is an extraordinary Roman site that contains the ruins of the ancient port town that served as the gateway to Rome. Just half an hour from central Rome by train, Ostia has all the inspiration of Pompeii without the throngs of tourists. In fact, if you want to examine well preserved Roman ruins in peace and quiet with time to contemplate the ancient world, you’ll be hard pressed to find better.

Today, visitors can view a great many ruins from the ancient town, including a well preserved Roman theatre, the Baths of Neptune, remains of the military camp, temples to ancient deities, the forum and even Ostia Synagogue, which is the oldest known synagogue site in Europe. There is a small museum on site which has a number of artefacts and further information on the history of Ostia.

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4. Villa dei Quintili

Villa dei Quintili was one of the most lavish homes along the famous road that leads to Rome, the Via Appia. In 151 AD, the main part of the Villa dei Quintili was owned by the senior officials, the Quintili brothers. However, when Emperor Commodus came to power the brothers fell from favour and Villa dei Quintili became his property.

Today, far from the intrigues and plots of ancient Rome, the villa stands as a slightly more serene place; indeed it has survived in an extremely good state of preservation. The original baths are still clearly discernible, as are several of its buildings.

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5. The Colosseum

The Colosseum is a site like no other. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, nothing represents the sheer power and magnificence of the Roman Empire like this stunning piece of ancient architecture. A visit offers a great insight into the lives of Roman citizens and those who had the misfortune of fighting there. 

In particular, it is now possible to tour the underground hallways and corridors where the gladiators of ancient Rome would prepare to fight and ponder their mortality. Also recently opened are the higher areas of the structure, from where you can take in views of the Roman Forum. There is a museum within the Colosseum with a wealth of interesting artefacts and information and audio guides are available in a number of languages.

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6. The Ara Pacis Museum

The Ara Pacis Museum houses the Altar of Peace, which was built under instructions from the Emperor Augustus and sanctioned by the Senate. Augustus decided to build the Ara Pacis to celebrate his military campaigns which resulted in the outbreak of peace in the Mediterranean.

Dedicated on 30 January 9 BC, the Ara Pacis was originally located on a site known as the Field of Mars. The altar itself is surrounded by marble walls adorned with elaborate friezes of various figures, including senate members and members of Augustus’s family. These carved figures take part in a procession celebrating the peace brought about by Augustus.

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7. Hadrian’s Villa

Hadrian’s Villa is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world. The site covers almost 250 acres and consists of over 30 buildings and a number of other points of interest. It includes a large colonnaded swimming pool, libraries, the Palestra and the famous Maritime Theatre. 

Most intriguing of all are the remains of the Emperor’s small island retreat – including his personal toilet – which served as Hadrian’s private escape from the stress of Imperial life. Not the easiest site to access, and not among the most famous of Rome’s attractions, Hadrian’s Villa is nevertheless a startling tribute to the power of the Roman Empire and the magnificence that could be brought to bear by its leaders.

Be warned, to fully explore Hadrian’s Villa will take you at least three hours and can be quite physically strenuous in the summer heat, so make sure you take plenty to drink.

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8. Roman Forum

The Forum was the very centre of ancient Rome. Throughout the lifespan of Roman civilisation the Forum served as the focus of political, civic and religious life. No visit to Rome is complete without a stroll around the Forum and it is a must see for anyone visiting the city. 

There are a large number of historic buildings or their remains in the Roman Forum, some of the notable ones are: The Temple of Saturn; the Arch of Septimius Severus; the Arch of Titus; the Atrium Vestae (once home to the Vestal virgins); the Gemonian stairs; the Curia Julia (once the site of the Roman Senate); the Temple of Caesar; the Regia (where the first kings of Rome lived and later the Pontifex Maximus); theTemple of Vesta; the Temple of Concord; the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (perhaps the best preserved structure in the Roman Forum); the Temple of Venus and Roma; the Basilica of Maxentius.


There is a great website which has produced a 3D virtual reconstruction of the Roman Forum and is well worth a look before any visit so you can get your bearings before you go there in person – the Digital Roman Forum.

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9. Pompeii

One of the best known ancient sites in the world, Pompeii was an ancient Roman city founded in the 6th to 7th century BC and famously destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Today, Pompeii is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. It is a ghost town filled with the bodies of its tragic citizens, many of whom died from asphyxiation and who were preserved by the ash and cinders which buried them.

The most intriguing aspect of Pompeii and what makes it such a popular site to visit is the extent to which its homes, buildings and artifacts have remained intact. Essentially, walking through Pompeii is treading in the footsteps of ancient Roman life, with its houses, shops, walkways, pedestrian stones and carriage tracks.

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10. Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla are an ancient public baths complex in Rome, the incredible remains of which are one of the very best ancient sites in Rome. Today the hugely impressive remains still offer a great insight into what would have been a social hub of the ancient Roman world. 

With the original walls still towering above and impressive black and white mosaics underfoot this amazing ancient ruin is one of the best preserved of its kind anywhere in the world. Audio guides are available to help explain the various rooms and chambers which can be explored.

However, the fun doesn’t stop there. For it is the recently opened underground sections which will really set your heart racing. An innocuous staircase will take you deep below ground to the tremendously well preserved tunnels and corridors which represent the unseen heart of this complex – where slaves and other workers would have scurried about to keep the waters heated and the customers happy.

Another hidden gem to be found in this underground wonder is one of the best examples of a Temple of Mithras to have survived today. Still containing the original mosaics and alter space this temple is a wonder in its own right.

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Full list of Roman sites in Italy

Beyond the most famous Ancient Roman sites to visit in Italy, there’s many similar places to visit, including Hadrian’s Villa, the Roman Forum and Pompeii to name but a few. We’re constantly expanding this list of Roman monuments in Italy and you can view the current selection below.

Acqua Marcia

Acqua Marcia is an ancient aqueduct of Rome built in the first century BC.

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Alba Fucens

Alba Fucens is an ancient city in the modern town of Albe in the Abruzzo region of central Italy and is a stunning example of Roman ruins dating back to 303BC.

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Aquileia Archaeological Area

The Aquileia Archaeological Area is home to the remains of an affluent Roman trading port.

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Aquileia Basilica

The Aquileia Basilica has a history dating back to the Romans.

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Arch of Augustus - Rimini

The Arch of Augustus in Rimini was built to honour the first emperor of the Roman Empire.

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Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine was a triumphal arch built by the Emperor Constantine the Great in 315AD.

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Arch of Janus

The Arch of Janus is an Ancient Roman triumphal arch in Rome.

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Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimus Severus is a Roman triumphal arch built by the Emperor Septimus Severus to celebrate his military victories.

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Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus is a Roman triumphal arch built by the Emperor Domitian to commemorate the victories of his elder brother, Emperor Titus.

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Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is the site of four Ancient Roman temples.

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Atrium Vestae

The Atrium Vestae in the Roman Forum was home to Ancient Rome’s only holy priestesses.

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Aula Ottagona

Part of the vast 4th century Baths of Diocletian, the Aula Ottagona is probably the best preserved original structure.

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Baia

Baia was once the summer retreat of Ancient Rome’s elite and is now an archaeological park outside Naples.

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Basilica Aemelia

Basilica Aemelia was a commercial building of Ancient Rome located in the Forum.

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Basilica Julia

Basilica Julia was an Ancient Roman courthouse in Rome’s Forum.

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Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Santa Maria in Cosmedin is a charming 8th century church in Rome and home to an unusual ancient artefact.

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Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is a Patriarchal Basilica and home to the famous Sistine Chapel.

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Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was an Ancient Roman meeting house, the remains of which stand in the Roman Forum.

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Basilica of Sant Angelo

The Basilica of Sant Angelo is an eleventh century church partially made up of the remains of a Roman temple.

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Baths of Diocletian

The huge Baths of Diocletian complex was built in the early 4th century and covers a vast area. Today elements can be seen in a number of buildings, including the National Museum of Rome.

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Boscoreale Villa and Antiquarium

The Boscoreale Villa and Antiquarium contains the remains of a Roman villa, destroyed during the eruption of Vesuvius, as well as an archaeological museum.

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Cagliari Amphitheatre

Cagliari Amphitheatre is a rock-hewn Roman amphitheatre dating to the second century AD.

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Campania Amphitheatre

Campania Amphitheatre was second in size only to Rome’s Colosseum.

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Cannae Battlefield

Cannae Battlefield is the location of Hannibal’s greatest victory in 216 BC over a huge Roman army led Consuls Varro and Paullus.

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Capua Archaeological Museum

Capua Archaeological Museum houses a collection of ancient artefacts and is next to an ancient Mithraeum.

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Capua Gladiator Museum

Capua Gladiator Museum is a small archaeological museum connected to Campania Amphitheatre.

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Castel Sant Angelo

Castel Sant Angelo was the tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian later used as a fort.

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Catacombe di San Gennaro

Catacombe di San Gennaro are a complex of underground tombs in use from early Christianity to medieval times.

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Catacombs of San Callisto

The Catacombs of San Callisto are the largest and most famous of Rome’s Christian catacombs.

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Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus was the main sports stadium of Ancient Rome.

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Circus of Maxentius

The Circus of Maxentius is one of the best preserved Ancient Roman arenas in Rome.

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Cumae Archaeological Park

Cumae Archaeological Park in Pozzuoli houses a series of ancient ruins and artefacts and is thought to have been inhabited as far back as the Iron Age.

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Curia Julia

The Curia Julia was the senate house in Ancient Rome and part of the Roman Forum.

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Domus Augustana

Domus Augustana was the palace of Ancient Rome’s emperors on the Palatine Hill.

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Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

The Domus Romane is an incredible Roman site found underneath the 16th century villa Palazzo Valentini, and located close to Trajan's Forum in the heart of what was once the centre of Imperial Rome.

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Flavian Amphitheatre

The Flavian Amphitheatre is a well preserved first century Roman structure in Pozzuoli.

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Flavian Palace

The Flavian Palace, built by the Emperor Domitian on the Palatine Hill, was the place where several Roman emperors held their official functions.

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Florence Archaeological Museum

Florence Archaeological Museum combines an impressive collection of Etruscan art with Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman artefacts.

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Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral, with its iconic ‘duomo’, is a world famous fifteenth century cathedral.

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Forum of Augustus

The Forum of Augustus was built by the Roman emperor to celebrate avenging Caesar at the Battle of Philippi and defeating his assassins.

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Forum of Caesar

The Forum of Caesar was the first of the Imperial Forums built in Ancient Rome.

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Forum of Trajan

The Forum of Trajan was one of the Imperial Forums of Ancient Rome.

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Ludus Magnus

The preserved ruins of Ancient Rome’s largest and most prestigious gladiator training school, located next to the Colosseum in central Rome.

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Mamertine Prison

The Mamertine Prison was an Ancient Roman prison in which Saints Peter and Paul may have been held.

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Mausoleum of Augustus

The Mausoleum of Augustus was the tomb of Rome’s first emperor.

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Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella

The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is a 1st century BC tomb turned medieval fortress.

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Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is an early 5th century Christian chapel in Ravenna that was thought to hold the tomb of Roman Empress Galla Placidia.

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Musei Capitolini

The Musei Capitolini in Rome host a huge wealth of artifacts and exhibits from the ancient, medieval and renaissance periods.

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Museo del Sannio di Benevento

Museo del Sannio is an historical museum in Benevento which displays ancient and medieval artefacts from the local area.

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Naples Cathedral

Naples Cathedral was completed in the fourteenth century and houses the relics of San Gennaro.

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Naples National Archeological Museum

The Naples National Archaeological Museum holds comprehensive collections from the Greek, Roman and Egyptian eras.

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Nora Archaeological Site

The Nora Archaeological Site in Sardinia houses ancient Phoenician and Roman ruins.

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Paestum

Paestum is a Greco-Roman site in Italy containing the stunning remains of three ancient Greek temples.

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Palace of Septimius Severus

The Palace of Septimius Severus was magnificent extension of the Domus Augustana on the Palatine.

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Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill is known as the birthplace of Rome. It houses some of the city’s most impressive ancient sites.

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Palazzo Nuovo

The Palazzo Nuovo is an archaeological museum of Ancient Greek and Roman art. Part of the Musei Capitolini.

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Palazzo dei Conservatori

Palazzo dei Conservatori displays numerous important classical pieces. Part of the Musei Capitolini.

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Ponte Rotto

Ponte Rotto is the remaining arch of a second century BC Roman Republic bridge.

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Pyramid of Cestius

The Pyramid of Cestius is a unique and startling pyramid-shaped tomb dating back to Ancient Roman times.

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Rimini City Museum

The Rimini City Museum is this city’s most extensive history museum.

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Rimini Roman Amphitheatre

The Rimini Roman Amphitheatre dates back to the second century.

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Roman Theatre of Benevento

The Roman Theatre of Benevento is a well-preserved semi-circular Roman theatre that was built under the Emperor Hadrian.

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San Clemente

San Clemente is a church built atop a series of fourth and third century ruins.

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San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano is Rome’s cathedral, originally founded by Constantine the Great.

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San Lorenzo Maggiore

What seems to be an attractive 13th century church in Naples contains a startling secret – the amazing underground remains of the Greco-Roman city of Neapolis.

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San Pietro in Vincoli

The beautiful San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome is a quiet, inconspicuous ancient church containing several stunning sculptures by the famous artist Michelangelo as well as famed religious artefacts said to date back to St Peter.

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San Saturnino Basilica

San Saturnino Basilica is one of Sardinia’s oldest churches.

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Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

An impressive 16th century church in Rome, built by Michelangelo using the structural remains of the ancient Baths of Diocletian.

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Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere is thought to have been the first Christian church in Rome.

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St Sebastian Catacombs

The St. Sebastian Catacombs are some of the earliest of the Christian catacombs in Rome.

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Stabiae

Stabiae contains the ruins of both ancient Roman and Oscan civilizations, dating back as far as the 7th century BC.

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Syracuse Archaeological Site

The Syracuse Archaeological Site contains the impressive remains of an ancient city dating as far back as the eighth century BC.

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Taormina Amphitheatre

Taormina Amphitheatre was first built by the Ancient Greeks in the third century BC and reconstructed by the Romans.

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Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina is one of the best preserved of the structures in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Caesar

The Temple of Caesar was built in honour of Julius Caesar. Its altar remains in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Castor and Pollux

The Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum was built following a military victory.

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Temple of Concord

The Temple of Concord was an Ancient Roman temple in Rome’s Forum.

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Temple of Ercole Vincitore

The Temple of Ercole Vincitore is Rome's oldest surviving example of a marble temple.

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Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn was the site of the national treasury of Ancient Rome, the ruins of which stand in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Venus and Rome

The Temple of Venus and Rome was created under Hadrian and is located in the Roman Forum.

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Temples of the Forum Boarium

The Temples of the Forum Boarium are two of the best preserved Roman temples to have survived from the Republican era.

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Tharros

Tharros, in Sardinia, was founded by the Phoenicians and contains mostly Roman ruins.

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The Claudio Aqueduct - Rome

The Claudio Aqueduct is an Ancient Roman aqueduct which served Rome from 52 AD.

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The House of Augustus

The House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill was the home of Rome’s first emperor.

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The House of Livia

The House of Livia was the home of Augustus’s third wife.

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The Palatine Hill Stadium

The Palatine Hill Stadium was part of the imperial palace of Ancient Rome’s emperors.

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The Palatine Museum

The Palatine Museum exhibits ancient finds from the famous Palatine Hill in Rome.

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The Regia

The Regia in Rome’s Forum was a royal residence turned office of the Pontifex Maximus.

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The Surgeon’s House - Rimini

The Surgeon’s House is an archaeological site which uncovers Rimini’s past from Ancient Roman times.

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The Temple of Vesta

The Temple of Vesta was an Ancient Roman shrine now found on the Roman Forum.

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Theatre of Marcellus

The partially-preserved remains of one of the most important theatres in ancient Rome, built by Julius Caesar and Augustus.

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Tiberius Bridge - Rimini

Tiberius Bridge is a first century Roman Bridge in Rimini.

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Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker

The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker is an impressive ancient tomb dating back to 30BC.

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Trajan Arch of Ancona

The Trajan Arch of Ancona is an Ancient Roman monument to the Emperor Trajan.

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Trajan Arch of Benevento

The Trajan Arch of Benevento is a 2nd century AD triumphal arch built for the Emperor Trajan.

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Trajan’s Markets

One of the best preserved elements of the ancient city to have survived, Trajan’s Markets are an oft-overlooked gem in the heart of the Eternal City.

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Trasimene Battlefield

Trasimene Battlefield is the location of major defeat of the Roman army by Hannibal during the Second Punic War.

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Trebbia Battlefield

Location of the first major battle of the Second Punic War between Hannibal and the Roman consuls Scipio and Longus.

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Valley of the Temples

The Valley of the Temples is a UNESCO-listed site in Sicily housing the very well-preserved remains of several Ancient Greek temples.

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Velia Archaeological Site

The Velia Archaeological Site contains Greek, Roman and medieval ruins of the city initially founded as Elea.

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Verona Arena

Verona Arena is a stunning Roman amphitheatre built in 30AD.

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Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica, built in 312 BC, is one of the most important roads leading to Rome.

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Villa Gregoriana

Villa Gregoriana is a park in Tivoli which mixes natural and archaeological beauty to great effect.

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Villa Jovis

Villa Jovis was the cliff-top Capri home of Roman Emperor Tiberius.

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Villa Poppaea

Villa Poppea was the home of the second wife of the Roman Emperor Nero.

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Villa Romana del Casale

Villa Romana del Casale is a UNESCO-listed Roman villa in Sicily containing some of the world’s best preserved Roman mosaics.

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Our list of ancient Roman ruins in Italy is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. So, if you know of other Ancient Roman sites to visit in Italy, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by contacting us today.