Historic sites in Italy

Historic-Sites-in-ItalyIf you’re looking to discover Historic sites in Italy then you can use our interactive map or explore the list below.

From the most famous Italian sites, such as Pompeii or Rome's Colosseum, to the hidden gems such as Civita di Bagnoregio or the Valley of the Temples, there’s a fantastic selection of historic sites in Italy and you can plan some great things to see on your trips by browsing our selection.

Once you’ve explored the historic sites of Italy you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan out your own Italy history tour and then print off a free pocket guidebook.

Our database of Italian historic sites is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other historic sites in Italy, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.


Top Italian Destinations: Historical Sites in Rome

Historical sites in Italy: Regional Index

Italy: Editor's Picks

Photo by Perrimoon (cc)

1. Pompeii

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city whose incredibly well-preserved ruins now form a popular UNESCO World Heritage site.

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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.

The people of Pompeii were completely unprepared for this disaster and its impact, which covered Pompeii in 6-7 metres of ash.

Today, Pompeii is one of the world’s most famous archeological 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.

Amongst Pompeii’s most interesting sites are; the public marketplace or ’Forum’, a large home known as the House of the Vettii and the Basilica, which was a central building in the city. The artifacts found at the site are also fascinating, with many domestic objects and even the preserved bodies of people who perished in the eruption.

Pompeii Amphitheatre is also staggeringly impressive, it being a 20,000 seat structure and the first ever stone amphitheatre. In 59AD, the Emperor Nero banned games in this sports venue for a whole ten years, after a giant brawl between fans of Pompeii and those of neighbouring Nuceria.

Pompeii is quite a maze, so ensure you have a map, available for free at information desk at the entrance, where you can also buy audio guides. During the summer, the Pompeii Archeological Superintendence organises evening tours. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

2. Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums house a comprehensive collection of artwork and historical pieces from throughout history.

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The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) house some of the most impressive and important historical artefacts and works of art in the world. Originally the site of the Vatican Museums was used for papal palaces, but they are now a series of galleries in Vatican City.

From the exemplary collection of classical statues in the Pio-Clementine Museum to the beautiful frescos by Raphael in the Raphael Rooms, the Vatican Museums have an extensive array of pieces from many historic periods.

Raphael’s Rooms or “Stanze di Raffaello” are divided into several periods, such as the room of Constantine, the room of Heliodorus, the room of Segnatura and the room of the Fire in the Borgo and depict events throughout history – both real and legendary.

The Gallery of Maps is particularly interesting, its walls adorned with topographical maps of Italy created by Ignazio Danti. The Vatican Museums also house a Gregorian Egyptian Museum containing funerary pieces, stelae and statues bearing hieroglyphics, a reconstruction of the Canopus of Hadrian’s Villa and mummies as well as reliefs and inscriptions from Assyrian palaces.

It would take many visits to see everything in the Vatican Museums. Some of the highlights include Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Catholic Saint Jerome, the Roman Christian sarcophagus of the politician Junius Bassus (d 359 AD) and the Dogmatic Sarcophagus or “Trinity Sarcophagus”, dating back to the mid-fourth century AD.

However, the star attraction of the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel. Probably the last of the exhibitions one sees at the Vatican Museums (it is quite a walk from the entrance), the Sistine Chapel is the magnificent creation of Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512. Its famous ceiling is frescoed in a multitude of colours with depictions from the Old and New Testaments showing, amongst other things, the creation of the world and original sin.

Guided tours of the Vatican Museums take place Mondays to Saturdays hourly from 9am to noon. The Vatican is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Historic Centre of Rome. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by albertopveiga (cc)

3. The Colosseum

Once the largest amphitheatre of Ancient Rome where gladiators, criminals and lions alike fought for their lives, the Colosseum remains a world renowned, iconic symbol of the Roman Empire.

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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.

The Colosseum, or ‘Colosseo’ in Italian, was once the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. It was built in the first century AD by the Emperor Vespasian as a place for the people of Rome to enjoy. Originally named the Flavian Amphitheatre, after Vespasian’s family name, the man who brought the Roman Empire back from the brink would not live to see its completion.

The construction of the Colosseum was very much a symbolic gesture to create a clear distinction between Vespasian and his predecessor, Nero. Nero had committed suicide after suffering military coups, partially a result of his extravagance, which included building the opulent Golden House and a vast statue of himself. By contrast, Vespasian was building the Colosseum for the citizens of Rome. As if to emphasise this point, the Colosseum was built in the former gardens of Nero’s palace over the site where Nero’s colossal statue had stood.

Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum was opened with great fanfare by Titus, Vespasian’s son and successor. He marked the opening of the Colosseum with one hundred days of games, including stunning battle recreations on artificial lakes of water. The fact that the Colosseum was completed by this date was particularly impressive considering the building’s incredible complexity, vast size and the fact that Vespasian only came to power in 69 AD.

Even despite the short timescale of the build, the result was spectacular. Not only was the Colosseum able to take up to 50,000 spectators, it was also perfectly symmetrical, ornately decorated in marble and stone and an incredible feat of engineering.

The Colosseum remained the amphitheatre of Rome until the end of the Roman Empire. This was the place where gladiators, lions and those accused of crimes were put to the test, often fighting to the death.

Since the fall of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum has suffered from various destructive forces, including extensive pillaging of its stone and marble as well as natural disasters such as earthquakes. In fact, its materials contributed to many famous Roman buildings such as St Peter’s Cathedral and the Palazzo Venezia. Yet, even though a third of the Colosseum has been lost over time, this magnificent structure remains one of the most fascinating and beautiful historic sites in the world.

A visit to the Colosseum 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 artifacts and information and audio guides are available in a number of languages. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by Historvius

4. Civita di Bagnoregio

Known as ’Il paese che muore’ (The dying town), Civita di Bagnoregio is a stunning medieval city that sits atop an eroded citadel. Founded by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago, it has been continuously inhabited to present day. Accessible only by a long foot-bridge.

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Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy is a stunning example of a medieval city left relatively untouched by modernity.

Known as ‘Il paese che muore’ - the dying town – Civita di Bagnoregio sits atop a rocky outcrop that stands between two valleys. The erosion caused over the centuries changed this once thriving settlement into an isolated citadel and Civita di Bagnoregio now has only a handful of residents. It is accessible only by a remarkable foot-bridge.

Believed to have been founded around 500BC, Civita di Bagnoregio was originally a Etruscan settlement and sat along an important trade route. Later falling under Roman rule, the area was conquered by the Lombards after the fall of the Western Empire. In fact, the city was once known as  Balneum Regis – meaning ‘the bath of the king’, as the Lombard King Desiderious had his wounds treated by the hot springs of the area.

Passing later to the Franks and then becoming part of the Papal states, Civita di Bagnoregio is also known for being the birthplace of Saint Bonaventure.

An earthquake in 1695 started the decline of Civita di Bagnoregio as many inhabitants began to leave after significant damage occurred. In the following decades and centuries the seismic activity, landslides and erosion saw the Civita di Bagnoregio virtually abandoned as more and more of the city was destroyed.

Today Civita di Bagnoregio’s unique history, location and architecture has seen it become a tourist attraction and efforts have been made to try to preserve this historic location. However, Civita di Bagnoregio remains on the list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites.

Visitors to Civita di Bagnoregio can see a number of interesting sites as well as the exceptional architecture on display. The fascinating ‘Eutruscan Corridor’ is a Eutruscan tunnel that completely crosses the town. Also worth a visit is the Cave Of Saint Bonaventure, the ancient olive-press and Saint Donato's Church. There is a tourist information centre at the site which provides a good starting point for visitors.

Photo by dalbera (cc)

5. Ostia Antica

The site of Ostia Antica contains the ruins of the port of ancient Rome and visitors can view some amazingly well preserved remains of the settlement.

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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 Antica 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.

Tracing its roots back to at least the 4th century BC, Ostia Antica served as Rome’s principle port for hundreds of years, a witness and monument to the rise of the ancient superpower, its dominance and eventual decline.

Ostia Antica's place in history is most notable for an attack by pirates in 68BC which led to unprecedented powers being handed to Pompey the Great, setting yet another precedent which damaged the foundations of the Republican system.

As the landscape changed over the centuries, Ostia Antica was slowly abandoned, and the site is now a couple of miles from the sea.

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.

Yet Ostia Antica is so much more than these notable elements, for it contains a huge range of well-preserved more typical Roman dwellings, shops, flats and warehouses and even has a Roman public toilet. This combines to give visitors a great picture of an ancient Roman town and allows you to get a real feel for day-to-day life in ancient Rome.

There is a small museum on site which has a number of artefacts and further information on the history of Ostia Antica. At certain times during the year Ostia Antica is also the venue for concerts and other events. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by M4rvin (cc)

6. Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is an iconic bell tower, renowned for its slanted stance.

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa, also known as the Tower of Pisa or ‘Torre pendente di Pisa’ in Italian, is one of the world’s most famous buildings, particularly due to its leaning stance which leaves it forever appearing to be toppling over.

Originally construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was begun in 1174, with the intention of it being a freestanding bell tower for Pisa’s cathedral. Located in the Field of Miracles or ‘Campo del Miracoli’, the tower began to lean very early on in its construction, apparently around the time of the construction of its third floor. The reason for the lean is that the ground on which it was built is sandy and unstable and the foundations used for the tower were insufficient to cope with this.

In 1185, a long period commenced in which construction of the Tower of Pisa ceased, the halt in progress usually being attributed to the fact that the Pisans were preoccupied with a succession of wars such as with Florence. Giovanni di Simone continued work on the tower in 1260 and, while there was a further pause in construction along the way, the Tower of Pisa was finally completed in 1360.

Since that time, the tower’s lean continued to increase, leading to fears that it would indeed fulfil its promise to topple. However, following an extensive and highly complex project, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is now stable. Today, visitors can admire the ornate white marble structure and climb the 186 feet to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa up a staggering 300 steps.

Photo by Rosino (cc)

7. Florence Cathedral

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

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Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), often called the “Duomo”, is an iconic site built from September 1296 and consecrated by Pope Eugenius IV on 25 March 1436.

From its lavish use of marble to its status as the fourth largest church in Europe, Florence Cathedral was always intended to be vast and impressive. In fact, its initial designer, Arnolfo di Cambio wanted it to be the world’s largest church of the Roman Catholic faith.

The Dome

One of the most famous aspects of Florence Cathedral is its dome. Designed by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi who took inspiration from the engineering style used to build Rome’s Pantheon, it was one of the largest of its day and is tiled in a distinctive orange shade. Visitors who climb the 463 steps of the “Duomo” are rewarded with incredible views of Florence.

Works of Art

Inside Florence Cathedral, the dome is decorated with a fresco known as “The Last Judgement”, initially painted by Vasari, who also contributed to the Palazzo Vecchio, and later finished by Zuccari. Michelangelo’s and Donatello’s works are also represented inside as are copies of Pisano’s works. Despite this, the interior of Florence Cathedral is very austere, almost bare, representing the typical Florentine style of the time.

The Baptistry

Adjoining Florence Cathedral is the octagonal Baptistry, believed to be one of the city’s oldest structures and possibly dating back as far as the fourth century. As Florence grew in power and importance, the Baptistry was enlarged and renovated, mostly from the twelfth century onwards. One of the Baptistry’s most celebrated elements are its bronze doors, which depict important Christian events.

Archaeological Finds

Further fascinating aspects of Florence Cathedral are the archaeological findings at the site, including the ruins of Santa Reparata Cathedral, its predecessor. This is contained in the crypt, part of which s open to the public and which also houses the tomb of Brunelleschi.

Guided tours are available. Florence Cathedral is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of historic Florence.

Photo by Historvius

8. Paestum

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

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Paestum is a Greco-Roman site located south of Naples which contains the stunning remains of three ancient Greek temples which still stand tall today.

Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC, Paestum was originally known as Poseidonia, named for the Greek god Poseidon. The city was captured by the Romans in 273BC after the Pyrrhic Wars and became the thriving Roman settlement of Paestum.

However, the changing climate and political upheavals of the later Roman Empire saw Paestum begin to decline in the early medieval period and by the turn of the millennium the site had been abandoned – it was not rediscovered until the 18th century.

Today, visitors to Paestum can still see the spectacular temples – the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres (thought by some to be a temple of Athena).

The site also contains impressive defensive walls, a Roman forum, the basic remains of a Roman amphitheatre and a number of ancient tombs. Paestum also boasts an early Christian church and Paestum Museum, which has a wealth of information about the local sites. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by tatto.be (cc)

9. Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte is an impressive thirteenth century fortified palace of Frederick II listed by UNESCO.

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Castel del Monte in Puglia, Italy is a medieval palace originally built as a hunting lodge by the Emperor Frederick II and later used as his seat of power. Built in the thirteenth century and completed in 1240, Castel del Monte has been described by UNESCO, with whom it is listed as a World Heritage site, as a “unique piece of medieval military architecture”.

Frederick II used his knowledge of culture, natural sciences and mathematics to create a number of castles of which Castel del Monte was the largest. With its set of perfectly octagonal towers, it was also a great example of symmetry in medieval building.

Castel del Monte is not only extremely well defended, with thick limestone walls and a position on an, albeit low, hill, but it blends the influences of the cultures to which Frederick II had been exposed and had learned about. This palace also employed many sophisticated functions from around the world, as demonstrated by the oriental-inspired complex hydraulic systems of the bathroom facilities.

After the death of Frederick II, Castel del Monte served primarily as a stronghold and military base until the nineteenth century. Visitors to Castel del Monte can tour its two floors. Much of the original splendour, such as its marble walls, has now disappeared, but traces appear here and there.

There are information boards in several languages. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by jimmyweee (cc)

10. Capua Gladiator Museum

Capua Gladiator Museum is a small archaeological museum connected to Campania Amphitheatre. One for Spartacus fans...

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The Gladiator Museum of Santa Maria Capua Vetere is a small museum exploring the history of the adjacent Campania Amphitheatre, including exhibitions of dioramas showing how it would have looked at its peak and also original artefacts found at the site itself including gladiatorial weapons.

Comprised of two rooms, the Gladiator Museum also houses fragments which decorated Campania Amphitheatre such as arches and inscriptions. Given that Campania Amphitheatre is now a shadow of its former self, it is definitely worth visiting the Gladiator Museum, if only to get a sense of its true grandeur, especially since the entry ticket for both sites is combined.

Italy: Site Index

Photo by Malte.S (cc)

Acqua Marcia

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

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The Acqua Marcia is one of seven of Rome’s aqueducts which are located within the Appia Antica Regional Park. Built between 44 and 42 BC, significant stretches of this ancient aqueduct, with its monumental arches and brickwork, can still be seen today. However, it is far from its original glory, with much of the site having been destroyed during the construction of the Felice Aqueduct.

One of the most popular ways to view the Acqua Marcia is by bicycle, rented from the Appia Antica Regional Park.

Photo by Helena (cc)

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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Alba Fucens has been described as an 'archaeological jewel' and it's easy to see why. It is situated in a picturesque valley at the base of the 8,159ft Monte Velino in the Abruzzo region of central Italy and was a frontier town separating the Marsi and Equi tribes featured in ancient Rome's early chapters but were defeated by the Romans in 303BC.

The thriving, prosperous town saw conflict during the Second Punic War (218BC - 201BC) and the Social War (91BC - 88BC) and held some very important state prisoners including Syphax of Numidia, Perseus of Macedonia and Bituitus, King of the Arverni before being totally destroyed by the Saracens in the 10th century.

While the history of Alba Fucens is utterly fascinating, what remains today for the 40,000 yearly visitors is equally as captivating. In the late 1940s, Belgian legal historian and architect Ferdinand de Visscher 'gave himself with abandon' to the archaeological conservation of Alba Fucens and amongst many stunning finds lie the remains of a magnificent amphitheatre commissioned by Praetorian prefect Naevius Macro (and today used for theatrical and musical performances), a macellum or marketplace and amazingly well-preserved fortification walls with a circuit of over 3km.

Visitors will also see thermal spas intricately decorated with marine-inspired mosaics, baths for men and women, the pagan chapel of Hercules, an ancient domus romana, counters and sinks of a wine bar, a sewage system (cloaca maxima) and the 12th century Church of San Pietro.

Aquileia Archaeological Area

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

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Aquileia in northern Italy’s Udine province was an important and affluent Roman trading port now famed for its archaeological sites and particularly it Patriarchal Basilica.

Founded in 181BC, the Romans only intended Aquileia to be a colony, but its excellent links meant that by 90BC it was a thriving municipium, with its residents rewarded not just with beautiful infrastructure but with Roman citizenship.

Attacked by Attila in 425AD, much of Aquileia was destroyed but there is still a lot to see. The archaeological site boasts a set of baths, the Republican macellum, some grand homes, part of the forum, an amphitheatre and a cemetery. The Basilica at Aquileia is also a massive draw. Whilst the current church was consecrated in 1031, parts of it – especially its stunning mosaics - hark back to the original fourth century structure.

The sites are actually spread out throughout Aquileia and many of them are visible from the roadside. There is also a museum, the National Archaeological Museum of Aquileia, housing a series of ancient finds.

Aquileia’s impressive remains have earned it UNESCO World Heritage status.

Photo by neosintesi (cc)

Aquileia Basilica

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

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The Aquileia Basilica - Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta - in northern Italy played an important role in spreading Christianity from as early as the fourth century. Originally constructed in 313 AD by Bishop Teodoro, much of Aquileia’s Basilica was destroyed by Attila and his Huns in 452AD.

Today’s Aquileia Patriarchal Basilica underwent a series of constructions and reconstructions over the centuries, with the current incanation consecrated in 1031. Yet the evidence of its long history is not erased. Indeed, visitors to the stunning Patriarchal Basilica can still see its fourth century mosaics.

Photo by GeoSearch Italia (cc)

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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The Arch of Augustus in Rimini, known as Arco d'Augusto, is an Ancient Roman monument constructed in 27 BC for the Rome’s first emperor. Thought to have been the gateway to Ancient Rimini which would have formed part of the city walls, the Arch of Augustus is a fairly ornate structure depicting various deities such as Neptune, Apollo and Jupiter.

Photo by Historvius

Arch of Constantine

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

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The Arch of Constantine was a triumphal arch built by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, also known as Constantine the Great, in 315AD.

Erected to commemorate Constantine’s victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312AD, the Arch of Constantine contains an inscription dedicated to the emperor which can still be read today.

The Arch of Constantine is situated next to the Colosseum and near to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. It is free to visit and there are no opening hours. As well as the Arch of Constantine, there are two other triumphal arches in Rome, the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Severus.

Photo by aslives (cc)

Arch of Janus

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

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The Arch of Janus in Rome is an ancient Roman monument which is exceptional for being the only remaining triumphal arch in the city to have four faces, a design feature known as Quadrifrons.

Constructed in the early fourth century AD, the Arch of Janus was located at the periphery of the Forum Boarium, once Rome’s cattle market. Built of brick and marble, the arch has alcoves which would have originally contained statues and other decorative items, however these have not survived.

Little is known about this arch and, despite its name, the Arch of Janus was probably built in honour of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. As such, it is often known as Arcus Constantini.

As Constantine himself converted to Christianity after his victory in the civil wars, there is much debate as to whether such a triumphal arch would have been dedicated to a pagan deity by Constantine, further compelling the mystery surrounding this monument.

This ancient arch can be found in the centre of Rome, near other Roman sites such as the Roman Forum and Colosseum. As such, it's certainly worth a quick detour to view it as it's a pretty impressive site.

Photo by antmoose (cc)

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

Located in the Roman Forum, the Arch of Septimius Severus commemorates the short war between Rome and the Parthian Empire, fought by the Emperor between 194-199AD. The brief conflict resulted in victory for Severus, who sacked the Parthian capital and reclaimed territory in the East.

The arch was completed in 203AD and remains in good condition despite the passage of time. It is free to view and there are no opening times. There are two similar triumphal arches in Rome, the Arch of Constantine and the Arch of Titus.

Photo by Sebastian Bergmann (cc)

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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The Arch of Titus is a Roman triumphal arch built by the Emperor Domitian to commemorate the victories of his elder brother, Emperor Titus. The Arch was completed shortly after Titus’ death in 81AD.

Though only Emperor for two years, Titus had fought many campaigns under his father, Emperor Vespasian. The Arch of Titus commemorates his victory in the Jewish War, which lasted from 66AD until the fall of Masada in 73AD. Decorations adorn the arch, with some of the most interesting being the depictions of the spoils of the Temple of Jerusalem, including the Menorah, being carried away by Roman soldiers.

The Arch of Titus is free to view and is situated near the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. There are two similar triumphal arches in Rome, the Arch of Constantine and the Arch of Severus.

Photo by Robert Nyman (cc)

Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

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

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Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is a small, but fascinating archaeological site in Rome. In the course of building works carried out in the 1920’s, four Roman Republican-era temples were found in the square of Largo di Torre Argentina.

The remains of the four temples of Area Sacra di Largo Argentina, now called Temples A, B, C and D, include various columns, platforms and walls.

The oldest of the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina temples is temple C, which was built in the early half of the third century BC. It can be recognised as the rectangular structure perched on a platform with an altar in front of it. It is also next to the largest of the temples, Temple D, which sits at one end and has a prominent set of columns. It is thought to date back to the second century BC.

Temple B of Area Sacra di Largo Argentina, built in the second century BC, is the round temple, while temple A, next to it on the end has been dated back to the third century BC.

Also located at the Area Sacra, on the side of the Via di Torre Argentina, is a collection of stones which have now been attributed as having formed part of the Curia of Pompey. This once rectangular building formed part of the complex which included the Theatre of Pompey and it was in the Curia of Pompey – a senate meeting place - that Julius Caesar was assassinated on 15 March 44BC.

The current occupants of the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina are not Romans, but cats – stray cats to be precise. Today, the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is home to a charming cat shelter (on the corner of Via di Torre Argentina).

Photo by dalbera (cc)

Atrium Vestae

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

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The Atrium Vestae or 'House of the Vestal Virgins' in the Roman Forum was a fifty-room palace in Ancient Rome. Originally part of the Temple of Vesta, the Atrium Vestae served as the home of the priestesses of the g-dess of the hearth, Vesta. These holy women were known as the Vestal Virgins.

Little remains of Atrium Vestae, except for a series of statues displayed in a well-tended courtyard together with the walls of some of its rooms.

Photo by antmoose (cc)

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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The Aula Ottagona, or Octagonal Hall, is probably the best surviving structure from the Baths of Diocletian. Built in 306AD, the baths were the largest of the ancient world and could hold up to 3,000 people at a time.

Today, the remains of the baths can be seen over a wide area, with parts of the structure having been incorporated into other buildings, such as the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.

However, to get the best idea of the scale and make-up of the original structure, the Aula Ottogona is the place to visit. A domed structure that would have been one of several large chambers making up the original bath complex, the Aula Ottogona remains intact and is now used for exhibitions as part of the National Roman Museum.

Photo by TyB (cc)

Baia

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

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Baia, also known as Baiae, is an impressive archaeological complex in Campania in Italy housing the remains of a series of summer homes of the leaders of Ancient Rome.

Development began in Baia in the second century BC, during the republican era and continued into the imperial age, when the Emperor Augustus connected all the lavish villas in the area with a road. It was also under Augustus that Baia was furnished with its grand thermal baths.

Augustus’s successors, notably Nero, Hadrian, and Alexander Severus continued to expand and develop Baia, transforming it into a expansive mass of villas and leisure facilities. By now it was a true retreat for Rome’s elite.

Several pretty ruins remain at Baia, lying sprawled over the hills and near the coast. However, much of this almost-city, known by many as “little Rome” has since been swept into the sea.

Photo by David Paul Ohmer (cc)

Basilica Aemelia

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

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Basilica Aemelia was a commercial building in the Roman Forum where the financial professionals of Ancient Rome would convene.

Considered to be one of the most impressive of the Forum’s structures, it is thought that Basilica Aemelia was built and rebuilt several times. Its first incarnation may have been erected in 179 BC and it was finally burnt to the ground in the fifth century AD.

Parts of the Basilica Aemelia have since been rebuilt, although little remains except remnants of columns and its pavement.

Photo by b.roveran (cc)

Basilica di Santa Croce

The Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy is most famous for being the burial place of many of the city’s most iconic figures.

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The Basilica di Santa Croce or “Basilica of the Holy Cross “ is a medieval church in Florence, Italy most well known for its beautiful decoration and its status as the burial site of many of Florence’s most famous individuals.

Constructed around 1294, the Basilica di Santa Croce has sixteen chapels, each of which was ornately decorated. Amongst those who contributed to the splendour of this church was the artist Giotto di Bondone, whose frescos can be seen throughout and include the 14th century Cappella Bardi Frescos. The architect and designer of the famous duomo of Florence Cathedral, Filippo Brunelleschi, also left his mark on this site in the form of the domed chapel, Cappella de’ Pazzi.

The Florentines whose tombs lie within the Basilica di Santa Croce are a mix of prominent artists and philosophers such as the Michelangelo, who was known as a painter and sculptor and also as an engineer and architect. Philosopher and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, whose works included ‘The Prince’ and ‘The Art of War’, is also buried here as is the astronomer and philosopher, Galileo Galilei.

The Basilica di Santa Croce is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Historic Florence. Guided tours are available as are audio guides (summer only).

Photo by Justin Ennis (cc)

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore is a papal basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary a.k.a Santa Maria della Neve or Santa Maria ad Praesepem. This is Rome's major or principal church dedicated to St Mary.

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Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of Saint Mary Major) in Rome is a Patriarchal or ‘Papal’ Basilica and home to the famed Sistine Chapel. Originally built in the 5th century – from which time it still uniquely retains its structure – this ecclesiastical giant bears the works of many centuries. Whether it’s the baroque 18th century façade of Ferdinand Fuga, the Cosmatesque pavement gifted to the church in the 13th century or the fifth century triumphal arch and mosaics that still adorn it, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore offers the visitor a chance to see works of art and architecture from throughout its history.

One of the best known aspects of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is the Sistine Chapel, with its beautiful paintings. It was Pope Sixtus V who commissioned Domenico Fontana to create the chapel. Several popes are buried at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, among them Sixtus V.

As well as viewing Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore itself, there is also a museum showcasing the site’s most important works.

Photo by DogFog (cc)

Basilica Julia

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

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Basilica Julia, also known as Basilica Iulia, was a civil courthouse in the Roman Forum which would also have housed a series of shops.

Initially founded by Julius Caesar in 54 BC, it soon burnt to the ground and was rebuilt and completed under Augustus in 12 BC. In fact, Basilica Julia suffered damage from several fires and would be rebuilt a number of times.

Photo by asw909 (cc)

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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The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine is the largest structure in the Roman Forum and still has part of its roof as well as three of its colossal arches and vaults.

Initial construction of the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine started under the Roman Emperor Maxentius in 308 AD and was completed by Constantine in approximately 312-3 AD. With its vast vaults standing unsupported, it is considered to be a triumph of Roman engineering.

Contrary to the religious connotations of its name, it is thought that the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine would have, like other Roman basilicas, served as a meeting house and judicial or administrative centre.

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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The Basilica of Sant Angelo in Formis is an eleventh century Benedictine church constructed on the former site of a Roman temple dedicated to Diana Tifatina. In fact, the remains of this Roman temple are incorporated into the Basilica of Sant Angelo in Formis, including its Doric columns and floor, both of which were once part of the temple.

The current form of Sant Angelo in Formis dates back to 1053 when it was built by the Abbot of Montecassino Desiderius, who was later Pope Victor III. Visitors to Sant Angelo in Formis can view its colourfully frescoed interior.

Photo by Stefano Costantini (cc)

Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin

The basilica sits at the Forum Boarium, the ancient cattle market. Many visitors flock here to see the famous Bocca della Verità, a large marble disc that was used in the Middle Ages as a lie detector.

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Santa Maria in Cosmedin is a charming 8th century church in Rome commissioned by Pope Hadrian I. The site of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, within the locality of the Forum Boarium, was already home to a charitable food distribution centre and an ancient temple dedicated to Hercules Invictus, which was itself reconstructed in the 2nd century BC.

Whilst it was restored in the 9th century and suffered during the Norman invasion, today’s Santa Maria in Cosmedin owes much of its appearance to a 19th century refurbishment.

The unlikely star of the show at Santa Maria in Cosmedin is an ancient plaque known as the Bocca della Verità or ‘Mouth of Truth’. The origins of this ancient Roman block with its lion’s face is unclear – it is usually thought to have been a sewer drain cover or part of a fountain – but it is said that the lion’s mouth will close on anyone’s hand who lies. Tourists line up to test this theory.

Photo by Historvius

Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla were an Ancient Roman public baths and leisure complex and remain well-preserved.

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The Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla in Italian) are an ancient Roman public baths complex in Rome, the incredible remains of which are one of the very best ancient sites in Rome.

It was the Emperor Septimius Severus who began building the Baths of Caracalla in 206 AD, but they are named after his son, the emperor Caracalla, who completed the works in 216 AD.
Comprised of a vast compound of red-brick buildings, the Baths of Caracalla would, like all ancient Roman baths, have been used for a variety of social functions and could accommodate thousands of visitors at any one time. As well as being where people gathered and bathed, the Baths of Caracalla would have had shops, libraries and galleries as well as other leisure facilities.

Used until they were destroyed by the Goths in the sixth century AD, they Baths of Caracalla were later exploited for their marble. However, due to their position slightly outside the centre of the city, the baths were never built over and have therefore survived in good condition.

Today the hugely impressive remains of the Baths of Caracalla 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.

Photo by antmoose (cc)

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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Once the largest ancient baths complex in the world, the Baths of Diocletian – or Terme di Diocleziano – was built between 298AD and 306AD in honour of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

Set out along the traditional model of a Roman baths complex, the Baths of Diocletian contained a frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room or steam room) as well as additional large bathing chambers, gymnasiums and even a library. The baths themselves were a hugely impressive building project, particularly given how swiftly they were constructed. The majority of the water for the baths was supplied by the Acqua Marcia.

The key difference with other contemporary baths was simply a question of scale - it is believed that at their height the Baths of Diocletian could hold up to 3,000 people at a time.

Given the sheer size of the Baths of Diocletian, it is no surprise that the structure did not survive intact over the centuries. However, various elements of the baths survive - some standing as grand ruins, others having been incorporated into other buildings. It can therefore be difficult at times to distinguish between the original building, restored areas and more modern constructions built within the complex.

One of the key tourist attractions for those wishing to view the baths is the Museo Nazionale Romano - Terme di Diocleziano, which is part of the Rome National Museum (shown on map, above). This museum, opened in 1889, was built within the Baths of Diocletian and contains several collections from the ancient world. Although the museum contains many interesting exhibits, it gives little insight into the original baths themselves.

Probably the best place to view the actual structure, and get an idea as to the original scale of the Baths of Diocletian, is the well preserved Aula Ottagona. Also part of the Rome National Museum, it contains many artefacts found during the excavation. Though currently closed except when hosting an exhibition, it is the sheer scale and preservation of the structure that impresses most .

Other areas of the Baths of Diocletian can also be explored in the nearby Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri and Church of San Bernardo alle Terme.

Photo by AlMare (cc)

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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The Boscoreale Villa and Antiquarium complex contains the remains of an ancient Roman villa as well as an archaeological museum dedicated to this and other ancient sites - including Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae.

The archaeological site at Boscoreale was actually home to a number of Roman villas, which were destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Of these villas only one is open to the public, the partially-restored Villa Regina.

This villa probably dates back to the first century BC and had been further enlarged during the Julio-Claudian era. It is comprised of a number of rooms, arranged on three sides of an open courtyard which houses the wine cellar. It is believed the villa formed part of a farming complex, which was probably a vineyard and wine-press. Other villas excavated at the site include Villa Pisanella and the Villa of Publius Fannio Sinistore.

The Antiquarium archaeological museum contains artefacts from the Boscoreale villas as well as finds from the other major ancient sites in the area.

Photo by andypowe11 (cc)

Cagliari Amphitheatre

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

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

The origins of Cagliari Amphitheatre are obscure, though it is thought to have been built around the 2nd century AD and was certainly in use by the mid-3rd century, as referenced by ancient authors. Cut directly into the rock face and augmented with additional marble construction, the amphitheatre would have been used for a number of events, including gladiatorial games and public executions.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, Cagliari Amphitheatre fell into disuse and, like many other Roman constructs, was partially pillaged for materials over the centuries.

Today Cagliari Amphitheatre is open as a tourist attraction as well as hosting local musical events.

Campania Amphitheatre

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

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Campania Amphitheatre (Anfiteatro Campano) in Santa Maria Capua Vetere was the second largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire after the Colosseum.

At its zenith, Campania Amphitheatre would have been a grand four-tiered structure able to seat up to 60,000 people and adorned with beautiful monuments from columns to sculptures.

Located in the city of Capua, which was at one time possibly the largest city in Italy, the existing Campania Amphitheatre was the second amphitheatre to be built on the site. Started by the Emperor Nerva and continued by Trajan and Hadrian, it was completed in 138 AD.

Unfortunately, much of Campania Amphitheatre has been destroyed over the years, ravaged by the Visigoths, the Vandals and the Saracens. Externally, only the first level and part of the second tier of Campania Amphitheatre survive. However, there is still much to see at the site, including subterranean tunnels showing the workings of the amphitheatre.

Guided tours of the site must be booked in advance. There is also an on-site Gladiator Museum, which explores the history of Campania Amphitheatre as well as that of those who fought in the amphitheatres of Ancient Rome.

Photo by Jörg Schulz (cc)

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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Cannae Battlefield marks the site of the famous Battle of Cannae, fought in 216 BC between Hannibal of Carthage and a huge Roman army led by Consuls Varro and Paullus. It stands as Hannibal’s greatest victory and Rome’s greatest defeat. However, not even this massive loss of life stopped the Roman war machine from losing the battle but winning the war.

With Hannibal having already invaded Italy and defeated large Roman armies at both Trebbia and Trasimene, the Roman leadership was under significant pressure to turn the tide of war. To try and stop Hannibal, Rome gathered the biggest army it had ever put in the field: more than 80,000 men. Outnumbered two to one, Hannibal used a new and brilliant tactic, known today as double envelopment, and massacred the Romans.

One historian has compared the result to an atomic bomb: 80,000 men died that day, possibly the most casualties ever in a single battle. This defeat brought Rome closer to total collapse than at any time during its history.

The site has one monument to the battle of Cannae within the archaeological site of Cannae di Battaglia which itself is a village from the middle ages.

To find the monument you have to enter and walk to the furthest point of the site. There is a single column which commemorates the battle. If you stand at this column and look north over the countryside, this is the area where most historians feel the battle was fought. The entrance to the site has some relevant information and memorabilia.

Contributed by Sam Wood, Ride and Seek Historical Bike Tours

Capua Archaeological Museum

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

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Capua Archaeological Museum in Santa Maria Capua Vetere displays a series of artefacts from around the region including from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, the Etruscan civilisation, Ancient Greek and Roman objects.

Adjacent to the Capua Archaeological Museum is a second century Mithraeum, a subterranean temple of the Persian cult of Mithras. You can visit the Mithraeum with a member of the museum staff.

Photo by krotpong (cc)

Capuchin Crypt

The Capuchin Crypt in Rome is an eerie underground vault, located beneath a medieval church, which contains the macabre remains of 4,000 Capuchin monks.

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The Capuchin Crypt (Cripta dei Cappuccini) in Rome is an underground burial vault situated beneath a medieval church which contains the remains of four thousand Capuchin monks.

The church itself, Santa Maria della Concezione, was built in the 1620s by Capuchin Cardinal Antonio Barberini. When the monks moved in they brought with them the bones of at least 300 deceased friars and over the centuries more burials were added to the crypt.

Today, visitors to the the Capuchin Crypt can explore several dark chambers containing these bones, set out in a number of displays. The macabre essence of is piled on by displays of skull-and-crossbones, an actual ‘coat of arms’ and other equally unnerving endeavours.

A prominent and oft-noted message within the crypt declares: "What you are, we once were. What we are, you someday will be."

Visitors to the Capuchin Crypt can also explore the Capuchin Museum, which contains a number of displays and exhibits exploring the lives of the Capuchin monks and the work they have undertaken through the centuries.

Photo by edwin.11 (cc)

Castel Sant Angelo

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

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Castel Sant Angelo in Rome was originally constructed as the magnificent Mausoleum of Hadrian, the fourteenth emperor of Rome from 117AD to 138AD. It is unclearly as to exactly when Castel Sant Angelo was built, but most sources date it to between 123 and 139 AD.

A fortress-like structure, successive Roman emperors and other leaders used Castel Sant Angelo for a variety of purposes. In 401, Emperor Flavius Augustus Honorius incorporated Castel Sant Angelo in Rome’s Aurelian Walls, destroying and losing many of the contents of Hadrian’s mausoleum in the process. It later turned into a medieval stronghold and a prison.

In the fourteenth century, popes began using Castel Sant Angelo as a place of safety, an emergency shelter in times of danger. In fact, there is a corridor linking Castel Sant Angelo with Vatican Palace. Various changes were made to Castel Sant Angelo in order to meet the requirements of the popes and to further fortify this already well-defended building.

Today, Castel Sant Angelo houses a museum which tells the story of its history, from the Roman remains of the Mausoleum of Hadrian to remnants of the fortified castle, the original prison cells and the papal apartments.

Photo by cristianocani (cc)

Castello di San Michele

Castello di San Michele is a medieval fortress turned luxury home, hospital and museum.

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Castello di San Michele is an imposing medieval citadel in Cagliari in Sardinia built by the Spanish in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. However, there were structures on this site from the tenth century.

Later serving as the luxurious home of the Carroz family until 1511, the function of Castello di San Michele changed entirely in the seventeenth century when it became a quarantine section for plague victims.

Now home to temporary exhibits, Castello di San Michele is made up of three main towers joined by a series of thick walls.

Photo by grongar (cc)

Castelvecchio Museum

Castelvecchio Museum and Fortress is a 14th century medieval castle which now hosts a fine art gallery and museum.

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Castelvecchio Museum and Fortress in Verona is a 14th century medieval castle which now hosts a fine art gallery and collections of ancient artifacts.

The Castelvecchio fortress itself is a site in its own right and dates back to the 14th century. Built by Cangrande II della Scala, Castelvecchio boasts imposing walls and vast towers which lend a magnificence and sense of raw power to the castle complex. It was built alongside the Ponte Scaligero which runs from the castle across the River Adige.

Castelvecchio fortress was a testament to the power of the Della Scala (Scaliger) family who ruled Verona in the 13th and 14th centuries until their internecine conflicts led to their downfall.

From 1404 Verona became part of the Venetian Republic and Castelvecchio became a munitions depot and subsequently was the home of the Venetian Military Academy. In the 1797 revolt against the French Castelvecchio was used as a barracks and the castle was the site of a number of actions during the uprising.

Today, Castelvecchio is a museum which hosts an impressive art gallery showcasing medieval and Renaissance artworks mostly from the local area. There are also Roman artifacts and sculptures and early Christian collections. The Castelvecchio complex was remodelled in 1957 by Carlo Scarpa.

 

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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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The Catacombs of San Gennaro are an incredible collection of ancient underground tombs in Naples, some dating back as far as the second and third centuries AD. Located near San Gennaro church, the catacombs were in use from the early era of Christianity to at least the later middle ages and possibly beyond.

The relics of San Gennaro, which were located there until the ninth century, are long gone, having been first moved to Benevento and then located in Naples Cathedral. Nevertheless, the catacombs are still a fascinating site and the burial place of many of the bishops of Naples from medieval times. In the fifteenth century, the Catacombs of San Gennaro acquired the sinister role of being the burial place of victims of plague.

Dimly lit and hauntingly atmospheric, the catacombs span two floors in which visitors can see sets of archways and well preserved frescos and mosaics, some having been created in the second century AD. The highlight for many is the painting of San Gennaro himself.

Photo by Northfielder (cc)

Catacombs of San Callisto

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

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The Catacombs of San Callisto are just one of the many catacombs of Rome, five of which are regularly open to the public. These Catacombs were used by Christians as subterranean burial places.

Built in around 150 AD, the Catacombs of San Callisto span five floors and hold over half a million bodies, making them the largest of their kind in Rome. Whilst some believe that the practice of underground burials derived from the persecution of the Christians and thus the need to keep the graves safe, others think that this was just the custom at the time and due to the fact that they owned little land.

The most famous residents of the Catacombs of San Callisto are a number of popes of the third century, but not Pope St. Callixtus after whom the catacombs are named. Instead, this pope was responsible for part of the construction and expansion of the Catacombs of San Callisto.

Photo by Sibeaster (cc)

Catacombs of the Capuchins

The Catacombs of the Capuchins in which thousands of preserved corpses dating from the sixteenth century onwards are displayed.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Catacombs of the Capuchins (Catacombe dei Cappuccini) in Sicily house the preserved – often extremely well-preserved – corpses of thousands of people.

It is believed that people were initially buried in the Catacombs of the Capuchins because those interred there were found to remain mysteriously well-preserved. Over time, more and more people wished to be buried there and in later stages many were embalmed.

When describing the Catacombs of the Capuchins, it is difficult not to use the word “macabre”, especially when confronted with reality of seeing the array displayed mummified bodies which lie underneath the Capuchin Monastery. Many of them have distorted expressions on their faces and often they are dressed in their best clothes, creating a bizarre experience.

The oldest of the bodies at the Catacombs of the Capuchins is that of Silvestro da Gubbio, dating back to 1599. Like all of the people who were put to rest here in the early years of these catacombs, da Gubbio was a friar. Later, nobles and dignitaries would join the religious community in the Catacombs of the Capuchins. In fact, the corpses are divided according to categories such as vocation and even gender, for example there is a women’s corridor.

Meanwhile, the last person to be laid to rest in the Catacombs of the Capuchins was two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo. Having died of pneumonia in 1920, Rosalia now lies under a blanket, a bow tied in her hair and her face bearing a calm expression. Tragically, one could mistakenly assume that this little girl was sleeping. She is actually known in Sicily as “sleeping beauty”. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Chiesa del Gesu

The Chiesa del Gesu is an historic church in Rome notable for its artistic decorations, particularly its ceiling frescoes, and its place as the centre of the Catholic Jesuit Order.

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The Chiesa del Gesu is an historic church in Rome notable for both its artistic wonders and its place as the centre of the Catholic Jesuit Order.

The brainchild of the founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Ignatius himself did not live to see his vision realised. However, the project was driven forward by Ignatius’ successors and, with funding from the powerful Farnese family the majority of the church was complete by 1589, at which point worked stopped after the death of the major benefactor, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.

It took almost one hundred years for major work on the Chiesa del Gesu to resume, with the addition of the ceiling decorations for which the church is so well known today. However, with the suppression of the order in the late 18th century, many of the church’s original possessions were lost. It was not until the restoration and further investment in the church in the mid-19th century that the church regained its former glory.

Among the artwork to be found within the Chiesa del Gesu today are a number of stunning frescoes, the famous ceiling paintings – which are said to give the impression that angels are descending from the heavens through the roof – as well as the tomb of Ignatius Loyola.

Photo by cristianocani (cc)

Chiesa di San Lucifero

Chiesa di San Lucifero is a baroque seventeenth century church in Cagliari built on the remains of a sixth century Christian necropolis.

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Chiesa di San Lucifero is a baroque seventeenth century church in Cagliari built on the remains of a sixth century Christian necropolis.

Photo by scazon (cc)

Circus Maximus

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

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The Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo) in Rome was the main and largest sports stadium in Ancient Rome. Overlooked from the north by the emperors’ palaces on the Palatine, this grand arena was the site of exciting chariot races watched by an exhilarated crowd.

Built and rebuilt several times, at its largest the Circus Maximus held between 150,000 and 250,000 people. It is unclear as to when the first version of the Circus Maximus was constructed – it was certainly the oldest of Rome’s arenas - although it was in use by the fourth century BC and was enlarged under Julius Caesar in the first century AD and later by other emperors.

Today, the Circus Maximus is a shadow of its former magnificence. Without its Egyptian obelisks and Roman monuments, many see it as just a field, yet, with its shape and vast size still clearly visible, the Circus Maximus is definitely worth visiting.

Photo by TyB (cc)

Circus of Maxentius

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

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The Circus of Maxentius (Circo di Massenzio), in southern Rome may have been much smaller than the Circus Maximus – only holding approximately 10,000 spectators – but today it has its revenge by being far better preserved that its grander counterpart.

Located on the famous Via Appia, the Circus of Maxentius was built sometime during the reign of the Emperor Maxentius (306-312 AD). Some say that the reason for its excellent preservation was the fact that it was barely used, if at all.

Today, some of the structures in the complex of which the Circus of Maxentius formed a part still stand, together with its central dividing line – spina - and its entrance towers. It would have been the site of the villa of Maxentius. The site is still under excavation, but is open to the public.

Photo by mcalamelli (cc)

Coriano Ridge War Cemetery

Coriano Ridge War Cemetery is a World War II Commonwealth cemetery in Coriano in Italy.

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Coriano Ridge War Cemetery in Italy is a World War II Commonwealth cemetery located in what was a vital strategic site in 1944.

Once Italy had reached an armistice with the Allies in 1943, Allied forces began to engage in fierce battles aimed at removing German forces – particularly the Gothic Line - from Italy, especially in the areas surrounding Rimini.

It was vital for the Allies to take Coriano Ridge in order to allow them to liberate Rimini from German forces. Yet, hampered by severe rain and German resistance, the battle for Coriano Ridge, whilst eventually successful, led to significant casualties.

Today, Coriano Ridge War Cemetery contains the neatly tended graves of 1,939 Commonwealth soldiers from the British and Canadian divisions that fought there, notably the Eighth Army, the 1st British Armoured Division and the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.

Photo by filologanoga (cc)

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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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.

Cumae itself was a settlement established by Greek colonists in the eighth century BC. Sacked by the Oscans in the fifth century BC and incorporated into the Roman Empire in the fourth century BC, Cumae’s sites are mostly Roman, but there are several Greek ones as well.

The most celebrated site at Cumae Archaeological Park is Sybil’s Cave or ‘Antro della Sibilla’. This atmospheric cave was built in two phases, the first in the fourth century BC, the second in the late first century BC or early AD.

Named after the Cumaean priestess who, according to Virgil's Aeneid, is said to have prophesized to the Trojan Aeneas prior to his entry into the underworld, the exact purpose of Sybil’s Cave is yet to be decided upon, but it was most likely a defensive structure. It also served as a Christian burial site. Whatever its original use, this atmospheric trapezoidal tunnel is fascinating.

Other sites at Cumae Archaeological Park include the fifth century acropolis walls, a second century BC amphitheatre, a forum, several temples, such as the Temples of Jupiter and Apollo, and a second century AD public baths complex.

Photo by Mollenborg (cc)

Curia Julia

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

DID YOU KNOW?

The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum was the senate house in Ancient Rome, built under Julius Caesar and later restored by Diocletian after being damaged by fire.

It stood at the very heart of the ancient city, both physically and politically and would have borne witness to some of the most famous of Rome's events and figures.

Unusually for an Ancient Roman building, the Curia Julia stands intact, this being due to its conversion into the church of Saint Adriano in 623 AD by Pope Honorius I.

Photo by teldridge+keldridge (cc)

Domus Augustana

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

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The Domus Augustana on the Palatine Hill was a magnificent palace used as the residence of Rome’s emperors.

Built by the Emperor Domitian, the incredible remains of the Domus Augustana include a remarkable courtyard with the remnants of a fountain and many of its walls.

The Domus Augustana should not be confused with the nearby House of Augustus, the latter of which was the much more humble home of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. In fact, Roman emperors were called “Augustus” for over 300 years, which is reflected in the name of the Domus Augustana.

Photo by Historvius

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.

DID YOU KNOW?

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.

This relatively new ancient site opened to the public in 2010 and is located close to Rome’s Piazza Venezia. It contains the remains of a Roman era house - or ‘Domus’ - dating to the imperial era and probably belonging to the wealthier elements of Roman society.

Visitors can explore all aspects of the ancient house, including the structure itself, the various chambers, living areas, bathrooms, kitchens, mosaics and even decorative wall frescoes - with the additional option of seeing it all brought back to life through a virtual journey. As well as the archaeological ruins themselves, the Domus Romane comes alive through a series of sophisticated light shows that recreate what the villas would have looked like. Visitors can also expolore a range of virtual reconstructions, interactive displays and films. A model of the area as it appeared in Roman times showing the various stages of the Domus Romane completes the tour.

Even before the opening of the Roman villa, Palazzo Valentini itself was already an important site in Rome - being the Provincial Council headquarters - and dating back to the end of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 18th century, the palazzo was rented to Prince Ruspoli and his family and, among others, was lived in by the composer George Frideric Handel, of Water Music fame. In 1873, after the palazzo became the property of the Provincial Deputation of Rome, renovation work was carried out and new extensions were added to turn it into the Provincial Council headquarters.

However, it was when excavations were carried out in 2005 that a startling find was revealed, the remains of a 20,000 square-foot, 4th century AD Roman villa complex alongside those of a private thermal bath. It transpired that when Palazzo Valentini was built the 16th century builders filled in the site, unwittingly preserving the villa for prosperity.

Photo by Averain (cc)

Flavian Amphitheatre

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

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The Flavian Amphitheatre (Amphitheatre Flavium) in Pozzuoli was constructed during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian, probably in around 70AD.

Vespasian, who was the first Flavian dynasty emperor, built this vast amphitheatre – the third largest in Ancient Rome after those of Rome and Capua – in Pozzuoli as it was at an important crossroad.

Later damaged by ash and rubble from the eruption of the Solfatara volcano, Pozzuoli’s Flavian Amphitheatre lay abandoned and was used as a quarry for its marble. Nevertheless, when it was excavated in the nineteenth century, archaeologists found the Flavian Amphitheatre in a very good state of preservation, with many of its walls and floors intact.

However, one of the key highlights of a trip to the Flavian Amphitheatre is the fact that you can explore the underbelly of this once-thriving stadium and wander through the rooms and chambers below the arena itself. It is even possible to see the quarters in which the gladiators themselves would have prepared for their contests. This amazing set of underground corridors and passageways remains in an excellent state of preservation and gives a genuine glimpse into the amphitheatre's past .

Today, the Flavian Amphitheatre operates as a popular destination for those who visit the (now dormant) Solfatara volcano and the local area.

Photo by timatymusic (cc)

Flavian Palace

The Flavian Palace on the Palatine Hill was where Roman emperors held official functions.

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The Flavian Palace (Domus Flavian) on Rome’s prestigious Palatine Hill was an Ancient Roman palace built by the Emperor Domitian in the first century AD.

A place where official functions were held, the Flavian Palace was the public counterpart to Domus Augustana, which served as the private home of Rome’s emperors.

The fountains in the courtyard of Flavian Palace are some of its most impressive remains.

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 Archaeological Museum (Museo archeologico nazionale di Firenze) offers a diverse collection of antiquities. The most impressive and comprehensive collection is probably the archaeological museum’s exhibit of Etruscan art which includes the world famous Chimera of Arezzo statue dating back to 400 BC.

Florence Archaeological Museum also exhibits artefacts from Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek times. Its ancient Egyptian collection is of particular importance and has been classed by some as the second most important in Italy after Museo Egizio in Turin. Some of the most celebrated pieces at the Florence Archaeological Museum are the sixth century François Vase and the Ancient Greek Idolino statue.

Photo by Historvius

Fonte Avellana

Fonte Avellana is a picturesque medieval hermitage in Italy’s Marche region.

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Fonte Avellana is a medieval hermitage nestled amongst the mountains of Serra Sant'Abbondio in Italy's Le Marche region.

Also known as the Venerable Hermitage of the Holy Cross, Fonte Avellana has a rich history, including being described in Dante's Divine Comedy.

Founded in around 1000AD, Fonte Avellana was originally home to an order of monks by the same name as well as to Saint Peter Damianus, who is said to have greatly contributed to its growth. One other figure who had a significant influence on the practices Fonte Avellana was St. Romuald, the founder of the Camaldolese Monks of the Order of Saint Benedict. Eventually, Fonte Avellana even became part of this congregation.

In 1325, Fonte Avellana was consecrated as an abbey, a unique honour for a Camaldolese house and one which allowed it to thrive. Soon after it was also provided with grants in commendam, a practice whereby the monks would host outsiders. It is said that this had a great role in the decline of the Fonte Avellana community, which was finalised in 1810 by Napoleonic forces who dissolved it.

Today, Fonte Avellana is once again a working monastery and its beautifully austere structure has been fully restored. Amongst the most notable aspects of the site are its crypt, its church, it library and also the old pharmacy, which still prepares traditional cures.

Photo by DogFog (cc)

Forum of Augustus

The Forum of Augustus was built by the Roman emperor to celebrate avenging Caesar’s assassins.

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The Forum of Augustus or “Foro di Augsto” in Rome was built by its namesake, the emperor Augustus (b. 63 BC – d. AD 14) following the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC.

In this battle, Augustus, together with Mark Anthony, emerged victorious over Cassius and Brutus, the assassins of Julius Caesar.

To celebrate this success, the emperor built the Forum of Augustus and dedicated it to Mars, the god of war. The Forum of Augustus thus had a grand temple in honour of this deity and the columns and steps of the Temple of Mars can still be seen today. The regal statue of Augustus also remains.

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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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The Forum of Caesar or “Foro di Cesare” in Rome is one of a series of Imperial Forums built by successive Roman emperors. First commissioned by Julius Caesar in around 54 BC and completed in 46 BC, the Forum of Caesar was the first of these forums and was intended to relieve the already overcrowded Roman Forum.

At the time of the opening of the Forum of Caesar, the famous Roman leader had won a victory over his rival Pompey the Great. A celebration of this victory was constructed at the Forum of Caesar in the form of the Temple of Venus Genetrix. The godess to which the temple was dedicated was the defender of the Julian clan.

Today, the columns and platform of a Temple of Venus Genetrix can be seen at the Forum of Caesar, albeit that this was not the original, but a rebuilt version completed under the emperor Trajan – the original burnt down in 80 AD.

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Forum of Trajan

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

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The Forum of Trajan or “Foro di Traiano” in Rome was built by the Emperor Trajan from 107 AD and it was inaugurated in 112 AD. Trajan, who reigned from 98 to 117 AD, built his magnificent Forum of Trajan after emerging victorious from several military campaigns, particularly the conquest of Dacia.

The crowning element of the Forum of Trajan is colonna Traiana or “Trajan's column”. Dedicated in 113 AD yet still incredibly well preserved, this impressive structure comprises a 98 foot column adorned with elaborate friezes chronicling the Dacian Wars down to the very last detail, including the final expulsion of the Dacians from their native soil.

It is worth noting that the statue at the peak of Trajan’s Column is not of the emperor, but of Saint Peter, an addition of Pope Sixtus V in 1587.

Originally, the Forum of Trajan would have contained several buildings, including the two libraries which would have flanked Trajan’s Column. The remains of one of these can still be discerned today near the Foro Imperiale as can some other buildings.

One of the more visible sets of remains belongs to the Basilica Ulpia, an administrative centre, the foundations and some granite columns of which are visible next to Trajan’s Column.

However, it is Trajan’s Markets, the Ancient Roman centre built in the Forum of Trajan, which forms the star attraction. The brick walls of the semi-circular structure of Trajan’s Markets stand in the centre of Rome and, whilst historians once thought that this was the Roman equivalent of a shopping centre, recent evidence suggests it may have played more of a financial or administrative role.

At the moment, only the lower section of the Trajan’s Markets is open to the public, but the whole site can always be viewed from the streets above.

Photo by RomeCabs (cc)

Hadrian’s Villa

Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana, 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.

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Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana, is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world. Built in the early 2nd century, the villa was the central hub of power in the Roman world for the latter years of Emperor Hadrian’s reign.

Hadrian’s Villa 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.

Photo by S J Pinkney (cc)

Herculaneum

Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town fossilized following the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

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Herculaneum was a port town established by the ancient Romans in what is now modern Ercolano, Italy. At its peak, Herculaneum would have had around 4,000 citizens and served as a holiday town for wealthy Campanians and Romans.

Like nearby Pompeii, Herculaneum was engulfed by the lava and mud which spewed from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and, as a result, much of the town was preserved throughout the centuries. 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. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

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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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The Ludus Magnus was ancient Rome’s largest and most prestigious gladiator training school, located right alongside the famous Roman Colosseum.

Originally built between 81-96AD by Emperor Domitian, it was used as a training school for the gladiators who were to fight in the Colosseum. It was later rebuilt by Emperor Trajan between 98-117 AD, and it is from this period that the visible ruins we can see today are attributed.

Often forgotten and overshadowed, both literally and figuratively, by the impressive Colosseum, the Ludus Magnus has a rich history. Discovered in 1937, the complex was originally made up of a central training arena, a few stands for limited spectators and barracks & storage rooms for equipment. There was also a tunnel that would have run between the underground chambers of the amphitheatre and the training centre, making travel between the two speedy for the next round of gladiators.

Still visible today are the foundations of the spectator stands, gladiator barracks and one side of the arena itself. Visitors can view the cells gladiators would have been held in and the water fountains they would have drunk from before and after they trained, one of these four has been restored in the northwest corner.

The ruins of the Ludus Magnus are easily accessible from Via San Giovanni, which runs parallel to Via Labicana, the wide roman road that runs from the Colosseum down to Basilica di San Clemente, making this a perfect stop on a walking tour of Rome’s best sights.

Visitors can peer down into the ruins from the pavement of Via San Giovanni where informative signs will describe what they are viewing, or they can enjoy a drink at one of the many cafes that line the other side of the complex, giving fantastic views onto the remains of the school.

It is not possible to enter the complex, but it is possible to walk around all four sides and due to its sunken nature, meaning the entirety of the restored ruins is visible from any point. With the Colosseum rising behind, this is the perfect point to learn about the history of gladiator combat and the intense physical training they undertook; understandably it is a popular stop on many of the walking tours of Rome and given its proximity to the Colosseum it is not to be missed.

Contributed by Isabelle Moore

Photo by xiquinhosilva (cc)

Mamertine Prison

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

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The Mamertine Prison in Rome, also known as Carcere Mamertino, is an ancient prison thought to date back to perhaps as early as the seventh century BC. The Romans continued using the Mamertine Prison throughout the Republican and Imperial eras as late as the fourth century AD, with executions also taking place there.

Christian legend says that the Mamertine Prison was the site where Saints Peter and Paul were incarcerated. According to these accounts, Peter managed to create a spring in his cell, allowing him to perform baptisms on his cellmates and guards.

Today, the remains of the Mamertine Prison are found under the church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami near the Roman Forum. Dark and dank, the dungeons are accessed via a winding staircase and offer a glimpse into the horrors experienced by criminals of Ancient Rome.

It is also worth noting that, near the Mamertine Prison (some say right next to it) would have been the location of the Gemonian Stairs, also notorious as a site of executions in Ancient Rome.

Photo by dpred5 (cc)

Mausoleum of Augustus

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

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The Mausoleum of Augustus (Mausoleo di Augusto) was constructed in approximately 28 BC as the tomb of the first emperor of Rome.

When it was created, the Mausoleum of Augustus was a large circular building intended to be the final resting place of both Augustus and his family. Those buried at the Mausoleum of Augustus other than the emperor himself included his wife Livia, Germanicus, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Britannicus, Nero Claudius Drusus, Agrippina the Elder and Tiberius.

Augustus (63BC – 14AD) was the great nephew of Julius Caesar and the named successor in his will. When Julius Caesar was assassinated in 43 BC, Augustus became the ruler of Rome, a position he solidified in the Battle of Actium in which he defeated Anthony and Cleopatra. Augustus transformed Rome from a republic into what became effectively a dictatorship as well as implementing many social, administrative and military reforms.

Today, the Mausoleum of Augustus is among the most famous surviving ancient mausoleums but sadly is just a shadow of its former grandeur and is no longer open to the public. However, some of its relics, notably two obelisks which once decorated it, now stand in Piazza del Quirinale and Piazza dell Esquillino.

Photo by roger4336 (cc)

Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella

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

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The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella (Mausoleo di Caecillia Metella) is a large well-preserved tomb along Rome’s Via Appia.

The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is thought to have been built in the late first century BC and incorporated into a medieval fort in the fourteenth century.

Whilst little is known about its namesake, the inscription on the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella indicates that she was from a prominent Roman family. Her father, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus was a senior magistrate who played an important role in the capture of the island of Crete. Cecilia Metella’s husband Marcus Licinius Crassus the Younger was also an important political figure in the time of Caesar.

Vast, cylindrical and turret-like, the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is visible from around Via Appia. There is little to see inside the mausoleum, although there is a frieze depicting, amongst other things, the skulls of oxen.

Photo by roger4336 (cc)

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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The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is an early 5th century Christian chapel in Ravenna that is thought to have been commissioned by Roman Empress Galla Placidia and, until recently, was believed to house her tomb.

Galla Placidia was the daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I and a major player in the politics of the Western Roman Empire in the first half of the fifth century AD. She was also one-time regent of the Western Empire.

Known for its stunning early- Byzantine style mosaics, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a hidden gem which delights and surprises visitors with its remarkable artistry. The eye-catching mosaics adorn the floors, ceilings and walls and include the ‘cupola’, a striking mosaic of the night sky. All this in a tiny building which, from the outside, is rather unassuming.

Inside the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia are three tombs which folklore stated contained the remains of Galla Placidia herself, Emperor Constantius III and either Emperor Valentinian III or Emperor Honorius. However, modern historians doubt these claims and they are not generally accepted.

Along with other early Christian sites in Ravenna, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

Photo by AlexanderVanLoon (cc)

Metapontum

The remains of the Ancient Greek city of Metapontum - part of ’Magna Grecia’ - include theatres, temples and drainage.

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The remains of the Ancient Greek city of Metapontum - part of ’Magna Grecia’ or greater Greece - include theatres, temples and drainage. Established as a Greek city in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Metapontum was later home to Pythagoras, who died there around the turn of the 5th century BC. Today, the modern town of Metaponto plays host to the extensive historic site itself as well as a museum.

Metapontum or Metaponte as it is called locally, is a large site covering the centre of the Greek city. The remains are well signed and include the theatre, temples, houses, shops and extensive water works. For those who find these things interesting, it is possible to trace the way water ran through the site. There seems to be a separation of clean water from a nearby spring from dirty and/or drainage water. Some of the works are clearly ornamental in nature. As with all sites of this nature, the remains have been somewhat restored, though it is easy to see the difference between old and new.

Photo by Allie_Caulfield (cc)

Monreale Cathedral

Monreale Cathedral is a twelfth century church near Palermo and an excellent example of Norman architecture.

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Monreale Cathedral (Duomo Monreale) in Sicily is a fine example of Norman architecture. Constructed from 1172 under King William II and completed a few years later, Monreale Cathedral certainly met this monarch’s desire to create a magnificent church to rival any other, particularly that of Palatine.

Every detail of Monreale Cathedral was carefully designed and even the columns of its cloisters are adorned with incredibly elaborate carvings. Norman symbols can be found throughout, including many depictions of griffins and lions.

However, it is the wealth of twelfth century mosaics which really acts as the star attraction of Monreale Cathedral. Considered to be some of the best preserved of their kind, the mosaics of Monreale Cathedral show various scenes from the Old and New Testament.

Photo by jennystyles315 (cc)

Monte Cassino War Cemetery

Monte Cassino War Cemetery is the biggest British and Commonwealth war cemetery from WW2 in Italy.

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The Monte Cassino War Cemetery is the burial site for thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers who died during the Italian Campaign in World War Two. Also on the site stands a memorial to those soldiers whose graves are not known.

The Battle of Monte Cassino was part of the Italian Campaign, which saw Allied landings in Italy in September 1943, followed by rapid progress through the south of the country. However, the strong German fortifications known as the Gustav Line, soon blocked the Allied advance.

To progress, the Allies undertook fresh landings at Anzio in January 1944 but again progress proved difficult. After several costly assaults, the town of Cassino - which saw some of the fiercest fighting - was eventually captured and the defences breached.

Today the Monte Cassino War Cemetery and Memorial remembers the British and Commonwealth servicemen who died in this costly battle.

Photo by CapnOats (cc)

Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II celebrates the first king to rule a unified Italy.

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The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) is a vast tribute to the Italian king known as the “Father of the Fatherland”.

Victor Emmanuel II reigned from 1861 to 1878. He was the leading force behind the unification of Italy and served as its first king following the establishment of the unified kingdom.

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II is an ostentatious white marble structure inaugurated in 1911. A statue of the king himself sits in front of a stairway leading up to a large, ornate white marble building with Corinthian columns.

Inside the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II there is a small museum about Italian unification and visitors can also go to the top for great views. It is part of the UNESCO site of the Historic Centre of Rome.

Photo by Friar's Balsam (cc)

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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Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums) stand on the ancient Capitoline Hill in the centre of Rome and host a huge wealth of artifacts and exhibits from the ancient, medieval and renaissance periods.

Among Musei Capitolini’s many wonders are collections of classical sculptures and statues, exhibits on ancient mythology, medieval and renaissance artworks as well as many bronzes and portraits.

At the centre of the courtyard surrounded by the buildings of the Musei Capitolini stands a replica statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the original can be found inside the museum.

Comprised of three main buildings, namely Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Senatorio, the Musei Capitolini are located near the Roman Forum and a short walk from The Colosseum.

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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Museo del Sannio (The Samnite Museum) in Benevento is an archaeological and historical museum housing a series of finds from this area of Campania.

Amongst its collections, Museo del Sannio houses Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman pieces as well as those from the Samnite era and includes its Room of Caudium, Room of Isis and the Trajan exhibition.

Museo del Sannio also has medieval exhibitions dating from the fifth to the eleventh centuries, such as art, weaponry and everyday tools.

Photo by Maurizio Zanetti (cc)

Museo Egizio di Torino

Museo Egizio di Torino has one of the world’s best collections of Ancient Egyptian artefacts.

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Museo Egizio di Torino (Egyptian Museum of Turin) is a museum solely dedicated to Ancient Egypt. In fact, the only other museum with this single speciality is the Cairo Museum and Museo Egizio’s collection is considered one of the world’s finest.

From pre-dynastic artefacts to mummies and ancient tombs such as those of Kha and Merit (dated 1428-1351 BC) to three copies of the ancient Book of the Dead, Museo Egizio has an impressive and comprehensive collection of pieces from throughout the Ancient Egyptian period.

Some of the highlights of Museo Egizio include a granite sculpture of Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II (13th century BC), the reconstructions of various temples and even the day-to-day objects, such as toiletry boxes.

Photo by Leandros World Tour (cc)

Naples Cathedral

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

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Naples Cathedral, translated as Duomo di Napoli, was initially commissioned by King Charles I of Anjou in 1294 and took almost thirty years to complete.

Whilst originally a thirteenth to fourteenth century church, earthquakes and other factors have meant that Naples Cathedral has undergone a series of renovations and rebuilding projects. This is demonstrated by the fact that its façade dates to the nineteenth century.

Also known as Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Naples Cathedral is often attributed as being dedicated to San Gennaro (Saint Januarius), whose relics are buried there. However, as its alternative name indicates, Naples Cathedral was actually dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption.

Nevertheless, it is the chapel of San Gennaro, with its pretty frescos and fifteenth century tomb, that forms one of the highlights of Naples Cathedral. San Gennaro was the Bishop of Naples and is now its patron saint, thought to have been martyred in the fourth century AD perhaps under Diocletian. His crypt is also said to contain a vial of his blood, which is brought out on specific holy days (such as the first Sunday of May) and liquefied, this being considered a good omen.

Naples Cathedral is also connected to the archaeological site of Santa Restituta, a fourth century church which is accessible from the north aisle of the cathedral. Housing a museum and containing archaeological excavations from Greek and Roman times including an early Christian crypt, Santa Restituta has an impressive set of ancient artefacts.

Photo by virtusincertus (cc)

Naples National Archeological Museum

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

DID YOU KNOW?

The Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) holds a comprehensive collection of Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman artifacts, including most of the pieces found in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae.

Some of the most famous exhibits at the Naples National Archaeological Museum include mosaics from the Roman towns and cities destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 AD, Greek sculptures by artists such as Calamis and Nesiotes and the third largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world. Also popular is the Secret Cabinet, an exhibit of erotic Roman art and The Placentarius sculpture.

Look out for the mosaics of the House of the Faun, which include depictions of Alexander the Great battling Darius III.

The building which houses the Naples National Archaeological Museum was constructed in the 16th century and was used in the 1750’s by King Charles III of Spain as a cavalry barracks.

Necropolis of Cerveteri

The Etruscan necropolis at Cerveteri in northern Lazio is one of the very best examples of its kind into the entire Mediterranean basin with a thousand tombs and is known as the 'City of the Dead'.

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The Etruscans (whose origins to this day are subject to intense debate) inhabited in what is now northern Lazio through to Tuscany from the 9th century BC. Over the centuries they constructed the most magnificent necropolis which formed part of the earliest urban civilisation in the northern Mediterranean.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, the Necropolis of Cerveteri has been described as ‘masterpieces of creative genius’ in part due to its town planning. There are New York-style blocked streets, residential neighbourhoods and piazzas, the same as you’d find in an ancient city and of the sites’ 1,000 acres, only 25 are accessible. Inside the 25 acres are two roads that are almost 3,000 years old – the Via dei Monti Ceriti and the Via dei Monti della Tolfa.

The most recent tombs are from the third century BC and as well as different types of standard tombs – seemingly dependent on time period, wealth and societal status – visitors can see stunning, intricately detailed wall paintings and the most well-known tombs. The Tomb of the Greek Vases, the Tomb of the Cornice, the Tomb of the Capitelli and the most famous of all, the Tomb of Reliefs which is painted with red pillows, domestic utensils and animals and is said to be the most accurate representation of what Etruscan life was life in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

The aristocratic families that were interred in the necropolis left behind tableware, precious metals, illustrated vases, bronzes, weapons, belts, razors, jewellery and belt buckles and their final resting places were eerily similar to their homes.

Today, visitors to this truly magnificent ancient historical site will find not only the necropolis but also the National Museum of Cerveteri and you will find an amazing snapshot of how the Etruscans lived and died three thousand years ago.

Necropolis of Pantalica

The Necropolis of Pantalica in Sicily contains over five thousand ancient rock carved tombs dated to between the 13th and 7th centuries BC.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Necropolis of Pantalica in Sicily contains over five thousand ancient rock carved tombs dated to between the 13th and 7th centuries BC.

Visitors to the Necropolis of Pantalica can also see the remaining foundations of the Anaktoron or “Prince’s Palace”, which dates back to the megalithic era.

Together with the Syracuse Archaeological Site, the Necropolis of Pantalica is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Nora Archaeological Site

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

DID YOU KNOW?

The Nora Archaeological Site in Sardinia contains mostly Ancient Roman ruins, but was founded in at least the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians. Some Phoenician ruins can be seen, including a temple and some fortifications.

Prior to Phoenician settlement, Nora may have even previously been a nuraghi site (the people of Sardinia credited with building hundreds of defensive structures). Conquered at one time by the Carthaginians, Nora became a Roman settlement in the third century BC.

Amongst the finds at the Nora Archaeological Site are a Roman theatre, a series of mosaics, baths complexes and numerous other structures.

Palace of Septimius Severus

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

DID YOU KNOW?

The Palace of Septimius Severus on the Palatine Hill was an extension of the Domus Augustana and was built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (193 - 211 AD).

The Palatine Hill was closely linked with the foundation of ancient Rome and housed some of its most lavish and important buildings, including the homes and palaces of the Imperial family.

Overlooking the Circus Maximus, the remains of the Palace of Septimius Severus are some of the most impressive found on the Palatine Hill.

Photo by rmlowe (cc)

Palatine Hill

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

DID YOU KNOW?

The Palatine Hill (Palatino) is considered to be the place where Rome was born. One of Rome’s seven hills, the Palatine Hill is closely linked with the city’s history and houses some of its most ancient and important sites.

Legend says that the twins Romulus and Remus were taken to Palatine Hill by a she-wolf who raised them. Here they founded a village which would become Rome.

In a dispute over who was the rightful leader of the new settlement, Romulus eventually killed his brother at the Palatine Hill. Romulus thus became the namesake of Rome. Indeed, the Palatine Hill is where the earliest huts of Rome were found, supposedly built under the remit of Romulus.

As it developed, the Palatine Hill became one of the most affluent areas in Ancient Rome and was already a coveted address by the first century BC during the Republic. This continued under the Roman Empire, when the Palatine Hill was home to Rome’s most prominent figures. It was also where the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus was born in 63 BC.

Today, the Palatine Hill offers some of Rome's best ancient sites and is a must-see, especially for history enthusiasts. Amongst the buildings excavated at the Palatine Hill are the House of Augustus, the House of Livia (Augustus’s wife), the home of several of Rome’s emperors - the Domus Augustana - and the Palace of Septimius Severus. There is also a large stadium.

Palazzo dei Conservatori

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

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The Palazzo dei Conservatori is one of the buildings of Rome’s Capitoline Museums or “Musei Capitolini”. Like its counterpart Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo dei Conservatori displays classical pieces as well as paintings.

Highlights of Palazzo dei Conservatori include a first century AD bronze sculpture known as the Spinario, which depicts a boy trying to take a thorn out of his foot and the fifth century BC Capitoline Wolf, which shows the she-wolf from the legend of Romulus and Remus.

Palazzo dei Conservatori also houses an impressive array of paintings by some of the biggest names in the art world, such as Caravaggio and Titian.

The building of the Palazzo dei Conservatori has an impressive history too, its façade having been designed by Michelangelo and it having served as Rome’s medieval magistrates court.

Palazzo dei Normanni

Palazzo dei Normanni is a Norman palace expanded from a ninth century Islamic building.

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Palazzo dei Normanni, also known as the Palazzo Reale, in Palermo in Sicily has been used as a place of governance for centuries and remains so today. In fact, it is currently the seat of Sicily’s regional government.

Begun in the ninth century AD when Sicily was under Islamic rule, the Palazzo dei Normanni was expanded and renovated by the Normans from 1072. Once abandoned by the Normans, Palazzo dei Normanni would remain untouched until the sixteenth century when it was restored.

One of the main attractions at Palazzo dei Normanni is the Cappella Palatina. This famous chapel was constructed under the rule of King Roger II and completed in 1140. It is most well known for its stunning combination of Byzantine, Islamic and Norman styles.

Other things to see include the royal apartments. Note that guided tours are only provided in Italian.

Palazzo Nuovo

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

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The Palazzo Nuovo is part of the Capitoline Museums, known in Italian as Musei Capitolini, which is a famous museum complex in Rome housing an incredible array of artwork and artefacts spanning much of Rome’s history.

Originally established in 1471, when Pope Sixtus I donated a series of bronze statues to the city, the Capitoline Museum is separated into two main buildings – Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo dei Conservatori. Palazzo Senatorio is also considered part of the site.

Palazzo Nuovo displays the Capitoline Museum’s Ancient Greek and Roman art, mostly sculptures such as the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (there is also a copy of this in the square outside).

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti was the home of the Medici family and now houses the Palatine Gallery.

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Palazzo Pitti, translated as the Pitti Palace, is an incredibly grand building in Florence, Italy originally built in 1457 for Luca Pitti. Determined not to be outdone by the ruling Medici family, Pitti, who was an affluent banker, wanted to ensure that his home was as large and impressive as possible. The result was the Palazzo Pitti.

Unfortunately for Pitti’s heirs, the task of trying to surpass the Medici proved too dear and in 1549 they were eventually left with no option but to sell Palazzo Pitti to none other than the Medici themselves. It went on to become not only the prime residence of the Medici, but also that of every ruling Florentine family thereon.

Today, Palazzo Pitti houses a number of museums including the ornately frescoed seventeenth century Royal Apartments, the Porcelain Museum, Silver Museum and Museum of Modern Art. However the main feature of Palazzo Pitti is the Palatine Gallery. This famous art museum contains works by many of the world’s most famous artists, such as Raphael and Caravaggio.

Palazzo Pitti forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Historic Florence. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by Historvius

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio has been at the centre of Florence’s civic life since the fourteenth century.

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Palazzo Vecchio, translated as “Old Palace” and also known as Palazzo della Signoria, in Florence in Tuscany is an iconic fourteenth century palace. Completed in 1322, it served as the seat of the city’s governing body, a function it still fulfils today.

In 1540, Palazzo Vecchio underwent a renovation campaign under the remit of Duke Cosimo I, who employed the artist Vasari to add a series of frescos depicting important Florentine events. Many of these frescos can be seen at Palazzo Vecchio, notably in the Salone del Cinquecento, which also contains a beautiful statue by Michelangelo entitled “Victory”.

Palazzo Vecchio played a central role in Florence’s civil history, with its bell being the main method of communicating important events, including meetings and any dangerous elements such as fires or possible attacks.

Housing a stunning collection of artwork and sculptures by some of Italy’s most celebrated artists such as Donatello, Bronzino and Michelangelo, Palazzo Vecchio is a fascinating and beautiful site. It also has an interesting sixteenth century map of the world in its Room of Maps.

Palazzo Vecchio’s location in Piazza della Signoria is also of interest, not only because of the statues and fountains, such as the sixteenth century Fontana do Nettuno, but also as this was the site of the execution of Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola was a Dominican priest and a leader of Florence who was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI and burnt at the stake in 1498.

For children, Palazzo Vecchio has a series of “secret rooms” to explore, although note that this must be booked in advance. Guided tours are available.

It is also part of the UNESCO site of Historic Florence.

Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral dates back to Norman times and was the site of coronations and royal burials.

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Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo) was founded in the 1184, but has since been added to over the centuries. As such, it boasts a rich mix of architectural styles ranging from Norman to Gothic and Catalan.

Befitting the fact that it was originally built over the site of a mosque (which itself had been a church beforehand), Palermo Cathedral also has hints of Islamic influences.

The Cathedral has an illustrious history which includes being the site of royal coronations. Furthermore, inside Palermo Cathedral are buried the former emperors and monarchs of Sicily, amongst them Emperors Henry VI, Frederick II and Sicily’s first king, Roger II.

Pieces from the tomb of Constance of Aragon, who is also buried at Palermo Cathedral, can be found in the treasury.

Photo by Biker Jun (cc)

Pantheon

The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most famous and well-preserved ancient buildings in the world.

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The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most famous and well-preserved ancient buildings in the world.

Originally built by Marcus Agrippa in 25BC, the Pantheon served as a temple to the many gods of Rome. The original Pantheon 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.

In 609AD the Pantheon was converted to a Church and this helped preserve the building from the destruction of later times. In the middle ages the Pantheon was also used as a burial chamber for notable figures and even Italian kings.

Today, the Pantheon stands as a magnificent site in central Rome, and one of the most popular destinations for tourists. The Pantheon’s vast structure is topped by the spectacular original domed roof which contains a circular opening (oculus) at the peak. Made of cast concrete, it is a monumental engineering feat that is a testament to the technical expertise of the Roman Empire. 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.

Pisa Cathedral Complex

The Pisa Cathedral Complex houses one of the world’s most celebrated ecclesiastical landscapes.

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The Pisa Cathedral Complex, known simply as Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), houses one of the world’s most celebrated ecclesiastical landscapes. In addition to the cathedral itself, the Pisa Cathedral Complex includes a church, a baptistery, a cemetery and one very famous campanile or bell tower - better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

While its leaning tower may have stolen the spotlight somewhat, the Pisa Cathedral Complex is exceptional in its own right, having been described by UNESCO as "an outstanding example of medieval Christian architecture."

It was in 1063 that construction of Pisa Cathedral began and it was completed in the thirteenth century. Meanwhile, its other elements were built between the 11th and 14th centuries.

In the 16th century, a 19 year old Galileo made a particularly important discovery inside Pisa Cathedral. The movement of the cathedral’s chandelier inspired his theory of isochronism of small oscillations. The complex further contributed to the history of science by acting as a forum for some of his experiments.

Another name often given to the Pisa Cathedral Complex is Piazza dei Miracoli (Miracle Square).

Ponte Rotto

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

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Ponte Rotto, originally known as Pons Aemilius is Rome’s oldest, albeit defunct, stone bridge.

Built in the second century BC to replace its wooden predecessor, Ponte Rotto, meaning the “broken bridge” is indeed missing most of its original structure.

Today, only an arch remains of Ponte Rotto, worth seeing if you are passing nearby.

Photo by PeterVisser (cc)

Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") is a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. It is the landmark of the city.

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The Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s most famous tourist attractions and the oldest bridge in the city. It is known for the collection of jewellery shops which span its length and is now a massive draw for visitors.

The first bridge constructed on the site was built in Roman times, and the following centuries saw several iterations as a mix of time and disaster took their toll. The current bridge has its roots in the 14th century.

It is thought that Ponte Vecchio became the home of the jewellery industry in the city after Ferdinand I did away with the butchers and grocers who occupied it, allegedly because he didn’t like the smell.

Today the Ponte Vecchio sits at the heart of the city and vast numbers of tourists visit every year. While the flood waters have become less frequent in recent times, the bridge has been troubled by the number of padlocks which have been attached to it - in a gesture meant to symbolise everlasting love. However, the strain this sheer amount of metal is causing to the bridge has led authorities to outlaw the practice - imposing a significant fine for breach of the ban.

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

Pyramid of Cestius

The Pyramid of Cestius is a tomb dating back to Ancient Rome.

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The Pyramid of Cestius is the tomb of affluent magistrate, Caius Cestius which was built between 18 and 12 BC.

Constructed of white marble and brick, this ostentatious 35-metre high tomb was likely built in this style due to the popularity of all things Egyptian which swept Rome after Egypt was incorporated into the Empire.

Inside the tomb contained a number of frescoes depicting scenes from Roman mythology while an inscription still visible on the exterior gives details about its construction and dedication. This pyramid-tomb was later set into the Aurelian Walls, helping to ensure its preservation through the ages.

Rimini City Museum

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

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The Rimini City Museum is an historical and archaeological museum with a series of collections from throughout the city and the region.

Located in a former eighteenth century Jesuit monastery and then hospital, the Rimini City Museum traces the history of the city back to Ancient Roman times, with exhibitions ranging from tomb inscriptions to coins. It even has surgical tools found in the nearby “Surgeon’s House” archaeological site.

Spanning over 3,000 square metres and arranged over forty galleries, the Rimini City Museum has many different collections. Medieval and Renaissance pieces form a large part of its exhibits, mostly comprised of paintings, frescoes and sculptures.

Rimini Gurkha War Cemetery

The Rimini Gurkha War Cemetery is a World War II graveyard for Commonwealth forces in Rimini.

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The Rimini Gurkha War Cemetery in Italy is a World War II Commonwealth cemetery housing the graves of 618 soldiers from the Indian forces.

Rimini became the site of fierce clashes between Allied and German forces in 1944. By this time, Italy had entered into an armistice with the Allies (3 September 1943) and the aim was to push German forces out of the country. In the Rimini area, most of these troops came from the 4th and 10th Indian Divisions, later aided by the 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade.

The Rimini Gurkha War Cemetery is a collection of graves from battlefields around Rimini. It also contains the Rimini Cremation Memorial, erected in honour of cremated Indian soldiers, of whom it currently names 172 troops.

Rimini Roman Amphitheatre

The Rimini Roman Amphitheatre dates back to the second century.

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The Rimini Roman Amphitheatre is a second century Ancient Roman arena which would have held up to twelve thousand spectators. It is the sole surviving amphitheatre of its kind in the region of Emilia Romagna.

Having suffered a series of destructive events, including World War II bombardment, little remains of the Rimini Roman Amphitheatre except its elliptical outline and small sections of the main stands.

Having said this, that which does survive, which includes some of its walls and gates, is worth seeing when in Rimini. Guided tours of the site are offered by the Rimini Museum.

Photo by Vvillamon (cc)

Roman Forum

The Roman 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.

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The Roman Forum, or Forum Romanum, 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.

From magnificent temples and triumphal arches to the very seat of power in the Senate house, the Roman Forum was the very centre of it all.

The Roman Forum was the active heart of the Republic and Empire for over a thousand years and its changing nature reflected the constant shifting in the fortunes of the religious, military and political nature of the Roman world.

First built in the 7th Century BC, the Roman Forum has seen any number of buildings large and small constructed, destroyed and demolished over the years. Today much of the grandeur of the Roman Forum has been lost to the ages, as the buildings were pillaged and the material used elsewhere. Some of the key structures have survived due to their conversion to Churches or other uses, like the Curia Julia and the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, but others have left just a shadow of their past glories, hinting at the magnificence of a by-gone age.

No visit to Rome is complete without a stroll around the Roman 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. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

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.

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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The Roman Theatre of Benevento, known locally as Teatro Romano di Benevento, is a well-preserved semi-circular ancient theatre built during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Hadrian.

Measuring 295 feet in diameter and constructed of rock, brick and cement, the Roman Theatre of Benevento was completed in approximately 126AD and would have held up to 10,000 spectators.

Today, the lower part of the façade of the Roman Theatre of Benevento stands intact, with a series of twenty-five archways. Some of the stage scenery or “frons scenae” can still be discerned, notably parts of its doorways.

Photo by tillwe (cc)

Saint Mark’s Basilica

Saint Mark’s Basilica is a world famous Byzantine cathedral in Venice in Italy.

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Saint Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco a Venezia) is a world famous Byzantine cathedral in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square, sometimes known as Chiesa d’Oro or "Church of gold".

St. Mark’s Basilica was originally founded in 828 AD, after the relics of the patron saint Mark the evangelist were brought, or reportedly stolen, from Alexandria. At this time it was a temporary building forming part of the palace of the Doge Giustiniano Particiaco.

Saint Mark’s Basilica has since undergone a series of transformations, first being built as a permanent church in 832 only to be burnt down in 976 as part of a rebellion. Although the church was rebuilt in 978, it was actually a construction project commenced in 1063 under the auspices of Domenico Contarini which formed the basis of the current form of Saint Mark’s Basilica.

The Basilica was consecrated by Vitale Falier on 8 October 1094, when It was dedicated to Saint Mark. Since that time, Saint Mark’s Basilica has undergone a series of changes, both in terms of its architecture and social stature. Numerous people have added to and enhanced St Mark’s Basilica over the years, bringing pieces from around the world which have contributed to its grandeur.

From a religious perspective, St Mark’s Basilica was a state church until 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice and, on the subsequent orders of Napoleon, the city cathedral.

Every aspect of the historic St Mark’s Basilica is on a grand scale, from its three-part façade with ornate theological carvings to its Greek cross-shaped interior with its ceilings covered in golden mosaics.

In fact, the basilica is so elaborate that its entrance or "narthex" is intended to prepare visitors for what they are about to see. Guided tours are available or an independent walk around St Mark’s Basilica only takes approximately ten minutes to half an hour. There is also a museum and access to the bell tower. This impressive site ranks as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Salerno Cathedral

Salerno Cathedral is an eleventh century cathedral housing the tomb of Saint Matthew the Evangelist.

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Salerno Cathedral (Duomo di Salerno) is an historic eleventh century cathedral which was built upon the ruins of a ninth century Christian church and, beneath that, a former Roman temple.

Salerno Cathedral was constructed in 1080 and its founder, Robert Guiscard, dedicated it to San Matteo, known as Saint Matthew the Evangelist. Guiscard, who was a Norman duke of Apulia and Calabria who had recently taken over southern Italy, probably knew that this dedication would be a popular move, as San Matteo’s relics had recently been transferred to Salerno. In fact, the remains of this evangelist saint are still contained in the cathedral’s crypt.

Salerno Cathedral has required renovation over the years, particularly in the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, the influences of these changes being visible in its mix of styles.

Photo by kevingessner (cc)

San Clemente

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

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San Clemente is a beautifully frescoed twelfth century historic basilica in Rome. However, whilst interesting in its own right, it is what lies underneath San Clemente which is a highlight to historians.

In the mid-nineteenth century, when San Clemente was excavated, it was discovered to have been built over both a fourth century church and a third century Temple of Mithras.

The former site is extremely well preserved and lined with faded frescos, whilst only one of the rooms of the Ancient Roman Temple of Mithras remains. There are also ruins of some Roman houses.

Visitors can descend under San Clemente to view these sites.

San Giorgio degli Schiavoni

San Giorgio degli Schiavoni was a fifteenth century school of Venice’s Schiavoni community.

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San Giorgio degli Schiavoni was a school opened in 1451 by the wealthy Dalmatian Schiavoni community.

San Giorgio degli Schiavoni now displays important pieces of Venetian art, as painted by the Dalmatian Vittore Carpaccio from 1502 to 1509. Many of these paintings depict Dalmatian patron saints as well as a magnificent pictorial of St George fighting a dragon.

Beautiful and evocative, this is a popular tourist attraction and an important building in Venetian history. The school or “scuola” was closed down by Napoleon, but reopened at a later date.

San Giovanni in Laterano

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

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San Giovanni in Laterano, or Rome Cathedral, is a basilica known to many as the “cathedral of the world”, by virtue of the fact that it is the cathedral of Rome and thus the seat of the Pope.

Founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in the early fourth century BC, San Giovanni in Laterano was dedicated to John the Evangelist and John the Baptist.

The current structure mostly dates to the late sixteenth century, the cloisters to the thirteenth century and its façade is an eighteenth century creation. In fact, San Giovanni in Laterano was rebuilt several times over the centuries including a controversial redecoration during the papacy of Innocent X which obscured many original frescos.

San Lorenzo Church

San Lorenzo Church in Florence is a fifteenth century church commissioned by the Medici family.

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San Lorenzo Church in Florence, Italy was originally consecrated in 393 AD.  In 1419, the Medici family commissioned Filippo Brunelleschi to rebuild it and it became the parish church of the family.

Today, San Lorenzo Church is a vast ornate structure lined with chapels. The outside of the church however belies its riches, being seemingly bare. It was planned for a façade to be built and Michelangelo even submitted plans, but they were never implemented. Having said this, the dome of San Lorenzo Church is huge, impressive and not dissimilar to the Duomo of Florence.

Inside, San Lorenzo Church is brimming with elaborate sculptures from the likes of Donatello and architectural features by Michelangelo, such as the Biblioteca Staircase. Nevertheless, San Lorenzo Church manages to remain quite light and uncluttered.

Perhaps the most famous aspect of San Lorenzo Church is the Cappelle Medicee – the Medici Chapels. These contain the Cappella del Principi, the mausoleum of the Medici family.

San Lorenzo Maggiore

The San Lorenzo Maggiore ruins in Naples are the underground remains of a Greek colony then Roman city.

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What seems to be the attractive thirteenth century church of San Lorenzo Maggiore in Naples in fact contains a startling secret – the amazing underground remains of the Greco-Roman city of Neapolis. For lovers of ancient Rome it's simply unmissable.

Established in approximately 470 BC by the Cumans, Neapolis would later become the Roman city of Naples and the remains reflect this change as well as development into medieval times.

The main find at the San Lorenzo Maggiore Ruins are the remains of the Greek meeting place and marketplace, known as the Agora. A Roman food market or “Macellum” has also been found, partially incorporated into the cloisters of a church, the cloisters themselves dating back to the fourteenth century.

Visitors to the San Lorenzo Maggiore Ruins can also see public buildings such as what would have been the public treasury or “Aerarium” and a series of roads and “tabernae” or shops including a laundrette and a bakery.

Beneath the thirteenth century church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, there are also the remnants of a sixth century AD Christian basilica. This truly remarkable place is also an informative museum, with exhibits and historical information covering the archaeological excavations at the site. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by Richard (cc)

San Pietro in Vincoli

San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) is a Roman Catholic titular church and minor basilica in Rome, Italy, best known for being the home of Michelangelo's statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II.

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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.

Originally built in the 5th century AD by Empress Eudoxia - wife of Roman Emperor Valentinian III - the church was constructed to house the shackles of St Peter, an ancient relic believed to have been those used to imprison St Peter during his time in Jerusalem and Rome. This original church was rebuilt over the centuries, with major works in the 8th century AD and then again around 1500 AD. Today visitors can see what is said to be the chains themselves, which are located under the main altar.

However, it was with the contribution from Michelangelo that San Pietro in Vincoli really gained its iconic status - with the artist being commissioned to produce the tomb for Pope Julius II. Though this work was never fully completed, the astounding Moses sculpture remains a key draw for visitors to the site today.

San Saturnino Basilica

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

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San Saturnino Basilica (Basilica di San Saturnino) is one of Sardinia’s oldest churches. San Saturnino Basilica was definitely in existence by the sixth century AD and perhaps even as early as the fourth.

In fact, the namesake of San Saturnino Basilica is said to have been executed here during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian and may also be buried within the church.

Built in the shape of a cross, the current structure of San Saturnino Basilica was consecrated in the twelfth century and has a Roman necropolis, dating back to the early Christian era.

Sanctuary of La Verna

The Sanctuary of La Verna is said to be the site where Saint Francis of Assisi received stigmata.

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The Sanctuary of La Verna (Santuario della Verna) is a monastery closely associated with the Christian Saint Francis of Assisi, who is said to have received stigmata on the mount where it is located. Today, the Sanctuary of La Verna is an important place of pilgrimage and has a museum about Saint Francis.

Saint Francis and the Sanctuary of La Verna
According to Christian legend, a local count, Orlando of Chiusi, was so impressed with St Francis that he gave him the mountain of La Verna as a place of contemplation, prayer and solitude in 1224. During his stay at La Verna, St. Francis asked God to allow him to participate with all his being in the Passion of Christ. After this, a crucified seraph appeared to him and he received stigmata.

Photo by Oggie Dog (cc)

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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The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs) is a large and impressive 16th century church constructed within the remains of the Baths of Diocletian and masterminded by renowned renaissance artist Michelangelo.

Though centuries had passed since the fall of the Roman Empire, the massive Baths of Diocletian were still standing in the 16th century. Taking advantage of the huge structural shell, the new Christian basilica was built inside the great hall and frigidarium. It was to be the last great work of Michelangelo, who began the project in 1563 but died in 1564, before its completion by Jacopo Lo Duca, a pupil of Michelangelo’s.

One notable feature of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri is the meridian line built into its floor and gaps in the ceiling used to measure the passage of the stars.

The sheer scale of the build is not only impressive in its own right, but also gives a good indication of the size of the original baths, of which this is only one part. Those looking to find a more unaltered view of the original baths should visit the nearby Aula Ottagona.

Santa Maria in Trastevere

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

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Santa Maria in Trastevere is thought to have been one of the first – if not actually the first – of the Christian churches in Rome.

Whilst most of the building and works contained in Santa Maria in Trastevere date back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the church itself may date back as far as the third century, when it is thought to have been founded by Pope Callixtus. Others believe it was established in mid-fourth century by Pope Julius I.

Legend has it that an oil fountain miraculously appeared on the site of Santa Maria in Trastevere on the date of the birth of Christ.

Today, Santa Maria in Trastevere houses a series of colourful medieval frescos.

Segesta

Segesta contains the famous fifth century BC incomplete, but very well-preserved, Temple of Segesta.

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Segesta is an archaeological site in north western Sicily most famous for the Temple of Segesta.

This fifth century BC temple was started by the Elymian people (circa 426 BC-416BC) but never completed. Nevertheless, with its over thirty intact Doric columns and clear structure, the unfinished Temple of Segesta is so well-preserved that it is considered to be one of Sicily’s most important historic sites. Only the roof and interior are missing.

As for its builders, the Elymians were thought by some to have been former Trojans who fled and settled in Sicily. The reason that the Temple of Segesta is incomplete is often attributed to a possible war between the Elymians and a neighbouring city.

Most of Segesta remains unexcavated. There is also a nearby third century BC ancient Greek amphitheatre, which can be reached by bus from Segesta.

Selinunte

Selinunte is an Ancient Greek archaeological site in Sicily containing the ruins of an acropolis and five temples.

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Selinunte is an Ancient Greek archaeological site in southern Sicily containing the ruins of an acropolis surrounded by five historic temples, mostly dating to the sixth to fifth centuries BC.

The sites at Selinunte are relatively meagre when one considers that this would once have been one of the great cities of Magna Graecia founded in the mid-seventh century BC. However, much of Selinunte was destroyed by the Carthaginians in the fifth century BC.

Of the temples at Selinunte, only one has been substantially partially reconstructed, its standing Doric columns forming an impressive sight.

Photo by jimmyharris (cc)

St Peter’s Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica is one of the holiest of Christian sites with a history dating back to Ancient Rome.

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St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is one of the most important Christian sites in the world and is a church (rather than a cathedral) with a long and illustrious history.

Also known as the 'Papal Basilica of Saint Peter' and in Italian as 'Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano', St Peter’s Basilica sits over the site of the tomb of its namesake.

St Peter was one of the twelve apostles in Christianity and is believed to have been crucified at the Circus of Nero, on which St Peter’s Basilica was constructed. At that time, the Circus of Nero also had a cemetery.

The first basilica to be built over the Circus of Nero was constructed in 324 AD by the Roman Emperor Constantine. Visitors to St Peter’s Basilica can still see the shrine in his honour. The saint himself is thought to be buried under the Papal altar.

The current form of St Peter’s Basilica began to form in the fifteenth century and was expanded and added to by various popes and architects over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Whilst much of the building was designed by Bernini, the most celebrated architectural aspect of St Peter’s Basilica is probably its vast dome. Designed by Michelangelo in the mid-sixteenth century, but not finished until after his demise, the dome of St Peter’s rises a magnificent 448 feet in height.

Inside St Peter’s Basilica, visitors can view a wealth of historical art, mostly Renaissance, and the tombs of popes such as Pope Pius XI (d.1939), Pope John XXIII (d. 1963) and Pope John Paul II (d. 2005). Many of their tombs are located in the basilica’s Grottoes.

Some of the highlights in respect of the artistic masterpieces at St Peter’s Basilica include Michelangelo’s statue Pieta, Arnolfo di Cambio’s Statue of St. Peter Enthroned, the foot of which pilgrims traditionally touch and Bernini’s golden Monument to Pope Alexander VII.

St Peter’s Basilica is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Historic Centre of Rome. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by Oggie Dog (cc)

St Sebastian Catacombs

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

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The St Sebastian Catacombs (Catacombe di San Sebastiano) are fourth century AD underground Christian burial tombs. They are some of the earliest of their kind in Rome.

The many catacombs of Rome are the remnants of early Christianity, a reminder of a time when persecuted Christians would bury their dead in underground chambers outside the city walls. Several examples of these subterranean cemeteries still exist, with the St Sebastian Catacombs listed among the best known.

Comprised of four levels of burial passages, the St. Sebastian Catacombs are believed to have once held the remains of their namesake, but he is now buried in the basilica above. Creepy but fun, it's certainly worth a look if you haven't seen any other catacombs on your trip to Rome.

Entry to the St. Sebastian Catacombs also includes a guided tour.

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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Stabiae, today contained in the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia, was an Ancient Roman town which, along with Pompeii and Herculaneum, was engulfed in lava and ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. In fact, it was during this natural disaster that Pliny the Elder was killed in Stabiae.

Despite originally being discovered in 1749, Stabiae was only completed excavated in 1950, upon which archeologists found the remains of not one, but two ancient civilizations. The older of the two civillisations was that of the Oscan people, who lived there between the 7th and 3rd centuries BC. The main remains from this Italian tribe are contained in a necropolis which houses over 300 tombs.

However, the more famous ruins at Stabiae are the Roman villas which were constructed there in around 89 BC when the town became something of a Roman holiday resort. Amongst these are the 11,000 square foot Villa San Marco with its beautiful frescos and mosaics, Villa Arianna - so named for its magnificent fresco of Ariadne being saved by Dionysus - with its underground tunnel and Villa Del Pastore, which was most likely a bath house.

Stabiae is far less well-known than Pompeii, but offers visitors a great tour of authentic Roman ruins in a quieter environment.

Su Nuraxi di Barumini

Su Nuraxi di Barumini is a pretty UNESCO-listed prehistoric site in Sardinia and one of the island’s many nuraghe.

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Su Nuraxi di Barumini is a prime example of one of Sardinia’s many nuraghe structures.

Little is known about the nuraghe, except that they are thought to have been built from the Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age (circa 1500-800BC) by the island’s inhabitants as a form of defence, particularly against the Carthaginians.

Comprised of a series of stone structures, Su Nuraxi di Barumini became a settlement in its own right. It was attacked by the Carthaginians in the seventh century BC, but continued to be inhabited up to as late as the third century AD. This even post dated the Roman conquest of Sardinia.

Today, Su Nuraxi di Barumini is still an impressive site, the main highlight of which is its central stone tower. Typically of a nuraghe, this was constructed without the use of bonding materials such as mortar, demonstrating a sophisticated level of engineering.

Many other structures have been identified at Su Nuraxi di Barumini, including homes, a theatre and temples, all seemingly intertwined in what looks like a complex mosaic.

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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The Syracuse Archaeological Site (Siracusa) in Sicily contains the impressive remains of the ancient city of Syracuse dating as far back as the eighth century BC. The city of Syracuse was founded by Greek colonists - heralding from Corinth - in 734 BC.

At its height, Syracuse was the most powerful city in Sicily and, according to Cicero, was the “most beautiful” of all Greek cities. By the fifth to fourth century BC, Syracuse controlled Sicily, especially during the reign of Dionysus the Elder (405BC-367BC).

In the third century BC, the Romans laid siege to Syracuse and, after three bitter years, it came under Roman rule in 212 BC as a province. One of the most famous residents of Syracuse, the mathematician Archimedes, died during this attack.

Remaining a part of the Roman Empire, the city remained stable for hundreds of years until the fall of the Western Empire. Over the following centuries, Syracuse was invaded, conquered and occupied several times, leading to it being inhabited by several peoples including the Vandals and Byzantines (5th-6th centuries) as well as the Muslims (9th-10th centuries). It also came under Norman rule for thirty years from 1061.

From 1197 to 1250, Syracuse experienced resurgence under the rule of Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty.

Today, visitors to the Syracuse Archaeological Site can enjoy the spectacular remnants of its past, the most famous of which is its Ancient Greek theatre. There is also a Roman amphitheatre (pictured on the map), a sanctuary to Apollo, an altar to Sicilian King Hieron II (265-215BC), a set of ancient quarries and a fort known as the Castle of Euryalus (although the latter is located around 8km north of the main site).

Together with the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Syracuse Archaeological Site is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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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Taormina Amphitheatre (Teatro Greco Romano) was initially built by the Greeks in the third century BC before being rebuilt and enlarged by the Romans.

While known as an amphitheatre, the site is actually an ancient theatre, not an arena of the type normally meant by the term.

Parts of the Taormina Amphitheatre, such as its scenery, are still quite well-preserved, although some would say that the modern seating ruins the effect.

Today, as well as being a major draw for tourists to the city, the theatre is still used for concerts, plays and other event.

Tempio Malatestiano

Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini is a former Franciscan church turned lavish Renaissance mausoleum.

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Tempio Malatestiano, translated as the “Malatesta Temple” in Rimini was originally a Franciscan church, later transformed into a Renaissance church.

This work, which began in 1447, was carried out at the behest of the nobleman and notoriously ruthless military commander of Venetian forces, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta. Malatesta was part of a dynasty which ruled Rimini.

Malatesta hired architect Leon Battista Alberti to build a mausoleum for himself and his wife, Isotta degli Atti. The result was an elaborate and highly decorative monument to this couple, whose initials are emblazoned all over the Tempio Malatestiano. This was particularly detested by Pope Pius II, who virulently condemned the changes.

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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Initially constructed in 141 AD, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was built by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius in honour of his wife, Faustina. It is one of the best preserved structures in the Roman Forum.

Faustina was deified following her death and the temple – then just the Temple of Faustina – was the place of worship of the cult of Faustina.

When the emperor died in 161 AD, he too was deified and Faustina’s temple became the joint Temple of Antoninus and Faustina.

The primary reason that the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina has survived in such a good state of preservation is that it was incorporated in the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda sometime between 600 AD and 800 AD.

A flight of stairs leads up to the ten standing columns of the original temple, which is now part of the church.

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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The Temple of Caesar (Tempio del Divo Giuli), the remains of which can be seen in the Roman Forum, was dedicated to the Roman Dictator Julius Caesar (100BC - 44BC).

Caesar, who was murdered by the senators Cassius, Brutus and their supporters on 15 March 44BC, was cremated. Following his death, he was deified and the Temple of Caesar was constructed on the site of his cremation to house his cult. It was completed in 29BC.

All that remains of the Temple of Caesar today is its altar.

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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The Temple of Castor and Pollux (Templum Castoris) was an ancient Roman temple in Rome’s Forum. First constructed in the fifth century BC, the Temple of Castor and Pollux was then rebuilt in the early first century AD.

The Temple of Castor and Pollux was dedicated to Helen of Troy’s twin brothers. Legend had it that Castor and Pollux helped the Romans in their victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus (499 BC) and had appeared to them nearby.

It is the remains of this second incarnation of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, rebuilt under the Roman Emperor Tiberius, that visitors to the Roman Forum can see today. These comprise of an ornate podium with several standing columns.

Temple of Concord

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

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The Temple of Concord (Tempio della Concordia) was an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Concordia, the godess of harmony.

It is unclear when the Temple of Concord was first constructed. Roman statesman Marcus Furius Camillus vowed to build it in 367 BC, although there is little evidence as to whether he fulfilled this promise. However, the Temple of Concord was almost certainly in existence in 121 BC (this may have been when it was either built or rebuilt).

Used in part as a place for the senate to hold meetings, the Temple of Concord would have been a grand structure. Today, only meagre ruins of this temple survive and can be found in the northwest of the Roman Forum, next to the Tabularium.

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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The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum was a sacred ancient Roman temple dedicated to Saturn, the god of seed-sowing.

One of the oldest of the Roman Forum structures, the Temple of Saturn was originally built sometime between 501 BC and 497 BC and reconstructed in the fourth century BC. However, this second incarnation burned down and the Temple of Saturn was restored in 42 BC by Roman senator Lucius Munatius Plancus.

Used as the treasury and the seat of the financial overseers of the Roman Republic, the quaestors, the Temple of Saturn was also closely linked with the celebration of Saturnalia, during which slaves and masters would dine together.

Largely destroyed in the mid-fifteenth century, all that remains of the Temple of Saturn are six of its Ionic granite columns crowned with a frieze thought to date to approximately 30 BC.

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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The Temple of Venus and Rome, known in Latin as Templum Veneris et Romae, in the Roman Forum was built in approximately 135 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Hadrian himself is thought to have heavily influenced the design of this temple, although it was later renovated by the emperor Maxentius after it was damaged in a fire.

Dedicated to the godesses of love and of Rome, the Temple of Venus and Rome would have comprised two main chambers and would have been an impressive structure. Its remains are found at the far east end of the Forum, near the Colosseum.

Photo by TyB (cc)

Temples of the Forum Boarium

The Temples of the Forum Boarium are two second century BC Roman republic temples.

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

Comprised of two temples, the Temple of Hercules Victor and the Temple of Portunus, the Temples of the Forum Boarium date back to approximately the second century BC.

The Temple of Hercules Victor (or Ercole Vincitore) is a round structure with twenty columns dedicated to Hercules, while the larger of the two, the Temple of Portunus, is a square building dedicated to the Roman deity of rivers, ports and harbours.

The Forum Boarium was itself originally part of the Roman cattle market before becoming a commercial centre.

In medieval times, both of the Temples of the Forum Boarium were incorporated into churches, probably accounting for their excellent state of preservation.

Tharros

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

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Tharros is an archaeological site in Sardinia brimming with centuries of history.

Founded in the eighth century BC by the Phoenicians, Tharros would be inhabited by the Carthaginians and the Romans, leaving behind a series of ancient structures, especially its two standing Corinthian columns.

Among the other highlights of the ruins at Tharros are the remains of the Carthaginian tophet – a sacred space sometimes used for burials – as well as the remains of the thermal baths and the foundations of temples, houses and shops.

Later abandoned due to Saracen raids, Tharros is one of Sardinia’s best ancient sites.

Photo by Allie_Caulfield (cc)

The Ara Pacis Museum

The Ara Pacis Museum displays the Emperor Augustus’s Altar of Peace.

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The Ara Pacis Museum (Museo dell Ara Pacis) in Rome 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.

The Claudio Aqueduct - Rome

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

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The Claudio Aqueduct (Acquedotto Claudio) was one of Rome’s ancient aqueducts.

Whilst it was the Emperor Claudius, after whom it is named, who completed the Claudio Aqueduct in 52 AD, it was his predecessor, the Emperor Caligula who began its construction in 38AD.

Today, parts of the Claudio Aqueduct are fairly well preserved and can be seen within the Appia Antica Regional Park.

The Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace of Venice is a gothic structure which housed the government of the Venetian Republic.

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The Doge’s Palace of Venice (Palazzo Ducale di Venezia) is a gothic style structure in St. Mark’s Square which served as the residence of each successive ‘Doge’ or leader of the Venetian Republic until its fall in 1797.

The Doge’s Palace housed the Republic’s administrative center, hall of justice, prison, public archive and senate house.

Whilst the current Doge’s Palace was probably constructed from 1309 to 1424, it is thought that the original palace dated back to the tenth or eleventh century and was probably a fortified structure protected by thick walls and guard towers, of which traces have survived.

A new Doge’s Palace was built under Doge Sebastiano Ziani in the twelfth century following the devastation of the original by a fire in the tenth century. This structure was then renovated and vastly extended in a series of construction projects in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, much of which was necessary due to numerous fires, including one in 1483 and another in 1577.

Nevertheless, much of the original structure and artwork remain today, including some by artists such as Filippo Calendario and Guariento di Arpo. The Bridge of Sighs was added in around 1600, linking the Doge’s Palace to the prison.

However, when Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the city, prompting the fall of the Venetian Republic, the role of the Doge’s Palace inevitably changed, and today it is a museum managed by the Venice Museum Authority.

One can now either tour the Doge’s Palace independently with audio tours or take the pre-booked secret itinerary tour, which includes a visit to the prison cell of the infamous Giacomo Casanova and other parts of the building only accessible through this tour. The wealth of history and architecture, including the Bridge of Sighs and the Doge’s apartments, make the Doge’s Palace a fascinating attraction. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

The Felice Aqueduct - Rome

The Felice Aqueduct in Rome dates back to the sixteenth century.

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The Felice Aqueduct in Rome is a late sixteenth century aqueduct built by Pope Sixtus V in order to provide parts of Rome with water. Parts of this aqueduct can still be seen today.

The site is within the Via Appia Antica Regional Park, which offers bicycle hire to see all of the sites in the area.

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 Augustus, located on the eminent Palatine Hill, was the modest home of Ancient Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.

The grandnephew and heir of Julius Caesar, Augustus lived in this house for many years. The House of Augustus should not be confused with Domus Augustana, which was the later palace of the emperors of Rome.

Whilst considered to be relatively small, especially when compared to the Imperial Palace built at a later date, the House of Augustus does contain a vivid collection of frescos.

Open to the public since 2008, the House of Augustus has been carefully restored and offers a fascinating insight into the life of one of ancient Rome’s most prominent figures.

The House of Livia

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

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The House of Livia, also known as Livia’s House or Livia’s Villa, was the home of the third wife of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, and the mother of its second emperor, Tiberius.

Powerful and formidable, Livia was an important figure of Ancient Rome, a status she managed to maintain even after Augustus’s death. It even became treasonous to speak against Livia. Robert Graves memorably portrayed the figure of Livia in his I Claudius series.

Set on the Palatine Hill, Ancient Rome’s most desirable location, the House of Livia is currently being excavated by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma and so is usually only accessible by prior appointment.

The Palatine Hill Stadium

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

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The partially-intact Palatine Hill Stadium once formed part of Domus Augustana, the imperial palace of Rome’s emperors.

Built by the Emperor Domitian, the Domus Augustana was a magnificent palace used as the primary residence of many of Rome’s emperors.

The exact purpose of the Palatine Hill Stadium itself is unknown, with some historians saying it was a private garden and other thinking it was a place for the emperors to exercise their horses.

The Palatine Museum

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

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The Palatine Museum (Museo Palatino) on Rome’s Palatine Hill houses a collection of finds from this incredible archaeological site.

With artefacts dating back as far as the Middle Palaeolithic era, the Palatine Museum offers a good overview of the area considered to be the birthplace of Rome.

The main exhibits at the Palatine Museum date back to ancient Rome, particular between the first and fourth centuries AD, when the Palatine Hill was the best address in the city and home to Rome’s emperors.

The Protestant Cemetery of Rome

The Protestant Cemetery of Rome is the final resting place of famous non-Catholic poets, artists and philosophers.

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The Protestant Cemetery of Rome, also known as the Non-Catholic Cemetery or “Cimitero Acattolico”, is the final burial place of many prominent figures, especially artists.

Whilst called the “Protestant” cemetery, it is a cemetery for non-Catholics and houses graves of several other religions such as Jewish graves.

Seen by some as Rome’s answer to the Pierre Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the Protestant Cemetery of Rome was operating from the eighteenth century, probably circa 1738.

Amongst those interred at the Protestant Cemetery of Rome are well known poets John Keats (d 1821) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (d 1822). Former leader of Italy’s communist party, Antonio Gramsci (d 1937), is also buried here.

The Regia

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

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The Regia, the remains of which are located in the Roman Forum, was initially the royal residence of the first kings of ancient Rome. It later became the seat of Rome’s most high ranking priest, the Pontifex Maximus.

Among many notable names to hold this position, Julius Caesar would have conducted his official business from this spot during his time as Pontifex Maximus.

The Regia would have been built and reconstructed several times and today little remains of this structure. In fact only its ground works, next to the much better preserved Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, are visible.

Photo by Z_dead (cc)

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are an eighteenth century staircase and a focal point for Rome’s tourists.

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The Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) are one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions.

A grand staircase with 138 steps leading down to the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps were designed in the 1720s by Francesco de Sanctis, an Italian architect, and completed in 1726.

They were called the Spanish Steps after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, then located nearby. A popular spot since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, today this beautiful staircase is always buzzing with tourists and leads to Rome’s most upmarket shopping area.

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 Surgeon’s House (Domus del Chirurgo) in Rimini, Italy, is an archaeological site known locally as “little Pompeii”.

Spanning an area of over 700 square metres, the Surgeon’s House is a collection of archaeological sites discovered in 1998 and excavated over the course of almost a decade.

This attraction is known as “The Surgeon’s House” due to its main find, the second century AD home of an ancient Roman doctor by the name of Eutyches. Over 150 medical instruments were found among the ruins (housed in the museum) together with the remains of the building itself, which is thought to have been razed to the ground by fire in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. The Surgeon’s House also has some well-preserved and restored mosaic floors.

However, beyond the actual “Surgeon’s House” there are other notable historic ruins at this site. One such building is known as the Palace of Late Antiquity and was built sometime after 260 AD. The extensive ruins of this site, which include several rooms and a sophisticated heating system, indicate that it would have been the lavish home of a lord or “dominus” although it was entirely abandoned by the fifth century.

The displays at the Surgeon’s House also look at the site post the fifth century AD, when it was used as a Christian cemetery. Visitors can even see exposed graves and tombs with bodies still inside. This was an active cemetery until the seventh century.

The Temple of Vesta

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

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The Temple of Vesta was an ancient Roman shrine dedicated to the goddess of the hearth, the remains of which are found in the southeast of the Roman Forum.

Serving as the temple of the Vestal Virgins, the priestesses dedicated to Vesta, the Temple of Vesta housed an eternal flame which represented the everlasting nature of the state. If the flame were extinguished, this would indicate doom for Rome.

As with other temples of this kind, the Temple of Vesta would have been a circular structure facing east. It burned down several times, including in the Great Fire of Rome.

Today, the remains of the Temple of Vesta hint at its former grandeur, made up of three main standing columns and part of a fourth with steps leading up to it.

Photo by the Italian voice (cc)

The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is Rome’s largest and most iconic fountain.

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The Trevi Fountain (Fountain di Trevi) is an iconic eighteenth century monument in Rome. It was designed by Nicola Salvi, but following his death in 1751 it was continued by Giuseppe Pannini and completed in 1762.

A stunning depiction of several ancient deities and resplendent with frescos of legends and myths, the Trevi Fountain attracts floods of tourists, keen to throw their coins into its waters to assure their return to Rome - or so goes the myth.

The Uffizi

The Uffizi is Florence’s world famous art gallery and was originally intended as the offices of Duke Cosimo I dei Medici.

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The Uffizi, literally translated as “the offices” is Florence’s world famous art gallery and the creation of one of its most iconic figures, Duke Cosimo I dei Medici. Cosimo I was both the Duke of Florence and, from 1569, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was the first ever holder of this latter title.

The Uffizi was originally built from 1560 to 1580 to house the offices – hence the name – of Florence’s administration and judicial sectors. Initially designed and built by Giorgio Vasari, the Uffizi was continued by Alfonso Parigi and Bernardo Buontalenti. This occurred when Vasari, and also Cosimo I, died in 1574.

Cosimo I’s successor was his son, Francesco I, who first decided to use the Uffizi as an art gallery, an endeavour further undertaken by Francesco I’s brother and successor Ferdinando I and continued today.

The collections now held at the Uffizi include artwork from the gothic and renaissance eras by some of the world’s most prominent artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Titian, Carravagio and Giotto.

The Uffizi is part of the Historic Florence UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by liberalmind1012 (cc)

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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Though only partially preserved, the ruins of the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome are among the oldest remains of an ancient Roman theatre to have survived.

One of the most important ancient Roman public buildings, the Theatre of Marcellus was the brainchild of Julius Caesar himself, though the Roman dictator did not live to see its completion. In fact, after Caesar’s assassination work on the theatre was halted and it was not until his great-nephew Augustus was in power that the work was completed in 13 BC.

According to the ancient historian Livy, the Theatre of Marcellus was constructed on the site of an earlier theatre, built by Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The theatre was dedicated to Augustus’s own nephew and heir, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who died at a young age.

Built in a grand style, with three distinct columned levels, it is believed the Theatre of Marcellus could originally hold as many as 11,000 people. Throughout the Roman period the theatre survived in its original form, with occasional renovation, such as that provided by the Emperor Vespasian.

After the fall of the Empire however, the Theatre of Marcellus fell into decline and was slowly buried and robbed for its masonry. In the 13th century the theatre was converted into a fortress and its purpose was altered once again in the 16th century when it became the palace of the Savelli family.

In the 1920s the lower sections of the building were bought by Rome’s city council and restored. Today, while the interior is not open to the public, the lower levels and striking architecture can be observed from the street. The upper levels still function as private apartments.

Tiberius Bridge - Rimini

Tiberius Bridge is a first century Roman Bridge in Rimini.

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Tiberius Bridge (Ponte di Tiberio) in Rimini is an Ancient Roman arched bridge begun by the Emperor Augustus and completed by Emperor Tiberius in approximately 20 AD.

Crossing the Marecchia River, the extremely well-preserved Tiberius Bridge is still in use today.

Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker

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

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The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker is an impressive and peculiar ancient tomb in Rome dating back to around 30BC.

The tomb was built by a former slave turned wealthy freeman named Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces – who made his fortune as a grand baker and contractor.

Unique in shape and design, it is believed that the Tomb of Eurysaces was constructed to fit this unique plot of land and also to highlight the tools of the baking trade – such as grain measures and dough-kneading machines.

It was built at the junction of the Via Labicana and the Via Praenestina – meaning a host of visitors and locals would have passed it every day.

The frieze at the top of the tomb depicts various elements of the bread-making process and is quite unique – certainly a world away from depictions of great conquests and brutal battles which can often be found on other Roman remains.

The tomb was later enclosed by the Aurelian Wall – and stands alongside the Porta Maggiore – but has now been excavated.

Trajan Arch of Ancona

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

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The Trajan Arch of Ancona (L’Arco di Traiano di Ancona) is a second century monument built in honour of the Emperor Trajan.

Designed by Apollodorus of Damascus and constructed in 115 AD to thank the emperor for his renovation of the local harbour, the Trajan Arch of Ancona would have been adorned with friezes and statues.

However, despite the fact that many of the decorations of the Trajan Arch of Ancona have now disappeared, it is still an impressive monument, looming over the city.

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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The Trajan Arch of Benevento (Arco di Traiano di Benevento) is one of several Arches of Trajan built in honour of this famous Roman emperor.

Originally located along the Appia Antica, one of the oldest roads leading to Rome, the Trajan Arch of Benevento was constructed between 114 AD and 116 AD and, like its counterparts, was built in honour of Rome’s thirteenth emperor, Trajan, who reigned from 98 AD to 117 AD.

A marble structure depicting events in the emperor’s life, including real as well as mythological depictions, the Trajan Arch of Benevento is very well preserved.

Trajan’s Markets

Trajan’s Markets was an Ancient Roman administrative centre located on Trajan’s Forum.

DID YOU KNOW?

The site of Trajan’s Markets, located in the Forum of Trajan in Rome, is one of the best preserved elements of the ancient city to have survived, and is an oft-overlooked gem in the heart of the Eternal City.

The impressive semi-circular remains of this grand structure, built between 100 and 110 AD and designed by Apollodorus of Damascus, are very much still intact. Once thought by historians to have been an ancient Roman shopping centre, more recent evidence has pointed to Trajan’s Markets also having been a centre of administration and finance.

Today, not only is the site of Trajan’s Markets open to explore, but it also houses the Museo dei Fori Imperiali. Opened in 2007, this museum was the result of several years of careful restoration and is dedicated to showcasing and recreating the Imperial Forums, which were the beating heart of ancient Rome for hundreds of years.

The museum takes the visitor through an exhibit of each individual forum based on the most important finds discovered within it. This journey through ancient Rome includes areas devoted to the forums of Caesar and Augustus, Nerva and Trajan as well as the Templum Pacis or Forum of Vespasian. As well as exhibiting original artefacts found in the individual forums, there are also descriptive panels and multimedia displays in each section.

However, the true highlight of a visit to this site is the chance to explore the structure itself. Remaining extremely well preserved, the chance to wander through Trajan’s Markets and onto Trajan’s Forum is one not to miss. You can explore the Via Biberatica, which was the main high street, as well as strolling the ancient corridors, offices and hallways and entering the shops and chambers themselves.

Trani Cathedral

Trani Cathedral is a medieval church in Apulia, Italy.

DID YOU KNOW?

Trani Cathedral is a twelfth century church in the port of Trani, Apulia in Italy. Built from 1159 to 1186, this medieval structure is dedicated to a little known saint, St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, whose crypt is open to the public.

This Romanesque cathedral is the main historic site in Trani and contains numerous sculptures and a 59 metre bell tower.

Photo by niai (cc)

Trasimene Battlefield

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

DID YOU KNOW?

Trasimene Battlefield marks the site of the Battle of Trasimene, fought in 217 BC between Hannibal of Carthage and the Consul Flaminius of Rome. It was one of the major battles of the Second Punic War and a crushing defeat for Rome.

During the encounter, Hannibal - a gifted strategist - tricked the Roman consul into following him along the northern side of Lake Trasimene through thick fog. Meanwhile the Carthaginian general had ranged his troops along the slope above the lake's edge where Flaminius marched, and the Roman army walked straight into a trap. The Romans were attacked on all sides and, with no visibility, re-organising and issuing effective orders was impossible.

As the trap was sprung, the Romans were in complete disarray and Polybius says “death took them unawares while they were still wondering what to do” (III. 84). The Romans were slaughtered where they stood or forced back into Lake Trasimene where they were picked off by the cavalry or drowned. Fifteen thousand Romans died, Flaminius among them.

Today there are picture boards describing the events of the battle all along the former coast of Lake starting from the coordinates marked on the map. Winding to Sanguineto (named after the battle literally meaning ‘running with blood’) and on to Tuoro.

It is a beautiful area with many fantastic towns within easy reach including Cortona and Perugia and there are many Roman/Hanniballic references in the area, such as streets being named after the historical figures involved. Furthermore excavations both terrestrial and underwater are on-going here to locate the exact site of the battle.

Contributed by Sam Wood, Ride and Seek Historical Bike Tours

Photo by Dani4P (cc)

Trebbia Battlefield

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

DID YOU KNOW?

Trebbia Battlefield marks the location of the Battle of Trebbia, the first significant clash of the Second Punic War. Fought in 218 BC, it was a resounding defeat for the Roman armies under the consuls Scipio and Longus and a major victory for the great Carthaginian general Hannibal.

A resounding defeat for Rome, the Battle of Trebbia was the first real example of Hannibal’s ingenuity. Hannibal took advantage of the impetuous nature of the Roman consul Longus and drew him into a battle he had little chance to win. At first light, the Carthaginian general sent his Numidian cavalry in to action to harass the Roman camp and lure them out. Longus eagerly complied and sent his men across the swollen and freezing river towards the Carthaginian army. The Romans were now cold, wet and hungry (they hadn’t even had breakfast) and for these reasons they were perhaps beaten before they had even started to fight. They were so cold in fact, that they had trouble drawing their weapons when they reached the other side of the river after wading through its freezing rapids.

Waiting for the Romans on the other bank the Carthaginians were fresh, had breakfasted and had kept warm around their campfires. They had already gained the upper hand in the early engagements before Hannibal’s brother, Mago, sprung from his hiding spot - “a manouevre which threw the whole Roman army into confusion and dismay” (Polyibus III.74) and all was lost for the Romans.

The river is little more than a stream now, but the area is very atmospheric. A lovely green valley extends upriver - it so captivated Ernst Hemingway when he was here during World War II that the local sparkling water quotes him as describing it as ‘the most beautiful valley in the world.’

The exact location of Trebbia Battlefield on the river is not known, however it is thought to be somewhere north of Rivergaro. There are however numerous references to Hannibal and his passing including a Hannibal winery! A war elephant also stands as monument to the battle at the co-ordinates marked.

Contributed by Sam Wood, Ride and Seek Historical Bike Tours

Urbino

Urbino is a beautiful UNESCO-listed walled city which was a creative hub during the Renaissance.

DID YOU KNOW?

Urbino is a beautiful walled city which was a creative hub during the Renaissance. Located in the Le Marche region of Italy, Urbino was first a Roman then medieval town.

However, it was during the fifteenth century, particular during the time of Duke Federico II da Montefeltro, that Urbino flourished, playing host to intellectuals and artists from around the country.

Much of the architecture of Urbino was influenced by some of the biggest names of the time. For example, its walls followed the designs of Leonardo Da Vinci. Notably, it was also the birthplace of the painter Raphael, the site of which is now a museum.

Today, much of Urbino is charmingly frozen in its cultural heyday, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in this period. The city is home to numerous palaces, the most famous of which is Palazzo Ducale, a fairytale-esque structure begun in the fifteenth century which is now home to a national art museum.

There is much to see in Urbino including its cathedral or “Duomo” and the fourteenth century Albornoz Fortress.

Since 1998, the historic centre of Urbino has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by emilio labrador (cc)

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.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) is a famous archaeological site in Sicily housing some of the best preserved Ancient Greek ruins in the world, especially outside Greece.

Agrigento, in which they are located, had been a Greek colony since the 6th century BC. Really more of a ridge than a valley, the Valley of the Temples is mainly comprised of the beautiful ruins of nine sacred temples.

The majority of the sites at the Valley of the Temples were initially constructed in the fifth century BC. However, having been destroyed first by the Carthaginians (circa 406 BC) and then the Christians (in the 6th century AD) they are now partly made up of reconstructions. Nevertheless, of the ten original temples, the remains of nine can now be seen.

The oldest of the temples, the Temple of Herakles, was constructed in the sixth century BC and is made up of several Doric columns. The best preserved of the ruins is the fifth century BC Temple of Concorde, saved from destruction when it was incorporated into a Christian church. The other temples are dedicated to Juno, Olympian Zeus, Hephaistos, Hera Lacinia and Castor and Pollux.

Beyond the temples, the Valley of the Temples has numerous other archaeological sites, including the 1st century AD Tomb of Theron and several sanctuaries, the oldest of which was built sometime around the sixth century BC. This UNESCO World Heritage site also has an on-site museum.

Photo by hanjeanwat (cc)

Velia Archaeological Site

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

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The Velia Archaeological Site (Scavi di Velia) in Campania houses the remains of a Greek colony turned Roman municipality.

Velia was originally founded by a Greek community as the colony of “Elea” in 540 BC. With the help of prominent citizens and philosophers Zeno and Parmenides (the latter having founded the school of Eleatics, the former having been a member), Velia managed to overcome several attacks including from Poseidonia and the Lucanians.

During the Second Punic War, Velia provided ships to Rome for its fight against Hannibal and in 88 BC it became a municipality of the Roman Empire. The decline of Velia, which was dependent on naval commerce, coincided with the reduced need for its harbour.

Today, the Velia Archaeological Site contains an array of ancient ruins as well as medieval ones. Visitors can see a series of public buildings and monuments from the Greek and Roman eras including third century BC fortifications, a large fourth century BC arch known as the Pink Gate as well as second century AD Roman baths with mosaics and a theatre.

The Velia Archaeological Site also has medieval sites such as its eleventh/twelfth century castle, which is recognisable by its rounded towers and turrets.

Photo by Historvius

Verona Arena

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

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Verona Arena (Arena di Verona) is a stunning Roman amphitheatre built in 30AD and said to have been the third largest of its time after the Colosseum and Campania Amphitheatre, which served ancient Capua. 

Built during the first half of the 1st century AD, Verona Arena was originally made up of three elliptical rings of arches, of which the second is the best preserved and little remains of the first. During its prime, the arena could hold up to 30,000 people and would have played host to an array of ancient entertainment, including the famous gladiatorial games.

As with many similar Roman constructions, the arena suffered during the decline and fall of the Empire and was pillaged for masonry during the middle ages. Despite this however, and with a certain amount of restoration, Verona Arena stands in an excellent state of preservation today and still hosts a number of events, operas and open-air performances.

Photo by Oggie Dog (cc)

Via Appia Antica

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

DID YOU KNOW?

Via Appia Antica, also known as the Appian Way, is one of the oldest and most important roads leading to Rome. Built in 312 BC, it was slowly extended and, by 191 BC, it reached the port of Brindisi, over 550km southeast of the city (along the “heel” of Italy). Thus, Via Appia Antica became a gateway to the east.

In 66 BC, Julius Caesar became the curator of the Appian Way and, to gain crucial electoral votes, borrowed significant sums to restore the ancient highway.

Over the centuries, several important events are said to have occurred along Via Appia Antica and, perhaps most notably, Christian legend has it that it was the road on which Christ appeared to a fleeing St. Peter, convincing him to return to Rome thereafter being executed and martyred.

In ancient Rome,  the Via Appia Antica was a popular location for tombs and catacombs, many of which are scattered along the road today, including the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella. Christian catacombs such as the Catacombs of San Callisto and the St. Sebastian Catacombs can also be found there.

Other impressive monuments on the Via Appia Antica, which became the route to the affluent suburbs of Rome, include the Villa and Circus of Maxentius, the Villa dei Quintili and the Baths of Caracalla.

With such a clear route to so many incredible monuments, the Via Appia Antica offers tourists a great way to explore the road’s history, which is so inextricably intertwined with that of Rome. Today, the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica oversees much of the site.

Probably the best way to travel along Via Appia Antica is by public transport. Indeed, it is closed to private traffic on Sundays and on holidays. For itineraries along Via Appia Antica, check the official website.

Photo by carolemadge1 (cc)

Villa dei Quintili

Villa dei Quintili is an extremely well-preserved second century AD villa in Rome’s suburbs.

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Villa dei Quintili, translated as the Villa of the 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. Consuls under the rule of Marcus Aurelius, the Quintili brothers built their luxurious villa, complete with thermal baths, in the countryside of Rome. However, when Emperor Commodus came to power the brothers fell from favour and Villa dei Quintili became his property. It is said that this infamous emperor actually executed the brothers specifically so he could get his hands on their villa.

Today, far from the intrigues and plots of ancient Rome, Villa dei Quintili 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.

Photo by Historvius

Villa Gregoriana

Villa Gregoriana is a park located in Tivoli, Italy.

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Villa Gregoriana is a park in Tivoli, Italy which seamlessly blends natural and man-made wonders. Commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI, from whom it takes its name, in 1835, Villa Gregoriana was laid-out in the bed of the Aniene River at the foot of Tivoli's Acropolis. Its aim was to protect Tivoli from the force of the floods of the Aniene. Ideally bucolic, it became the landmark and favourite landscape of poets and painters in the 19th century.

The main attractions at Villa Gregoriana are the caves of Neptune and the Sirens, the many gorges and cascades and the 100 meters waterfall, all of which are complemented by the ancient treasures including Roman remains. Amongst these are the villa of Roman consul Manlius Vopiscus and the Temple of Vesta overlooking the ravine.

Photo by Ava Lowery (cc)

Villa Jovis

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

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Villa Jovis, meaning the Villa of Jupiter, on the island of Capri was the home of the Roman Emperor Tiberius for ten years from 27 AD until his death in 37 AD.

Built by Tiberius in a secluded part of the island amidst cliffs and steep slopes, Villa Jovis was well protected and many historians speculate that this was due to the emperor’s security concerns. Even today, getting to Villa Jovis is tricky and access is only available on foot up a steep hill.

Comprised of a maze of sections, rooms, passageways and corridors, Villa Jovis spanned an area of over 75,000 square feet (7,000 square metres) plus its extensive gardens, which add considerably to its size.

The ruins of Villa Jovis offer an insight into the former grandeur of the complex, with the remains of many of its limestone walls showing an outline of the rooms. From the dining room (triclinium) and the emperor’s apartments to the baths (thermae) and even his astronomical observatory (specularium), Villa Jovis had all the trappings of opulent luxury. Visitors can also see the innovative rain water collection system created for Tiberius, used to provide water to this difficult location.

The position of the site also accounts for the structure of Villa Jovis, the inclines on which it was built requiring it to be set on several levels, which was unusual at the time.

Photo by kudumomo (cc)

Villa Poppaea

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

DID YOU KNOW?

Villa Poppaea contains the remains of a grand ancient Roman residence in the Oplontis site, near Pompeii in Italy.

Dating back to the 1st century AD, Villa Poppaea was expanded in the Claudian era and was believed to have belonged to Poppaea Sabina, the second wife of the emperor Nero. However, when it was excavated, archeologists found no furnishings or bodies in Villa Poppaea, indicating that it was uninhabited in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted, shrouding it in mud and ash. Instead, on the day of the eruption, it is thought that Villa Poppaea was undergoing renovations to fix damage caused to it by frequent earthquakes in the area.

Today, Villa Poppaea sits in the modern town of Torre Annunziata and is the only part of the Oplontis site open to the public. Villa Poppaea is magnificent both in terms of its large size and because of the beautiful marble sculptures and frescos which it contains. Only the eastern part of Villa Poppaea is fully excavated, the western half lying under the modern city.

Photo by andrewmalone (cc)

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.

DID YOU KNOW?

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

Thought to have been built sometime between 310 AD and 340 AD, Villa Romana del Casale was constructed atop an earlier (probably first century AD) villa which was destroyed by an earthquake in the early  fourth century.

Extremely luxurious and built on a vast scale (covering a known area of 4,000 square metres), Villa Romana del Casale was probably built for a member of ancient Rome’s elite. It may even have been built under the orders of Marcus Aurelius Maximinianus (Maximian), co-emperor with Diocletian.

Maximian is certainly believed to have owned Villa Romana del Casale in the fourth century, perhaps even when its first incarnation was destroyed. Upon his death, it would have passed to Maxentius, his son and also a Roman emperor. Villa Romana del Casale was then inhabited up to the ninth century and finally destroyed – probably during the reign of William I of Sicily – in the twelfth century.

Villa Romana del Casale is truly one of the most lavish of Roman villas. UNESCO even describes it as more of a palace than a villa. Even the first impression, its triumphal arch of an entrance, is impressive.

Whilst much of the structure of the villa - such as that of its thermal baths complex, courtyards, private and public rooms - is in a more ruined state, its glorious mosaics make it very much a site worth seeing, especially for the history enthusiast.