Rome is full of ruins. You practically can’t turn a corner without seeing an ancient temple or statue or column. Obviously the Colosseum is the most popular site to visit, but don’t stop there! Want to go underground to a 1st century Roman street? How about walking through the ruins of an ancient palace?
There is so much more to Roman ruins than just the Colosseum. Here are some of our favorites!
Basilica San Clemente
The Basilica San Clemente is such a fantastic attraction in Rome that I think is completely underrated! A lot of people don’t know about it, but it was one of our favorite places we went in Rome.
Within walking distance of the Colosseum, the Basilica San Clemente is a modern Basilica with an interesting history that you can literally descend into. In the late 1800s, the Prior of the church began excavating beneath it and uncovered a 4th century basilica. Further excavations revealed a section of 1st Century Rome that had been destroyed in the fire of Nero in 64 A.D. At this level you can find an altar of Mithras, an alleyway, and what is thought to be an apartment room and school room. The fact that you are walking these streets in the darkness of underground makes them all the more appealing.
The thing that is so amazing about San Clemente is that you can see these layers of history and the way Rome has been built on top of itself over and over again. It is such a unique experience to be able to descend into the different levels of Roman history and walk around in them.
Visiting Basilica San Clemente
Basilica San Clemente is located at Via Labicana 95, just a few blocks east of the Colosseum.
Admission for adults is €10 per adult. Children 16 and under accompanied by their parents are free. Otherwise it is €5 per child 16 and under. More details can be found on the Basilica San Clemente website.
The San Clemente Basilica is a sacred sight, so be sure to wear appropriate and modest clothing (as you would when visiting St. Peter’s Basilica).
The Palatine Hill was once the home of ancient Roman emperors and elites. Now it is an open air museum of sorts, and it’s one of our favorite ruins to visit in Rome because it has such a relaxing feel to it. Wandering through the Palatine Hill truly makes you feel like you are not in the middle of a busy city!
Stroll through the grassy meadows just southwest of the Colosseum and explore the Palace of Domitian, which includes a stadium, as well as the houses of other nobility, and ancient temples. The Palatine Hill also provides some beautiful views of Rome and the Colosseum.
Visiting the Palatine Hill
Tickets to the Palatine Hill are €16 per adult (children 16 and under are free), and includes admission to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. You can also pay extra to book a guided 3 hour tour through the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.
The Roman Forum is just east of the Colosseum and was once the center of Roman government. It’s smaller than the Palatine Hill and can get more crowded, but it is full of truly rich history.
Here you can find the public forums and a civic hall, temples, statues, and even the ruins of an ancient Roman jail. We highly recommend finding some kind of guide for your visit, whether you go on a guided tour or use something like the Rick Steves Roman Forum audio tour and map.
Visiting the Roman Forum
Tickets to the Roman Forum are €16 per adult (children 16 and under are free), and includes admission the Palatine Hill and Colosseum. You can also pay extra to book a guided 3 hour tour through the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.
The Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto is an area of Rome just north of Tiber Island. The Jewish Ghetto was established in 1555 and for centuries was home to Rome’s Jewish population. Today it is part of the regular city of Rome, but several ancient ruins still exist in the area. We love this area because the streets are lovely to stroll through and you stumble upon the ruins of the ghetto which are just interspersed with everything else.
This area was also subject to tragic round-ups of Jews during WWII, and if you look at the ground you can see gold markers indicating where various members of the community were arrested.
Visiting the Jewish Ghetto
There is no ticket for the Jewish Ghetto — it is just part of the city of Rome! Downloading a guide for your visit might be helpful though.
Largo de Torre Argentina
The Largo de Torre Argentina is located just north of the Jewish Ghetto. Here you can see the ruins of several temples and a theater. You can’t actually wander through these ruins, but you can walk along the edge of them. The the cool thing here is that the Largo de Torre Argentina is home to a colony of cats!
Visiting the Largo de Torre Argentina
There is no ticket for the Largo de Torre Argentina; rather it makes a great quick stop as you are wandering through the streets of Rome.
Rome is a city full of history and ruins. Remember — it’s not just about the Colosseum!
Want more ideas of what to do in Rome? Check out Rome 101: What to See, What to Skip.