Greatest key-guide to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill: practical tips and history
- and you’ll feel like time traveling back to Ancient Rome -
Representing the civic and religious center of Ancient Rome, the Roman Forum was the beating heart animating the values and dreams of its powerful Empire. Over time, its vital function has been however collapsed and forgotten together with the ruins of majestic architectures. This smart guide will be your handy key to open the two thousand-years chest of Rome, helping you to distinguish the oldest site of the Roman Forum from the Imperial Fora and also from the Palatine Hill, the regal cradle dominating the ancient valley where, according to the traditional founding account, Romulus demarcated the boundaries of the city. With these complete visit tips, you’ll be able to discover the best ways to explore the entire area, including the secret places extraordinarily opened to the public. Moreover, a concise story of the archaeological site will help you to understand the upsetting changes occurred to its monuments over centuries.
Roman Forum practical info
Where are the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill located and how to get there?
The Roman Forum location is in the ancient heart of Rome, in a valley surrounded by Palatine, Capitoline and Quirinal hills, adjacent to the Colosseum. To get there, the easiest and fastest way is to take the blue line B of the urban subway and to get off at “Colosseo” stop, so that you’ll have to take via dei Fori Imperiali on your right once you get out from the subway station, because the Roman Forum isn’t in fact so much far from the Colosseum. Another easy and pleasant way to reach the archaeological site is to take one of the several bus whose lines end at piazza Venezia. From there, you have only to take via dei Fori Imperiali on foot from the opposite side compared to before, crossing part of the astonishing setting of the Roman Forum on your right and the Imperial Fora on your left, until you’ll reach the Roman Forum entrance on your right in via della Salara Vecchia, number 5, in about 5 minutes.
The Palatine hill is directly accessible from the same site, otherwise you can start the visit from the Palatine, entering from via di San Gregorio, 30 to descend later in the Forum.
The archeological site of the Roman Forum connected to the Palatine always opens at 8.30 am every day, including Sunday and Monday. The only two days in the whole year you can’t visit the Roman Forum are on 25 December and 1st January. The closing hours can change instead, depending on the season and its consequent duration of day lighting. For instance, between January and February as well as between October and December the Roman Forum closes earlier at 4.30 pm, while between March and August it closes later at 7.15 pm. See below the complete record of openings and closings and always check the official timetable and to be updated on unexpected and temporary changes.
When to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill?
The best time to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill is early in the morning, when tour guides and visitors haven’t reached the monument yet and the weather is not too much hot during summer days, because most of the visit will take place outdoor. However, purchasing the tickets in advance through the official channels (website or telephone) or booking the guided tour is a wise way to skip any line at the Roman Forum. In those cases, you arrive at the Roman Forum and pass through the reserved entrances (that are often very busy as well, by the way), without waiting in line in order to buy the tickets in place. And please, remember that you can’t buy the super ticket the same day you’re going to visit the monument, so organize yourself in advance.
Due to this archaeological area extension, it is possible to access the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill from different entrance points, although not all of them are designated to sell the tickets. You can buy the ticket to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill and enter the site at the main entrance of the Roman Forum at largo della Salara Vecchia number 5 along Via dei Fori Imperiali; at the main entrance of the Palatine Hill at via di San Gregorio 30 or in piazza del Colosseo in front of the olive trees and the basement of Nero’s Colossus (photo on the left). To also visit the Imperial Fora in addition to the Roman Forum, you can buy the Forum pass ticket at piazza della Madonna di Loreto - Trajan's column. At the entrance from the via Sacra - Arch of Titus (photo on the right), instead, you can only have access to the Roman Forum if you’ve already acquired or booked the tickets in advance.
Understanding visit categories
Which options do you really have to enjoy the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill and how to reserve a guided tour being sure of not falling in any tourist traps?
aSelf-guided itinerary: You can visit the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill on your own and make the most of your independent visit letting you accompany by our super cultured self-guided itinerary. Take your time and linger on what can interest you the most without any constraints, while you can have all the information at your handle along the way.
bStandard visit: You can book a visit with a default guide provided by the official managing organization Coop Culture and enjoy a tour for 60 minutes to explore the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill relevant places. This is a basic, not in-depth service for the visitor. Groups limit is 30 people.
cWider and more in-depth guided tour: You can enrich your visit taking advantage of authorized and specialized guides, who will book tickets for you and will give all the in-depth information you’ll need to experience in a richer way your visit to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. You won’t be limited to a short overview of the monument as in the default visit, but you’ll be involved in a wider and accurate experience, reserved to single individuals or small groups, at your choice.
Tickets and fees
To visit the Roman Forum, you can choose between three kind of tickets: the standard one, the super one and the Forum pass:
1 Ordinary ticket: it is valid for two consecutive days because it allows you to visit both the Roman Forum and the adjacent Colosseum and Palatine and its full price is 12 euro.
2 S.U.P.E.R. ticket: available from 21 April 2018, it is valid for two consecutive days as well but its full price is 18 euro, because you’ll be able to discover seven additional places that are mostly open only upon this special entrance: Criptoportico, Museo Palatino, Aula Isiaca and Loggia Mattei, Casa di Augusto, Casa di Livia, Tempio di Romolo e Santa Maria Antiqua and Oratorio dei Quaranta Martiri and Rampa Domizianea. Please be aware that not all these seven places are open on the same day, so you’ll have to visit the whole Roman Forum and some of them on one day and the Colosseum together the rest of them on the other day!
3 Forum pass ticket: since the 29th of November 2016, after 20 years, the inward area of the Imperial Fora has been made accessible again to visitors in the daytime upon previous reservation and then since 29 June 2019 it has been regularly open together with the Roman Forum as in a whole archaeological park through a 550 meters long walkway, accessible from piazza Santa Maria di Loreto near the Trajan’s Column location. With this single ticket the new visit path allows to walk through the Forum of Trajan and the Forum of Nerva, to cross via dei Fori Imperiali underground and arrive in the earth of the
Roman Forum passing by the Forum of Caesar (or vice versa).
You can also visit the Palatine Hill, but the Museo Palatino and the Colosseum are not in this case included.
Where to buy Roman Forum and Palatine Hill tickets?
You can buy the tickets to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill online on CoopCulture website, avoiding the queues at the ticket offices: Standard ticket here, S.U.P.E.R. ticket here and Forum pass ticket here, or directly at the official ticket offices explained above.
Standard ticket here, S.U.P.E.R. ticket here, and Forum pass ticket here.
- 1. ORDINARY
- 2. FORUM PASS
- 3. S.U.P.E.R.
What to choose? The best visits
There are three different visit declinations of the archaeological site you can experience. Discover them with us!
Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill: This is the standard visit of the Roman Forum, which includes the access to the adjacent Colosseum and Palatine Hill and it can be carried out in two days. The Colosseum underground spaces are in this case excluded. The ticket sold for this kind of visit is the standard ticket, which is valid for two consecutive days and its full price is 12 euro.
The ways you can do it :
- self-guided itinerary
- standard visit
- in-depth guided tour
Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill including seven special places (same area): From the 21 April 2018 you have a unique opportunity to enjoy a new itinerary that encompasses the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine Hill, alongside with seven additional places in the same archaeological area that are mostly open only upon this special entrance. The ticket sold for this kind of visit is the S.U.P.E.R. ticket (with S.U.P.E.R. which stands for “Seven Unique Places to Experience in Rome”), which is valid for two consecutive days and it allows visitors to discover seven additional sites that are mostly open only upon this special entrance (Criptoportico, Museo Palatino, Aula Isiaca and Loggia Mattei, Casa di Augusto, Casa di Livia, Tempio di Romolo and Santa Maria Antiqua; Oratorio dei Quaranta Martiri and Rampa Domizianea) and, until now, were only accessible thanks to guided tours or on the occasion of temporary exhibitions, as Santa Maria Antiqua and Romulus’s temple, whereas others, as the Loggia Mattei and the Aula Isiaca, have been opened to the public for the very first time. Augustus’s and Livia’s houses have reopened featuring new multimedia devices which reveal the secrets of the extraordinary decorations and ancient wall paintings. The visitors are immersed in the Roman world thanks to new technologies such as light-mapping, projections, virtual narration and broadcasting devices that illustrate the story of Ancient Roman painting and sculpture, as well as the architecture of imperial palaces and public or private buildings, following the vicissitudes of subsequent interventions occurred over the centuries, especially during the Middle-Ages and the Renaissance. You can do this visit on your own, with the default guide or within the specialized guided tour. Further info to book the visit on your own or with the Coopculture standard guide: Please be aware that not all these seven places are open on the same day, because the access to certain areas is limited for preservation reasons due to the fragility of paintings and sculptures that doesn’t allow these sites to absorb high numbers of visitors. Therefore, you’ll have to visit the whole Roman Forum and some of the seven special places on one day and the Colosseum with the rest of them on the other day.
The ways you can do it :
- self-guided itinerary
- standard visit
- in-depth guided tour
Roman Forum night show: In spring, summer and fall time, a captivating experience even appreciated by Roman locals and history connoisseurs allows visitors to attend two night shows, both instructive and spectacular, inside the Forum area, designed and written by the Italian star master of cultural programs and TV presenter Piero Angela together with Paco Lanciano.
The first journey through Ancient Rome takes place inside the Forum of Augustus, where the figure of the first princeps of Rome and the story of the archaeological site is told thanks to colored special effects and virtual reconstructions. The show lasts 40 minutes and is scheduled every day from April to October.
The second journey is focused on the figure of the legendary Gaius Iulius Caesar and the development of the most ancient heart of civic Rome and it accompanies the spectator through a real itinerary which starts from the Trajan’s Column and passes by the underground passageway until the Forum of Caesar. In this case the show lasts 50 minutes.
Every spectator of both shows is equipped with headsets which allow them to listen to the tale in their own language (8 available: Italian, English, French, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, German and Chinese).
Further info on the official event website official event website.
The ways you can do it :
- self-guided itinerary
- standard visit
- in-depth guided tour
Contact us for a private or group tour
Roman Forum History and Art
What is the Roman Forum?
The Roman Forum is an archaeological site constituted by layers of edifices and monuments remains that once represented the civic and religious center of Ancient Rome, where people meet each other and where important sanctuaries were built. It was composed of three areas with different functions: the “Comitium” at the foot of the Capitoline “arx” (cliff), which was destined to political functions; the “Regia” on the opposite side, which was dedicated to the worship of Vesta goddess and was the official seat of the king and then the pontifex maximus; the “Forum”, that actually corresponded to central and wider area which became the “piazza” (square) of the city.
The Palatine instead is the hill partly overlooking the Roman Forum that was chosen as the regal cradle of Rome since its origin. According to the tradition, in fact, Romulus ploughed a square furrow around the Palatine Hill to demarcate the boundaries of the future city, as an emblematic act representing the founding of Rome. Following this meaningful event, the Palatine was thereafter chosen as seat of Rome kings, patricians and then of the emperors. During the Republican era, for example, the patrician families dwelt there and when Octavianus was appointed as “augustus”, he settled his imperial residence on the Palatine, followed by the successors as Tiberius, Caligula, the Flavian dynasty and Septimius Severus, who built their palaces there.
When was the Roman Forum built and why?
In the early Iron age, only huts and a wide necropolis occupied the valley of the Roman Forum. This place was however soon affected by the increase of the commercial activities taking place in the near Forum Boarium and Forum Holitorium. Around the end of the 7th century BC, the Roman Forum developed in the valley, which actually became the core of the civic life. While its urban planning was progressively settled, the area assumed a prevailing administrative feature, supported by the raising of basilicas (public edifices) in the 2nd century BC for legal deeds and business management.
How was the Roman Forum built?
Before the end of the 7th century BC, the valley where the Roman Forum developed was reclaimed thanks to drainage works and the building of the “Cloaca Maxima”, a canal leading to the Tiber river. Two main roads were then traced in the Roman Forum. The most important one was the Via Sacra that crossed the Forum leading to the Capitoline Hill, that was accompanied to its parallel, called Via Nova Imperiale.
Who built the Roman Forum?
The Roman Forum was built during the centuries, but Julius Caesar and Augustus definitively reorganized the space through interventions that led to the removal of the Comitium, the moving of some edifices like Curia and Rostri and the building of new ones like the Basilica Julia in place of the Basilica Sempronia, the Temple of Caesar near the re-built Regia, the Arch of Augustus and the porticus of Gaius and Lucius.
Julius Caesar, in particular, approved the extension works to be carried out because of the scarce space of the Roman Forum and a new Forum, then called Forum of Caesar, was built starting from 51 BC, next to the old one, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. In order to build the new Forum with main practical and commercial purposes, Caesar was committed in negotiations for three years, aiming at acquiring and demolishing the noble dwellings which occupied the area. The sources estimate the high value of the amount needed at 60.000 thousand or 100.000 sestertii. A large square was then opened, accompanied by wide blocks of vaulted workshops made of peperine tuff. At the center of it, the marble Temple of Venus Genetrix was raised as a tribute to the ancestor of the gens Julia, whose worship statue was sculpted by the Neo-Attic Arkesilaos and displayed inwards surrounded by the paintings by Timomachos from Byzantium. The fragments of the temple which survived through the centuries belonged however to the later restoration fostered by Trajan.
Destined to commemorative purposes instead, the Forum of Augustus was inaugurated in 2 AD even if it wasn’t complete yet, and then it was restored at the time of emperor Hadrian. Statues of the prominent leaders like Aeneas and the kings of Alba Longa, including Caesar, accompanied by laudatory inscriptions, were raised in the new space. The Temple of Mars Ultor was built following the ultimate Octavianus’ victory against the faction of Caesar’s murderers at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. The huge edifice made of white marble was flanked by two sumptuous hemicycles adorned with the so-called African colorful marble, coming from Turkey. The monumental area was isolated from the densely populated Suburra, a plebeian neighborhood, through a high surrounding wall made of Gabii stone and peperine.
What did the Roman Forum look like in Ancient Rome?
According to the scholars’ archaeological studies, which continuously allow to gain new acquisitions and knowledge about the development, functions and typology of the architectural structures identified, unearthed and examined in the Roman Forum, the reconstruction of this site as it appeared in Ancient Rome looks quite like the image that follows: the fundamental building of the Curia, or the Senate house (1) was later accompanied by the presence of the near Arch of Septimius Severus (2), next to the platform of the Rostra (3). The basement of the Temple of Vespasian (4) was extended up to the Tabularium on the Capitoline Hill, where the Via Sacra (5) route departed to run through the Roman Forum passing by its monument, such as the Temple of Saturn (6), the Column of Phocas (7), the Basilica Julia (8) and the opposite Basilica Aemilia (9). The Temple of Julius Caesar (10) was erected by Augustus next to the Temple of Vesta (11). Further, the Temple of Castor and Pollux (12) was built on the occasion of the victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus. In the 5th century, Santa Maria Antiqua (13), the earliest Christian church in the Roman Forum was built. The Temple of Augustus (14) commemorated the deified first Roman princeps, whereas the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (15) was later adapted as a church named chiesa di San Lorenza in Miranda. The Temple of Romulus (16) features an original bronze door. In the same area, approaching the Colosseum, the near Temple of Venus and Roma (17) House of the Vestal Virgins (18) are visible. The imposing building of the Basilica of Maxentius (19) was erected in front of the Colosseum (20), dominating the valley of the Roman Forum. The honorific path of the Via Sacra is emphasized by the Arch of Titus (21), at the foot of the Palatine Hill (22).
History of the Roman Forum
Thanks to the building of the Forum of Caesar, soon followed by that one of Augustus and the other emperors, the Roman Forum became a landmark for monumental and official purposes as well as for historical remembrances, mostly conserving the original structure thereafter.
The new areas added to the original nucleus of the old Roman Forum, starting from Caesar and continuing with emperors Augustus, Nerva, Trajan and Vespasian, constitute the so-called Imperial Fora, that is an archeological area adjacent to the original Roman Forum but belonging to a different jurisdiction.
During the Imperial age, only a few restorations and interventions were carried out, like the building of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and honorary single monuments like the Arch of Septimius Severus, until the raising of the recycled Column of Phocas in honour of the Eastern Roman Emperor Phocas in 608 AD.
In the Late Antiquity and during the Middle Age, some of the monuments in the Roman Forum, like the Curia, were converted into places of Christian worship, whereas the others were abandoned. Most of the area was progressively covered with detritus, turning into a grazing land and cows’ market, hence the name “Campo vaccino” ( literally cows’ field, meaning grazing land).
The Roman Forum become a huge open-air quarry from where the precious materials could be removed and re-used even if, starting from the Renaissance, the evocative Ancient charm of the Roman Forum was re-discovered and celebrated by artists and writers, who were also inspired by the symbolic state of destruction of the worthy remains.
Between the 17th century and the end of the 18th century, the area was mostly abandoned again, until the first archaeological explorations begun. However, the regular excavations were actually undertaken at the beginning of the 19th century and especially during the Napoleonic period and after the Italian Unification in 1870-1871, continuing until nowadays, together with stabilization and restoration works affecting the unearthed structures.