Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Exploring Roman Italy

Rome developed from a city-state to a republic, to the ruler of the Italian peninsular and then an empire centred on the Mediterranean. For nearly a millennium mainland Italy was Rome. It is here that we have the greatest concentration of Roman ruins, landmarks and archaeological sites. From north to south, visitors to Italy can see the remains of amphitheatres and bath houses, the ruins of rural settlements and towns. With a vast number of local and regional museums showcasing excavated artefacts from these sites.

Roman Sites in Italy

Antas Roman Quarry

The quarry represents a rather rare case in the ancient world, since it is in direct contact with the site where the stone was quarried. Approximately 800 m away, in a path not too far from the sanctuary, but still challenging due to the uneven terrain, there are three quarry areas set within a grove. Looking around, one can still clearly see the cutting lines that were followed during the extraction of the limestone. The beginning of the quarrying activity could refer either to the first Roman phase of the sanctuary in the 1st century BC, or to its reconstruction in the 3rd century AD.

Aqua Virgo

Aqua Virgo was one of the eleven aqueducts that supplied the ancient city of Rome. It was completed in 19 BC during the reign of Emperor Augustus. The aqueduct was built by Augustus’s son in law, the statesman and architect Marcus Agrippa, to supply water to the first public bath house in Rome, also built by Agrippa. During the Renaissance the aqueduct was restored to supply water to the Trevi Fountain and the fountains on Piazza del Popolo. The travertine arches that can be seen at this locale marks one of a few spots where remains of the Roman aqueduct can be seen.

Arch of Janus

This massive, four-way arch built of marble is 16 metres high and 12 metres square. The north-west pier has a staircase that would have led to a series of rooms and chambers at the top. The enigmatic structure is built over an ancient drain that ran down the valley to the Tiber River. And is thought to have been a boundary marker rather than a triumphal arch. Also, dating the arch has not been simple. Remains of terracotta storage jars were found to have been used in the concrete vault, which are typical of jars used in the 4th century AD.

Arch of Trajan, Ancona

After Trajan expanded the port of Ancona at his own expense, it was decided to honour him with a triumphal arch. Built by the influential architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the beginning of the 2nd century, the impressive arch remains one of the most important monuments of the Roman Empire in the Marche region. And is today one of the symbols of Ancona. It consists of a single archway with three inscriptions on the front. On the top were 6 bronze statues: 3 facing the sea represented the protective deities of navigation; the other 3 depicted Trajan with his wife and sister facing land.

Archaeological Park of Turris Libisonis

On the right bank of the river Riu Mannu, in an area to the north-west of present-day Porto Torres, lie the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Turris Libisonis, founded in 46 BC by Julius Caesar and for this reason known as Colonia Iulia. The first excavations were carried out in the 1940s by Massimo Pallottino, who identified one of its three bath complexes in which several mosaics, statues and bas-reliefs were recovered. Within the archaeological area are also the remains of wealthy domus, once belonging to prominent members of the city, from which come magnificent mosaics such as that of Orpheus. The archaeological park can only be visited at certain times, and with entry to the Turritano Antiquarium Museum.

Baths of Caracalla

Built under Emperor Caracalla between 211 and 216 AD, these baths were the second of larger Imperial bath houses in Rome. And the sheer size of the baths still captivates visitors today. The bathhouse covered an area of 100,000 metres square and accommodated about 10,000 people. More of a leisure centre than a series of baths, these were the second to have a public library. The baths continued to be used until the 6th century. Now a popular archaeological attraction, the ruins are the summer home of the Rome Opera Company.

Case Romane del Celio

At the top of the Caelian Hill are the Case Romane del Celio, snapshots of early Roman history.Twenty rooms are preserved under a 4th century basilica, each with evidence for their former use over the years as homes, shops and even as a Christian shrine. Decorated with a unique mix of pagan and early Christian frescoes, these rooms give visitors a glimpse into ancient Roman homes and daily life, showing the changes that time and the rise of Christianity brought to the city.

Castel Sant'Angelo - Hadrian's Mausoleum

Castel Sant’Angelo is one of the most important historical sites in Rome. Now a museum, the structure was first built on an artificial mound on the northern banks of the Tiber River. It was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and is wife Sabrina. In the early medieval period it was converted into a military fortress. Given its proximity to St Peter’s Basilica, in the 14th century it was converted into a residence for the Popes. The Vatican also used it as a prison. All of this history is on display to visitors , including the Papal chambers and  their exquisite frescoes.

Circus Maximus

The site of the Circus Maximus is said to be the city’s oldest and largest public space. Evidence suggests it was founded sometime during the 6th century BC. By the end of the 1st century AD, it could accommodate an audience of over 250,000 people. Besides chariot races, other public spectacles including executions, gladiatorial contests and animal hunts were also staged here. The rounded, eastern end has recently been restored, and during summer months visitors cane experience the circus through an augmented reality experience.

Flavian Amphitheatre

The Flavian Amphitheatre in Pozzuoli is said to be the third largest Roman amphitheatre in Italy. Constructed during the first century AD, the amphitheatre is remarkably well preserved, with an interior that is mostly intact. Parts of the gears that were used to lift animal cages up on to the level of the arena can still be seen here. It is thought that this particular amphitheatre was built by the same architects that built the Colosseum in Rome – which was also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre.

Museums With Roman Collections in Italy

Antiquarium Arborense, Oristano

Founded in 1938 but based in the Palazzo Parpaglia since 28 November 1992, the museum houses some of the most significant antiquarian collections on the island, with artefacts mainly from Tharros. The museum tour is structured on two different floors: the ground floor hosts an engaging exhibition on forgeries derived from Nuragic bronze statues and tells the human history of the Oristano territory, from the Neolithic to the Roman and early medieval periods; the first floor houses the other rooms, one dedicated to archaeologists and Efisio Pischedda, former owner of the museum’s most important private collection, one to retables, with important paintings dating from the 13th to the 16th century, and a tactile room for blind people.

Antiquarium Turritano, Porto Torres

The museum is adjacent to the archaeological park of the ancient Roman colony of Turris Libisonis. It was built between 1971 and 1973 to house the many artefacts from the archaeological site but  only opened to the public in 1984. Numerous artefacts testify to the vibrancy of the city and its port activity are on display: ceramics and everyday utensils, votive and cultic furnishings, statues of the city’s magistrates who lived between the 1st and 3rd century AD, as well as inscriptions, cinerary urns and remarkable mosaics and frescoed plasters. Also visible in the museum are the partial remains of a thermal bath, brought to light during the building extension works.

Archaeological and Palaeobotanical Museum of Perfugas

The museum, founded in 1988, exhibits the most significant archaeological and palaeobotanical finds from Anglona, a historical region in Northern Sardinia that overlooks the Gulf of Asinara. Within five sections, dedicated respectively to palaeobotany, the Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Eneolithic, the Nuragic period, and the Classical and Medieval periods, the environmental and human history of the territory is exhibited. Starting from the plant fossils returned from the petrified forests, you can see finds of the first human habitation dating back to the Lower Palaeolithic, admire the magnificent statuette of a Mother Goddess with a child from the Middle Neolithic, and precious artefacts from the Nuragic and Roman periods.

Archaeological Museum Ferruccio Barreca

The museum has been open to the public since 9 January 2006, and houses numerous artefacts related to the ancient city of Sulky, which lies beneath modern Sant’Antioco. The centre was founded by the Phoenicians towards the end of the 9th century BC and was one of the most important trading ports in Sardinia throughout antiquity. The museum tour is narrated in three rooms, which respectively display the finds of the settlement, the necropolis, and the tophet, i.e. the three main nuclei of the urban settlement. Phoenician, Punic and Roman artefacts are displayed in the showcases, which attempt to narrate the different aspects of society, related to daily life, religious, funerary and sacred contexts.

Archaeological Museum of Campi Flegrei

In a recently restored 15th century Aragonese Castle, that once guarded the Gulf of Pozzuoli, is the Museo archeologico dei Campi Flegrei. The Campi Flegrei, or burning fields, is a large volcanic area that is now a national park. And it was the many volcanic thermal springs in the area that attracted people in antiquity. On display in the museum are a number of reconstructions of shrines and temples, some of which are now submerged, from the area.

Archaeological Museum of Olbia

The archaeological museum in Olbia celebrates hundreds of years of history in Sardinia’s north-east area. Located in the city’s harbour, this modern building was designed with portholes and walkways to reflect Olbia’s history as an important port. The permanent display take an extensive view of the various periods of Olbia’s past, from the Phoenicians, Greeks, to the Punic and Roman eras. Pride of place in the museum are the conserved remains of Roman boats that had sunk in the ancient harbour and discovered again during the construction of the museum building.

Archaeological Museum, Alghero

Inaugurated on 22 December 2016 inside a historic building dating from the 15th-16th centuries, the museum displays a vast array of objects relating to the history of Alghero and its surroundings. The exhibition plan, which is extremely clear and well marked, is structured around three thematic areas: the sea, ways of living, and the world of the sacred. The finds come from marine, settlement and sacred-funeral contexts, covering an age from the ancient Neolithic to the 17th century AD. Some of the reconstructions of the excavation contexts inside the museum are incredibly engaging, such as that of one of the rooms of the Roman villa of Sant’Imbenia, recomposed inside with the colourful and precious marbles that adorned it.

Capitoline Museums

The Capitoline Museums have a long history, and are said to be the oldest public collection of archaeological artefacts in the World. They are certainly amongst the finest museums in Rome. The origins of the collections date back to 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV had 6 bronze Roman statues moved to the City Council on the Capitoline Hill. Now, many centuries later, there are over 1300 objects, most of which are from archaeological sites in Rome itself. The Capitoline Museums are in fact three different buildings, called palazzos, that surround the trapezoidal Piazza del Campidoglio

Capodimonte Museum

In 1738 King Charles of Bourbon ordered the construction of the Royal Palace that today houses the Museum. It was initially founded as a hunting reserve, but ended up becoming one of the residences of the royal family, in which part of the Farnese Collection was exhibited from the very beginning. Already in the 18th century it was an obligatory stop for visitors to Italy, given the importance of the works on display. The Museum, opened on 5 May 1957, is one of the most important picture galleries in Europe, and houses in its 124 galleries numerous works by great names such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian. In addition to these are extraordinary collections of porcelain and decorative arts, tapestries and royal furniture, as well as Roman sculpture.

Civic Archaeological Museum of Cabras

The Museo Civico “Giovanni Marongiu” – Cabras opened in 1997 exhibiting the local history of the Cabras municipality (including the Sinis Peninsular), from prehistory to medieval times. Artefacts come from Neolithic, Nuragic, Phoenician-Punic, Roman and medieval sites in the area. Two notable displays include the Roman shipwreck of Mal di Ventre, dated to the 1st century BC, and a small collection of the large stone statues, the ‘Sardinian Giants’, recovered by archaeologists at the Nuragic necropolis of Mont’e Prama.