When you picture rich Romans, you likely imagine men lounging around in togas in marble mansions, dangling olives into their mouths and nipping off to the vomitorium once in a while, precisely so that they can eat more olives. While not an entirely accurate representation of this trailblazing society, if it were true, Palatine Hill in Rome is where this would have happened. As the centre of Roman elite life, it’s where the most powerful people in the land lived and where the most important decisions were made. Often ignored by visitors in favour of its famous neighbours - the Roman Forum and the Colosseum - despite one ticket admitting you to all three sites, this was arguably the true heart of domestic life in Ancient Rome. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, legend has it that it’s also where the first foundations of Rome were laid by Romulus himself.
One of the Seven Hills of Rome, Palatine Hill was for many years the place to live in Ancient Rome; once upon a time, this now ruinous area would have been filled with sprawling mansions, grandiose palaces and beautiful gardens. Overlooking the Roman forum - where government buildings were located, public speeches made and criminals executed - it’s not hard to imagine the movers and shakers of the empire wandering between buildings, plotting their backstabbing and bribery.
Today, you can stroll among the ruins, with each of the various structures giving an insight into the personalities of the day. Among the highlights are the surprisingly modest House of Livia, which is one of the best preserved buildings on the complex, and the Hippodrome of Domitian, which resembles a stadium but was too small to hold chariots - it’s believed that it was actually a rather quirky garden. In the House of Augustus, which was once the home of the Roman Empire’s first emperor, Augustus, you can see brightly coloured frescoes and the remains of elaborate mosaic floors.
With so much to take in on the site, and unless you’re willing to spend quite a bit of time reading up on it before you go, it’s worth booking on to a guided tour of Palatine Hill get the most out of your visit.
Being a seat of power isn’t this area’s only claim to fame and it has an arguably even bigger one: it was allegedly where Romulus, having killed his brother Remus, laid the first foundations for the city of Rome. Some even say that somewhere here is the Lupercal, the cave where a she-wolf nursed and suckled the twins after rescuing them from the banks of the River Tiber. In 2007, an Italian archaeologist claimed she had discovered the exact cave under the House of Augustus, decorated with mosaics and seashells, although this is questioned by others.
Your entry fee admits you to the Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Ticket queues at the latter attraction can be long, so you may wish to visit the Palatine Hill first and buy your ticket there.
Throughout the Year
Entry to Palatine Hill
Entry to Palatine Hill - EU Members
Via di San Gregorio