A Tourist in Rome - To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour

My 'To the Forum Boarium and Beyond' Walking Tour is named for a cattle forum in ancient Rome located next to the Tiber River, between the Capitoline Hill, the Palatine Hill and the Aventine Hill. The site is across the street from today's Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, and contains two temples from the era of the Roman Republic. Along the way there will be several other ancient temples, churches where you can go underground, and a the spectacular Theatre of Marcellus. The actual walking distance is anywhere between one and three miles, depending on how far you take the tour. If you see everything on the tour, you'll need two days or one 12-hour day, so you might want to pick and choose the sights you want to see based on your time available and comfortable walking distance. You can easily shorten the beginning of the tour by seeing the first several sights when you're near the Campidoglio for something else, like the Capitoline Museum. And you might want to end the walk before the Aventine Hill since doing so will cut the walking distance in half yet only cut out a few sights. In any case, I recommend you see the sights from the Theatre of Marcellus through Ponte Palatino in one walk since that segment is a short walk packed with lots of interesting sights.

From the Colosseo metro station, walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali, past the Roman Forum on your left, to the huge white building on your left, across from Trajan's Column. That white building is the Victor Emmanuel Monument.


Victor Emmanuel Monument
Time:about 20 minutes for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 40 minutes more if you ride the elevator to the roof, 40 minutes more if you wish to walk through the museum
Cost:Free for everthing except the elevator to the roof, which costs €7
Hours:Viewable at any time from the street, beautifully lit at night, anything more is from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM, open later during summer and weekends

The Victor Emmanuel Monument is a huge white marble monument built to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. It is one of the tallest structures in the city, and being made of a very bright white stone it is easily visible from most hills and tall lookouts around Rome. The nearest metro stop is Colosseo. The monument, 230 feet tall and 443 feet wide, consists of a large flight of stairs leading up to a massive colonnade. At the center of the monument is a colossal statue of Victor Emmanuel, and at the foot of that statue lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame and military guards (lower-right photo). Many other statues are found on the monument: some bronze, some marble (2nd and 3rd photos below). Inside the monument is the Museum of Italian Reunification. The monument was designed in 1885, inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1935. Many people don't like the monument because its construction destroyed part of the Capitoline Hill, it is regarded as pompous and too large, it stands out as the only bright white structure in the city of earth-colored structures, and because it is often considered as ugly. Nicknames for the monument include "the typewriter" and "the wedding cake". Despite the fact that I tend to agree with these criticisms, I have to admit that it is one of the best places to get a superb panoramic view of Rome. Steps take you about half-way up the monument, and from there you can get a good view of the local neighborhood. But for €7 you can ride up an elevator to the roof of the monument where the views are spectacular (4th photo below, and panorama at the bottom).

    
Victor Emmanuel Monument
See all Victor Emmanuel Monument photos.
    
Statue on the Victor Emmanuel Monument
See all Victor Emmanuel Monument photos.
    
Sculptures on the Victor Emmanuel Monument
See all Victor Emmanuel Monument photos.
    
View of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum from the roof of the Victor Emmanuel Monument
See all Victor Emmanuel Monument photos.
    
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the Victor Emmanuel Monument
See all Victor Emmanuel Monument photos.
    
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on the Victor Emmanuel Monument
See all Victor Emmanuel Monument photos.
    
The view north from the roof of the Victor Emmanuel Monument (St Peter's on the left, Pantheon 1/5 of the way across, Via del Corso in the center)
See all Victor Emmanuel Monument photos.
See also:

When you reach the sidewalk after walking back down the front steps of the Victor Emmanuel Monument, turn left and walk a short distance to the ruins on the left side of the road, before the two large stairways. Those ruins are the Capitoline Insulae.


Capitoline Insulae
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time from the street

The Capitoline Insulae (also known as the Insula dell'Aracoeli because of their proximity to the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli) are the remains of an apartment building (that's what insulae means) that was discovered in 1927 when the Baroque church of Santa Rita da Cascia was destroyed to build the Victor Emmanuel Monument. It is one of the best examples of an apartment building built with brick, as opposed to the many that were wooden. The building dates from the first two decades of the 2nd century AD, about the same time as Trajan's Market. It was constructed of concrete faced with brick. Four levels of the original 5-story building are visible, some below today's ground level. Shops were on the ground floor, which is nine meters below today's pavement. The 1st and 2nd photos below look down into the excavation to shops that used to be on the ground floor and the mezzanine level above them. The 3rd photo below attempts to better show the excavated level, and the left half of the above-today's-ground structure. That left half is better shown face-on in the 4th photo below, revealing the frescoed lunette of the 12th century Church of San Biagio del Mercato. That fresco is shown better in the 5th and 6th photos below. The 5th photo below actually rests above the 1st photo below.

    
Shop on the ground floor of the Capitoline Insulae, and mezzanine level above it (mosaic of 2 photos)
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.
    
Shop on the ground floor of the Capitoline Insulae, and mezzanine level above it
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.
    
The excavated lower levels of the Capitoline Insulae, and the frescoed lunette of the 12th century Church of San Biagio del Mercato above them
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.
    
The left half of the upper levels of the Capitoline Insulae, featuring the frescoed lunette of the 12th century Church of San Biagio del Mercato
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.
    
The frescoed lunette of the 12th century Church of San Biagio del Mercato, on the left side of the upper levels of the Capitoline Insulae
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.
    
The frescoed lunette of the 12th century Church of San Biagio del Mercato, on the left side of the upper levels of the Capitoline Insulae (HDR of 3 images)
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.

The above-ground levels of the right half of the insulae are shown in the 1st and 2nd photos below. Those photos show the 3rd and 4th floor apartments (a 5th floor no longer exists). The rooms get smaller in the fourth floor, and were probably rented out to poorer people since they were less desirable due to the fact that ladders had to be used to reach them, plus the greater danger in living in them due to the frequency of collapses and fires. The building could have housed up to 350 people. In the 11th century the upper floors became part of the church of San Biagio de Mercato. The Church of Saint Rita was built on top of that church: the belfry visible today (1st and 3rd photos below) belonged to that church.

    
The right half of the Capitoline Insulae
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.
    
The right half of the Capitoline Insulae
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.
    
The belfry of the Church of Saint Rita, in the Capitoline Insulae
See all Capitoline Insulae photos.
See also:

Continue walking the same direction to the first stairway, and walk up to see Santa Maria in Aracoeli.


Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Time:about 30 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:9 AM - 12:30 PM and 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM (winter) or 6:30 PM (summer)

124 steps (1st and 2nd photos below) lead up to the front door of the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in its original plain unfinished brick facade. Those steps were once climbed, on their knees, by Roman women who wished for a baby. They believed the struggle would be rewarded with pregnancy; others believed climbing the steps on their knees would pardon their sins. I think it's difficult enough to get up those steps on my feet, let alone even thinking of climbing them on my knees, but then, I don't ever want to be pregnant. Do be very careful when climbing or descending this stairway, especially if the weather is bad, since there are no landings to limit a very long fall. The church at the top of those steps is on the site where Emperor Augustus had a premonition of the coming of Mary and Christ standing on an "altar in the sky" (ara coeli). The church was built in the sixth century on the ancient site of the Temple to Juno, and renovated and expanded in 1249-1250. It is loaded with history, as might be expected from its location on the Capitoline Hill. For example, the arches that divide the nave from the aisles are supported on 22 columns scavenged from Roman ruins, with no two columns alike (3rd and 4th photos below). They are made of various stones and styles. The capitals are also a mix of Doric, Ionic, Corinthian or Composite. Since the columns vary in length, some have bases, some have their bases on plinths and others have no bases at all. The wooden gilded and painted ceiling (3rd and 5th photos below) was given to the church in 1575 in thanksgiving for the Christian victory against the Ottomans in the Battle of Lepanto (1571), and the central coffer (6th photo below) is a wooden relief carving of the Virgin and Child standing on the altar in the sky. A SPQR city shield is on either side of the central coffer; one is right-side-up near the top of the 5th photo below.

    
The steps leading up to Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The steps leading up to Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The nave of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, the columns separating the nave from the aisles were salvaged from ancient buildings
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The columns of Santa Maria in Aracoeli were salvaged from ancient buildings
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The gilded and painted ceiling of the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.

An inscription (Cubiculo Augustorum) on the third column of the left side, counting from the front door (1st and 2nd photos below, and the rear-most column on the left side of the 3rd photo above), states that it comes from the bedroom of the Augustus, another name for the emperor. This column is far too tall to have come from the bedroom (cubiculum) in the modest house on the Palatine Hill that Augustus himself lived in, but could certainly have come from one of the immense palaces of the later emperors. As in Santa Maria in Cosmedin, San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Maria in Trastevere and probably several others, the floors in Santa Maria in Aracoeli are excellent examples of cosmatesque pavement, a style of inlaid stonework used in medieval Italy, derived from that of the Byzantine Empire (3rd, 4th and 5th photos below, and 3rd and 4th photos above). The cosmatesque floors in this church were damaged by the hooves of horses when during the French invasion of 1797, the church was desecrated by being used by the French cavalry.

    
The columns of Santa Maria in Aracoeli were salvaged from ancient buildings. The right-more one in this photo came from one of the bedrooms of the imperial palace on the Palatine.
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
This column of Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church came from one of the bedrooms of the imperial palace on the Palatine
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Cosmatesque flooring in Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
View toward the back of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, showing-off the Cosmatesque flooring
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Cosmatesque flooring in Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.

Tombstones are scattered throughout the floor (1st and 2nd photos below). The pulpit of the church (3rd photo below) is thought to have been designed by Bernini. Between the second and third chapels on the right is a colossal statue of Pope Gregory XIII (4th photo below) sculpted in 1585 by Pietro Paolo Olivieri. It used to be in the Capitoline Museum, but was ejected in 1872 after the fall of the Papal government and subsequently found a home here. A statue of Leo X is shown in the 5th photo below.

    
Tombstone in the floor of the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Tombstone in the floor of the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The pulpit of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, thought to be designed by Bernini
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Statue of Leo X in the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.

The main altar of the church is shown in the 1st photo below. But the most famous thing in the church is Santo Bambino, an olive-wood statue of the baby Jesus from the 15th century which was carved from a tree from the Garden of Gethsemane. The Santo Bambino is brought out only at Christmas. The original statue was stolen in 1994, but the tradition continues with a modern copy (2nd photo below) housed in the Chapel of the Holy Child (3rd photo below). The San Bernardino Chapel, first on the right, features a fresco by Bernardino Pinturicchio (4th photo below) in which Saint Bernardino of Siena holds an open book which extols the name of Jesus to St. Augustine, on the left, and St. Antony of Padua, on the right.

    
The main altar of the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The copy of the Santissimo Bambinello housed in the Chapel of the Holy Child of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The copy of the Santissimo Bambinello housed in the Chapel of the Holy Child of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Central fresco by Bernardino Pinturicchio of St Bernardino of Siena in the Chapel of St Bernardino in Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.

Another chapel is shown in the 1st photo below. One side of the trancept of the church is shown in the 2nd photo below. Mary is shown in the 3rd photo below.

    
A chapel in Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The trancept of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Mary, in the Santa Maria in Aracoeli church
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.

Those desiring a less-strenuous way into the church can climb the more gentle ramp to the right of the stairs (5th photo below), which leads to the Campidoglio. In that piazza are the three buildings which form the Capitoline Museum. Walk around the right side of the building on the left (the one which is nearest to the huge white Victor Emmanuel Monument), and climb the white 30-step stairway (1st photo below) leading up to 3 arches (2nd photo below). Angle to the left on those stairs and you'll find a small side entrance to the church (3rd photo below). If you don't enter the church through that door, be sure to peek outside the side entrance while you're inside the church to see the great mosaic of 'The Madonna and Two Angels' above that door (3rd photo below) and the granite column just outside that doorway (4th photo below). And returning back to that first photo at the top of this page, the two stairways at this location are sure a pretty sight, especially early in the morning before all the tourists arrive; the stairway to Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the left, the Cordonata stairway to the Campidoglio on the right.

    
The back entrance (from behind the Victor Emmanuel Monuement) to the Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The back entrance (from behind the Victor Emmanuel Monuement) to the Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The side entrance into Santa Maria in Aracoeli, displaying a fine mosaic over the door
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
Granite Corinthian column with stone ball at the side entrance of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, with the campanile of Santa Francesca Romana in the distance
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
    
The steps to Santa Maria in Aracoeli and the Campidoglio
See all Santa Maria in Aracoeli photos.
See also:

Walk back down the stairway, turn left, and walk up the next huge stairway (this one is easier, I promise). It leads to the Campidoglio, a piazza where the capitol of Rome once stood.


The Campidoglio
Time:about 30 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Capitoline Hill is one of the two currently non-populated hills of the Seven Hills of Rome, along with the Palatine Hill. It was the the geographical and ceremonial center of ancient Rome, being the site of their most important temple, the Temple of Jupiter. This temple towered over the Roman Forum, and its foundations can be seen today (1st and 2nd photos below) inside and outside the Capitoline Museum, which is the shining star of museums in Rome, and the primary attraction of today's Capitoline Hill. The hill and the Temple of Jupiter became symbols of Rome, the Caput Mundi (capitol of the world). In ancient times, the Capitoline Hill was a natural fortress, with rocky cliffs on all sides and two crests on the top. The northern crest, where the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli now stands, was the slightly higher crest, and was called the Arx (citadel) and held the Temple of Juno. The southern crest, where the Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Caffarelli (the part of the Capitoline Museum furthest from the Victor Emmanuel Monument) now stand was called the Capitolium, and held the Temple of Jupiter. This end of the hill was reserved exclusively for religious purposes from a very early period, becoming the center of the State cult and the destination of Rome's military triumphal processions. The saddle-shaped depression between the two crests was called the Asylum, an area where, according to legend, Romulus had declared a sanctuary to attract foreign refugees and increase the population of Rome. Since those ancient times, the hill's edges have softened and due to development, the hill mainly faces west to the Via del Teatro di Marcello today (3rd photo below), rather than facing east toward the Roman Forum (4th photo below) as it did in antiquity. The edges of the hill were steep enough that they were used for executions in ancient times. The northern part of the eastern edge held the Gemonian Stairs and the southern part of the eastern edge has the Tarpeian Rock.

    
Some foundation stones of a corner of the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, just jutting out from the Capitoline Museum to a plexiglass-covered viewport, viewable from Via del Tempio di Giove
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Foundations of the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline from 600 BC, under the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The steps to the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Roman Forum from near the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina: Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, Column of Phocas, Arch of Septimius Severus and Mamertine Prison, with the Tabularium and the Victor Emmanuel Monument which stand on the Capitoline Hill in the background
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

The Piazza del Campidoglio, or simply Campidoglio (1st photo below, just for fun), is the modern piazza at the spot of the ancient Asylum, designed by Michelangelo in 1536-1546 and finally completed during the 17th century, except for the paving which was finished during the 20th century by Mussolini in accordance to Michelangelo's design. The star-shaped paving stones on the Campidoglio (2nd photo below), designed by Michelangelo, form one of the symbols of Rome. It's embossed on a money-clip (3rd photo below) that I bought in the Capitoline Museum gift shop, and which I love to use whenever the opportunity arises. The apparent oval of the paving stones on the Campidoglio is actually slightly egg-shaped to balance the trapezoidal space outlined by the buildings which surround the piazza. The 4th photo below shows the paving stones of the Campidoglio through the gorgeous old character-filled windows of the Palazzo Nuovo in the Capitoline Museum. The 3rd photo above and the 5th photo below are views of the stairway (actually more of a ramp since each individual step slopes upward) from Via del Teatro di Marcello up to the Campidoglio. That stairway, called the Cordonata, is often attributed to Micelangelo, but was actually completed and modified by Giacomo Della Porta in 1578.

    
Neon sign from the Campidoglio Bar, in Piazza di Aracoeli
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The paving on the Campidoglio (mosaic of 2 photos)
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
My Campidoglio money clip from the gift shop in the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The Piazza del Campidoglio, from behind the old glass in the Hall of the Emperors of Palazzo Nuovo of the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Looking up the steps toward the Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill) - Castor on the left, Pollux on the right
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

The Campidoglio is loaded with historically significant statues. At the bottom of the Cordonata stairway are two Egyptian basalt lion sculptures from the temple to Serapis and Isis in the Campus Martius near Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which have become fountains (1st and 2nd photos below), one on each side of the stairway. Part way up the stairway, on the left, is a statue of Cola di Rienzi (3rd photo below), a 14th century political figure in Rome who claimed himself to be a Tribune and reviver of the ancient Roman Republic, and who ended up being killed near this spot. At the top of the stairway are statues of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) (4th photo below), which are also visible in the 5th photo above. Castor is on the left (5th photo below), and Pollux is on the right (6th photo below). Michelangelo wanted to use the statues which actually now surround the Quirinal Obelisk and the Fountain of Castor and Pollux, but the popes had already confiscated those statues for their palace on the Quirinal Hill. Instead, fragments of statues of Castor and Pollux were found during excavations in the Jewish Ghetto, and were moved to the top of the stairway in 1585. Unfortunately, Castor's original head was never found, so a new one was sculpted in 1582. Pollux's head was badly damaged and a new nose, chin and hair were created at the same time. It is impossible to be sure, but the original faces might have portrayed Augustus' grandsons Gaius (who died at age 24 in 4 AD) and Lucius (who died at age 19 in 2 AD), who were Augustus' intended successors as emperor, and were identified with Castor and Pullux even during their lifetime, and moreso after their deaths. The Dioscuri are particulary appropriate to have been placed here since they are protectors of the city of Rome and insurers of Liberty.

    
Egyptian basalt lion (from Iseo Campense) forming the fountain at the bottom of the steps to the Campidoglio (HDR of 3 images)
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Egyptian basalt lion (from Iseo Campense) forming the fountain at the bottom of the steps to the Campidoglio (HDR of 3 images)
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Statue of Cola di Rienzi, a 14th century political figure in Rome who claimed himself to be a Tribune and reviver of the Roman Republic, in the lawn beside the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio, about half way up. Cola di Rienzi was killed near this spot. The church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli is in the background.
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

    
Statues of Castor (left) and Pollux (right) at the top of the stairs to the Campidoglio, from part way up the Victor Emmanuel Monument
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Castor, on the left side at the top of the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Pollux, on the right side at the top of the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

There are several other statues and objects along the edge of the Campidoglio on a balustrade at the top of the Cordonata. The objects on the left and the right, nearest to Castor and Pollux are the Trophies of Marius. In this context, a 'trophy' is a display of captured enemy arms and armor which was mounted on a wooden framework and carried as part of a triumphal procession. The Trophy of Marius on the left is shown in the 1st and 2nd photos below, and the one on the right in the 3rd and 4th photos below. Marius was a late-2nd-century BC general who reformed the armies of the Roman Republic, defeated Teutonic barabaries, won a war in Numidia, won the Social War for Rome, and was consul of the Roman Republic for several terms. He was also Julius Caesar's uncle-in-law. But the association of these trophies with Marius is fiction, because they were actually made for one of the triumphs of the emperor Domitian, and they display the shields and equipment used at that time. They were reused in the early 3rd century to decorate a fountain also named the Trophies of Marius in an imperial villa built around the time of Emperor Alexander Severus. In 1590, the panels were moved from the fountain to the balistrade of the Campidoglio and at that time an inscription on the underside of one was found, telling that the marble had been quarried during the reign of Domitian.

    
One of the Trophies of Marius at the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from outside the entrance to Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
One of the Trophies of Marius, on the north side of the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from near the top of the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
One of the Trophies of Marius, on the south side of the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from near the top of the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
One of the Trophies of Marius, on the south side of the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from the road in front of it
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

Moving outward from the two trophies, we next find a statue of the emperor Constantine the Great on the left (1st and 2nd photos below), and his son, emperor Constantine II on the right (3rd and 4th photos below). The inscription under the statue of Constantine the Great is Constantinus Aug, indicating he was an Augustus, a senior emperor. The inscription under the statue of Constantine II is Constantinus Caes, indicating he was a Caesar, a junior emperor.

    
Statue of Emperor Constantine the Great on the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from outside the entrance to Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Statue of Emperor Constantine the Great, on the north side of the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from near the top of the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Statue of Emperor Constantine II, on the south side of the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from near the top of the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Statue of Emperor Constantine II, on the south side of the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from behind, on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

Moving one more step outward, we find mile markers from the Appian Way. On the left is Mile Marker VII, found in 1848, which is inscribed with the name of Vespasian in 76 AD (1st photo below). On the right is Mile Marker I of the Appian Way, also inscribed with the name Vespasian, and recording repairs made by Nerva in 97 AD, and added to the balustrade in 1692 (2nd photo below). Mile Marker III, still viewable today along the Appian Way, is shown in situ in the 3rd photo below. It is very weather-worn, you can barely make out the Roman numeral III right of center near the top.

    
Mile Marker VII of the Appian Way, inscribed with the name of Vespasian in 76 AD, on the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from outside the entrance to Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Mile Marker I of the Appian Way, on the south side of the western edge of the Campidoglio, photographed from near the top of the Cordonata, the stairway to the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Mile marker III on the Appian Way
See all Appian Way photos.

At the center of the Campidoglio is a famous equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on a pedestal designed by Michelangelo (1st, 2nd and 3rd photos below). The statue itself is a copy; the original is in the Capitoline Museum, safe from the elements (4th and 5th photos below). The original was erected in either the Roman Forum near the Antonine Column, or in Piazza Colonna in 175 AD, 5 years before Marcus Aurelius' death. It was not destroyed during the Middle Ages as were most bronze statues because medieval Christians thought it portrayed Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor. Out of the 22 recorded equestrian statues in the late imperial period, this statue is the only one to have survived. In the 8th century it stood in the Lateran Palace, and in 1538 it was moved to the center of this piazza during Michelangelo's redesign. The star-shaped pattern of paving of the Campidoglio emanates from this statue at the center.

    
Replica of the statue of Marcus Aurelius at the center of Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill). The original is inside the Capitoline Museum.
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Copy of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center of the PIazza del Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, at the center of the Campidoglio, photographed from outside the entrance to Santa Maria in Aracoeli
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, initially erected in 176 or 180 AD, once at the center of the Piazza del Campidoglio, now in the Exhedra of Marcus Aurelius of the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Museum photos.
    
Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, initially erected in 176 or 180 AD, once at the center of the Piazza del Campidoglio, now in the Exhedra of Marcus Aurelius of the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Museum photos.

Three buildings line the sides of the Campidoglio other than the side lined by the stairway. At the opposite end of the piazza from the stairway is the Palazzo Senatorio (1st photo above) located behind the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in that photo. It was built during the 13th and 14th centuries, and it stands atop the ancient Tabularium, which overlooks the Roman Forum and once housed the archives of ancient Rome. For the first several hundred years, it housed the Senate of Rome, but now it is the city hall of Rome, where today's City Council meets and the mayor has his office. During the 16th century, Michelangelo removed the ancient second floor of the Tabularium and built the upper floors we see today, and he modified the building's facade with a double stairway, discussed in the next paragraph. When you face the Palazzo Senatorio, the building on your right is the Palazzo dei Conservatori (2nd and 3rd photos below), which houses the ticket office, the entrance to, and the first half of the exhibits of the spectacular Capitoline Museum. The Palazzo dei Conservatori was built in the 13th century for the local magistrate and renovated by Michelangelo. The pre-existing 80-degree angle between the front face of this building and that of the Palazzo Senatorio, along with his aesthetic feelings against tearing down the structure, caused Michelangelo to design the Palazzo Nuovo at that same angle to the Palazzo Senatorio, making the trapezoidal shape of the piazza. An underground passageway connects that part of the museum to the building on the left side of the piazza, the Palazzo Nuovo, which was constructed from 1603-1654, which Michelangelo designed to balance the piazza and make the space symmetric. The Palazzo Nuovo (4th and 5th photos below) is much smaller than the Palazzo dei Conservatori, but holds superb works of sculpture. Branching off the underground passageway that connects the two pallazi is a hallway which leads to the Tabularium, which is behind and under the Palazzo Senatorio and overlooks the Roman Forum.

    
The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center of the Campodoglio, in front of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Capitoline Museum, and the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The Palazzo dei Conservatori, on the south side of the Campidoglio, the entrance and larger half of the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Palazzo Nuovo of the Capitoline Museum, and the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The Palazzo Nuovo, on the north side of the Campidoglio, the smaller half of the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

If you're lucky and the afternoon light is right (1st photo below) or the window is opened during the evening (2nd photo below), the right-most window of the 2nd floor of the Palazzo Nuovo will show you the back side of one of my favorite works of art, showing Cupid and Psyche in their romantic embrace (3rd photo below).

    
The upper-right window of the Palazzo Nuovo, with Cupid and Psyche in their embrace
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The upper-right window of the Palazzo Nuovo during the evening, with Cupid and Psyche in their embrace
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Cupid and Psyche, marble, from a Greek original of the 2nd century BC, in the Capitoline Museum (HDR of 3 images)
See all Capitoline Museum photos.

Focusing back on the Palazzo Senatorio, the facade of the building features a double stairway, shown in the 1st photo below. Under the left stairway is the sculpted personification of "The Nile" river god (2nd and 3rd photos below), leaning on a Sphinx. This is a typical ancient statue of a river god, as they usually hold a cornucopia and lay on couches.

    
'The Nile' (left), 'Personification of Rome' (center), and 'The Tiber' (right), in the facade of Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The personification of the Nile River, leaning on a Sphinx on the left side of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The personification of the Nile River, on the left side of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

Under the right stairway is a sculpted personification of "The Tiber" river god (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th photos below), leaning on the She-Wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus. This was originally a portrayal of the Tigris river god, but was changed to the Tiber when the She-Wolf was added. The Nile and Tigris river gods were found in Palazzo Rospigliosi, across the street and just a little bit south from the Quirinal Obelisk.

    
The personification of the Tiber River, leaning on the she-wolf and the twins Romulus and Remus, on the right side of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The personification of the Tiber River, leaning on the she-wolf and the twins Romulus and Remus, on the right side of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The she-wolf and the twins Romulus and Remus, which the personification of the Tiber River is leaning on, on the right side of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The personification of the Tiber River, on the right side of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

In the center is a statue of Roma (1st photo below), the personification of Rome, a goddess derived from Minerva, rather than the statue of Jupiter that Michelangelo wanted put there. Beneath the statue of Roma is a large pool called the Fontana del Campidoglio (Fountain of the Campidoglio). Roma also appears on top of the bell tower of the Palazzo Senatorio (2nd, 3rd and 4th photos below).

    
Statue of Roma, derived from Minerva, at the center of the facade of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The bell tower of Palazzo Senatorio, on the Campidoglio, with the statue of Roma at the top
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Statue of Roma (Minerva) on top of the bell tower at the top of the Palazzo Senatorio on the Campidoglio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The bell-tower on top of Palazzo Senatorio, at night, from Via dei Fori Imperiali, with a statue of Roma at the top
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

The colossal statue of the river god Marforio, from the first or second century AD, was originally located beside the Mamertine Prison, situated behind a great round stone basin which was moved in 1818 into the Fountain of Castor and Pollux. Marforio was moved in 1595 from that location at the foot of the hill onto the Campidoglio, probably to control the satires which were hung on it since it was one of the Talking Statues of Rome. People posted questions one day on the statue named Pasquino, and anonymous subversive answers would appear on Marforio the next day. The statue was moved into a beautiful courtyard in the ground floor of the Palazzo Nuovo in 1679, and can be viewed as part of your tour of the Capitoline Museum, or in the photos below.

    
Marforio, the colossal 1st-2nd century AD statue of a river god, in the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Museum photos.
    
The face of the talking statue of Marforio, from the 2nd century AD, in the Courtyard of the Palazzo Nuovo in the Capitoline Museum
See all Capitoline Museum photos.

The left side of the Palazzo Senatorio has a column with a Romulus and Remus She-Wolf at the top, shown in the photos below. Sorry for the excess of photos, but I really like this particular She-Wolf.

    
She-wolf on the left side of Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
She-wolf on the left side of Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
She-wolf on the left side of Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
She-wolf on the left side of Palazzo Senatorio, at night
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The she-wolf on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio, at sunset
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The She-wolf on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
She-Wolf and inscriptions on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
She-Wolf and inscriptions on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The She-Wolf next to the Palazzo Senatorio, at sunrise
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The she-wolf on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio, at sunrise
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The she-wolf on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio in Rome, at sunrise
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The she-wolf on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio, at sunrise
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The she-wolf on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio, at sunrise
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Portico of Palazzo Nuovo (HDR of 3 images), with the she-wolf on top of the column in the distance
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

Another She-Wolf is made from bushes, this one tucked behind the left side of the Palazzo Senatorio, and located in front of an unidentified ancient-looking wall behind it (1st and 2nd photos below). More of that wall is shown in the 3rd and 4th photos below. A similar looking wall runs along bottom of the northern (left) edge of the Palazzo Senatorio (5th photo below). Perhaps that wall is part of the original Tabularium?

    
A she-wolf made of bushes at the edge of the Campidoglio, with an unidentified ancient-looking wall behind it.
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Old wall at the northeastern edge of the Capitoline Hill
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Old wall at the northeastern edge of the Capitoline Hill
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Old wall at the northeastern edge of the Capitoline Hill
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Stonework that looks like Servian Wall (?) on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

Several historical plaques can be seen on the left side of the Palazzo Senatorio, as shown in the photos below. The 1st and 2nd photos are from a monument to Scipio Africanus, the general who saved Rome from ruin when Hannibal invaded with his elephants. The 3rd photo is a dedication to Pope Leo X. The 4th is to Pope Innocent XII. The 5th is to Pope Julius II and Pope Paul III, and the 6th is to World War II heroes of Italy.

    
A monument to Scipio Africanus mounted to the northern wall of the Palazzo Senatorio in 1655
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
A monument to Scipio Africanus mounted to the northern wall of the Palazzo Senatorio in 1655
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Inscription to Pope Leo X on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Inscription to Pope Innocent XII on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Inscriptions to Pope Julius II and Pope Paul III on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Inscription to World War II heroes of Italy in 1949 on the northern side of the Palazzo Senatorio
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

A walk around the rest of the top of the Capitoline Hill shows a few more sights of interest. I suggest walking around to the right side of the Palazzo dei Conservatori where a road leads to the Piazzale Caffarelli with its unusual fountain (1st photo below) and its spectacular view of the Theatre of Marcellus (2nd photo below). Continue walking around the buildings, and on the edge of the building on the other side you'll come to the glass enclosure affording a view into the foundation of the Temple of Jupiter (3rd photo below). Continue walking around the building and you'll come to a nice view of the Roman Forum from the back of the southern side of the Palazzo Senatorio (4th photo below). Walk back out to the front of the Palazzo Senatorio and you'll pass under the bridge in the 5th photo below.

    
The fountain at the center of Piazzale Caffarelli, on the right side of the Palazzo dei Conservatori
See all Fountain in Piazzale Caffarelli photos.
    
The Theatre of Marcellus, from Piazzale Caffarelli
See all Theatre of Marcellus photos.
    
Some foundation stones of a corner of the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, just jutting out from the Capitoline Museum to a plexiglass-covered viewport, viewable from Via del Tempio di Giove
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, from above the Porticus Deorum Consentium
See all Roman Forum photos.
    
The bridge between the Palazzo Senatorio and Comune di Roma, above Via del Campidoglio
See all Roman Forum photos.

The Capitoline Hill is an excellent place to see the Roman Forum for free, especially at night. On the left (northern) and right (southern) side of the Palazzo Senatorio are porches from which you can view the Roman Forum. These porches (along with the Capitoline Hill) can be reached from Via dei Fori Imperiali via the small road between Caesar's Forum and the Victor Emmanuel Monument, and from Via del Teatro di Marcello on Vico Jugario which turns into Via de Consolazione, as well as from the Cordonata ramp from Via del Teatro di Marcello. The two photos below were taken from the porch on the left (northern) side, which I find provides a more pleasing view than those from the right (southern) side (4th photo above).

    
Capitoline Hill
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Capitoline Hill
See all Capitoline Hill photos.

The two panoramas below were taken from the Capitoline Hill. The upper one is of the Roman Forum, taken from inside the Tabularium while visiting the Capitoline Museum. The lower one is of the entire Campus Martius area, taken from the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument.

    
The Roman Forum from the Tabularium
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
    
Panorama of Campus Martius from the Victor Emmanuel Monument
See all Capitoline Hill photos.
See also:

Walk down the stairway (it's really a sort of ramp, isn't it?) and go straight across the street (use a crosswalk for safety) to the fountain in Piazza dell'Aracoeli.


Fountain in Piazza dell'Aracoeli
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

In 1589 the fountain was designed by Jacopo della Porta. A round basin at ground level catches water that flows off a boat-shaped moss-covered bowl, which catches water that flows off a smaller upper boat-shaped bowl, which catches water sprayed out the top of a decoration in the center of that upper bowl which includes four small children pouring water from jugs. The fountain is a bit overwhelmed by its location on a very busy street, by the stairways to Santa Maria in Aracoeli and the Campidoglio, and by the Victor Emmanuel Monument just up the street a bit.

    
Fountain in Piazza dell'Aracoeli
See all Fountain in Piazza dell'Aracoeli photos.
    
Fountain in Piazza dell'Aracoeli
See all Fountain in Piazza dell'Aracoeli photos.
See also:

Across the piazza is a white building with 2 floors of 3 arches across each. That's the church of San Marco.


San Marco
Time:about 30 minutes (but you should skip it unless you have spare time)
Cost:Free
Hours:7 AM to noon and 4 PM to 6 PM daily

Outside the church on the left side of its facade (1st photo below) is a statue of Madama Lucrezia. To be honest, I was not particularly interested in the current-day church, but rather its underground. Having been founded in 336 AD by St. Mark, then pope, the church is one of Rome's oldest. It was rebuilt in during the 5th century and in the 8th century, and in the 13th century. If you ask, someone will open the door to, and let you visit the excavations of earlier churches underneath the present church. I must admit I didn't really understand much about what I was seeing underground. To me with my untrained eye, it looked like an altar at the end of one hallway, and a hallway around the rounded front of a church. This site could definitely benefit from some signs or a single-page handout which explains the underground sites. Until that happens, I can't recommend this site very highly. There are many better underground sites, even free ones, than this one.

    
Facade of San Marco
See all San Marco photos.
    
Underground of San Marco, perhaps an altar
See all San Marco photos.
    
Underground of San Marco
See all San Marco photos.
See also:

On the left side of the portico of the church of San Marco is a large statue of Madama Lucrezia.


Madama Lucrezia
Time:about 5 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Madama Lucrezia is the 10-foot-tall disfigured marble bust of a colossal statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis. With Pasquino and Marforio it was one of the five "talking statues" of Rome. A talking statue is one that people attached signs to, which expressed dissent against the public figures or poked satirical fun against them. They were written as if spoken by the statue. Lucrezia was the only female talking statue. Madama Lucrezia is freely visible at any time, and the nearest metro stop is Colosseo.

    
Madama Lucrezia
See all Madama Lucrezia photos.
    
Madama Lucrezia
See all Madama Lucrezia photos.
    
Madama Lucrezia
See all Madama Lucrezia photos.
See also:

In front of the church at the main street is the Fountain of the Pine Cone.


Fountain of the Pine Cone
Time:about 5 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

There are two Fountains of the Pine Cone in Rome, one in the Vatican and the other beside Piazza Venezia, which is this one referred to here. Built in 1927 by Pietro Lombardi to express the history of the Pigna (pine cone) district, this small pine cone stands on top of stylized tulips. The water gathers at multiple levels, finally landing in two trays at ground level made of slabs of travertine. Four marble columns surround the fountain. Pietro Lombardi was commissioned by the city to build 9 other fountains representing other districts, including the Fontana dei Monti and the Fountain of the Tiaras.

    
Fountain of the Pine Cone
See all Fountain of the Pine Cone photos.
See also:

Walk back to the street (Via di Teatro Marcello) that has the two stairways and the Capitoline Insulae, but don't cross it. Turn right and walk to the next street, where you should turn right again. Very soon on your left is the Fountain in Piazza Campitelli.


Fountain in Piazza Campitelli
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Fountain in Piazza Campitelli is a unique fountain with an unusual shape in a piazza that's convenient to get to near the Theatre of Marcellus. A flat platform just off ground level has a large pedestal in the center which contains two grotesque faces (one has donkey ears, see 1st photo below) and the coats of arms of six families residing in the area. That pedestal supports another flat platform, which holds a bowl-like basin on top of a decorated balister. Water sprays from the center of the basin, falls down out of the bowl, onto the upper flat platform. That platform and the pedestal which holds it have four flat sides but inwardly curving corners. The water falls off that platform onto a groove in the lower platform with the same shape. The masks on the pedestal resemble those on the Fountain of the Pantheon. The fountain was designed by Jacopo della Porta in 1589 and was originally placed in the center of the square, but moved to the edge of the square in 1679 because the nearby church complained about the noise made by people congregating around the fountain. When I visited the fountain, the water flow was barely present, but the fountain was still fun to see, especially since it was along my route.

    
Fountain in Piazza Campitelli
See all Fountain in Piazza Campitelli photos.
    
Fountain in Piazza Campitelli
See all Fountain in Piazza Campitelli photos.
See also:

Walk back out toward Via di Teatro Marcello and through the (hopefully open) iron gate on your right that's part of the fence surrounding the Theatre of Marcellus to enter the theater grounds. (If the gate is locked, you can see the Theatre and the Temple of Apollo Sosianus from the road).


Theatre of Marcellus
Time:about 30 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Freely visible from the road at any time of the day or night, and beautifully lit at night, but the grounds are opened during the daytime to allow a closer view

The Theatre of Marcellus is the best preserved of several ancient open-air theaters in Rome. The grounds contain the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, and the Porticus Octaviae is nearby. The theater was built in the final years of the Roman Republic; the space where the theater was built was cleared by Julius Caesar, but he was murdered in 44 BC before construction could begin. It was completed in 13 BC and inaugurated by Augustus in 12 BC. It was named after Augustus' nephew, Marcus Marcellus, who lived only to the age of 20 and died 5 years before its completion.

    
Theatre of Marcellus and the three columns of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus
See all Theatre of Marcellus photos.
    
Model of the Theatre of Marcellus in the Museum of Roman Civilization
See all Theatre of Marcellus photos.
    
Theatre of Marcellus and the three columns of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus at night
See all Theatre of Marcellus photos.

The theatre was built mainly of tuff (1st photo below) and concrete (right half of 2nd photo below), completely sheathed in white travertine (left half of 2nd photo below, and 3rd photo below). The theater was used for performances of drama and song. It was 365 feet in diameter and its capacity was 11,000 people, making it larger and more elaborate than not only Pompey's Theater but any ever built in the Roman Empire. It was three stories tall: the lowest story had arches with Doric columns between them and were used as entry/exit gates, like the Colosseum later would; the second story had arches which would have displayed statues with Ionic columns between them, like the Colosseum also does; the third story is unknown since it collapsed during the middle ages, but presumably had Corinthian columns. The Colosseum was obviously patterned after the Theatre of Marcellus, in an attempt by Vespasian to associate himself with Augustus. During the middle ages the theater was used as a fortress. The third floor was rebuilt in 1525 as a mansion, which has been turned into apartments in modern times. Up to the late 1800s the theater's ground floor was half buried by the rising ground level, but excavations have re-exposed that ground floor. Only about 1/3 of the lower two levels of the original 44 arches around the exterior curve are still visible; another 1/3 of the curve is substructure for adjoining buildings. The theater is still used for concerts and special events during the summer. The view of the theater when walking west off the Campidoglio downhill through the gardens is reputed to be quite good, but I haven't seen it from that point of view (yet). I quite liked the view from the porch part way up the Victor Emmanuel Monument, and from the top of that monument.

    
Tufa substructure of the Theatre of Marcellus
See all Theatre of Marcellus photos.
    
Theatre of Marcellus - Travertine on the left, Concrete on the right
See all Theatre of Marcellus photos.
    
Detail of the Theatre of Marcellus - Ionic columns on the second story of travertine facing
See all Theatre of Marcellus photos.
See also:

The three columns standing next to the Theater of Marcellus are the remains of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus.


Temple of Apollo Sosianus
Time:about 15 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable from the road at any time of the day or night, but the grounds of the Theatre of Marcellus are opened during the daytime to allow a closer view. Beautifully lit at night.

The Temple of Apollo Sosianus was a temple dedicated to Apollo, named after its rebuilder, Gaius Sosianus who is best known today for placing Herod on the throne of Jerusalem. Today, three columns stand, reconstructed during the Mussolini era from ruins found in the area. They form the front right-hand corner of the temple that the Theatre of Marcellus was built to serve. The first temple to Apollo in this area dates to 431 BC when the consul Gnaeus Iulius Mento dedicated it to Apollo Medicus. This building was restored in 353 BC and 179 BC. The final version of the temple was vowed by Gaius Sosius, one of Julius Caesar's lieutenants when he was awarded a triumph for his victory in Judea in 34 BC. The reconstruction was interrupted by the civil war between Octavian and Mark Antony. Sosius in fact backed the eventual loser, Marc Antony, and fought against Octavian in the Battle of Actium where he was captured. He was pardoned by Octavian and returned to Rome to complete the temple. The three columns visible today belong to this reconstruction. The temple porch was 6 columns wide and had another two at the sides, after which 7 more columns were attached to the cella wall. The columns are fluted with alternating wide and narrow grooves. The capitals have sprigs of laurel (attributes of Apollo) and eleborate flower heads. The entablature has a frieze of laurel branches strung between bulls' skulls and candelabra with tripod bases. The interior of the cella was originally decorated richly with colored marbles and housed a large collection of marble statues, all relating to Apollo. Medieval homes were in the area right up to the 1920s, but they were demolished to allow the Theatre of Marcellus to be seen. The three Corinthian columns were found during that excavation, and the podium was also excavated. The three columns were rebuilt on the podium, though probably not in their original positions. The architrave on top of the columns is intricately carved. Several relics from the temple are on display in the Central Montemartini Museum.

    
Temple of Apollo Sosianus
See all Temple of Apollo Sosianus photos.
    
Temple of Apollo Sosianus and the Moon
See all Temple of Apollo Sosianus photos.
    
Details of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus
See all Temple of Apollo Sosianus photos.
See also:

If you're within the grounds of the Theatre of Marcellus, walk behind the Temple of Apollo Sosianus and through a small area with more ruins on the ground to reach Porticus Octaviae. If you were locked-out from the theatre grounds, we'll see the Porticus Octaviae later in the tour instead.


Porticus Octaviae
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time from the Via del Portico d'Ottavia, and nicely lit at night, but access to the side facing the Theatre of Marcellus is only available during the daytime

The Porticus Octaviae was once a large rectangular plaza surrounded on four sides by a gallery supported by a double row of columns. There was one entrance per side; what remains today is the southwestern entrance of those four. It is tucked away behind the Theatre of Marcellus on Via del Portico d'Ottavia. The structure was originally built in 146 BC, and the 300 columns surrounded an immense rectangular area which held two temples: one dedicated to Juno and one to Jupiter. It was rebuilt around 27 or 26 BC by Augustus and dedicated to his sister Octavia Minor. The colonnaded walkways of the portico enclosed pre-existing temples of Jupiter Stator and Juno Regina, and a newly-constructed library erected by Octavia Minor in memory of her son Marcus Claudius Marcellus. After an earthquake in 442 AD, the entrance was repaired hastily with a brick arch rather than repairing the colonnade (photos below). This led to its rather haphazard appearance today. During the Middle Ages and up to the end of the 19th century, the portico was used as a fish market due in part to its proximity to the river. The inscription on the pillar on the right side of the arch reads, in Latin, "the heads of the fish longer than this marble plaque are to be given to the city administrators, up to the first fins included". The smaller one on the left side of the arch forbade street games.

    
Porticus Octaviae
See all Porticus Octaviae photos.
    
Porticus Octaviae
See all Porticus Octaviae photos.
See also:

Go back out to Via di Teatro Marcello and turn right. Just past the Theatre of Marcellus is the church of San Nicola in Carcere.


San Nicola in Carcere
Time:about 90 minutes
Cost:Free above ground, €2 to visit the underground
Hours:10 AM - 5 PM every day

The church of San Nicola in Carcere (St. Nicolas in the Prison) was built on top of the foundations of, and includes some of the columns of, three republican-era temples which resembled the nearby Temple of Portunus. The underground can be visited for only €2. A free English info sheet is available, and English signs in the underground give you a pretty good idea of what you're seeing, making this one of the better underground sites in Rome.

The church is (and the three temples were) located at the edge of the ancient Forum Holitorium, which was a fruit and vegetable market. The large buildings to the left of the church, across the street (as you look at the front of it) were at the heart of this market. Ships on the Tiber River (behind these buildings) delivered the fruits and vegetables to Rome. On the far side of the Forum Holitorium was the Forum Boarium (Cattle Market) which we'll reach very soon if you're following the To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour.

The church was built over three small temples (1st photo below) which stood very close to each other, all facing eastwards and aligned from north to south, similar to those seen in Largo di Torre Argentina. The central and largest temple was the Temple of Juno Sospita (the savior), vowed by consul Cornelius Cethegus between 197 BC and 194 BC during the war against the Insubrians in northern Italy, and the church of San Nicola in Carcere covers that middle temple completely as well as incorporating the columns on the near side of both the northern and southern temples into its outer walls. The old-looking column built into the front facade (2nd photo below) of the church near the left edge is from the second row of columns of the middle temple. So are the columns on either side of the door, but those were re-faced in stucco, so the ancient columns, although technically there, are hidden from view. The meager remains of the steps to that temple are preserved in front of the church (3rd and 4th photos below). And hey, there's the shadow of a Tourist in Rome, taking a photo, in the 3rd photo below!

    
Photo of San Nicola in Carcere, with the three republican-era temples superimposed
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The front facade of the church of San Nicola in Carcere, with the columns from the Temple of Spes embedded into the wall on the left side
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Remains of the front steps of the Temple of Juno (middle temple) in San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Remains of the front steps of the Temple of Juno (middle temple) in San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

The southern temple (the left temple, when viewed from the front) was the Temple of Spes (Hope, or Fortune), built in 250 BC during the First Punic War against the Carthaginians by Attilius Calatinus. It was the smallest of the three temples. It burned down in 213 BC and again in 31 BC, and was rededicated by Germanicus in 17 AD. The columns from the right side of that temple are built into the left exterior wall (1st photo below) of San Nicola. The northern (right-side) temple was dedicated to Janus Bifrons (god of Gates and Passages, closely associated with the Tiber), built in 260 BC by the consul Caius Duilus after the Roman victory in Sicily over the Carthaginians during the first Punic War. The temple was restored by Augustus and restored again by Tiberius in 17 AD. The columns built into the right exterior wall of the church and the two columns free-standing in the foreground (2nd and 3rd photos below) are from that temple. The columns built into these exterior walls were standing before the church; the walls of the church were built around the existing columns. The Arch of Janus, dedicated to the same god of Gates and Passages, is just down the street, a few stops in your future if you're following my To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour.

    
South edge of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
North (right) side of San Nicola in Carcere, featuring columns from the Temple of Janus Bifrons
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
North (right) side of San Nicola in Carcere, featuring columns from the Temple of Janus Bifrons
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

The church was founded in the early Middle Ages (perhaps the 7th century) and dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of sailors and of children, and the remote cause of the phenomenon of Santa Clause. It was reconsecrated in 1128 and remodeled with its ornate facade in 1599. The belltower was originally used for defensive purposes of a fortified family housof the Pierleone family, matching their 11th century mansion across the street (1st photo below), and was annexed to the church when the house was abandoned. A neighborhood of small houses grew up around the church over the ages but were torn down in the 1930s since Mussolini wanted the church and the Theatre of Marcellus exposed. The reference to a prison (in carcere) in the name of the church is probably due to a Byzantine jail which existed in the vicinity but is now long gone.

    
The fortified house once belonging to the Pierleone family, across the street from San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

Inside, the church is designed like a Romanesque Basilica (1st photo below). Like in Santa Maria in Aracoeli, the 14 columns in the church are all different from each other and originate from buildings of the Roman era (2nd and 3rd photos below). The altar is shown in the 4th photo below. One column in the church (5th photo below) has a 9th-century inscription stating that the author donated to the Church some animals, a vineyard and other things in order to ensure the salvation of his soul. Another ancient column, embedded into an interior wall, with an inscription next to it is shown in the 6th photo below.

    
The Nave of San Nicola in Carcere, with each column different from the others
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Seven ancient columns are on each side of the nave of San Nicola in Carcere, none of them matching
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Seven ancient columns are on each side of the nave of San Nicola in Carcere, none of them matching
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The altar of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Ninth century inscription into a column of San Nicola in Carcere, stating that he donated to the Church some animals, a vineyard and other things in order to ensure the salvation of his soul
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Ancient column and inscription in the interior of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

After paying your €2, you can walk down into the confessio (sunken chapel) in front of the altar (1st photo below), look back up into the church if you'd like (2nd photos below) and walk down into the crypt (3rd photo below). Signs lead you through a gated doorway (4th photo below), through a short corridor (5th photo below), and into what was once the ground level of ancient Rome (6th photo below). From this point on, you will be standing where Romans once stood in the ancient temples, all built before 194 BC, and you'll be seeing the foundations and podiums of the three temples.

    
The confessio in San Nicola in Carcere, which leads to the underground
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
View from inside the confessio, back into the church, (on the way to the underground) of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The foyer of the underground of San Nicola in Carcere. The entrance to the underground is through the gate on the left.
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The doorway leading to the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
A corridor leading to the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The space between the Temple of Juno Sospita (center temple) and the Temple of Spes (southern temple), in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

The first room you enter underground (last photo above) was the space between the Temple of Juno Sospita (center temple) and the Temple of Spes (southern temple). An archway on its right side (1st photo below), half way down, leads into a Byzantine three-sided chapel (2nd photo below) from the 7th century, built on the site of the Temple of Spes. That photo shows one of the three alcoves in the three-sided chapel, this one containing the altar, with a 15th century fresco above it. By the way, that photo also shows one of the several posters in the underground area which explain where you are, and point out a few interesting features. As you enter the three-sided chapel there is a pit in the floor which contains bones from burials under the church (3rd photo below). Once you walk all the way into the three-sided chapel, you can look left (4th photo below) and right (5th photo below) into the other two alcoves of the chapel, beside the one straight ahead (2nd photo below). In the alcove to the right is a niche in the wall, containing more bones (6th photo below).

    
The entrance to the three-sided chapel, on the right, in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The three-sided chapel in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere, from just outside the entrance to it
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Bones in the pit in the three-sided chapel in the Temple of Spes (hope), or Southern Temple, in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The alcove in the left side of the three-sided chapel in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Right-side alcove of the three-sided chapel in the Temple of Spes (hope), or Southern Temple, in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere, with bones in a niche
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Bones in the niche in the right-side alcove of the three-sided chapel in the Temple of Spes (hope), or Southern Temple, in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

Go back out from the three-sided chapel into the room where we started, which was the space between the Temple of Juno Sospita (center temple) and the Temple of Spes (southern temple). Turn right in that room to go to another roped-off area where the flooring of the Forum Holitorium has been excavated (1st photo below). Past the roped-off area, further along that right-side wall, is the podium base and a column of the Temple of Spes (2nd photo below). The column is hard to make out, but it's at the top of the the left half of the alcove. The 3rd photo below is the reverse-angle of the first photo in this room (last photo in the 2nd set above), and shows the view looking back from the far end of this room. As you walk back across the room, to the end where you entered and where you will exit to go to the next room (see the red arrow pointing to the left?), notice on the right wall (the opposite wall from where everything's been thus far) is the cella podium (part of the base upon which the central room of the temple rested) of the center temple, the Temple of Juno Sispita (4th photo below).

    
Flooring of the Forum Holitorium, in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Podium, Base and Column of the Temple of Goddess Hope (south temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Looking back from the far end of the space between the Temple of Juno Sospita (center temple) and the Temple of Spes (southern temple), in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Cella podium of the Temple of Juno (the middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

After following the signs and walking through a few corridors, you reach a large area from the Temple of Juno Sospita (center temple). As you enter the room there is a fragment of the architrave from the outside of the temple (1st photo below). The long narrow room you enter has the stone wall of the inner cella (room) of the temple on your right side (2nd photo below) and the base of a door jamb at the far end (2nd and 3rd photos below). The reverse angle of this room is shown in the 4th photo below, and the remains of an altar under the middle temple are shown in the 5th photo below.

    
Fragment of external architrave of the Temple of Juno (middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Inside wall of the cella of the Temple of Juno Sospita, on the right of the photo, and base of a door jamb at the far end, in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The top of the photo shows the base of a door jamb, and below it is the foundation of that door jamb, of the Temple of Juno Sospita (middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Temple of Juno (middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Remains of altar under the Temple of Juno (middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

A few more signs and a few more corridors lead you to the last and best room in the underground of San Nicola. This is an alley that ran between the Temple of Janus Bifrons (north temple) and the Temple of Juno Sospita (middle temple). The 1st and 2nd photos below show the left side of this alley, which is basically the podium of the Temple of Janus Bifrons. At the top of the foundation pillars on the left side of the alley is the massive stone podium of the temple, and resting on that podium are the bases of the columns of the Temple of Janus Bifrons, one of which is shown in the 3rd photo below. The podium of that temple is also shown in the 4th photo below.

    
Alley between Temple of Janus and Temple of Juno, in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
The space between the middle temple and the north temple, facing the side with Janus Bifrons' Temple (north temple), in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Column base of Janus Bifrons' Temple (north temple), in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Podium of Janus Bifrons' Temple (north temple), in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

The right side of this alley, from the same point of view of the photos above, is shown in the 1st photo below. On the right side of the alley are shops (2nd photo below, which is looking back from the far end of the alley) that were on the ground floor of the Temple of Juno Sospitas. One representative shop is shown in the 3rd photo below, and another, with fancy flooring, is in the 4th photo below. These are very small spaces, just 4 or 5 feet square. Those shops might have sold high-value items associated with temple cults, or might have been ancient currency exchange offices, or might have been fruit and vegetable booths, or simply storage rooms, or maybe they were the prison cells referred to by the name of the church (but probably not - this theory is largely discounted); no one really knows and it depends on which source you're reading. Ground floor in the underground? Yes, this is yet another example that shows how much the ground level of Rome has risen over the millenia. Especially this close to the Tiber River which flooded from time to time, the level of the ground has risen enough that what was at ground level back in Republican times is way underground today.

    
The space between the middle temple and the north temple, facing the side with the Temple of Juno (middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Cells (or shops) in Juno Sospita's Temple (middle temple), in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Cell (or shop) in Juno Sospita's Temple (middle temple), in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Roman flooring in opus spicatum, in a room on the outside of the Temple of Juno (middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.

Finally, just for fun, here's the spider that was in one of the cells on the ground floor of the Tenmple of Juno Sospitas during my 2014 visit. I spent a long time trying to get a decent photo of this guy in the extremely faint light down here. I wonder how long he's been dead? 2000 years?

    
Dead spider in a web in the Temple of Juno (middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
    
Dead spider in a web in the Temple of Juno (middle temple) in the underground of San Nicola in Carcere
See all San Nicola in Carcere photos.
See also:

Across the street from San Nicola in Carcere is the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino.


Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino exists today as several large arches at a busy intersection, with a few scattered remants on either side. The demolition of some medieval houses led to the discovery that they had been built making use of a very old Roman portico; it is located at the foot of Monte Caprino, the southern peak of Campidoglio. Some archaeologists believe the portico to be Portico Triumphalis, a sort of arch of the 1st century BC on the path followed by the triumphal processions. This portion of the Servian Wall was characterized by a roofed arcade, up to this gate. The materials and styles of this gate are characteristic of the first century BC. This might be the Portico Minucia referred to in ancient texts. The main part of the portico, which is obvious when you look across the street from the church of San Nicola in Carcere is shown in the 1st photo below, and that view is looking at what I'll call the "front" of the monument. Closer views from this angle are in the 2nd and 3rd photos below, the view slightly to the left is shown in the 4th photo below, the view straight on to the left side is shown in the 5th photo below, and the view from the right, clearly showing that this was an arcade between two walls of arches, is in the 6th photo below.

    
Front view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
Front view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
Front view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
Front and left-side view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
The left side of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
Right-side view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.

Other fragments of the arcade are visible to the left (uphill) of these large arches across from the church, toward the Theatre of Marcellus (1st and 2nd photos below). A few fragments are also visible across the street in the corner of the Sacred Area of San Omobono (3rd photo below).

    
Columns to the left of the main portico, across the street from the Church of St. Nicolas by the Prison, whch were part of Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
Columns to the left of the main portico, across the street from the Church of St. Nicolas by the Prison, whch were part of Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
Columns to the right of the main portico, in front of the Sacred Area of San Omobono, whch were part of Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.

The view from behind the portico is shown in the 1st photo below. When I turned around 180 degrees from the point where I took that 1st photo from, I could see more columns heading up the hill toward the Tarpeian Rock, as in the 2nd photo below. Walking beyond those columns and facing back toward the portico yields the view in the 3rd photo below. It looks like maybe there was a T-shape involved here, with the base of the T coming from the Tarpeian Rock along the street named Vico Jugario, and the crossbar of the T going right and left along Via del Teatro di Marcello. Looking up from the front of the portico yields the view in the 4th photo below.

    
Rear view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino (and Church of St. Nicolas by the Prison across the street)
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
Looking back from behind the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino shows more pillars going off in that direction, toward the Tarpeian Rock
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
The view from far behind the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
    
The view up from the front of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
See all Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino photos.
See also:

Next cross Via Jugario, to end up diagonally across the intersection from San Nicola in Carcere. At this corner is the Sacred Area of San Omobono.


Sacred Area of San Omobono
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time from the street

The Sacred Area of San Omobono (1st photo below) is a fairly large area of excavation which is baffling to the uneducated like myself. It's located just a block south of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino along the Via del Teatro di Marcello. In this area were temples from the early Republican era, dedicated to the Mater Matuta (goddess of dawn, new growth and childbirth) and the Temple of Fortuna (goddess of fertility, see this article). The area was going to be redeveloped into government offices in 1937 when large fragments of terracotta statues and decorations belonging to the roof of a temple were found. These are on display (2nd and 3rd photos below) in the Capitoline Museum. It was determined that the two temples in this area, that of Fortuna and Mater Matuta, were first built in the 6th century BC, during the times of the Etruscan Kings of Rome, specifically the sixth king, Servius Tullius (578-534 BC). That makes this one of the very oldest sites in Rome that we can still see today (along with the Romulan Huts on the Palatine Hill and the Regia and Altar of Saturn in the Roman Forum), so deserves our attention despite its rubbly look. There is evidence on this site to a temple which was destroyed after the expulsion of the Tarquines from Rome at the end of the 6th century BC. In fact, the temples were rebuilt 3 times, the last time under Hadrian, making this site difficult for archaeologists (let alone a lowly Tourist in Rome) to untangle.

    
Sacred area of San Omobono, from the south-southwest (mosaic of 4 images)
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
Terracotta decorations from the Temple of Mater Matuta in the Sacred Area of San Omobono, now the Area of the Temple of Jupiter in the Capitoline Museum
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
Terracotta decorations from the Temple of Mater Matuta in the Sacred Area of San Omobono, now the Area of the Temple of Jupiter in the Capitoline Museum
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.

The 1st photo below shows another panoramic photo of the site, this time from an angle that shows several features. Just above the center of the photo is an altar, shown in the close-up of the 2nd photo below, and from its front in the center of the 3rd photo below. About half way from the altar to the upper-right corner of the 1st photo below is the Votive base, also shown in close-up in the 4th photo below, and visible above the altar in the 3rd photo below. A well is just to the upper-right of the altar in the 1st photo below, and shown in a blurry close-up in the 5th photo below. A second altar is under the blue roof at the right edge of the 1st photo below and at the top of the 3rd photo below.

    
The Sacred Area of San Omobono, from the south (mosaic of 4 photos). An altar is just above center, with a well to its upper-right. The Votive base is right of the well. A second altar is under the blue roof at the right edge. The cella of the western temple is way back behind the 4 temporary metal fences, delineated by the tufa blocks near the top, just left of center, still in the shadow
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
Altar in the Sacred Area of San Omobono, from the south
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
The southern part of the Sacred Area of San Omobono, from the west. The altar is at center, Votive base above it, second altar under the blue roof near the top
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
Votive Base in the Sacred Area of San Omobono, from the south
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
Well in the Sacred Area of San Omobono
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.

A raised floor, that looks to me similar to hypocaust heating systems I've seen elsewhere, is shown in the 1st photo below, although these might be modern brick columns used to support the pavement after excavation beneath them. The center part of the sacred area, from the west, is shown in the 2nd photo below. This view lies just to the left of the 3rd photo above. Looking back from here toward where I took most of the photos above from, I can easily see a stairway that was chopped off during the excavation of the area (3rd photo below). The second temple in the area was located at the northern end of the excavated site, shown in the 4th photo below. Although it's difficult to make much sense of this area (at least for a simple Tourist in Rome like me), it's obviously quite important historically, and it's right on the route from the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino to the Tarpeian Rock, so is worth the free look.

    
Raised floor in the Sacred Area of San Omobono
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
The center part of the Sacred Area of San Omobono, from the west
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
The southern edge of the Sacred Area of San Omobono, from the northwest
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
    
The northern part of the Sacred Area of San Omobono, from the southwest. The podium of the northern temple is behind the four temporary railings and under the wooden scaffolding. The front wall dividing the sacred area from the ancient street is in the foreground, with the metal gate doorway. The ancient street is to the left of that wall.
See all Sacred Area of San Omobono photos.
See also:

Walk back to the intersection you just crossed twice and turn right to head uphill (away from San Nicola, with the Capitoline Hill on your left). When you've reached the parking lot about a block up the street, the Tarpeian Rock is on your left.


Tarpeian Rock
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time from the street

The Tarpeian Rock is a steep cliff at the southeastern edge of the Capitoline Hill which was used as an execution site during the Roman Republic. Murderers, traitors, perjurors, and larcenous slaves, if convicted by the quaestores parricidii, were flung from the cliff to their deaths. Those who had a mental or significant physical disability also suffered the same fate as they were thought to have been cursed by the gods. It can be reached along the switchback walkways between the Campidoglio and the Roman Forum, either from Via dei Fori Imperiali (enter between Caesar's Forum and the Victor Emmanuel Monument) or from Via del Teatro di Marcello (enter on Vico Jugario, which turns into Via de Consolazione). Tarpea is the name of a legendary young woman who opened the doors of the Roman Arx (the citadel on the peak of the hill where today Santa Maria in Aracoeli is located) to the Sabines in exchange for what she thought would be a reward of jewelry. Instead the Sabines crushed her to death and threw her from a rock of the other peak which has been called Rupe Tarpea (Tarpeian Rock) since then (see the display shown in the 5th photo below, from the Curia in the Roman Forum). The ancient Romans executed traitors in a similar way; the exact site where these executions took place was debated for a long time; after the old buildings which surrounded Palazzi di Campidoglio were pulled down, the precipice on the southern side of the hill was identified as the most likely location for Rupe Tarpea.

    
The Tarpeian Rock
See all Tarpeian Rock photos.
    
The Tarpeian Rock, from near Santa Maria della Consolazione
See all Tarpeian Rock photos.
    
The Tarpeian Rock, from near Santa Maria della Consolazione
See all Tarpeian Rock photos.
    
The Tarpeian Rock, from near the top of Via Monte Tarpeo
See all Tarpeian Rock photos.
    
The Punishment of Tarpeia, display in the Curia, in the Roman Forum, during 2013
See all Tarpeian Rock photos.
    
Plaster cast of a frieze that once lined the architrave of the Basilica Aemila in the Roman Forum, this one showing the Murder of Tarpea
See all Roman Forum photos.
See also:

Head back to the intersection you crossed twice but turn left at the first street you come to, at the end of the parking lot. This is Via del Velabro, and in one block, on your left, is the Arch of Janus.


We've finally made it to our first site in the area of Rome known as the Forum Boarium, which was a cattle market with a vegetable market nearby, both along the Tiber River which provided a port for shipping.

Arch of Janus
Time:about 20 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time, well lit at night, but closed off by fences so you cannot walk up to it or inside it

The Arch of Janus, also called the Arch of Janus Quadrifons and the Arch of Maxentius, is the only four-sided arch preserved in Rome. This massive marble monument stands 52 feet tall by 39 feet wide and deep. The four-way arch was built in the late 4th century AD around the reign of Constantine. This was not a triumphal arch, but rather an honor to Janus, the god of passages and gates. The Temple of Janus was one of the three temples under the church of San Nicola in Carcere if you're following the To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour. The Arch of Janus might have served as a gateway between the regions of the Velabrum and the Forum Boarium. It might also have been used as a meeting point for the merchants of the cattle market at the Forum Boarium, providing cover against the sun and rain. Back in the day, there was an attic above what now remains, and a structure on top, possibly a low pyramid. The arch has twelve niches on each of its four sides, in which long-lost statues of the gods stood. Those statues were probably short-lived, because within a few years of construction the pagan gods were banned as Rome converted to Christianity. Small columns once flanked the niches but those have also been lost, and the top of each niche is an elegantly carved semi-dome made to resemble a clam shell.

    
Arch of Janus, with San Giorgio al Velabro at the left edge in the background
See all Arch of Janus photos.
    
Arch of Janus, from in front of San Giorgio al Velabro, with the Temple of Portunus in the distance through the arch
See all Arch of Janus photos.
    
The north half of the west face of the Arch of Janus
See all Arch of Janus photos.
    
The north face of the Arch of Janus
See all Arch of Janus photos.

At the top of each arch is a keystone. They depicted Minerva (1st photo below) and Ceres (2nd photo below) standing, on the south and north sides of the arch, and Roma (3rd photo below) and Juno seated, on the east and west side. Juno no longer remains on the arch (4th photo below). The original iron pins which held together each block of marble were stolen in the middle ages, resulting in the pock-marked look of the monument today. During the 1200s the archways were walled-up as the Arch of Janus became part of the fortifications of the Frangipane estate, but in 1837 those barriers were removed in an effort to restore the arch. Unfortunately, what was left of the attic and the structure on top of the arch was also removed, being wrongly believed to be a medieval addition as well. The arch stands over the Cloaca Maxima, the great ancient sewer which runs down to the Tiber River. In fact, you can see some remains of the Cloaca Maxima by looking through a gate into a private back yard behind the Arch of Janus. Also behind the Arch of Janus is the church of San Giorgio al Velabro and the Arch of the Money-Changers.

    
Minerva keystone on the south side of the Arch of Janus
See all Arch of Janus photos.
    
Ceres keystone on the north side of the Arch of Janus
See all Arch of Janus photos.
    
Roma keystone on the east side of the Arch of Janus
See all Arch of Janus photos.
    
Keystone on the west side of the Arch of Janus, which used to be a seated Juno
See all Arch of Janus photos.

The arch is nicely lit at night.

    
Temple of Janus, with San Giorgio al Velabro behind it, at night
See all Arch of Janus photos.
    
Temple of Janus, from in front of San Giorgio al Velabro, at night
See all Arch of Janus photos.
See also:

Walk to the back side of the Arch of Janus, along Via del Velabro (it turned to the left right before the Arch of Janus). The church on the left side of the road behind the Arch of Janus is San Giorgio al Velabro.


San Giorgio al Velabro
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time from the street

I admit I don't know much about the church of San Giorgio al Velabro. It's on Via del Velabro, behind the Arch of Janus and it has the Arch of the Money-Changers attached to its left side. There. That's about it. Oh, plus I think its angles and evening lighting make for some cool photos.

    
San Giorgio al Velabro
See all San Giorgio al Velabro photos.
    
San Giorgio al Velabro
See all San Giorgio al Velabro photos.
    
San Giorgio al Velabro
See all San Giorgio al Velabro photos.
    
San Giorgio al Velabro
See all San Giorgio al Velabro photos.
See also:

Attached to the left side of the church, behind the iron fence, is the Arch of the Money-changers.


Arch of the Money-changers
Time:about 20 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time from the street, surrounded by a fence which prevents close approach

Tucked behind the Arch of Janus, the Arch of the Money-Changers (1st, 2nd and 3rd photos below) is a small architrave attached to the side of the church of San Giorgio al Velabro. The so-called "arch" has no curves at all and is shaped like an architrave - a lintel or beam that rests on columns, or in this case, piers. It measures 20 feet in height, and the opening is 11 feet wide. Its made of brick, faced with extraordinarily ornately carved white marble, except for the base which is made of travertine. It is unfortunately behind a fence which prevented me from getting a good photo, but I admit this monument demands protection. This is well worth a 2-block side trip when visiting the Forum Boarium (Cattle Market) area.

The long inscription on the architrave, best visible in the 3rd photo below, and significantly enhanced in the 5th photo below, states that it was dedicated in 204 AD by the argentarii et negotiatores boari huius loci (the cattle merchants and bankers of the Forum Boarium) in faithful devotion to the divine will of the emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla, his younger brother Geta, the empresses Julia Domna and Plautilla, and Plautilla's father Gaius Fulvius Plautianus. This inscription, and the friezes on the arch, are a fascinating example of damnatio memoriae, the state-condoned erasure in disgrace of a person from history, because the names of Plautianus (disgraced in 205 AD), Plautilla (exiled in 205 AD and murdered in 211 AD), and Geta (murdered in 212 AD) were subsequently erased. I think you can see in the 5th photo below that much of the 2nd line has been erased. We'll soon see that their images were also erased from the monument in addition to their names.

Hercules, the symbol of the Forum Boarium, appears to the left of the inscription, with his club and the skin of a Nemean lion. Does he look similar to the golden statue of Hercules in the Vatican Museum? A semi-nude figure holding a cornucopia, possibly representing the Roman people, appears to the right of the inscription (4th photo below). The arch's actual purpose is not known; it might have formed a monumental gate into the Forum Boarium area, or it might have been an attempt by the tradesmen of the Forum Boarium to receive special favors such as tax exemptions in return for this monument to the emperor and his family.

    
The Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio, from the southwest
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio, from the southwest
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio, from the south
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The figure to the right of the inscription on the Arch of the Money-changers
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The inscription on the Arch of the Money Changers
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.

There are three friezes on each face of the piers except their back face. The main large frieze is in the middle, and a small frieze appears above and below. The panels lining the inside of the opening are the most interesting bits of the arch. The panel on the right (1st, 2nd and 3rd photos below) shows a sacrificial scene with Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, and Geta (one of the sons of Septimius Severus, along with Caracalla). Septimius Severus' toga is drawn up over his head in his role of Pontifex Maximus (chief priest), pouring a libation over a pine-cone and pear on an altar. After Septimius Severus' death, Caracalla and Geta were co-emperors until Caracalla siezed power and killed Geta right in front of their mother in 212 AD, after which he chiseled Geta out of the scene, accounting for the badly carved left arm of Julia Domna and the blank spot beside her. As part of this damnatio memoriae, Caracalla removed Geta from the Arch of Septimius Severus around the same time. Above the main frieze is a small panel with eagles holding up victory wreaths (best visible in the 2nd photo below), and below it is a small scene of a bull being sacrificed, best shown in the 4th photo below. Notice the sacrificial tools above the lower scene in the 4th photo below, including a libation vessel, a round patera, a helmet and a fly-whisk.

    
The inside of the eastern (right) pier of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio, sacrificial scene with Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, and chiseled-out Geta
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The inside of the eastern (right) pier of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio. Sacrificial scene with Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, and chiseled-out Geta
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The inside of the eastern (right) pier of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio. Sacrificial scene with Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, and chiseled-out Geta
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The bottom of the inside of the eastern (right) pier of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio, displaying a sacrificial scene with a row of sacrificial tools above it
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.

The panel on the left side shows a sacrificial scene (1st and 2nd photos below) with Caracalla making an offering at an altar, his wife Plautilla and her father Gaius Fulvius Plautianus. Caracalla had those two killed because he believed they conspired to have Septimius Severus killed, then he had them, too, chiseled out of the scene in another damnatio memoriae. Again, above the main frieze is a small panel with eagles holding up victory wreaths (barely visible in the 1st photo below), and below it is a small sacrificial scene (3rd photo below). Between the main frieze and the bottom frieze we can again see a row of sacrificial tools, best shown at the bottom of the 2nd photo below, including an axe, a round patera, an ox skull reminiscent of those shown in the interior of the Ara Pacis and a libation vessel. The sacrificial tools here, and above the bottom frieze on the right pier, are reminiscent of those displayed on the entabulature of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus.

    
The inside of the western pier of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio. Sacrificial scene with Caracalla and his chiseled-out wife Plautilla and her chiseled-out father Gaius Fulvius Plautianus
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The inside of the western pier of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio. Sacrificial scene with Caracalla and his chiseled-out wife Plautilla and her chiseled-out father Gaius Fulvius Plautianus
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The bottom of the inside of the western pier of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio, displaying a sacrificial scene
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.

The underside of the arch's ceiling is shown in the 1st and 2nd photos below. The decoration on the left side of the left pier is shown in the 3rd photo below. The main panel shows two Roman soldiers with two Parthian prisoners (only the legs of one of the prisoners survives). Under their feet is a frieze of sacrificial instruments (an axe is on the right), and below that frieze is one that shows cattle being driven by the boarii doing their job, providing meat for Rome. Above the main frieze four attendants carry an incense burner. Acanthus scrolls decorate the edges of the pier.

    
The interior ceiling of the Arch of the Money-changers
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
Closeup of the interior ceiling of the Arch of the Money-Changers
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The west side of the Arch of the Money Changers (the outside of the left pier), on Via del Velabrio
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.

The south face of the eastern (right) pier has a vertical marble frieze (1st photo below) which depicts a Roman legionary standard, with mushrooms at the bottom leading to a castle leading to a portrait of Septimius Severus and Caracalla and an Imperial eagle at the top. The south face of the western (left) pier has an unrecognizable male figure wearing a toga, with the panel below being a badly-worn frieze (2nd photo below) of a bull being brought to sacrifice. Only a thin sliver of a glimps of the back side of the arch can be seen (3rd photo below). The bottom frieze on the back of the western pier looks to me like a suovetaurilia, as displayed on the Arch of Constantine and the back of the Plutei of Trajan, or perhaps it's just a cattle being sold at market in the Forum Boarium; it's difficult for a mere Tourist in Rome to determine exactly what the Romans were depicting 1805 years ago.

    
The south face of the eastern (right) pier of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
The bottom frieze of the southern face of the western pier of the Arch of the Money Changers shows a bull being brought to sacrifice
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
    
As much of the back side as can be seen of the Arch of the Money Changers, on Via del Velabrio, from the northwest
See all Arch of the Money-Changers photos.
See also:

Across the street from San Giorgio al Velabro you can peek into a back yard that has some remains of the Cloaca Maxima.


Cloaca Maxima
Time:about 10 minutes for each site
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time during daylight

The Cloaca Maxima was the great sewer of ancient Rome, built by the third-to-the-last king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus, around 600 BC. It was built to drain the swampy land of the Roman Forum. Originally several streams met not far from the east end of the forum and flowed down the valley to empty into the Tiber River. The construction of the Cloaca Maxima (literally, 'Greatest Sewer') took the stream underground and through an arch at the river which can still be seen near the modern Ponte Palatino (1st and 2nd photos below, and closeup in the 3rd photo below). Just walk down the steps to the river level from the city-center side of that bridge to get a close-up view of the sewer's exit point. Being an underground sewer, it is hard to get a good look at it; you can see a drain for it in the Shrine of Venus Cloacina in the Roman Forum, and where it ran through a back yard near the Arch of Janus, and where it drains into the Tiber River, all during daytime hours only.

    
The exit of the Cloaca Maxima into the Tiber River is hiding in the bottom-center of this arch
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.
    
The exit of the Cloaca Maxima into the Tiber River. A homeless family sleeps next to the drain.
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.
    
The exit of the Cloaca Maxima into the Tiber River
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.

Etruscan engineers planned the Cloaca Maxima, and semi-forced labor from the poorer classes of Roman citizens built it. The construction of the sewer spanned hundreds of years: initially it was an open drain; over time it was deepened and built over as city land became more valuable. The continuous flow of water into the city from the aqueducts helped remove waste from the sewer and keep it clear of obstruction. There were many branches off the main sewer, but those were all for public sites like public baths, public toilets and public buildings. Private residences did not connect to the sewer and probably had cess-pits. Agrippa overhauled the sewer during Augustus' reign in 33 BC, and building style and material evidence suggests it was regularly improved. Even today, the Cloaca Maxima drains rainwater and debris from the center of Rome, below the ancient Forum, Velabro and Forum Boarium. Other than the drain into the Tiber River, the other places you can see the Cloaca Maxima are in a private back yard (look through the gate) across Via del Velabro from the Church of San Giorgio al Velabro (1st photo below), at the Shrine of Venus Cloacina in the Roman Forum (2nd photo below), and at the eastern stairs of the Basilica Julia in the Roman Forum, where a door leads to the sewer. The Arch of Janus is erected right on top of the Cloaca Maxima. The Mouth of Truth might have started its life as a manhole cover for the Cloaca Maxima before it moved on to become a lie detector.

    
A fragment of the Cloaca Maxima, beside a house across the street from the church of San Giorgio al Velabro
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.
    
Shrine of Venus Cloacina, in the Roman Forum, the spot where the Cloaca Maxima enters the Forum
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.
See also:

Head back out to the front of the Arch of Janus and keep going straight through the parking lot until you hit the major road, Via di Teatro Marcello, which changed names to Via Luigi Petroselli when it crossed Via Jugario where we crossed the street a couple times. Turn right to head back toward San Nicola in Carcere and the Theatre of Marcellus. In a half-block, there is a crosswalk; cross Via Luigi Petroselli there and turn left to the fancy old building at the corner; that's the House of the Crescenzi.


House of the Crescenzi
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time from the street

The House of the Crescenzi (also known as the House of Cola di Rienzo), located right across the street from the Temple of Portunus on Via del Teatro di Marcello, was built in the 10th century to control traffic along the Tiber River and across the Pons Aemilius. It's the oldest post-antiquity house still remaining in Rome. The building is closed to the public and visible only from the outside, but I think it's an interesting sight if you're right in the area anyhow.

    
House of the Crescenzi (Casa di Pilato)
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The House of the Crescenzi, from the southeast
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The easterm face of the House of the Crescenzi, from the northeast
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The detail under the window of the eastern face of the House of the Crescenzi
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The detail above the window on the eastern face of the House of the Crescenzi
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The detail above the doorway on the eastern face of the House of the Crescenzi
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The doorway on the eastern face of the House of the Crescenzi
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The southern face of the House of the Crescenzi, from the southeast
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The southern face of the House of the Crescenzi, from the southwest
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
    
The southern face of the House of the Crescenzi, from the southwest
See all House of the Crescenzi photos.
See also:

That small rectangular ancient temple across the street from the side of the House of the Crescenzi is the Temple of Portunus.


Temple of Portunus
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Any time, view from street, no admission into temple, well-lit at night

The Temple of Portunus is a small late-republican-era temple which overlooks the Tiber River in a park-like area across the street from Santa Maria in Cosmedin. You'll often see the temple misnamed as the Temple of Fortuna Virilis, but the temple was actually dedicated to the river god Portunus. It was built in about 80 or 70 BC to replace an earlier temple from the 4th or 3rd century BC, and restored under Augustus. The bases of two statues set up in 2 BC in honor of Augustus' grandsons Gaius and Lucius, who were to succeed him as emperor but died as teenagers, were dug up in the area in front of the steps in 1551, and are now in the Capitoline Museum. The temple watched over barges as they entered Rome from the port of Ostia. Although this is difficult to imagine today with the walls that have been built around the Tiber to prevent flooding, back in the day the river was less isolated from the temple. The temple was converted to the church of St. Mary in 872 AD while it was still in good condition, and used as such during the Middle Ages, therefore was saved from destruction. It is a simple rectangular temple with four Ionic columns in the front and back and seven Ionic columns on each side, raised on a high podium. The Ionic columns in the front are free-standing, but the rear five columns on each side and the four columns across the back are all engaged ()built into the walls). The temple is built with blocks of tufo; the columns are made of travertine, but were covered with plaster to imitate marble.

    
The Temple of Portunus, from the northeast
See all Temple of Portunus photos.
    
Temple of Portunus at night, with Santa Maria in Cosmedin in the background
See all Temple of Portunus photos.
    
The Temple of Portunus, from the southeast
See all Temple of Portunus photos.
    
The Temple of Portunus, from the south
See all Temple of Portunus photos.
See also:

The Temple of Porunus is at the beginning of a small park. Our next stop in that park is the beautiful round Temple of Hercules Victor.


Temple of Hercules Victor
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Any time, view from street, no admission into temple, well-lit at night

The Temple of Hercules Victor (1st photo below) is a beautiful small round late-republican-era temple which overlooks the Tiber River in a park-like area across the street from Santa Maria in Cosmedin. You'll often see the temple misnamed as the Temple of Vesta since it is a small round temple, but the temple was actually dedicated to the Hercules Victor, called Olivarius. The real Temple of Vesta, which was a similar-looking round temple, probably leading to the confusion, is in the Roman Forum. The 2nd photo below shows the temple from a viewpoint slightly to the right of the 1st photo, and shows a column which is missing, but has a base, near the right edge of that photo. The Temple of Hercules Victor was built around 120 BC and was one of the first Roman buildings to use Pentelic marble, and is the earliest surviving marble building in Rome. It was an expensive temple to build due to the rarity of the marble used, and was of Greek design. The two windows on either side of the doorway were part of the original temple. It is 48 feet in diameter, surrounded by a ring of twenty beautiful Corinthian columns 35 feet tall (3rd and 4th photo below). The north side of the temple was badly damaged in the mid-1st century AD, and ten columns had to be replaced in white Italian (Luna) marble, along with one capital on the south side. The new capitals were of a slightly different design than the originals (see left column in the 3rd photo below).

    
Temple of Hercules Victor
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.
    
The Temple of Hercules Victor, from the northeast
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.
    
Corinthian capitals on the Temple of Hercules Victor
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.
    
Corinthian capitals on the Temple of Hercules Victor
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.

The roof is not original and is sometimes referred to as a Chinese hat (best seen in the 1st photo below). During the Middle Ages the temple was turned into the small church of St. Stephen of the Carriages, and this helped preserve the temple for our time. It was last restored in 1996. The Temple of Portunus is next to the Temple of Hercules Victor, and the Fountain of the Tritons is in the same park-like area (2nd photo below). The front door of the temple is made of glass so you can peek through to the artwork on the wall inside (3rd photo below), although the glare off the glass makes it difficult to see much. The temple is nicely lit at night (4th photo below)

    
San Giorgio al Velabro, the Arch of Janus, and the Temple of Hercules, from the Palatine Hill
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.
    
Fountain of the Tritons, in front of Temple of Hercules Victor
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.
    
The inside of the Temple of Hercules Victor, from the east
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.
    
Temple of Hercules Victor
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.

Another very small Temple to Hercules once stood nearby, where the buildings to the left of and behind the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin now stands. The statue of Hercules now in the Capitoline Museum (1st photo below) once stood in that second temple, of which nothing remains.

    
Hercules of the Forum Boarium, gilded bronze from the 2nd century BC, originally in a Temple to Hercules near the Temple of Hercules Victor, now in the Capitoline Museum (background wall is from the Temple of Jupiter)
See all Temple of Hercules Victor photos.
See also:

Beyond the Temple of Hercules Victor, up against the busy road, is the Fountain of the Tritons.


Fountain of the Tritons
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Fountain of the Tritons is a fountain reminiscent of Bernini's Triton Fountain in a park-like area across the street from Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Two tritons kneeling on a large rock support a large shell with a mountain inside. Water trickles from the mountain into the shell and overflows down into a star-shaped base. The fountain is made of travertine. It was commissioned in 1717 by Pope Clement XI to be built by Carlo Bizzaccheri, and was completed in 1719.

    
Fountain of the Tritons, in front of Temple of Hercules Victor
See all Fountain of the Tritons photos.
    
Fountain of the Tritons, in front of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, with its landmark campanile
See all Fountain of the Tritons photos.
    
Fountain of the Tritons, in front of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Fountain of the Tritons photos.
    
A triton on the Fountain of the Tritons, in Piazza della Bocca della Verita
See all Fountain of the Tritons photos.
    
A triton on the Fountain of the Tritons, in Piazza della Bocca della Verita
See all Fountain of the Tritons photos.
    
Fountain of the Tritons, in Piazza della Bocca della Verita
See all Fountain of the Tritons photos.
    
Fountain of the Tritons, in Piazza della Bocca della Verita
See all Fountain of the Tritons photos.
    
Fountain of the Tritons, and the Campanile of Santa Maria in Cosmedin from Piazza della Bocca della Verita
See all Fountain of the Tritons photos.
See also:

Have you noticed the line in front of the church across the street from the fountain? If yes, too bad; if no, that's great for you because the line to see the Mouth of Truth is not very long right now. Cross the street and get in line to see the Mouth of Truth at the left edge of the church's portico. (If you don't want to wait in line but want to go into the church, you can skip the line and enter the church through the door at the right edge of the church's portico.)


Mouth of Truth
Time:about 30 minutes (depending on the length of the line)
Cost:Free
Hours:8 AM - 1 PM and 3 PM - 6 PM

The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita) is a 5.75-foot-diameter, cracked pavonazzetto marble disc with the image of a bearded human face with his mouth slightly open. It weights over a ton. It stands on a little Corinthian capital in the left-hand end of the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The crack across it passes through the left eye, nose and mouth, and forced repair of the upper lip in a different type of marble. A good guess at its date of creation is during the 1st century BC, but this is only a guess since other sources suggest the 2nd century AD. It is generally thought to be a drain cover or manhole cover, perhaps for the Cloaca Maxima sewer. But it might also have been a wall fountain or a well cover; nobody's sure. A recent study has identified the head, which has lobster-claw horns in the hair and dolphins in its beard, as Oceanus, the god of the underground river that was believed to encircle the world, whose association in myth with Hercules suggests that the ancient drain it covered was located somewhere nearby. If you can see lobster-claw horns in the hair and dolphins in the beard you have a better imagination than me; I just see a bearded homeless guy who lives in the portico of a church. In any case it was placed in the portico of the church in the 17th century. The object is famous for its legend: if you put your hand inside the mouth and tell a lie, your fingers will be bitten off. That makes it quite possibly the world's first lie detector. This legend was popularized in the 1953 film Roman Holiday in which Gregory Peck brought Audrey Hepburn to the Mouth of Truth and scared her into a hug by acting as if his hand had been bitten off. Great movie; go watch it. In any case, partly because it's so famous from the movie, and partly because there's convenient bus parking in front, this has become a major tourist attraction. If you just want to see it, you can peek through the gate. But most people want their picture taken, with their hand in the mouth, and to do this you must wait in a line that ranges anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and contribute €1 or so at the end of the line. You usually hand your camera to your companion, or to the person behind you in line, then go stuff your hand into the mouth. To keep the line moving, a sign states you may only take one photo per visitor. Every souvenier shop in Rome sells a 6-inch Mouth of Truth for several euros; one hangs beside my bedroom closet door.

    
The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita), on the porch of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all MouthOfTruth photos.
See also:

After seeing the Mouth of Truth, go in for a couple minutes to see the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.


Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Time:about 30 minutes to see the church, about 30 minutes more (depending on the length of the line) to see the Mouth of Truth
Cost:Free
Hours:9 AM - 1 PM and 3 PM - 6 PM

The church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (1st photo below) is a focal point today in the area beside the Tiber which was once the Forum Boarium (Cattle Market) of ancient Rome. The church's tall campanile (bell tower, see 2nd and 3rd photos below) forms a landmark of this area. Most people come to this church to only see the famous Mouth of Truth (4th photo below) in the portico of the church, waiting in a half hour line to get their photo taken with their hand in the mouth like Gregory Peck did in the movie Roman Holiday, but there is much more to this church than that, and it deserves a closer look.

    
Fountain of the Tritons, in front of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
Fountain of the Tritons, in front of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, with its landmark campanile
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
Temple of Portunus at night, with Santa Maria in Cosmedin in the background
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita), on the porch of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.

The nave of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (1st and 2nd photos below) shows the church to have the layout of a simple basilica. The floors are an excellent example of cosmatesque paving (3rd and 4th photos below), a style of inlaid stonework used in medieval Italy, derived from that of the Byzantine Empire, as are the floors in Santa Maria in Aracoeli, San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Maria in Trastevere.

    
The nave of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (mosaic of 3 images)
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
The nave of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
The cosmatesque floor of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
The cosmatesque floor of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.

An interesting feature of the church is the Schola cantorum, an enclosure for the singers of the liturgy that has survived from medieval times. The Schola cantorum is shown from the back in the 2nd photo above. It is a step higher than the nave, and in the close-up photo of the inside of the Schola cantorum (1st photo below), the cosmetesque flooring is shown to be even more intricate than the floor of the nave. Pulpits (2nd and 3rd photos below) are on the sides of the Schola cantorum. The main altar of the church is in front of the Schola cantorum (1st photo below).

    
The Schola cantorum in Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
The pulpit of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
A pulpit built into the Schola cantorum of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.

The site of the church was used for religious purposes as far back as the 8th century BC, when the Ara Maxima, an altar dedicated to Hercules, stood here. A Christian church first appeared here at the end of the 6th century, but was rebuilt in 782 AD by Pope Adrian I. It was later given the name Cosmedin, which means "beautiful thing", a reference to the rich decoration of this church. Ten ancient columns are incorporated in the fabric of the church, including those in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd photos below. To the left and right of the main door (3rd photo below) are standardized Roman weights, one of which is shown in the 4th photo below.

    
Ancient columns built into the wall of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
An ancient column at the entrance to the sacistry in Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
Two ancient columns flanking the entrance door of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Note also the cosmatesque floor, and the cut-off niche at the left edge of the photo for the standard weights.
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
Standardized Roman weights in Santa Maria in Cosmedin, once used to check merchants scales
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.

A few more miscellaneous pieces of artwork are shown in the photos below. The 1st photo below shows a symbol of death, the 2nd photo below shows a frescoed archway, and the 3rd photo below shows the Paschal Candle, the twisted 18th century column on a 13th century base which includes a sculpted lion, all unfortunately in front of a confusing column in the background of my photo. Sorry about that poor composition.

    
A symbol of death in Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
Frescoed archway in Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
The Paschal candle in Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The 13th century base supports the twisted 18th century column.
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.

It's easy to miss the crypt of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. A stairway on either side of the altar leads down into the crypt. (A few euro donation was taken at the top of the stairs when I visited.) The stairs lead into a room with niches in the walls (2nd photo below), probably once used for burials. I saw no sign explaining them, it's my assumption they were used for burials. An altar (3rd photo below) is at the end of the crypt. Tufa stones in the crypt (4th and 5th photos below), first used in the 2nd century BC, are claimed to be part of the Ara Maxima.

    
The entrance to the crypt of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
The crypt of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
The altar in the crypt of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
Blocks of tufo stone in the crypt of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, said to be from the podium of the Ara Maxima of Hercules from the Republican age
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
Blocks of tufo stone in the crypt of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, said to be from the podium of the Ara Maxima of Hercules from the Republican age
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.

When you leave the church, be sure to see the inscriptions (1st and 2nd photos below) on either side of the outside of the main door. There are no spaces between the Latin words, which was common practice to save expensive papyrus, but not usually done on stone monuments. One inscription, from the 10th century, describes how a man donated land and sacred vessels to a different church, and was mounted here after that church fell into ruin during the 9th century. The other tablet, from the 8th century, describes how two brothers donated some local property to the church.

    
Dedicatory inscriptions flanking the entrance to Santa Maria in Cosmedin, with no spaces between the words, in an attempt to fit more words on a stone or a piece of papyrus
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
    
Dedicatory inscriptions flanking the entrance to Santa Maria in Cosmedin, with no spaces between the words, in an attempt to fit more words on a stone or a piece of papyrus
See all Santa Maria in Cosmedin photos.
See also:

Walk around the back of the church to see the Circus Maximus from the end near the Tiber River.


Circus Maximus
Time:about 10 minutes for either end, about 20 more minutes to walk the length
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time during daylight, I don't know whether or not its open and/or lit at night

The Circus Maximus was the first and largest chariot racing stadium in ancient Rome, located between the Aventine Hill and Palatine Hill. Think of the chariot race in the movie Ben-Hur and you'll have a good idea of what the Circus Maximus was like (except the chariot racing stadium in the movie was located in Jerusalem). It measured 2037 feet long by 387 feet wide, and could hold 150,000 spectators. The grandstands were originally made of wood. The circus was also Rome's largest venue for ludi, public games connected to religious festivals, starting with one honoring Jupiter which was sponsored by Tarquin the Proud (king from 535 BC to 510 BC). Ludi could run from a half-day to several days. By the late republic, ludi were held on 57 days each year. Eventually they were held on 157 days per year. Recall the expression that states that to keep the people happy you must supply them with "Bread and Circuses". Well, the Circuses part of that was exactly what went on in the Circus Maximus to keep the masses entertained. The Circus Maximus is depicted musically by one of the movements in Respighi's Roman Trilogy. Julius Caesar extended the seating to run almost the entire circuit of the track. His successor, Augustus, erected an Egyptian obelisk in the spina (central divider) of the track which is now called the Flaminian Obelisk and is now located in Piazza del Popolo. In the first century AD, the Colosseum was built to allow an increased number of games and to showcase the wealth and power of the empire. In the late first century, Domitian built a multi-story palace on the southern edge of the Palatine Hill where he could watch the games from the comfort his living room (3rd photo below). The palace is still visible as an imposing ruin on the north edge of the Circus Maximus. In the early second century, Trajan rebuilt the Circus in stone, perhaps because of the many fires which had swept through it over the centuries. The Circus lasted in this form until the final known races were held in 549 AD, and the remains visible today are from this rebuild. Don't expect much, though, since not much of the Circus remains except for a grass-covered race track, a slightly-raised central barrier, and grassy hills along the edges where the grandstands once stood. The original track level is 20 feet under the current ground level. The Circus Maximus is now a public park sometimes used for concerts. The Frangipane Tower is at the eastern end of the Circus Maximus (4th photo below), where there are also excavations which have discovered the remains of a second Arch of Titus, announced in this article.

    
Circus Maximus from near the eastern end near the Circo Massimo metro station
See all Circus Maximus photos.
    
Circus Maximus from the western end behind the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
See all Circus Maximus photos.
    
The Severan Arcades, built over the palace constructed by Domitian overlooking the Circus Maximus
See all Circus Maximus photos.
    
Eastern end of the Circus Maximus, including the Frangipane Tower
See all Circus Maximus photos.
See also:

Walk back to the front of the church. Cross the busy street to head back toward the Temple of Hercules Victor. But go on past the temple and head for the bridge across the Tiber River. Just before you step onto the bridge, go down the stairway on the left side of the bridge to the river level. Continue walking a short way to the large arch cut into the wall on the left side. At the bottom of that large arch is a sewer opening, perhaps 4 or 5 feet in diameter, probably mostly covered by plants. That's where the Cloaca Maxima drains into the Tiber River.


Cloaca Maxima
Time:about 10 minutes for each site
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time during daylight

The Cloaca Maxima was the great sewer of ancient Rome, built by the third-to-the-last king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus, around 600 BC. It was built to drain the swampy land of the Roman Forum. Originally several streams met not far from the east end of the forum and flowed down the valley to empty into the Tiber River. The construction of the Cloaca Maxima (literally, 'Greatest Sewer') took the stream underground and through an arch at the river which can still be seen near the modern Ponte Palatino (1st and 2nd photos below, and closeup in the 3rd photo below). Just walk down the steps to the river level from the city-center side of that bridge to get a close-up view of the sewer's exit point. Being an underground sewer, it is hard to get a good look at it; you can see a drain for it in the Shrine of Venus Cloacina in the Roman Forum, and where it ran through a back yard near the Arch of Janus, and where it drains into the Tiber River, all during daytime hours only.

    
The exit of the Cloaca Maxima into the Tiber River is hiding in the bottom-center of this arch
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.
    
The exit of the Cloaca Maxima into the Tiber River. A homeless family sleeps next to the drain.
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.
    
The exit of the Cloaca Maxima into the Tiber River
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.

Etruscan engineers planned the Cloaca Maxima, and semi-forced labor from the poorer classes of Roman citizens built it. The construction of the sewer spanned hundreds of years: initially it was an open drain; over time it was deepened and built over as city land became more valuable. The continuous flow of water into the city from the aqueducts helped remove waste from the sewer and keep it clear of obstruction. There were many branches off the main sewer, but those were all for public sites like public baths, public toilets and public buildings. Private residences did not connect to the sewer and probably had cess-pits. Agrippa overhauled the sewer during Augustus' reign in 33 BC, and building style and material evidence suggests it was regularly improved. Even today, the Cloaca Maxima drains rainwater and debris from the center of Rome, below the ancient Forum, Velabro and Forum Boarium. Other than the drain into the Tiber River, the other places you can see the Cloaca Maxima are in a private back yard (look through the gate) across Via del Velabro from the Church of San Giorgio al Velabro (1st photo below), at the Shrine of Venus Cloacina in the Roman Forum (2nd photo below), and at the eastern stairs of the Basilica Julia in the Roman Forum, where a door leads to the sewer. The Arch of Janus is erected right on top of the Cloaca Maxima. The Mouth of Truth might have started its life as a manhole cover for the Cloaca Maxima before it moved on to become a lie detector.

    
A fragment of the Cloaca Maxima, beside a house across the street from the church of San Giorgio al Velabro
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.
    
Shrine of Venus Cloacina, in the Roman Forum, the spot where the Cloaca Maxima enters the Forum
See all Cloaca Maxima photos.
See also:

Go back up the stairs, cross over to the sidewalk along the far side of the bridge, and turn left to walk across the Tiber River. Just a short way down is the remaining segment of Pons Aemilius, now called Ponte Rotto (the Broken Bridge).


Pons Aemilius
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time; I don't know whether it's lit at night

The Pons Aemilius (Ponte Emilio), now called the Ponte Rotto ("Broken bridge"), is the oldest surviving bridge in Rome. It was the first stone bridge across the Tiber River, begun in 179 BC, to replace a wooden bridge. Construction was supervised by two censors: Marcus Aemilius Laepidus and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior. It was completed in 142 BC, having taken so long because it was the first of its kind built in Rome. It was named after one of the supervisors. Since the bridge was built at a bend in the river where the water turbulence is stronger, the bridge was subject to extreme wear and had to be restored by Augustus in 12 BC, only two centuries after it had been built. It was renamed as Pons Maximus, to remark on its length; it was the longest of Rome's ancient bridges. In the 13th century, the bridge collapsed after having served for over 1200 years. The rebuilt bridge was badly damaged by floods in 1557. It was repaired, but in 1598, floods swept away two supporting piers and three of the arches, and it was never fully repaired again. In 1887, most of the rest of the bridge was destroyed during blasting to build the new banks of the river, leaving behind only one arch, which remains in the river. It is most easily observed from the Ponte Palatino which runs next to it.

    
Pons Aemilius, the oldest surviving bridge in Rome, from Ponte Palatino (Tiber Island in the background)
See all Pons Aemilius photos.
    
Pons Aemilius, the oldest surviving bridge in Rome, from Ponte Palatino
See all Pons Aemilius photos.
    
Pons Aemilius, from the north, from the southeast end of Tiber Island, with Ponte Palatino behind it and the outlet of the Cloaca Maxima at the left edge
See all Pons Aemilius photos.
See also:

Look past Pons Aemilius to the island in the middle of the Tiber River. That's Tiber Island and will be one of our next stops. But now, if you can safely, cross the two lanes of traffic on the bridge so you're looking the opposite direction down the river, and look back at the Cloaca Maxima on your left, just barely in front of you. Look further down the river and notice the tall hill on the left side of the river, just a short way down. Tha's the Aventine Hill; you'll need to decide a bit later whether to hike there (in my opinion, it's worth it). Meanwhile, here's the information about the bridge you're standing on, Ponte Palatino.


Ponte Palatino
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Ponte Palatino is an iron bridge across the Tiber River resting on 4 stone pillars which spans from near Santa Maria in Cosmedin to Trastevere. It was built between 1886 and 1890, when most of the Pons Aemilius was swept away by a flood. It is one of Rome's longest bridges (510 feet), but not one of its most picturesque ones. The name comes from the Palatine Hill nearby to the north. On the Palatine side of the bridge is the Forum Boarium (the area around Santa Maria in Cosmedin), and the outlet of the still functioning Cloaca Maxima can be found here. From the bridge, you can see the last remaining arch of the Pons Aemilius and Tiber Island.

    
Ponte Palatino is the bridge in the right third of this image
See all Ponte Palatino photos.
    
Under Ponte Palatino
See all Ponte Palatino photos.
    
Ponte Palatino, with Pons Aemilius in front of it on the right, and the outlet of the Cloaca Maxima behind it on the left, taken from on Ponte Fabrico
See all Ponte Palatino photos.
See also:

Finish crossing the bridge. You're now in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, but we're not going to stay long at all. Turn right as soon as you step off the bridge and take the short walk along the river to the next bridge, Ponte Cestio.


Ponte Cestio
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Ponte Cestio, or Pons Cestius is a Roman stone bridge which spans the Tiber River from Tiber Island southwest to Trastevere. It was built between 62 and 27 BC, after the Ponte Fabrico was built, which spans from Tiber Island northeast to central Rome. In the 4th century the bridge was rebuilt using tuff and peperino, with a facing of travertine. Some of that travertine came from the demolished portico of the Theatre of Marcellus. When the walls along the river were built in 1888-1892, the bridge was demolished and rebuilt, since the channel it spans was widened from 157 to 260 feet. The central arch of the new bridge reused about one third of the material from the original bridge.

    
Ponte Cestio and Tiber Island, from Ponte Palatino
See all Ponte Cestio photos.
    
Ponte Cestio, from the Trastevere end of the bridge, looking toward Tiber Island
See all Ponte Cestio photos.
    
Ponte Cestio, from the Tiber Island end of the bridge, looking toward Trastevere
See all Ponte Cestio photos.
    
Ponte Cestio, from the west, while walking on Tiber Island
See all Ponte Cestio photos.
    
Ponte Cestio from the southeast, while walking on Tiber Island
See all Ponte Cestio photos.
    
Ponte Cestio from the west, on my Tiber River cruise
See all Ponte Cestio photos.
See also:

Cross the Tiber River on the Ponte Cestio to Tiber Island.


Tiber Island
Time:about 40 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina) is one of two islands in the Tiber River. It is found at a bend in the river in Rome, the other is the much larger Isola Sacra near the mouth of the river at Ostia. The island is shaped like a boat, and is about 900 feet long by 220 feet wide. It has been connected to the city on both sides since antiquity. First, the Ponte Fabrico was built in 62 BC, connecting the island to the Campus Martius bank. Then Ponte Cestio was built to connect the island to the Trastevere bank. According to legend, the island formed after the fall of the tyrannical king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, in 510 BC. The angry Romans threw his body into the Tiber, it sunk and accumulated dirt and silt, eventually forming the island. An alternate version of the legend says the people destroyed his enormous stash of crops by throwing them into the Tiber, and the amount was so great that it formed the island. In 293 BC there was a plague in Rome, and the senate decided to build a temple to Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing. They sent a delegation to Geece to obtain a statue of the deity. They also obtained a snake, and when the snake curled around the mast of their ship, they took it as a good sign. When they arrived in Rome the snake slithered off the ship and swam to Tiber Island; the Romans took that as a sign from Aesculapius to build his temple there. Or maybe they just built it there so the sick people could be isolated from the main part of the city. In any case, the temple was built and the island was modified to resemble a ship; travertine marble was added by the banks to resemble a ship's prow and stern, and an obelisk (no longer standing) was erected on the island to represent a mast. Other shrines which no longer exist were dedicated to other gods on the island over the years, but the association with Aesculapius and healing is the one that has "stuck". In the early Middle Ages, after the temple had already fallen, monks formed a hospice on the island where sick people could be treated. This grew in reputation until eventually in 1584 a real medical hospital was built which is still in operation. Today, the bridges survive (but Ponte Cestio has been rebuilt and reuses only a small amount of the original material), and small traces of the original travertine marble remains on the southern end of the island. There are some stores and a church and the afore-mentioned hospital on the island. A flight of steps leads down from the island to the river level, where a walkway runs all the way around. The walkway is enjoyed by both tourists and locals to stroll, sunbathe, and attend cultural events held on the island. The walkway also makes a great viewpoint for taking a close look at the old bridges.

    
Tiber Island
See all Tiber Island photos.
    
Tiber Island, from the Trastevere end of Ponte Cestio
See all Tiber Island photos.
    
Tiber Island
See all Tiber Island photos.
    
Tiber Island
See all Tiber Island photos.
See also:

Cross over Tiber Island and continue across Ponte Fabrico to get back into the main part of Rome.


Ponte Fabrico
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Ponte Fabrico, or Pons Fabricius, also known as Ponte Quattro Capi, is the oldest Roman bridge which still exists today in its original state. This pedestrian-only bridge is 200 feet long, 18 feet wide, and connects Tiber Island with the Campus Martius. Tiber Island is, in turn, connected to the other side of the river, the Trastevere side, by Ponte Cestio. Ponte Fabrico consists of two wide arches supported by a central pillar, and has a smaller opening within the pillar to permit a larger flow of water when the level of the Tiber River rises. The southeastern side of the bridge is shown in the 3 photos below.

    
Tiber Island, on the left, and Ponte Fabricio, above the center, photographed from Ponte Palatino
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Tiber Island (center) and the Ponte Fabrico (right), which connects it to the Campus Martius
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Ponte Fabrico, spanning the Tiber River between Tiber Island and Campus Martius
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.

It was built in 62 BC to replace a wooden bridge that had been destroyed by fire. Lucius Fabricius was the officer in charge of street maintenance at the time of construction, and he had his name and title inscribed four times on the bridge, at the top of the four main arches (1st and 2nd photos below). Those four inscriptions read: "L FABRICIVS C F CVR VIAR FACIVNDVM COERAVIT", which translates as "Lucius Fabricius, Son of Gaius, Superintendent of the roads, approved that it be built". The inscription above the central smaller arch (3rd photo below) reads "EIDEMQUE PROBAVIT", or "He tested it himself". OK, so maybe Lucious Fabricius liked to blow his own horn a bit too much, but after all, the bridge has been in continuous use ever since then. The inner core of the bridge is made from tufa and peperino. That core was originally faced with travertine; some of it was replaced by bricks during a restoration in the late 17th century. The 4th photo below shows the northwestern side of the bridge. More of the original travertine remains on that side of the bridge. The 3rd and 4th photos below show the small central arch of the bridge. Each bridge over the Tiber needs a defence against the pressure of the river in times of flood, and for Ponte Fabrico, this arch provides a "safety valve" that allows the raging river to flow through the bridge rather than knocking it over.

    
Ponte Fabrico, from the west, on Tiber Island. The inscription reads 'Lucius Fabricus, son of Caius, road supervisor, cared for the making of the bridge'
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Ponte Fabrico, from the southeast, on Tiber Island. The inscription reads 'Lucius Fabricus, son of Caius, road supervisor, cared for the making of the bridge'
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Ponte Fabrico, spanning the Tiber River between Tiber Island and Campus Martius. The inscription above the small arch reads "He tested it himself".
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Ponte Fabrico, from the west, on Tiber Island
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.

The sides of the surface of this pedestrian-only bridge are often lined by people selling artwork, purses, scarves or trinkets to the tourists (1st and 2nd photos below). When the police approach it's fun to watch how fast these salespeople can snatch up their wares and run, since they apparently don't have permission to sell their goods legitimately. The railings on the sides of the bridge were constructed in 1679 by Pope Innocent XI, but the original consisted of a bronze rail between pilasters such as the originals that still exist on the eastern end of the bridge (the Campus Martius end). Those pilasters are sculptures of four-sided hermes (3rd photo from one side, 4th through 6th from the other side), and the modern name of the bridge, Ponte Quattro Capi (Bridge of Four Heads) comes from these ancient sculptures.

    
Ponte Fabrico
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Walking on Ponte Fabrico from Tiber Island toward Campus Martius, in Rome
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Four-headed ancient Roman carvings on the balustrade at the Campus Martius end of Ponte Fabrico
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Four-headed ancient Roman carvings on the balustrade at the Campus Martius end of Ponte Fabrico
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Four-headed ancient Roman carvings on the balustrade at the Campus Martius end of Ponte Fabrico
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
    
Four-headed ancient Roman carvings on the balustrade at the Campus Martius end of Ponte Fabrico
See all Ponte Fabrico photos.
See also:

(At this point, if you were unable to see the Porticus Octaviae earlier, now's your chance to see it. Cross the riverside road once you've crossed the bridge and keep going straight (might be a slight jog left, then right). You'll come to a fork in the road, take the left fork, and right away you should see the Porticus Octaviae at the end of the road. Go see it, then come back to the road along the river and turn left.)

 

Once you've finished crossing the Ponte Fabrico, turn right to walk along the river road, heading back toward Ponte Palatino and the Aventine Hill beyond. Once you've passed Ponte Palatino, turn left onto the first street, passing the Temple of Hercules Victor on your left, and get yourself back in front of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Now cross the street, heading away from the Temple of Portunus and toward the Aventine Hill. Walk one block and you'll see a large bathtub fountain on your right, and a small street going up the hill to your left. We'll be walking up that street, Clivo di Rocca Savella, in a minute but first stop to see the fountain.


Abbeveratoio Bocca della Verita
Time:10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Abbeveratoio Bocca della Verita is an extremely long ground level bathtub fountain on Lungotevere Aventino, where it meets with Via di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, just south of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. A lion head at one end fills the tub with water, which drains internally.

    
Abbeveratoio Bocca della Verita (a fountain on Lungotevere Aventino, just south of Santa Maria in Cosmedin)
See all Abbeveratoio Bocca della Verita photos.
    
Abbeveratoio Bocca della Verita (a fountain on Lungotevere Aventino, just south of Santa Maria in Cosmedin)
See all Abbeveratoio Bocca della Verita photos.
    
Abbeveratoio Bocca della Verita (a fountain on Lungotevere Aventino, just south of Santa Maria in Cosmedin)
See all Abbeveratoio Bocca della Verita photos.
See also:

Now walk up Clivo di Rocca Savella which heads up the hill, bending first to the right, and then to the left, until it ends at a wider street named Via di Santa Sabina. Turn right and walk. You're now on the Aventine Hill.


Aventine Hill
Time:about 30 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Aventine Hill is the southernmost of the Seven Hills of Rome, with its tallest part being beside the Tiber River. According to the founding legend of Rome, Romulus set up his camp on the Palatine Hill and Remus set up his camp here on the Aventine Hill. Perhaps the most popular tourist attraction today on the Aventine Hill is the Aventine Keyhole (2nd photo below).

    
The Aventine Hill taken from from the Tiber River
See all Aventine Hill photos.
    
The line at the Aventine Keyhole
See all Aventine Hill photos.

Other than that, the Aventine Hill is a beautiful residential area, with elegant homes, palaces and churches. And with beautiful views off that cliff on its northwestern edge, one of which is shown in the panorama below.

    
Panorama facing northwest from the Aventine Hill
See all Aventine Hill photos.
See also:

Continue walking a short way down Via di Santa Sabina until you get to a courtyard on the right, at the church of Santa Sabina. There's a cool-looking fountain in that courtyard.


Fountain at Santa Sabina
Time:about 5 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable during the day; I don't known whether the courtyard remains open at night, or whether it's lighted

The Fountain at Santa Sabina is just a cool-looking wall fountain in which water gushes from a huge mask into a large tub, located in the courtyard in front of the church of Santa Sabina along Via di Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill. The fountain was built in 1593. The courtyard leads back to the church and to a large park called Giardino degli Aranci (the Orange Garden) with superb panoramic views of Trastevere and St. Peter's Basilica, as shown on my Aventine Hill page. There are stairs which lead up the hill to let you get here from Lungotevere Aventino, not too far from the Mouth of Truth, or you can walk up the incline of the street named Clivo di Rocca Savella.

    
Fountain at Santa Sabina
See all Fountain at Santa Sabina photos.
    
Panorama from the Aventine Hill, taken from the park beside Santa Sabina
See all Fountain at Santa Sabina photos.
See also:

After walking through the courtyard, there's a large park. If you walk to the edge of the Aventine Hill at the edge of the park furthest from Via di Santa Sabina, you'll get spectacular views of Trastevere and St. Peter's Basilica beyond it. When you're finished gazing, go back onto the Via di Santa Sabina, turn right, and continue walking in the same direction you were before. In a short while you'll find a huge green door in a wall in a small piazza or courtyard that ends the road. There might be a line of people waiting to step up to the door and look through the keyhole in the door. This is the Aventine Keyhole.


Aventine Keyhole
Time:about 20 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable during the day

At the southwestern end of Via di Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill is an off-white 20-foot-tall ornately decorated wall with a large arched green 12-foot-tall door. There is probably a (hopefully short) line of people approaching the door (1st photo below), and every few minutes a van brings more. In that door, at a comfortable eye height, is the Aventine Keyhole. When you look through the keyhole, you are standing on the the independant territory of the Knights of Malta, and looking in the foreground at their beautifully manicured garden behind the doorway. A gravel path lined with bushes guides your eye across the Tiber River to the neighborhood of Trastevere in Rome. And off in the distance, perfectly centered within the keyhole, is the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Therefore you are looking through a tiny keyhole at sights belonging to three countries.

Try your luck at taking a picture of the view through the keyhole, but be warned that it is much more difficult than you might think. When I visited the keyhole, person after person walked away from the keyhole, looking at their phone screen or the back of their camera to see how their picture turned out, and there was nothing. In fact, I went through the line about 5 times, with about 4 quick photos each time, before I obtained the 2nd photo below. It's hard enough to get the camera aligned with the keyhole perfectly enough to see through it, and after that you need to adjust the camera settings manually since the automatic settings are easily fooled by the unusual small spot of light surrounded by dark bushes that comes through the dark keyhole. Good luck with a photo, be sure to enjoy the view with your eye.

    
The wall and doorway in which the Aventine Keyhole is found
See all Aventine Keyhole photos.
    
The view through the Aventine Keyhole
See all Aventine Keyhole photos.
See also:

Walk back along Via di Santa Sabina in the direction you came from. The second street on the right is Via di Sant'Alessio, turn right and walk gradually down the hill. That road ends at Via de Decii where you should turn right and walk around the curve to the left and end up with a park named Piazza Albaina on your right side that has a large fragment of the Servian Wall.


Servian Wall in Piazza Albania
Time:about 15 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Servian Wall (the black wall in the map below), also known as the Republican Wall, was a defensive wall constructed in the early 4th century BC, and named after the 6th king or Rome, Servius Tullius, who ruled from about 550 BC until about 510 BC. It superseded defensive walls that might have been dismantled in response to Etruscan demands, and was itself superceeded by the taller, stronger and much larger Aurelian Wall, built between 271 AD and 275 AD. The Servian Wall was 32 feet tall in places, 12 feet thick at its base, and 7 miles long. It was built from large blocks of tufa. To my eyes, it looks like a rough wall made of square blocks piled on top of each other, with the joints being very well done. Here we are, 2500 years after its construction, and there are not really any gaps between the stones. It is believed to have had 16 gates, but only three still exist (Porta Esquilina = Arch of Gallienus, Arcus Caelimontani, Porta Sanqualis). The Servian Wall was maintained throughout the age of the Roman Republic and the early Empire, but by this time, Rome became well-protected by its military strength and the city was essentially not walled for the first three centuries of the Roman Empire. However, when German tribes attacked the frontier in the 3rd century, Aurelian had the larger Aurelian Wall built to protect Rome. In the end, even that was not enough.

    
Servian Wall (black) and Aurelian Wall (red)

Two very cool pieces of the wall are at the western end of Piazza Albania and the nearby Via di Sant'Anselmo, about 1/3 of the way from the Circo Massimo metro station to the Piramide metro station. The part in the piazza is shown in the 1st photo below, and features an arch for a defensive catapult from the late Republic. Just a short walk uphill along Via di Sant'Anselmo shows an awesome stretch of the wall where you can easily see both sides of the wall, and also a cross-section of the wall in order to learn a bit about its construction (2nd and 3rd photos below).

    
Servian Wall in Piazza Albania
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.
    
Servian Wall on Via di Sant'Anselmo
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.
    
Servian Wall on Via di Sant'Anselmo
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.
See also:

Turn left onto the main road, Viale Avantino and walk to the Circo Massimo metro station, a couple blocks down the road. You might want to get a good look at the Frangipane Tower and the Circus Maximus and even the Piazza di Porta Capena from this end before hopping on the metro and taking a well-deserved rest.



If you'd like to support my effort in creating this web page, or own a copy of this site in Kindle format for offline usage, please buy my ebook (it's cheap, I promise), or my other ebook, or buy a print.

[Home]   [Licensing]                       copyright (c) 2012-2018 by Jeff Bondono
Please report bugs or send comments to Jeff Bondono