Rome is full of the famous remnants of antiquity, but the bulk of the attention goes to the Colosseum and the Forum. They are renowned for good reason, yet there are other ruins and monuments that are equally impressive but receive little attention. Here are a few of our favorite pieces and places, see if you can spot them on your next trip to Rome!
Not exactly ancient, these marble and bronze maps of ancient Rome were part of Mussolini's propaganda glorifying the Roman empire. They line the exterior wall of the Basilica of Maxentius as you walk up the Via dei Fori Imperiali, heading towards the Colosseum and provide a very public way of broadcasting just how vast the Roman Empire was at its peak.
Most visitors simply walk past Trajan's Market as they head to the Colosseum or Roman Forum, but the marketplace is well worth its own visit. A good portion of the structure remains standing, and you can explore the multiple levels, allowing you to experience how the marketplace would have functioned. Plus, it's practically empty! The market is a wonderful choice when the day is too hot for tackling the crowds at the Forum.
The Arch of Constantine gets most of the attention, but only 10 minutes away lies the Arch of Septimius Severus, at the far end of the Roman Forum. Like many ancient Roman structures that dot the city, this arch owes its great state of preservation to the fact that it had been incorporated into a Christian church, another example of the city's continuous recycling of structures.
Did you know that the Romans used different colors and grades of marble, not just the Travertine marble we see most often? There are still examples of marble flooring up on the Palatine Hill where it's possible to see some of the beautiful colors of marble that were used to make the designs of the original floor - just splash a tiny bit of water from a bottle onto the slabs, washing away the dust and revealing the brilliant colors. Relate this back into the map of the ancient Roman Empire and everything makes sense, as they had access to types of marble coming from all over the world!
Built over the remains of several ancient temples, this medieval church is a clear example of the Roman tradition of building the next iteration on, and in, the foundations of the previous structure. At a time when reuse has become in vogue, it's interesting to think that the Romans were already at it thousands of years ago.
For over 2000 years, Romans have been reusing pieces of the past. The word for this reuse of building material is spolia. The next time you are walking down a street in Rome, keep your eyes out for a column, a piece of a tombstone, or even a cornice of an entablature, incorporated into the existing wall. In this particular instance, the wall in question was once the studio of Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova. Perhaps inspired by the past he wished to decorate the exterior of his studio with ancient artifacts?
Built by Augustus, restored and renovated multiple times over the centuries and later used as a fish market, the Portico d'Ottavia, located in the Jewish Ghetto, has seen many changes over the centuries. Approaching the Portico from behind, it's possible to get the full sense of the medieval house built into the portico - a house that is still inhabited to this day. Photo by Daniele Muscetta
Part of the National Museum of Rome, the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is one of our favorites. We recommend viewing the collections after the Colosseum and Roman Forum, in order to take in the incredible collection of frescoes, mosaics and statuary, collected from excavated Roman villas. It brings the ruins to life in terms of what daily life would have been like, and the detail on the mosaics and statuary such as the Boxer, a rare surviving example of an ancient bronze sculpture, are impressive.
If time allows, Ostia Antica is only a short train ride away from Rome. This ancient port city, which was highly connected with salt production, still has well preserved areas, such as this apartment complex. Apartment complexes could often reach up several stories in order to accommodate the bustling city, which has a population of around 50,000 at its height.