Encircle Rome – Two

Encircle Rome – Two features historic sites northeast and south of the Colosseum. Among the amazing landmarks are the Aurelian Wall, the Baths of Diocletian and Baths of Caracalla plus Palatine Hill. Several of these are far from the Colosseum so they are best reached by taxi or car.

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1 Crossing of Four Fountains in Rome, Italy

At the intersection of Via del Quirinale and Via delle Quattro Fontane are four elaborate fountains. Each was installed at a different street corner in 1593. Two of the personifications represent the River Tiber and the River Aniene. The other two sculptures portray goddesses: Diana and Juno pictured here. Juno was the wife of Jupiter, the mother of Mars and the queen of the Roman gods. The benefactor for Quattro Fontane was Pope Sixtus V.

Via delle Quattro Fontane & Via del Quirinale, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

2 Palazzo Barberini Now Art Gallery in Rome, Italy

Above this palace entrance is a coat of arms displaying three bees. This was the curious symbol for the Barberini family. The wealthy dynasty began in Florence with Antonio Barberini in the first half of the 16th century. His descendants flourished in Rome during the 17th century. In 1623, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VIII. To flaunt his position and create a venue for his flamboyant taste for art, he commissioned Palazzo Barberini. This was one of several extravagant projects he ordered. His lavish spending left the papal coffers in debt by the time he died in 1644. Today, Barberini Palace houses the National Gallery of Ancient Art. The museum has a collection of 1,400 artworks from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

3 Triton Fountain at Piazza Barberini in Rome, Italy

In the square in front of Palazzo Barberini is another gift from Pope Urban VIII to himself and his family: Triton Fountain. According to mythology, this merman was the messenger of the sea and son of Poseidon. The Greek god is portrayed blowing a conch shell which settled or agitated the seas. Fontana del Tritone was sculpted from travertine limestone by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and erected in Piazza Barberini in 1643.

Piazza Barberini, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

4 History of Aurelian Wall in Rome, Italy

During the short reign of Aurelian (270 – 275 AD), the Roman Emperor waged battle against many enemies such as the Goths, Vandals and Gallic Empire. His victories consolidated the Empire’s provinces in the east and west. Fearing retaliatory attacks by barbarians, he ordered a massive wall around the city. The first iteration was finished during the reign of Emperor Probus (276 – 282). The initial brick and cement curtainwall stretched for 12 miles, was 26 feet high and protected by a guard tower every 100 feet. This encircled about 3,500 acres of Rome. The defense was extended through the early 5th century. Surprisingly, more than 60% of the walls and gates are still standing.

Via Campania, 10, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

5 Porta Salaria along Aurelian Wall in Rome, Italy

What remains of Porta Salaria along the Aurelian Wall is located in Piazza Fiume. The gate is historically significant. This is where the Visigoth troops of King Alaric entered the city in 410 AD. The military action is called the Siege of Rome. For three days, they looted valuables from major landmarks and citizens. Porta Salaria was also where Vitiges, the king of the Ostrogoths, attacked in 537.

Via Piave, 71, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

6 Porta Pia along Aurelian Wall in Rome, Italy

Porta Pia is much younger than most of the gates along the Aurelian Wall. It was finished in 1565 at the bequest of its namesake, Pope Pius IV. You will be fascinated to know the name of the architect. Hint: he is often called the divine one. Answer: Michelangelo. This was among his last building designs before his death in 1564 at the age of 88. Porta Pia has another claim to fame. In September of 1870, approximately 50,000 Italians led by General Raffaele Cadorna stormed into the city at Porta Pia. The campaign called the Capture of Rome ended the Papal States and solidified the Italian unification (Risorgimento). Porta Pia is now the Bersaglieri Historical Museum.

Piazzale di Porta Pia, 00198 Roma RM, Italy

7 Baths of Diocletian in Rome, Italy

You are standing at the entrance of the biggest Roman imperial bath. As the name implies, Terme di Diocleziano was built for Diocletian in 306 AD. He was the Emperor of the Roman Empire from 284 to 305 when he voluntarily abducted his title. Yet it was Maximian, while the co-emperor and ruler of the Western Empire, who commissioned the Baths of Diocletian for his partner. This complex on Viminal Hill is enormous covering 32 acres. Among the features were hot (caldarium) and cold (frigidarium) pools inside lavish rooms, dressing rooms (apodyteria), gymnasiums, circular social halls, two libraries and intimate private rooms. Since the thermae was abandoned in 537 AD, sections have been repurposed as a church, a basilica, planetarium and a warehouse. The Baths of Diocletian is now part of the National Roman Museum (Museo Nazionale Romano).

Via delle Terme di Diocleziano, 00185 Roma RM, Italy

8 Funerary Steles outside Baths of Diocletian in Rome, Italy

Outside of the Baths of Diocletian is a row of steles of Roman soldiers from different eras and corps. They typify the simple, rectangular headstones honoring those who died in service. Among the collection are members of Nero’s Imperial German Bodyguards (Germani Corporis Custodes). These foreigners were charged with protecting emperors starting in 30 BC. They were disbanded upon the death of Emperor Nero in 68 AD.

Via delle Terme di Diocleziano, 00185 Roma RM, Italy

9 Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs in Rome, Italy

In 1563, at the age of 88, Michelangelo was asked by Pius IV to create three proposals for converting the frigidarium (large cold pool) of the Baths of Diocletian into a basilica. Part of the motive was to honor the Christian slaves who died while constructing the bathhouse. Upon completion, the Catholic church was named the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs. Pius IV was interred inside. From 1870 until 1946, Santa Maria degli Angeli was the state church for the Kingdom of Italy. The basilica is still a venue for official ceremonies of the Italian State. In the foreground is a marvelous fountain at Piazza della Repubblica. It deserves a closer look.

Piazza della Repubblica, 10, 00185 Roma RM, Italy

10 Naiads Fountain at Piazza della Repubblica in Rome, Italy

The entrances to the Baths of Diocletian and Santa Maria degli Angeli face Piazza della Repubblica. In the center of Republic Square is the Fountain of the Naiads. A naiad is predominately a female freshwater spirit. Encircling the basin are four naked nymphs. Three of them represent the lakes, rivers and underground waters. This one riding a horse is symbolic of the oceans. Beginning in 1888, the fountain was located at Piazza Esedra at the site of an aqueduct called Aqua Pia. Before it was moved here in 1901, the original four lions were replaced with the current ensemble of bronze naiads carved by Mario Rutelli. The central figure of Glaucus, the son of Poseidon, was added in 1912.

Piazza della Repubblica, 12, 00185 Roma RM, Italy

11 Rome Opera House in Rome, Italy

There are several excellent performing arts venues in Rome. At least five regularly stage operas. At the top of the list is Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. When opened in 1880, it was called Costanzi Theatre in honor of Domenico Costanzi, the building’s architect and first manager. The 1,600 seat theater has been rebuilt and renovated a few times. The latest was in 1946. The highly revered house stages productions by international performers of opera, ballet and concerts.

Piazza Beniamino Gigli, 7, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

12 Entrance of Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome, Italy

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is in great condition. It is hard to fathom the consecration was in 434 AD. According to legend, it was built on the site where snow miraculously fell during a summer night. So, it is sometimes called Our Lady of the Snows. Santa Maria Maggiore honors the Blessed Virgin Mary and is considered to be the first Marian church in the city. The bell tower was added during the 14th century. At 246 feet, the campanile is the tallest in Rome.

Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 00100 Roma RM, Italy

13 Interior of Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome, Italy

You will immediately be impressed with the interior of Santa Maria Maggiore. The array of forty columns, inlaid marble floor, plentiful 5th century mosaics and golden paneled ceiling are amazing. Look above your head as you walk inside. Notice the two papal coat of arms. This is not an ordinary church. It is designated as a papal major basilica, one of four of the highest-ranking Catholic churches in the world. Although Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is technically on Italian soil, it is within the jurisdiction of the Holy See as if part of the Vatican.

Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 00100 Roma RM, Italy

14 Apse of Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome, Italy

After leaving Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, take time to walk in back. From Piazza dell’Esquilino you see the semicircular apse. This perspective gives you a full appreciation of the basilica’s size. It measures 302 feet long, 260 feet wide and 246 tall. What an exciting religious and historical landmark. No wonder Santa Maria Maggiore is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 00100 Roma RM, Italy

15 Façade of Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, Italy

What is the highest-ranking church in the Catholic religion? If you guessed Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, you are off by about 2.5 miles. The answer is the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran. This is also the cathedral of the pope. The papal basilica is owned by the Holy See despite being located in Italian territory. And because it was consecrated in 324 AD, it is the Western Hemisphere’s oldest basilica. Surprisingly, this façade by architect Alessandro Galilei was finished over 1,400 years later in 1735. The co-patrons are Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. This amazing major basilica – only one of four in the world – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano, 4, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

16 Interior of Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, Italy

You will be impressed when you step inside Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran. The floor is a cosmatesque mosaic from the 15th century. The side aisles are adorned with colossal marble sculptures. The gilded paneled ceiling is decorated with artwork and a papal coat of arms. All of these lead your eye towards the sanctuary with a Gothic baldachin containing relics of Saints Paul and Peter. Many also believe the altar is part of a table used by Saint Peter.

Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano, 4, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

17 St. Matthew Sculpture inside Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, Italy

Italian sculptor Camillo Rusconi was responsible for four of the Twelve Apostles statues created between 1705 and 1718. This is Saint Matthew. The other three carvings by Rusconi are Saints Andrew, John and James the Greater.

Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano, 4, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

18 St. Paul Sculpture inside Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, Italy

The interior of Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran was extensively renovated by Francesco Borromini for the Jubilee of 1650. Part of his design included enormous niches in the nave. They remained empty until 1718 when filled with the Twelve Apostles. Each statue is 15 feet tall. They were carved by seven of the greatest sculptors of the time. This is Saint Paul, sculpted in 1708 by Pierre-Étienne Monnot. The artist also created the likeness of Saint Peter.

Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano, 4, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

19 Dome over Papal Cathedra in Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, Italy

Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran is the cathedral for the Diocese of Rome and the pope is its bishop. By tradition, every cathedral has a cathedra which is the bishop’s throne or chair. It is normally located in the apse behind the altar. This dome crowns the pope’s cathedra at San Giovanni in Laterano. The chair was used frequently when the archbasilica was the pope’s residence until the 14th century. Today, it is rarely used. Instead, the pontiff has the Chair of Saint Peter at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano, 4, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

20 Porta San Sebastiano along Aurelian Wall in Rome, Italy

This is the largest of the original gates along the Aurelian Wall. In 275 AD, it was called Porta Appia because it was part of the Appian Way, the main road leading into Rome since 312 BC. It was expanded during the early 5th century. Sometime during the 15th century, the name became Porta San Sebastiano to honor the nearby Basilica of Saint Sebastian. The large central archway was added before Holy Roman Emperor Charles V visited the city in 1536. Want to learn a lot more about the Aurelian Wall history? Then this is the place to come. Inside is Museo delle Mura meaning the Museum of the Wall.

Via di Porta San Sebastiano, 18, 00179 Roma RM, Italy

21 Catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome, Italy

If you have even a slight curiosity about the dead, you will want to add the Catacombs of St. Callixtus to your touring itinerary. The catacombs are spread out over 37 acres along the old Appian Way (Via Appia). Below ground, there are five levels of graves. The funerary tunnels are about 12 miles long. Estimates suggest over 500,000 people were buried at Catacombe di San Callisto, including 16 popes from the 2nd through the 4th centuries and numerous Christian martyrs. The catacombs became inactive during the 9th century and were discovered in 1849. This Christian cemetery is part of a larger, 74 acre complex called Complesso Callistiano.

Via Appia Antica, 110, 00179 Roma RM, Italy

22 Introduction to Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy

The second largest bath complex in Roman antiquity was Terme di Caracalla. This lavish social center was an enormous 50 acres and could accommodate up to 1,600 bathers. Surprisingly, it was open to all classes of citizens and free. The Baths of Caracalla was commissioned by Septimius Severus, emperor of the Roman Empire from 193 to 211. The opening occurred in 216 AD during the reign of his son, Emperor Caracalla (211 – 217) and named after him. The facilities remained popular for over 300 years until destroyed in 537 during an attack by the Ostrogoths. Today, the Baths of Caracalla are in ruins yet are a fascinating place to tour.

Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

23 Amenities at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy

The amenities at the Baths of Caracalla were impressive. The main attractions were three bathing chambers: the frigidarium (cold pool), the tepidarium (moderate temperature pool) and the caldarium (hot pool). There was also a roofless, Olympic-size swimming pool. The complex had two libraries; one for Greek and another for Latin. Also available were two exercise gyms plus steam baths, saunas, sports courts, massage rooms, entertainment areas, retailers and restaurants. In the center was a great hall with a vaulted ceiling. No expense was spared with decorations. Most of the rooms were beautifully appointed with marble, sculptures, mosaics, frescos and columns. The outside gardens and walking paths were equally attractive.

Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

24 Palatine Hill in Rome, Italy

Palatine Hill is the most important of the Seven Hills of Rome. Occupied since the 10th century BC, this is where legend claims Romulus and Remus founded the city in 753 BC. Beginning with Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire (27 BC to 14 AD), several emperors had their imperial palaces here including Tiberius and Domitian from the Flavian dynasty. In fact, the word palace is derived the hill’s Latin name Palatium. Also constructed on Palatine Hill were the Apollo Temple, the Stadium Palatinum and a bath complex (Terme di Settimio Severo). Shown here are the remnants of the palace of Emperor Septimius Severus (193 to 211 AD). His former residence is called Domus Severiana. The historic ruins make for a fascinating tour.

Via dei Cerchi, 119, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

25 Palatine Hill Overlooking Circus Maximus in Rome, Italy

Palatine Hill (seen in the background) is positioned between the Roman Forum to the north and Circus Maximus to the south. In the foreground is what remains of Circo Massimo. This valley was once Rome’s largest chariot racing stadium. The venue for public games (ludi) began in the 6th century BC. In 50 BC, Julius Caesar significantly expanded the stadium to measurements of 2,037 feet in length and 387 feet across. During the early 2nd century AD, Emperor Trajan rebuilt Circus Maximus in stone. After the last official race in 549 AD, the stadium was abandoned and its building materials were repurposed or buried. Today, little is left. However, the park is often used to host concerts and political events.

Via del Circo Massimo, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

26 Giuseppe Mazzini Monument in Rome, Italy

Across the street from Circus Maximus and next to the Municipal Rose Garden of Rome is the Giuseppe Mazzini Monument. During the mid-19th century, Giuseppe Mazzini was an outspoken – some said radical – revolutionary. He opposed Italy’s structure of Papal states ruled by the pope and advocated for a single Italy as a republican nation. His efforts were plagued by failures, criminal convictions and exiles. Yet his concepts led to the Italian unification first as the Roman Republic (1849) and then as the Kingdom of Italy (1861). The monument by sculptor was Ettore Ferrari was erected in 1949.

Piazzale Ugo La Malfa, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

27 Ancient History at Piazza Bocca della Verità in Rome, Italy

Piazza Bocca della Verità is located on the east bank of the Tiber adjacent to Tiber Island. This site is historically significant in three ways. The first gladiatorial event occurred here in 264 BC. The Forum Boarium was a cattle market. And it was Rome’s first port called Portus Tiberinus. This is Temple of Portunus, also called Temple of Fortuna Virilis. It originated in the 3rd century BC and was reconstructed in 80 BC. The Temple is dedicated to Portunus, the Roman god of livestock and ports.

Piazza Bocca della Verità, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

28 Hercules Temple and Triton Fountain at Piazza Bocca della Verità in Rome, Italy

Another remnant of ancient Rome awaits your exploration at Piazza Bocca della Verità. On the left is the Temple of Hercules Victor. Hercules the Winner is a reference to his success performing the 12 Labors. The circular building supported by twenty, 35 foot Corinthian columns originates from the 2nd century BC. This is the oldest marble building in Rome. The temple was converted into the church of Santo Stefano alle Carozze in 1132. It was dedicated to Saint Mary of the Sun in the 17th century. On the right is the Fountain of the Tritons. Fontana dei Tritoni was crafted in the 17th century by Baroque sculptor Carlo Bizzaccheri at the bequest of Pope Clement XI.

Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

29 San Nicola in Carcere in Rome, Italy

Near ancient Rome’s first port (Portus Tiberinus) and the adjoining cattle market (Forum Boarium) was a vegetable market named Forum Holitorium. Facing it were three Republican temples dating from the 3rd century BC. The church of San Nicola in Carcere was built over these temples. Yet the architect incorporated the columns of the two outer temples – the Temple of Janus and the Temple of Spes – into the façade of the new church. Exposed here are the columns from the Temple of Spes. Saint Nicholas in Prison originated in the 7th century and was rebuilt in 1128 and again in 1599. This church offers a fascinating underground tour to see structures and foundations that are over 2,000 years old.

Via del Teatro di Marcello, 46, 00186 Rome RM, Italy

30 Temple of Apollo Sosianus in Rome, Italy

Rome’s first shrine to Apollo, the Olympian deity of sun and light, was raised here in 433 BC. It was called Apollo Medicus meaning healer because the plague was ravaging the city. When Emperor Augustus built a new Apollo temple on Palatine Hill in 28 BC, this one suffered diminished importance. Yet it received a final makeover four years later by Roman general Gaius Sosius. In his honor, it was subsequently called the Temple of Apollo Sosianus. After archeologists excavated the site in 1928, these three Corinthian columns from the Augustan era were placed in their original position. The temple is next to the impressive ruins of Marcello Theater. Teatro Marcello dates back to 13 BC. The dome in the background is Santa Maria in Campitelli. The Catholic church was built in 1667.

Via del Teatro di Marcello, 42, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

31 Great Synagogue of Rome in Rome, Italy

For over 300 years beginning in 1555, the Jewish population was cloistered without rights in the Roman Ghetto. Nearly 3,500 people were forced to live in the cramped, walled-in and filthy quarters measuring less than 7.5 acres. Their harsh, segregated treatment was reversed when the Papal States became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1870. In response to their new freedom and citizenship, the Jews destroyed the ghetto walls and dilapidated structures while rebuilding decent apartments. They also constructed the Great Synagogue of Rome in 1904. In the lower level of the Orthodox Judaism temple is the Jewish Museum of Rome. The exhibits tell the stories of over two millenniums of Jewish history in the city.

Lungotevere de' Cenci, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

32 Russian Church Saint Catherine Martyr in Rome, Italy

Rome is filled with about 800 historical churches. It is uncommon to find a contemporary one. An interesting exception is the Church of Saint Catherine Martyr. The Neo-Byzantine design was finished in 2009. The Russian Orthodox church is dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. She was beheaded in 305 on command of Roman Emperor Massimino Daia for professing her Christianity. Chiesa di Santa Caterina Martire is located in the 66.75 acre Villa Abamelek Park. Nearby is the Russian embassy and residence of the Russian ambassadors.

Via del Lago Terrione, 77/79, 00165 Roma RM, Italy