An Idiot’s Guide to the Roman Ruins

A visit to the Colosseum is almost a prerequisite for any first time visitor to Rome. Adjacent to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Up until a few years ago the Roman Forum had totally free access, now all three attractions are grouped together and covered by a single ticket that is valid for 2 days.

(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

Although the Rome Metro is not the most comprehensive of systems, Linea B (blue line) has a station at Colosseum station (2 stops from Termini Station). The Colosseum is unmistakable as you exit the station. The Colosseum and Roman Forum are more than adequately serviced by local buses. The Via dei Fori Imperiali that runs from the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia alongside the Roman Forum has a dozen routes that fan out after the Piazza Venezia to most accommodation areas where hotels and hostels are situated.

Visiting the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and perhaps the nearby Capitoline Museum, would be a full day of sightseeing. The Roma Pass gives you full access to all of these major attractions for the same inclusive price. It is without question the best way – and cheapest way – to see the Roman ruins. The ticket kiosk at the Colosseum has by far the longest queues, so if you want to visit the Colosseum, do you yourself a favour and use the ticket gate at Palatine Hill. This often has no queues at all and is less than 5 minutes’ walk from the Colosseum.



When construction was completed on the Colosseum, it was the largest amphitheatre built in all of Rome and could house over fifty thousand people! The engineering skill and technology of the day was pushed to its limits by its construction and design. The Colosseum was built primarily to entertain the masses in brutal and barbaric games. Some were beast on beast combat to the death. Others were people fighting animals to the death, while the most popular was the human on human combat. Gladiators were slaves, often captured in war, that were trained in special schools to fight each other to the death.

Although in the 21st century it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Ancient Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and is arguably the picture postcard focal point of what we now know as the “Roman Ruins”.



Palatine Hill is the centremost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other.

Rome has its origins on the Palatine, and recent excavations show that people have lived there since approximately 1000BC. During the Empire, several emperors resided there, with the ruins of the palaces of Augustus, Tiberius, and Domitian still visible.


The Roman Forum was for centuries the centre of Roman public life, with triumphal processions, public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches conducted here. You will see statues and monuments commemorating the city’s great men, many of whom were victorious in these battles. As the teeming heart of ancient Rome, the Roman Forum has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world. Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archaeological excavations, that attract nearly 5 million tourists each year.

Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum. The Roman kingdom’s earliest shrines and temples were located on the south-eastern edge. These included the ancient former royal residence, as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, all of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome.

Just beyond the Roman Forum and the Capitoline Museum is the ancient city of Rome, which you’ll see as a maze of narrow alleys and lanes that are a great place to round off your day with a well chosen Italian meal, perhaps some pizza and gelato in Piazza Navona or beside the Pantheon.

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