Driving around Rome, we got a sense of the ancient city that was once the centre of the civilised world almost immediately. Ruins lie exposed within archeological excavations almost everywhere. But the nowhere comes as close as the Roman Forum. This was literally the centre of the centre. The business, political and religious district.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill Tour
Via Sacra, Arch of Titus and Temple of Jupiter
To get started on our Roman Forum and Palatine Hill Tour after our Tour of the Colosseum (including exclusive access to the underground) our guide walked us across the imposing Via dei Fori to the Roman Forum. We looked around at the rubble while our guide brought the scene alive, circa 2000 years ago. On our feet are Roman sandals, and we’re standing on the original Via Sacra’s basalt rocks. Suddenly there are flower petals strewn everywhere and we’re watching Caesar ride past the senate building towards the Arch of Titus, laurel wreath on his head, his brightly coloured royal toga sparkling in the sun. All the white buildings around us have bronze roofs, surrounded by cheering citizens, we watch the parade of exotic animals and other conquered booty go along the main road. Going ahead, they reach the Temple of Jupiter, where the king dedicates his victory to the Gods.
Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Virgins
Not everything in Rome was glittery fanfare and abundant bounty. There was another darker path to life, one that still ended with glittery fanfare and abundant bounty. And this, was the life of the Vestal Virgins. Young noble girls, made to live in this convent guarding the sacred flame and committing to a 30 year vow of chastity, the Vestal Virgins were promised riches and a legacy that would survive eternity. Nobody was allowed to touch them, and they were protected and pampered for as long as they served out their term. Listening to stories about them, and the harsh punishments given for the unchaste, was the eeriest part of of Roman Forum and Palatine Hill tour.
Temple of Castor and Pollux
This is definitely the most iconic sight in all the Roman Forum. These three pillars, remnants of an ancient 5th Century B.C. temple, were the podium for several public speeches in their time.
Temple of Caesar
The first Roman King to achieve God status for the way he dramatically changed the Roman empire, his death shrouded in controversy. Caesar’s body was burned here, at the mound where now fresh flowers lie. At the very spot he was standing when he was killed. The very spot in front of his house where a preacher whispered to him “Beware the ides of March”. At the very spot where Mark Antony proclaimed, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your years. I come to bury Caesar not to praise him.”
Palatine Hill and Nero’s Palace
Trudging slowly uphill in the blistering mid-day sun, we reached the top of the Palatine hill. The ambiance was a change from that of the valley. White marble ruins replaced by brick walls. The structures, however were massive. Just judging by the foundation stones, we looked in awe at how vast a space Nero’s palace (and his private racetrack/ gladiator arena) covered. Now overgrown with shrubs, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine the goings on in this area back then.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill tour was rather long, and we were definitely in need of a nice long lunch after, but it was the most fascinating and educational tour we’ve ever been on. The sheer history that surrounded us, the fact that at some point, Caesar walked the very path we were walking sent goosebumps down my arms. What’s the most historic site you’ve ever been to, and what effect did it have on you?
This was a really long tour, that began at 8:30 am and wound up only around 1:00 pm. Naturally, we couldn’t fit all of it into one post. So check out the first half of the tour that covered the Colosseum and Underground! Book your Colosseum Underground Tour plus Roman Forum and Palatine Hill Tour with City Wonders now! This post was made possible by City Wonders, opinions as always are our own.