Rome's Top 10 : The Colosseum and Imperial Fora

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This rich archaeological zone, rudely intruded upon by Mussolini’s Via dei Fori Imperiali, contains some of the most grandiose and noteworthy of Rome’s ancient remains. Dominating the area is the mighty shell of the Colosseum, constructed in AD 72–80 under the Flavian emperors and originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. The quarter also holds other imperial wonders, such as the Arch of Constantine, the gigantic fora of various emperors, most notably Trajan’s, and the 1st century AD folly of Nero’s Golden House, now a subterranean revelation of Roman interior design. Plans are under way to turn the area into one great archaeological park, and the broad thoroughfare crossing the zone is more and more frequently closed to traffic, as those aims are gradually realized.

  • 06 3996 7700 (reservations for all archaeological sites)


  • Piazza del Colosseo

  • Open 8:30am–1 hr before sunset daily

  • Adm €9.00 (includes the Palatine)

Trajan’s Markets

  • Via IV Novembre

  • 06 6978 0532

  • Open 9am–7pm Tue–Sun

  • Adm €6.50

Nero’s Golden House

  • Viale della Domus Aurea

  • limited access, call in advance

  • Adm €5.00

Mamertine Prison

  • Clivo Argentario 1

  • Open 9am–5pm (winter), 9am–7pm (summer) daily

  • Donation

Area Guide

Expect to take three hours to see everything. There are likely to be queues for the Colosseum and for Nero’s Golden House; a guided tour is mandatory, with only 30 people at a time, so booking is advised. Use the Via IV Novembre entrance to Trajan’s Markets. The other fora are viewed from Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Original Plan of the Imperial Fora

Loggia, House of the Knights of Rhodes

One of the friendliest places for a light meal is Caffé Valorani, at Largo Corrado Ricci 30.

At the Colosseum, use one of the student guides – they work for tips and really bring the place to life.

Top 10 Sights
  1. Colosseum

    Here the imperial passion for bloody spectacle reached its peak of excess. When Emperor Titus inaugurated the amphitheatrein AD 80, he declared 100 days of celebratory games, some involving the massacre of 5,000 wild beasts. All such slaughter-as-sport was legal until AD 523 .

  2. Trajan’s Markets

    The emperor and his visionary architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, built this attractive, very modern looking shopping and office mall in the early 2nd century AD. There were 150 spaces in all, the top floor utilized by welfare offices, the lower levels by shops of all kinds.

  3. Nero’s Golden House (Domus Aurea)

    This mad emperor’s self-indulgence resulted in the largest, most sumptuous palace Rome ever saw, yet it was meant only for amusement. In its heyday it covered several acres and boasted every luxury, including its own forest .

  4. Trajan’s Forum and Column

    Trajan’s Forum was so splendid that it left all who beheld it awed by its nobility. Now cut off by modern streets, all that stands out is the magnificent column, commemorating in fine graphic detail the emperor’s victories in what is now Romania. Access to part of it is through Trajan’s Market.

  5. Arch of Constantine

    This arch marks the victory of the first Christian emperor over his rival emperor Maxentius . Yet it is mostly a pastiche of pagan elements taken from several earlier monuments – the beautiful hunt-scene roundels come from a temple dedicated to Emperor Hadrian’s male lover, Antinous.

  6. Mamertine Prison

    Legend holds that St Peter was imprisoned here. Prisoners were originally dropped down through a hole in the floor and the only exit was death.

  7. House of the Knights of Rhodes

    This 12th-century priory was owned by the crusading order of the Knights of Rhodes. Inside are the original portico, three shops and the Chapel of St John.

  8. Forum of Nerva

    If Pope Paul V hadn’t stripped it to build the Acqua Paola fountain in the 17th century, the main attraction here would have been the Temple of Minerva. Two Corinthian columns remain, and a frieze above, depicting the myth of Arachne.

  9. Forum of Julius Caesar

    The first of Rome’s Imperial Forums. Caesar’s line, the Julians, traced their ancestry back to Venus herself, so he erected the Temple of Venus Genetrix (46 BC) and placed there statues of himself and Cleopatra, his great love.

  10. Forum of Augustus

    Julius Caesar’s successor  made the focus of his forum the Temple of Mars the Avenger, identified by the broad staircase and four Corinthian columns.

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