Rome from the Ancient to the Modern


From Hotel Nord Nuova Roma turn right and walk straight down Via Giovanni Amendola about 100 meters until you get to Via Cavour, turn left and go towards Temini Railway Station. Once there catch any bus that will take you to Piazza Venezia and get off at the last stop on Via Nazionale. Cross the intersection and by walking next to the high walls of Via Aldobrandini, you will arrive at Largo Magnanapoli where after a few yards you will find the gates to the archeological area of Trajan’s Markets and Forum. (Hours: 9 am to 7 pm. Closed on Mondays).

The markets are situated in the area known today as the Imperial Forums, the remains of which constitute a vast area built-up from the middle of the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 2nd century AD, in the valley between Campidoglio and Quirinale.

The only through street is Via Biberatica whose entrance is found on the upper part of the Grillo and on the current Via Nazionale.
The large built-up area can be subdivided into an upper part and a lower part.

The upper part consists of the large hall, the central body, the structures of the back areas which correspond to the current garden of the medieval tower of the Militia as well as the structure along the upper part of the Grillo and continuing on along the semi circle of the Casa dei Cavalieri di Rodi (House of the Knights of Rhodes). 

The lower part, which goes up to the Forum, includes the small arched shops. The markets are covered with clay block which differentiates them from Trajan’s Forum which are clad in marble.

The markets located in this large city-planning project gradually led to the differentiation of the economic and commercial functions of the Roman Forum.

The column which can be seen here is in reality the tomb of Emperor Trajan.

It is situated where the Quirinale hill meets the Capitolino hill and rises to a height of 40 meters, not including the actual statue of Saint Peter, and is comprised of 18 marble blocks and describes all phases of the two military campaigns that Marcus Ulpius Traianus (Trajan) victoriously led against the Dacians, the present day Rumanians.

Exit this area and after going down the steps of Via Magnanapoli, you then find the column on your left and on the right are the two little churches of SS Nome di Maria and Maria di Loreto.

On your left, take Via dei Fori Imperiali and you will notice the recent excavations which have unearthed fifteenth and sixteenth century palaces torn down during the fascist era of Benito Mussolini to make room for the long tunnel which connected Piazza Venezia to the Coliseum in order to demonstrate Italy’s war-making capabilities to its ally Adolf Hitler.

The Imperial Forums belonged to Julius Caesar and the emperors Augustus, Nerva and Vespasian, and can be seen along the side of the street or by following the path indicated by the Office of Italian Cultural Heritage by requesting information at a tourist stop, one of which is on the street near the Visitors Center. 

Upon returning to Piazza Venezia, your itinerary continues by entering the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Homeland) which rises on top of Capitolino Hill. This monument is dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II and was designed by Sacconi in 1885, to celebrate the newfound national unity, and inaugurated in 1911. The cold white color of the marble does not harmonize with the warm hue of the widely-used travertine during the Augustan era in Rome, and considering the classical inspiration of its architecture, it does not blend well with the more ancient structures surrounding it. Starting in 1921, it also became known as the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Climbing up the large steps of the monument, from the portico one can see a splendid part of the city; from the piazza below your eyes follow Via del Corso up until Piazza del Popolo, a busy intersection and main artery of the city. (Entrance free of charge).

The piazza is dominated by the ancient Palazzo Venezia, built in 1400 as a modest residence, which has had many owners, including Napoleon, who sent his representatives to the Holy See. 

In 1929, after the first World War, the Palazzo became the official seat of the fascist government of Benito Mussolini and its museum was reopened to the public only after World War II.

Today it is headquarters of the offices of the Fine Arts and Antiquities of Rome and the Ministry of Culture Heritage. In the adjacent Piazza San Marco is the fifth century church of the same name with its Romanesque bell tower.

Under the portico is the funerary lapidus of Giovanna Caetani, also called Vannozza, the mistress of Pope Alexander VI Borgia. On the other side of the piazza is the Palazzo dell Assicurazioni.

The Altare della Patria and Palazzo Venezia hold interesting exhibitions year round.

We now suggest that you go toward the Capitolino Hill that is positioned like a threatening defense rock, secured near the curve of the Tiber river near the sole passage, Isola Tibertina, that the river presents in the city. 

In the piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo, on the left we can see the Palazzo Nuovo and on the right the Palazzo dei Conservatori and completing the piazza in the back is the Palazzo Senatorio. In the center of the piazza is the equestrian bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius. 

Inside the Palazzo Nuovo, you can see famous original pieces in marble including the famous “Dying Gaul” and the “Capitoline Venus”. 

Under the Palazzo dei Conservatori, the tufa base of Jupiter’s Temple was discovered, that dates back to the 6th century BC erected by King Tarquinius, modeled on Estruscan temples.

Inside the palazzo were the five bronzes that Pope Sixtus IV donated to the Roman people in 1471. You can see the Lupa (the Capitoline Wolf), the Spinario (Little boy picking a thorn from his foot), the Camillo, the head and hand of Costantine and the Palla Sansonis, original nucleus of the Capitoline collection which continues to give fame to this, the first museum in the world. 

The Palazzo Senatario – where today the city administration meets in the Sala Giulio Cesare – was built on top of the ancient Tabularium (78 BC), the ancient state archives in which laws engraved on bronze tablets, were kept.

Piazza Campidoglio is shaped in such a way that it is not only the arrival point but at the same time the transition from the Renaissance city to the ancient imperial capital. 

Note the symmetry of the trapezoid-shaped Piazza Campidoglio, with an axis that goes from the ancient steps, through the statue of Marcus Aurelius and ends up at the Bell tower of Palazzo Senatorio.

The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius is set in the middle of an oval area of the piazza, convex like that of a shield, with the image of a twelve-pointed star corresponding to the number of zodiac houses and apostles. 

We suggest you take a break at the Roof Garden of Palazzo Conservatori from where you can also admire a splendid view of the city. 

Before returning to the Hotel, don’t miss the chance to visit the archaeological area right under the Campidoglio on Via Teatro di Marcello. 

The Teatro di Marcello (Theater of Marcellus) started in 17 BC by Augustus, is dedicated to his nephew and heir Marcellus who died prematurely. It was used for mime and comedy shows.

The technique used on the convex façade was a technique that was repeated in the Amphitheater of Flavius, better known as the Coliseum.

The original height of the Theater was about 32.6 m over three floors, the first and second in the Ionic and Doric orders, while the third was built with a closed attic in the Corinthian order, on the vault are large theatre masks in marble. 

The theater, whose diameter measures 128.80 m, could hold up to 15,000 spectators.

With the fall of the Roman empire, even the Theater’s use was modified and became a quarry for tufa and travertine and noble families built their 
fortified residences there.

In 1368, the Savellis became the owners, but the last ones to own the Theater were the Orsinis. Two large bears (orsi) stand guard on the sides of the entrance facing the Tiber River as a memorial to the name. 

The flooding of the river brought land to fill the lower half of the arch allowing artisans and merchants to set up shop underneath them.

The most recent excavations have revealed the Roman-era walking ground.

Other possible places for a break are the bar on Via del Teatro Marcello at the corner of Via Campitelli, or enter Portico d’Ottavia where you will find typical Roman/Jewish restaurants or, in Piazza Margana where you can find traditional Roman dishes in typical small eateries.

To get back to the Hotel Nord Nuova Roma, catch bus number 170 at the bus stop between Vittoriano and the ancient steps of Campidoglio.