The Palatine Hills is among the most popular destinations on custom tours of Rome among our clients. One of the Seven Hills, it is also one of the oldest parts of the Eternal City. According to the legend, Romulus founded a small village here about 3000 years ago, which was the beginning of the great city of Rome. Archaeologists have fund remains of ancient huts that seem to confirm that there was a small settlement on the hill.
In the days of the Roman Empire, the Palatine Hill became a swanky neighborhood for the rich and famous. Cicero, Marc Antony, Caligula, Nero lived there in splendid villas. Today the hill is quieter than many other historic sites in the city with only some ruins accessible to visitors. It is a wonderful place to escape the heat and crowds of central Rome and immerse yourself in the glorious past of the ancient empire.
The Domitian Palace (Palazzo di Domiziano) complex dominates the Palatine Hill and is certainly worth some of your time. It includes beautiful ruins of the Flavian Palace (Domus Flavia), the House of Augustus and Stadium of Domitian. Here you can see the throne room, Aula Regia, where the emperor Domitian presided during meeting and that was lavishly decorated with columns and black statues.
House of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor’s house is one of the best preserved on the Palatine Hill and offers a fascinating glimpse into the aristocratic life in the ancient Empire. Its rooms were paved with colored marble and decorated with mosaics, the walls were covered in frescoes and there was a beautiful fountain in the courtyard.
Aula Isiaca in its early days was a luxurious private dwelling decorated with stunning mural paintings dedicated to the cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis. It was discovered under a later building, the Domus Flavia, in the 18th century. According to some historians Aula Isiaca might have been built by the emperor Caligula.
Many of the busts, statues and mural paintings found during excavations on the Palatine Hill are housed at the Palatine Museum today. If you are curious and don’t want just to stroll between the splendid ruins but also hear stories behind them, it is better to hire a tour guide as there are not many signs and explanations on the site.
Photos by: Sebastian Bergmann, Phillip Capper