Palatine Hill

The Domus Severiana, once owned by Septimus Severus, on Rome's Palatine Hill
The Domus Severiana, once owned by Septimus Severus. (Photo by benoitneston)

The birthplace of palaces is the Palatine Hill above the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

The Domus Augustana, built for the Emperor Domitian, atop the Palatine Hill overlooking the Circus Maximus.
The Domus Augustana, built for the Emperor Domitian, atop the Palatine Hill overlooking the Circus Maximus.

The Palatine Hill was where Rome began as a tiny Latin village (supposedly founded by Romulus) in the 8th century BC. Later it was covered with the palaces of patrician families and the early emperors.

Today it's an overgrown, tree-shaded hilltop of pretty gardens and fragments of ancient villas (only a handful of which are open to the public) that few visitors bother to climb.

(Most people actually enter it from within the Roman Forum—though it now has its own dedicated entrance south of the Colosseum on Via S. Gregorio—over the years it has sometimes been considered a separate site with a separate entrance fee—though, thankfully, not currently.)

Truly palatial

The Palatine Hill—Palatium in Latin—was the poshest address in Ancient Rome, a veritable Beverly Hills where everyone from Cicero to Catullus to Marc Antony lived. Augustus Caesar was born here, and Emperors from Caligula and Nero to Domitian and Septimius Severus made it their home. Naturally, they built magnificent mansions, sprawling villas filled with architectural wonders and great art.

In ancient times, you didn't have to say someone lived in a posh pad; you merely had to say they lived in a palatium, and it was understood. Today, Italians pronounce the word palatium as "palazzo;" the French turned this into palais, and in English we pronounce it "palace."

As such, it can make for a romantic, scenic escape from the crowds, a place where you can wander across the grassy floors of ancient Imperial palaces and peer down the gated passageways that were once the homes of Rome's rich and famous (see sidebar).

In 1998, the Museo Palatino up here finally reopened after 13 years, displaying an excellent collection of Roman sculpture and finds from the ongoing digs in the Palatine palazzi.

Many later palaces, built up on buttresses as they slowly expanded to extend beyond the crown of the hill, had a room that served as a sort of box seats section overlooking the Palatine's southern flank (see the picture below to the right).

This was so that Emperors and their guests could easily watch the chariot races and other games taking place at the Circus Maximus below, now a long grassy oval used mainly by joggers.

Currently open on the Palatine Hill:

  • Casa di Augusto (Augustus' Villa): Open Mon, Wed, Sat, Sun as follows: Mar 31–Oct 26, 8:30am–1:30pm; Mar 16–30, 11am–5pm.
  • Arcate Severiane (by the Baths of Septimus Severus): Open Tues-Fri as follows: Mar 16–30, 8:30am–5pm; Mar 31–Aug 31, 8:30am–8:45pm; Spet 1–30, 8:30am–6:30pm; Oct 1–31, 8:30am–6pm.
  • Tempio di Romolo (Temple of Romulus): Open same hours are overall site.
  • Giardini del Palatino and Vigna Barberini (gardens): Open same hours are overall site.
  • Aula Isiaca: Open whenever you can rustle up a custodian (at the museum) to unlock it for you.

Tips & links

Details
ADDRESS

Entrances: Via di San Gregorio 30 (about 200m south of the Colosseum) or Piazza Santa Maria Nova 53 (inside the Roman Forum, up the Via Sacra across from the Colosseum)
tel. +39-06-699-841 or +39-06-3996-7700
archeoroma.beniculturali.it
or
www.coopculture.it

OPEN

Daily as follows:

  • Last Sun in Mar–Aug 31: 8:30am–6:45pm
  • Sept 1–30: 8:30am–6:30pm
  • Oct 1–last Sat in Oct: 8:30am–6pm
  • Last Sun in Oct–Feb 15: 8:30am–4pm
  • Feb 16–Mar 15: 8:30am–4:30pm
  • Mar 16–last Sat in Mar: 8:30am–5pm

Last entry: One hour before closing

ADMISSION

€12

Book tickets: Reserve tickets ahead of time with Select Italy:

Roma Pass: Yes (free, or 37% off)

TRANSPORT

Bus: 75, 117, 53, 80, 85, 87, 175, 186, 271, 571, 810, N2
Metro: Colosseo (B)
Hop-on/hop-off: Piazza Venezia or Colosseo

TOURS
How long does Palatine Hill take?

Planning your day: You could wander around this hot and dusty hilltop in 30–45 minutes. To explore it more fully takes 60–90 minutes—perhaps longer, if you can talk your way into a palazzo (see below).

The ticket office closes one hour before the site.

» Rome itineraries

Cumulative tickets & passes

Cumulative ticket: Your ticket is good for two days and covers admission to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill (though you can enter each site only once). You can buy this ticket ahead of time (and skip the long lines) via Select Italy.

Or buy a ticket at any of four ticket offices:

  • At the main Forum entrance (on Via della Salaria Vecchia 5/6, on the east side of the Forum just off Via dei Fori Imperiali/Via del Foro Romano).
  • At the Colosseum.
  • At the base of the Palatine Hill at Via San Gregorio 30 (just south of the Colosseum along that wide, busy road),
  • At Piazza Santa Maria Nova 53 (inside the south end of the Forum, 200m from the Colosseum)
However, if you'll be doing a lot of Rome sightseeing, I'd invest in the pass:
  • Save with a discount pass: Admission to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill is now covered by a single €12 ticket—one of the priciest admissions in town, and therefore perfect to use as one of the two freebies you get on the Roma Pass.

    These sights are also covered by the Archaeologia Card, but that is no longer a good deal. » more
Get an audio guide

You can rent an audio guide from the entrance for €6 that gives you context and background details and walks you through the entire Forum and Palatine Hill site in about 70 minutes (don't bother with the €4 one just to the Palatine).

Palatine Hill tours
Sneak a peek in locked palaces

if you ask the museum's custodian, he may take you to one of the nearby locked palazzi and let you in for a peek at surviving frescoes and stuccoes.

Palatine = Prime picnic spot

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the pockets of greenery that survive between the excavated remains of the ancient Roman palaces.

Though picnicking here is, I believe, technically against the rules, it nonetheless remains a lovely spot to enjoy your wine, bread, and cheese—just be discreet.

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Palatine Hill
ADDRESS

Entrances: Via di San Gregorio 30 (about 200m south of the Colosseum) or Piazza Santa Maria Nova 53 (inside the Roman Forum, up the Via Sacra across from the Colosseum)
tel. +39-06-699-841 or +39-06-3996-7700
archeoroma.beniculturali.it
or
www.coopculture.it

OPEN

Daily as follows:

  • Last Sun in Mar–Aug 31: 8:30am–6:45pm
  • Sept 1–30: 8:30am–6:30pm
  • Oct 1–last Sat in Oct: 8:30am–6pm
  • Last Sun in Oct–Feb 15: 8:30am–4pm
  • Feb 16–Mar 15: 8:30am–4:30pm
  • Mar 16–last Sat in Mar: 8:30am–5pm

Last entry: one hour before closing

ADMISSION

€12

Book tickets: Reserve tickets ahead of time with Select Italy:

Roma Pass: Yes (free, or 37% off)

TRANSPORT

Bus: 75, 117, 53, 80, 85, 87, 175, 186, 271, 571, 810, N2
Metro: Colosseo (B)
Hop-on/hop-off: Piazza Venezia or Colosseo

TOURS


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