To say it in one word, yes. Palatine Hill in Rome is really worth seeing. Everyone always gets caught up in the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Vatican City in Rome and forget that some of the most amazing sites are just up the hill.
I admit, I was one who didn’t think too much about Palatine Hill until I returned to Rome. The hill wasn’t on my radar as something I was desperately wanting to see, but that quickly changed when I walked through the gates.
History of Palatine Hill
Located just a short walk from the Colosseum, legend says the hill is where Rome began. The brothers Romulus and Remus grew up in Lupercal Cave on the hill after they were abandoned and carried there by the Tigris River. There they were raised by a she-wolf (why the wolf is a sign of Rome). The hill is the most famous of Rome’s seven hills and has an amazing 360-degree view of the center of Rome.
The hill has been inhabited since prehistoric times all the way up to imperial Rome. Ruins of huts, cave dwellings, and palaces can all be found on this towering plateau. During the Republic of Rome, Palatine Hill began to be filled with religious temples and homes of important political leaders.
Why Palatine Hill is Famous
However, once Rome became an empire, Palatine Hill became the home for the emperors and aristocrats. A few of the most famous ruins on Palatine Hill are the home of Emperor Augustus and the Palace of Domitian.
Nestled on the corner of the hill is where it is believed Emperor Augustus’ primary residence was. The home is located near the “Hut of Romulus” or where it is believed Romulus lived as an adult on the hill. When you are walking near the site, you can still see many of the frescos on the walls are still intact and retain their vibrant colors.
The largest ruin, and what makes up most of the ruins on the hill, is the Palace of Domitian. The Emperor Domitian built the palace (Domus Flavia) in the late 1st century on top of previous ruins. The palace has three main areas including a throne room, large garden, and dining room. The palace is so massive that when you are walking around, it actually feels like you are walking through multiple separate buildings, not one palace.
In addition to the main part of the palace, Domitian also had a Hippodrome (a smaller version of the Circus Maximus) built. However, it was likely used as a large garden instead of a race track. In addition to the Hippodrome, Domitian built a large bath house next to the garden.
Why You Should Visit
This sprawling campus will have you asking for more. The hill is more reminiscent of walking around a large city park than an archaeological site. Nature has started to take back some of the area with ruins shooting out of the ground every few feet. One can see why Domitian built his large palace here.
I know that when visiting Rome, you can get a little tired of seeing ruins after ruins. However, as an archaeologist and someone who has seen many ruins, Palatine has a special feel about it. It’s not just a single building, but a massive site that allows you to wander around and explore. Also, Palatine Hill is so large that you aren’t running into people every five seconds as you will do in the Forum or in the Colosseum. The hill acts as an oasis to get away from the busy streets and overpopulated sites.
So, the next time you’re in Rome, don’t skip the hill in the distance that is overlooking the Colosseum. Make sure to take the walk and visit the place that was once the home of emperors.
Guest Author: Chris Slack
Chris is a travel and lifestyle blogger who left the legal field and office world in 2017 to experience the world around her. Chris has traveled to 25 different countries and is looking to travel to more in the future. Chris’s blog, Wandering Feathers, focuses not only on her travels and experiences but also how these travels have affected her day-to-day life and future. Check out her blog: wanderingfeathers.com