A little over two thousand years ago, an empire rose up in Rome and eventually spread across half the world. There have been many mighty empires in the history of our planet, from the Aztecs to the Byzantines and the Ottomans, but none have ever been so mighty, so feared, or so respected as the Romans. The empire the ancient Romans built lasted for more than four centuries and left roads, temples, and landmarks all over its former territories as it crumbled away. Many of those landmarks are still visible today and make for excellent vacation destinations as the world begins to open up to travellers once more.
If you already live in Europe, you don’t have to travel far to see a Roman ruin. There’s probably one in your home country – especially if you live in the United Kingdom! There’s nothing that quite compares to the structures that the Romans built in their homelands, though, and that’s why we recommend going to Italy if you really want to get in touch with this legendary civilisation. We know where all the best Roman ruins and structures are, and we’re happy to share them with you in this article!
Let’s start in an obvious place. If you want to get to know the Romans, go to Rome. There, you’ll find the most magnificently well-preserved of all the ancient Roman buildings. In fact, except for the pyramids of Egypt, it’s probably the best-known ancient structure in the world. We’re talking, of course, about the Pantheon. Many people don’t know that the ancient Pantheon that stands in Rome today isn’t the original. The first Pantheon was built in the year 25 BCE but was destroyed by fire during the first century and replaced by the current building in the year 125. Amazingly, the whole building was made from cast concrete. Modern archaeologists and architects aren’t entirely sure how ancient construction workers managed such a feat, so you can share in their wonder as you look upon it with your own eyes. This incredible engineering accomplishment remained the largest domed building in the world until the 15th century – one-and-a-half thousand years after it was built!
The Roman Forum
While you’re in Rome, it would be rude not to check out the Roman Forum. It would also be almost impossible to miss it. There isn’t much left of it today, but the parts of it that are still standing are enormous! This was once the epicentre of ancient Roman life. You could easily spend a whole afternoon wandering around the Forum and taking in the sites and, in fact, we suggest that’s exactly what you should do! The Temple of Saturn is an incredible sight all on its own, built using mysterious means from enormous slabs of granite that ought to have been impossible to carve and transport two thousand years ago. You can even stand in the Curia Julia – the former seat of the Roman senate and the place from where emperors made their grand proclamations! The Forum is where the ancient Romans came for news and to socialise. The social aspect is still there, but today people come to hear word of the past rather than the news of the present.
Pompeii is a human tragedy frozen in time. It’s the aftermath of a volcano that erupted in the year 79 when Mount Vesuvius blew its top, and the Romans learned a new word – “volcano.” Pompeii was the city that took the brunt of the explosion and is still there today, buried under layer upon layer of volcanic ash and debris. It’s probably the most famous archaeological site in the world – a place where archaeologists are still hard at work today, two centuries after the city was rediscovered. Many of the areas that have already been excavated are open to tourists. Pompeii is a poignant place to be, but it’s also fascinating. The horses, carts, and homes of the people who used to live here are all around you – as are their remains. Some people find it a little macabre, but there’s nowhere on Earth like it.
Pompeii might be more famous, but Herculaneum was also a victim of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Before that happened, it was the most vibrant and important of all the port towns in the Roman empire. The eruption didn’t hit Herculaneum quite as hard as it hit Pompeii, so many of the upper layers of the ancient buildings survived. You’ll still get to see a lot of sights similar to those you’ll see in Pompeii, but there ought to be fewer crowds, and the buildings in Herculaneum are in better condition. The House of Neptune is especially worth a visit, as are the ancient Roman baths and gymnasiums.
This is where the famous gladiators of ancient Rome came to do battle in the hope of winning either the Emperor’s approval or the right to a continued existence. What happened within these enormous walls was more than a little unethical, but it passed for sport back in those days. The Colosseum is world-famous – so much so that the “Call of the Colosseum” online slots game is one of the most popular attractions at Rose Slots for Ireland. We’re not entirely sure what the builders of this mighty structure would make of their creation being used as an online slots attraction thousands of years later, but we suspect they’d probably have approved. The Romans had a notorious love of gambling, so they’d probably be playing online slots themselves if they were still around. There’s a museum within the Colosseum and a variety of official tours, but you’re also welcome to take a look around it of your own free volition and marvel at the scale of the place.
Italy is a country of beauty and wonder, and it’s worth a visit for its modern amenities as much as it is for its history. It never hurts to take in a little culture while you’re there, though, so make time and space to include these ancient sights in any Italian vacation you take. You won’t regret it!