It's the most beautiful hill in Rome, located near the Tiber River with a fantastic view of the valley of the Roman Forum (which is noticeably smaller from above), the Circus Maximus, the Campidoglio, the Colosseum and the horizon of temples, domes, and streets in the heart of Rome. It's the most magical place in the city par excellence, an enchanting combination of nature and history, of culture and time, where enormous Mediterranean pines stretch over the amazing arches of aqueducts and imposing ruins of palaces suitable for gods: wonders unique in Rome and in all of Italy that deserve a careful visit and which no traveler (especially not those passionate about history or architecture) should miss. For this reason, we're offering this visit at a special price, more accessible to all.
The Historical Context
It's no coincidence that it was on this hill that the history of Rome began in the eighth century BC, thanks to the strategic outlook it gave on the Tiber (from certain positions it's immediately understandable why and how). It's not by chance that here we find the oldest archaeological evidence in Rome, the huts inhabited by the legendary founders of the city. Nor is it coincidence that Caesar Augustus (the founder of a new era) built his imperial residence just steps away from the place of the city's sacred origins. Even if his choice had not been motivated by politics, he hardly would have chosen another part of the city, not only because he was born in a house on the other side of the Palatine but because already from the second century BC the biggest aristocratic families of Rome built their residences here, adopting more and more Greek architectural models and lifestyles, luxurious and refined.
It's also no coincidence that Silla, Cicero and Marc Antony lived here and that all the emperors that followed Augustus held their official residence here and enforced their growing and unmeasured power by building palaces worthy of gods rather than men, immense villas that leave us remains of an entire stadium, gigantic rooms and courtyards, mosaics and incredible terraces suspended in thin air with breathtaking views (all included in our tour). From here the emperors dominated the city even with their gaze, from here the temples of the Forum seemed (and seem still today) to bow before the will of the hand that held them in a fist, together with the small, busy men that traversed the streets and squares. The view from the level of the Forum is multiplied on the Palatine in an infinite vision from on high. We explore publics spaces in the Forum, but on the Palatine Hill we discover private spaces as well - the places where the men who conceived of the secret plots of history lived, the houses where they raised their glasses to new alliances and decreed death for their opponents. From here, the partial understanding of life in the ancient city gained from the Forum (that was never without its hill in antiquity) is complete with a fuller and more original perspective.
Official documents from the time of the Emperor Constantine at the beginning of the fourth century BC numbered 20 neighborhoods on the Palatine, with a total of 89 villas, 2742 insulae (apartment buildings with multiple floors that were common in the imperial age), 48 warehouses, 49 public baths, 90 fountains and 20 mills. A few centuries after the collapse of the Roman Empire, however, the situation was much different. At the height of the medieval era, there was an abandonment of multiple structures and buildings of the imperial age on the hill, and there was at least one Greek monastery. The city's new splendor in the Renaissance saw the hill divided into vineyards, gardens and palaces belonging to the most illustrious Roman families of the time, including the Farnese family. The Farnese family built new architecture and splendid gardens with spectacular views of the Forum (included in our tour) right on the site that was the wing of Tiberius' imperial palaces, the Domus Tiberiana, where some of the most impressive statues of antiquity came to light. Among these was the Farnese Hercules (today in the Archaeological Museum of Naples, which can be explored with our tour of Pompeii and the Archaeological Museum of Naples.
Some of the most fascinating adventures in excavation in all of Rome have unfolded over the centuries on the Palatine, and are still going on today. Explorations of the subsoil were already underway in the Renaissance and the discovery of what time and neglect have covered and forgotten still continues today.
You can see all of this, comprehend it, and travel through it with our tour of the Palatine.
The themes of the visit
The luxurious imperial residences include the enormous stadium of Domitian, the Triclinium (the banquet room equipped with a heating system), the Basilica (the spacious room where emperors held public audiences), and the Severan Baths near the Circus Maximus. In front of refined architecture and precious marbles, we will retrace the lives of the emperors, the politics of the time, military and economic issues, the great changes in lifestyle and daily life that happened in the imperial age that changed the face of Rome as well as the habits and thoughts of the Romans. We will learn of the great emperors that lived and died here, their destinies, their immense power and equally immense terror (given that very few died of natural causes). We will trace their merits, their curiosities and obsessions, balancing the legend of their unlimited power with the similarly unlimited number of obligations they were subject to.
On the other side of the hill from the eighth century BC huts and the House of Augustus (a site accessible by only 5 people at a time that does not offer reserved entry, which is why we don't guarantee a visit inside) from the end of the first century, we plunge into the crucial years of the empire, exploring the complex maneuvers and strategies of Octavian Augustus. With his incomparable guile and cunning mind, and he was able to promote - without actually implementing - a return to the ancient Roman customs (mos maiorum) in a century overwhelmed by corruption coming from wealth and luxury, after the conquest of Greece and the Orient.
The House of Augustus, which was long thought to be of modest dimensions because of Suetonius' rather subjective account Lives of the Caesars, today seems much larger and less humble, spread over two floors with the top consisting of the high Temple of Apollo (the god who protected Augustus). In this case as well, we see the gap between privilege and equality, between his respect for the Senate's authority and his incessant subjection of it, which summarizes the role that Augustus claimed in Roman society: primus inter pares, first among equals. Despite this, his accumulating ranks that went against republican principles made him less and less equal to others.
The nearly 130 meters of tunnel, the Cryptoportico of Nero, that lead from the House of Augustus to the Farnesi Gardens on the side of the hill overlooking the Forum, are to be traversed with bated breath. The many fragments of luxurious decoration ordered by the cursed emperor are original, and the atmosphere of anxiety that stung the soul of that man is unaltered. The legends about him have been extended indefinitely, depriving the figure of Nero of his real historical complexity.
The Farnesi Gardens, with fountains clinging to the sides of the hill, will lead us in a fascinating rediscovery of antiquity and of the passion for collecting that motivated men from the Renaissance onward. Here, we take in the regal view that the new princes of the Renaissance (the Farnese family and Pope Paul III in particular) enjoyed, together with the works of art recovered and gathered in the Palatine Museum. The exquisite beauty found inside will give us an idea of the splendor found in the ancient imperial palaces.
The last stop will be a secret corner, unique to the Palatine and very near the Colosseum, where archaeologists are bringing impressive new structures to light. According to many scholars, these structures could be part of Nero's futuristic hall, the Coenatio Rotunda of his Golden House, which simulated the movement of the sky by rotating, to the delight of the artist emperor. The complex central axis and the enormous radial frames make visitors think of rotating structures of science fiction. The view overlooking the valley of the Colosseum supports the theory that the famous hall was right here and nowhere else.
We think that visiting this corner of the Palatine, where the dreams of the past are excavated and brought to life, is best way to complete an enchanting journey through the spaces and culture of ancient Rome, exploring the houses of the powerful and their destiny throughout time.