The magic of ancient Rome – its imperial magnificence, its imperious architecture, its proud and ultimately tragic history – is still ever-present in Rome. The awareness of Caesar's footsteps, Sulla's seats, or Cicero's hangouts is still present in these ancient sites, and you can explore them – in search of Rome's Republican and Imperial ghosts – for hours.
1) The Pantheon
One of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings in the world, the Pantheon was built as a temple to all the gods (from the Greek “pan” = all, “theos” = meaning “a god”) under Emperon Hadrian in the second century AD. The building's impressive arches, geometrical symmetry, and gorgeous domes make it well worth seeing, and its location in the heart of Rome's historic quarter only makes it more appealing.
2) The Roman Forum
The center of Rome's life was once here – from temples to brothels, law-courts to food stalls. Get a panoramic view of the Forum from the Captioline Hill (behind Piazza Venezia), then visit ruin after ruin for a glimpse of what Rome once looked like, and imagine yourself as one in a long line of purple-togaed Romans (the purple denoting senatorial status) like Cicero, Pompey Magnus, or Cato. And, of course, check out the gruesome history of the nearby Colosseum.
3) The Palatine Hill
Romulus, founder of Rome, was once suckled here by a she-wolf in a hut on this hill, according to Roman legend. While a hut exists here, relics of a less mythic past include the Domus Flavia and Domus Augustana, official imperial residences. Also check out the treasures of the Palatine Museum for more insights into Ancient Roman life.
4) Trajan's Market
Once believed to be the oldest “shopping mall” in the world, the cells in this multi-level structure are now considered to have been officers for the administrative officers under Emperor Trajan. Most of the levels are still accessible to visitors, and you will be able to see marble floors and what was once a library. The adjacent museum houses artifacts from all of Rome's Forums.
5) The Catacombs on Via Appia Antica
Once the major road into Rome, Via Appia Antica is now ten miles of archaeological remnants, from parks to tombs to monuments. VIsit the catacombs near the church of St. Sebastian for a guided subterranean tour of Christian worship in an age where Christianity was punishable by death. The nearby restaurant Cecilia Metella is well worth a visit for a post-sightseeing lunch or dinner.
By Tara Isabella Burton