What is the Roman Forum?Forums (or fora) are often found at the center of Roman cities and were the sites of commercial, political and legal decisionmaking. While most cities had a forum, none of these public spaces were as large or as magnificent as the Forum in Rome. The Roman Forum was the site of the Temple of Vesta, where the sacred flame of Rome was guarded by the Vestal Virgins, the Comitium, where the Senate met during the Roman Republic, and a host of temples and statues dedicated to the glory of the city. It was where Emperors, generals, and their soldiers finished victory parades after returning home triumphant, and it was the site of the murder of Julius Caesar in 44BC. Over time, newer structures were built in other parts of the city, and the Forum became less important. Some of the buildings were converted into churches, and some of the materials were taken to build towers and castles during the medieval period. The area fell into disrepair, but was still well-known for its monumental architecture, with artists using it for inspiration when painting images of classical Rome. Some private archaeological excavations began in 1803, but it wasn’t until 1898 that the Italian government began to excavate and restore the site.
What’s the Palatine Hill?The Palatine Hill is the most central of the 7 hills of Rome and stands in between the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus. According to the founding myth of Rome, the Palatine Hill is also where the she-wolf cared for Romulus and Remus when they were infants. Archaeological digs have found that the hill was one of the earliest inhabited sites in Rome, with evidence of use from at least the 9th century BC. During the Roman Republic, the hill was a fashionable place for the wealthy to build their homes, but from the time of Emperor Augustus onwards it became the exclusive residence of the Imperial family, with the ruins of three palaces - those of Augustus, Tiberius, and Domitian - still visible to visitors.
Should I take a guided tour?Yes! The site is easy enough to visit by yourself, but apart from basic signs which tell you the name of each piece of the ruins, there isn’t a lot of context provided. If you book a tour with an expert guide or you opt for an audio guide then you’ll get a better understanding of what you’re seeing. A tour guide will also be able to bring some of the stories to life, especially for younger visitors.
How long does it take to see the Roman Forum?Visiting the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill will take about 2 to 3 hours to explore by yourself or with an audio guide. If you take a guided tour you may want to take additional time to explore the site by yourself afterward. If you’re planning to see the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill on the same day then you should plan at least 5 hours to see everything.