The Palatine Hill, located between the Roman Forum and Circo Massimo, is a breathtaking sight in Rome. With tall pine trees, magnificent ruins, and panoramic views, it is a scenic and historic location. According to legend, the city of Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BCE, and this is where the emperors of Rome lived in opulence. Visitors can see the stadium, the remnants of the Domus Flavia (imperial palace), and the stunning views of the Roman Forum from the Orti Farnesiani’s viewing balcony.
The story of the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, tells that they were raised on the Palatino by a shepherd named Faustulus after being saved from death by a wolf. The place where they were sheltered, called the Capanne Romulee, is located near the Casa di Augusto.
In 2007, the discovery of a mosaic-covered cave 49 feet below the Domus Augustana sparked renewed interest in the legend. Some experts believe that this cave was the “Lupercale,” where Romans of ancient times believed Romulus and Remus were nourished by the wolf.
The Palatine Hill, located between the Roman Forum and Circo Massimo, was once the most exclusive neighborhood in ancient Rome. According to legend, Romulus established Rome on the Palatine after killing Remus, but evidence suggests the area was settled as a village during the early Iron Age. Over time, successive emperors built opulent palaces on the hill, which is where the word “palace” originates from. After Rome’s decline, the area was used for various purposes including churches and castles, and gardens in the Renaissance. Today, most of the Palatine Hill is covered by the ruins of Emperor Domitian’s imperial palace complex, the Domus Flavia, Domus Augustana, and a stadium.
When entering the complex from the main entrance on Via di San Gregorio, take a left and continue until you reach a gate opening onto a path (open from 9am to 3pm). This path runs along the southern side of the hill, offering great views of the ruins and showcasing the evolution of the Palatino over time, as the ruins you see get older as you walk.
The first notable structure you will come across is the stadio, which was part of the main imperial palace and may have been used by emperors for private events and games. A path on the side of the stadio leads to the remains of a complex built by Septimius Severus, including a palace and baths. This area offers panoramic views of the Circo Massimo, and if open, visitors can also see the Arcate Severiane, a series of arches built to support further development.
Entering the complex through the main entrance on Via di San Gregorio, follow the path to the left until you reach a gate (open from 9am to 3pm). This trail winds along the southern side of the hill, offering excellent views of the ruins and presenting a clear historical timeline of the Palatino’s evolution. As you walk, you’ll travel back in time as the ruins become progressively older.
At the main site, the first recognizable structure you’ll encounter is the stadio. This sunken area, which was part of the main imperial palace, was likely used by the emperors for private games and events. A path to the side of it leads to the towering remains of a complex built by Septimius Severus, which includes baths and a palace. You can enjoy breathtaking views of the Circo Massimo and, if open, visit the Arcate Severiane, a series of arches built to support further development.
On the opposite side of the stadio are the ruins of the Domus Augustana, the private quarters of the emperor in the imperial palace. The building has two levels, with rooms branching off from peristyles on each floor. Although you can’t access the lower level, from the upper level, you can see the basin of a large square fountain and rooms that would have originally been paved with colored marble. Also located here are the Aula Isiaca and Loggia Mattei, two of several sites included in the SUPER ticket. The former is a frescoed room from a luxurious Republican-era home, while the latter is a Renaissance loggia decorated by Baldassarre Peruzzi.
The Museo Palatino, a small museum showcasing the development of the Palatino through video presentations, models, and archaeological finds, is located next to the Domus Augustana.
To the north of the museum is the Domus Flavia, the public portion of the palace complex. This area centers around a grand columned peristyle, which can be seen as the grassy area with the base of an octagonal fountain. From the peristyle, you can access the main halls, including the emperor’s audience chamber (aula Regia) to the north, a basilica where the emperor judged legal disputes to the west, and a large banquet hall, the triclinium, to the south.
When visiting the Palatino, be sure to stop by the Casa di Livia, one of the best-preserved buildings in the complex. This was the home of Augustus’ wife, Livia, and features an atrium leading to reception rooms decorated with frescoes. Not far away is Augustus’ own private residence, the Casa di Augusto, which boasts vivid frescoes in reds, yellows, and blues.
Close to the Casa di Augusto, but not accessible to visitors, are the Capanne Romulee, believed to be where Romulus and Remus were raised by a shepherd named Faustulus. The Criptoportico Neroniano, a 130-meter tunnel that was thought to be the site of Caligula’s murder and later used by Nero to connect his Domus Aurea to the Palatino, can be found to the northeast of the Casa di Livia.
To the west of the Criptoportico Neroniano once stood Tiberius’ palace, the Domus Tiberiana. Today, it is the site of the Orti Farnesiani, one of Europe’s earliest botanical gardens. From a viewing balcony at the northern end of the garden, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Roman Forum.
Visitors must have the SUPER ticket to enter the Casa di Livia and Casa di Augusto and access is limited to guided tours. The SUPER ticket, valid for two consecutive days, also grants access to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatino. To avoid disappointment, it’s recommended to book your entry time at the same time you purchase your ticket as the number of visitors is limited.