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8 Can’t-Miss Ancient Ruins in Rome That Aren’t the Colosseum

You’ve seen the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Imperial Forum; now check out these impressive Roman ruins for a glimpse into the power and glory that was Rome.
Hi, I'm Gianmaria!

Gianmaria Franchini is a writer based in Oakland, CA who makes his life between California and Italy. He’s a Senior Writer with Viator, and the in-house San Francisco expert.

It’s true, everyone wants to see the Colosseum in Rome. Italy’s top tourist attraction and famous Rome landmark draws millions of visitors every year for good reason—no other archaeological site better symbolizes the Roman Empire’s former glory.

However, the city of Rome is a true open-air museum spanning 3,000 years of history, with troves of ancient ruins worth visiting. From haunting crypts and necropoles to preserved roads and Roman temples, each site adds (literal) layers to Rome’s historical heritage. So, once you’ve had your fill of gladiator battles, visit these other worthy contenders for a noteworthy trip through Roman ruin history.

1. Appian Way (Via Appia Antica)

Ruins and trees along the Appian Way in Italy.
Witness the ancient ruins inside Appian Way Regional Park.Photo Credit: essevu / Shutterstock

This ancient road was built in 312 BC and connected Rome to the southern regions.

Known as the regina viarum ("queen of the roads," in Latin), the Appian Way once connected ancient Rome to modern-day Brindisi. The Appian Way Regional Park preserves 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the ancient road and religious sites along the route, including the church where Christ is believed to have met Peter, and the catacombs of Saint Sebastian and Saint Callixtus. This section is a pleasant cobblestoned thoroughfare lined with cypress trees and crumbling Roman ruins—see it on foot, by e-bike, or by Vespa.

2. Forum of Augustus (Foro di Agosto)

The Forum of Augustus in Rome lit up at twilight.
Walk past these Rome ruins during the evening light projection for a better perspective.Photo Credit: Calin Stan / Shutterstock

This historic forum showcases impressive architecture and reflects the splendor of ancient Rome.

Built as a show of strength for the namesake emperor, this forum’s claim to fame is the Temple of Mars Ultor, with parts of the podium and supporting columns still standing. Though they’re technically part of the sprawling Roman Forum complex (Foro Romano), these Roman ruins can be seen simply by walking along Via Tor de’ Conti—or during evening light projection shows shows from several vantage points in the neighborhood.

3. Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla)

An aerial view of the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome in Italy.
These impressive Roman ruins are best experienced with a tour guide.Photo Credit: Stefano Tammaro / Shutterstock

These bathhouses showcase the advanced engineering of the Romans, as well as their dedication to opulence.

Once the second-largest bathhouse in ancient Rome, this 25-acre (10-hectare) site holds the ruins of a public spa that used to serve thousands of bathers daily. A truly vast complex with gyms, gardens, and libraries, the bathhouse can be visited independently; however, guided skip-the-line tickets are recommended, as the bathhouse is best seen with guides giving insight into everyday Roman life during Caracalla’s heyday. During summer, the baths host music and dance performances alfresco.

4. Catacombs of Saint Sebastian (Catacombe di San Sebastiano)

Inside the main floor of the Basilica of San Sebastiano in Rome.
Indoor view of the Basilica of San Sebastiano, home to the catacombs.Photo Credit: essevu / Shutterstock

These catacombs house intricate frescoes, preserving the historical religious heritage beneath Rome.

Set along the early stages of the Appian Way, these underground burial chambers beneath a 4th-century basilica were the first to be called “catacombs,” and once safeguarded the remains of Saints Peter and Paul. Home to period artworks, three mausoleums, and haunting engraved invocations, the catacombs are often seen on tours paired with visits to the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus, a nearby network of underground galleries where 16 popes have been buried.

5. Trajan’s Market (Mercato di Traiano)

The ancient architecture of Trajan’s Market in the heart of Rome in the Italian capital.
Visit one of the oldest shopping centers in the world.Photo Credit: Mitzo / Shutterstock

A marvel of ancient Roman architecture, this multi-level complex showcases innovative design and vibrant shops.

Located on the Via dei Fori, and opposite the famed Rome landmark the Colosseum, Trajan’s Market is often referred to as the world’s oldest shopping mall—though debate exists about whether the site’s arcade structures were designed for shops or administrative offices. An adjacent museum houses archeological artifacts and serves as a window onto the market’s former great hall—explore this area before viewing the impressive Roman ruins from the Imperial Roman Forum complex.

Related: 10 of the Most Historic Shopping Arcades in Europe

6. Stadium of Domitian (Stadio di Domiziano)

The green lawns of the Stadium of Domitian in Rome in Italy.
See where athletic games were hosted in Roman times.Photo Credit: Anamaria Mejia / Shutterstock

Uncover history through architecture on a tour through this underground Roman stadium.

A secret belies one of Rome's landmarks, the grand Piazza Navona that sits atop the ruins of the Stadium of Domitian, an ancient 30,000-seat stadium that once hosted public athletic games. After checking out Navona’s grand palazzi and famous Bernini fountain, head to the ruins’ subterranean entrance entrance on Via di Tor Sanguigna—below the piazza you’ll find the UNESCO–listed remains of one of Rome’s most popular underground ruins.

7. Capuchin Crypt (Cripta dei Frati Cappuccini)

Travelers mill about outside the entry to the Capuchin Crypt in Rome in Italy.
Beneath the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione there are sculptures made of bones.Photo Credit: AnMenshikova / Shutterstock

A unique and macabre masterpiece, the Capuchin Crypt is adorned with human bones.

Five chapels underneath the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione are adorned with elaborate sculptures made from the bones of Capuchin monks. Perhaps the most haunting religious Roman ruins, the ossuaries are decorated with skulls, leg bones, pelvis bones, and mummified monks in friars' clothes. Skip strait-laced St. Peter’s and join a guided tour of the Capuchin museum and crypt, sit in the chapels for a concert of sacred music, or tempt the spirits by touring the chapels at night.

8. Aqueduct Park (Parco degli Acquedotti)

A broad view of the aqueduct in Aqueduct Park in Rome in Italy.
Visit this virtually tourist-free park to see some aqueducts of ancient Rome.Photo Credit: Marco Rubino / Shutterstock

Experience Roman engineering excellence and historical water distribution innovation at its finest.

Skirting the outer edges of southeastern Rome, the Aqueduct Park is home to the Roman ruins of Aqua Felix and Aqua Claudia aqueducts—the latter is much older and considered one of the great aqueducts of Rome. Though technically part of the Appian Way, the park is virtually tourist-free. To explore the park, cycle over from the Appian Way on e-bikes, join off-the-beaten-path walking tours, or see it along with Rome’s other hidden gems.

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