During the Roman period, Rome controlled most of what is now Italy and you’ll find Roman remains throughout the country, sometimes in unusual places. Often Roman columns and building materials were re-used and incorporated into new buildings too. During summer you can even go to an outdoor concert, opera or performance in ancient Roman sites
Rome was the center of the Roman empire and is well-known for its ancient Roman sites such as the Roman Colosseum, one of Italy’s most visited monuments. Outside the city center you can easily take a day trip to visit the excavations of Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient port city. But you don’t have to go to Rome to see great ancient Roman sites.
Here are top places to see Roman ruins in Italy:
- Pompeii, in southern Italy between Naples and the Amalfi Coast, is the best known ancient Roman city. Buried by a volcanic eruption in 79AD, much of the city (including people) was preserved in the lava. As you walk along ancient Roman roads through the extensive site you’ll see remains of shops, baths, workshops, temples, government buildings, places where people went to eat or drink, and houses, some with mosaic floors and frescoes. There’s a large amphitheater, remains of the water system including water storage towers, fountains, and an olive press where olive oil was made.
Totally Ruined: the Excavations at Pompeii is a 3 hour guided walking tour through the site.
- Capua, a city near Naples, has the world’s second largest Roman amphitheater, Roman baths, and tombs. Ancient Capua was famous for its gladiator school and there’s a Gladiator Museum near the amphitheater. There’s a good archaeology museum where you can ask to see the underground 2nd century Mithraeum, one of the few with frescoes. Unlike the Colosseum in Rome that’s packed with tourists, we were almost alone when we visited the Capua arena, although it’s not nearly as well preserved as Rome’s. We had a good dinner at the organic restaurant on the grounds of the amphitheater, Spartacus Arena, with a nice view in the evening.
Also in the city center of Naples itself, there are several places in the old town where you can see Roman ruins including at the Santa Chiara Monastery and under San Lorenzo Maggiore Church. The Archaeology Museum in Naples is a top place to see Roman artifacts.
- Tharros is an ancient Phoenician and Roman port on the island of Sardinia. It’s in a beautiful setting right by the sea on the Sinis Peninsula, where there are several other interesting sites.
- Verona, in northern Italy near Venice, has a huge Roman amphitheater that’s used today for opera and music performances. See Arena di Verona for schedule and tickets. Across the river is a smaller Roman theater and museum with Roman remains including mosaics.
- Asota, in northern Italy near the French border, has ancient ruins scattered throughout the city. Top Roman remains are a a Roman bridge, theater, towers and gates, the Arco dâ€™Augusta, and excavations of the Roman Forum with baths and a marketplace.
- Central Italy’s Le Marche region has several interesting places to see Roman remains including the unique gilded bronze statues in Pergola and a Roman battlefield just outside the town of Sassorferrato where you can even see the excavations under your table while you eat.
- Alba Fucens, in the Abruzzo region about halfway between Rome and the Adriatic Sea, may be one of the most beautiful settings for Roman ruins with Mount Velino rising above it. The excavations include an amphitheater, buildings, and part of the old Roman road.
- Farther south in Puglia, the site of Egnazia is a stop along the ancient Roman road, Via Triana that was an offshoot of Via Appia that went from Rome to Brindisi. At the excavations of ancient Gnathia you’ll see remains of houses, an arena, the forum, shops, workshops, the ancient road, and an underground area for grain storage called the criptoporticus. There’s a very good museum, too.
More Ancient Remains: Greek Sites in Southern Italy and Sicily