Travel Europe

How to Experience the Best of Ancient Rome Without the Crowds

December 19, 2017
Arches and columns of the Roman Forum

Rome remains forever The Eternal City.  The city literally packs in thousands of years of history. However, with so much to offer, it’s hardly surprising that it also pulls in the crowds. As a result, tourists often complain that they spend far too much time there standing in long lines.  Yet, away from the Coliseum, it’s possible to experience the best of ancient Rome without spending the day standing in a queue. 

The Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum (Ancient Rome)

‘Just a bunch of old rocks’ 

View of The Vatican from the Palatine Hill, Rome, Italy

The Palatine Hill provides panoramic views of Rome

This comment above was the opinion of one scholar on TripAdvisor. In reality, a visit to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum is like taking a walk back in time. The Palatine Hill is where Rome’s richest residents had their palaces and villas. Of course, it’s true that only the decaying ruins remain today. After all, it’s about 2000 years old. Needless to say, the rich always had the best views and the hill provides panoramic 360 ° views of the city. Photographers will salivate when they see vistas of the Vatican on one side and then peer down into the Roman Forum on the other. 

The Roman Forum framed by an arch, Rome, Italy

Explore the heart of ancient Rome at the Roman Forum

The Forum, although nothing as spectacular as the Colosseum, is an evocative sight. Make sure to leave time to explore it, so try not to spend the whole day on the Palatine Hill. Go to the top end of the site to get sweeping views back over the ruins. Due to the sheer size of both sites, the crowds never feel as intense as at the Coliseum. Also, there aren’t huge queues to enter. 


Tickets to both sites include entrance to the Coliseum. Tickets cost €12. Opening times vary throughout the year, but the sites tend to close at 16:30 in winter and stay open until 19:30 in summer

Musei Capitolini (Classical art)

‘The statues are a bit samey’

Lion devours horse with Marcus Aurelius on horseback

The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius has its own room


Yet again, our friends on TripAdvisor have some interesting comments. In this case, the Musei Capitolini are among the oldest museums on the planet. Apart from the impressive art collection, the basement area offers picture-perfect views of the Roman Forum. Yes, photographers need to check out this angle, too! In addition to the art, the building is something of a sight in itself. Expect lavish frescoes depicting the history of Rome.

The bronze statue of Marco Aurelius is a highlight of the art collection. Today, it stands in its own specially constructed room that also encompasses the original foundations of the Temple of Jupiter. Only in Rome! Again, due to the size of the museums, it never feels packed inside. 

Bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius at Musei Capitolini, Rome

Marcus Aurelius is a highlight of the Capitoline collection


Entrance tickets cost €15. The museums are open from 9:30 to 19:30 every day. They are within walking distance of the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. 

Palazzo Valentini (From ancient Rome to the present day)

‘Disorienting, very underlit’

It’s a virtual reality tour in the dark, so it’s hard to know what this TripAdvisor reviewer was expecting!

Set directly across from the Trajan Column,  Palazzo Valentini must be one of Rome’s best-kept secrets. A common complaint is that people don’t know how to book a tour here. For your information, the tickets must be booked online or visitors can buy them at the reception. However, due to demand, it’s very difficult to get tickets for same day tours. 

Starting in the dark, they literally use lights to illuminate the history of the building underfoot. In addition to this, virtual reality allows us to reimagine how the building would have looked to its original inhabitants.

An earthquake destroyed the original Roman villa on the site. Despite this, due to its central location, it remained in use throughout history. The tour highlights the development of the building right through history. Expect to learn about its use in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and Mussolini’s wartime dictatorship. The biggest surprise comes right at the end. I’m not going to say what it is because you’ll have to visit Palazzo Valentini in order to find out…

View of the Trajan Column from Palazzo Valentini, Rome

Where can you get close-up views of the Trajan Column?


Tickets include a mandatory guided tour and cost €12. The first tour commences at 9:30 and the last tour is at 18:30. Palazzo Valentini is directly opposite Trajan’s Column. 

Visiting Rome

Rome is a compact city and all the sites mentioned in this article are within easy walking distance. Accommodation prices in the city will depend on the season and those visiting at busy times should book well in advance.

Trastevere makes a good alternative to the central area around the Roman Forum, the Pantheon and Piazza di Spagna. It combines good accommodation deals with an excellent selection of restaurants and bars. Also, those who also want to explore the area around the Tiber (Castel Sant’Angelo and The Vatican) will love the location.

Looking for more ideas for a short trip to Rome? Why not check out this 24-hour guide?

Are there any other monuments of ancient Rome that you would recommend? Have you any other tips for travel in the city? Share your experiences here! Leave a comment below or send your story to me by email at

Next Post: Monday, December 25th, 2017



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  • topcat66blog December 20, 2017 at 12:36

    Buon Natale!

    • Unlatinoverde December 20, 2017 at 20:29

      Ti auguro Buon Natale e un felicissimo Anno Nuovo!


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