Have you seen all the famous ruins in Rome already and are in search of more things to see? Or are you simply interested in something with a bit of an unusual twist?
Our list of “Not-Your-Typical Archeological Sites in Rome” features three archeological sites in The Eternal City, each one with its own special something that sets it apart.
Besides being unique these places are also not hideously over-visited. All three are in the historical centre of Rome.
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Not-Your-Typical Archeological Sites in Rome: Delight in Passing and Exploring
Of course when you come to Rome for the first time you will want to make a bee-line to its iconic archeological and cultural monuments such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and Trevi fountain.
If you are fortunate enough to be returning to Rome, or are spending enough time there to see some of the attractions a bit off the beaten path, these unusual archeological sites offer something for everyone.
Teatro Marcello can fit easily into any walking tour of Rome and is a lovely subject for any photography enthusiast, easily viewed in passing in the span of a few minutes.
For those seeking a more immersive experience amidst fabulous ruins, Cripta Balbi and the Baths of Caracalls are ideal places to explore ancient Roman life. Cripta Balbi in particular will interest devotees of archeology and sociology.
Cripta Balbi (Theatre of Balbus)
The complex at Cripta Balbi (Theatre of Balbus) is an extraordinary example of urban archeology, a specialized branch of the science that examines the rich history left by long-term habitation of cities. Basically, the discipline focuses on the refuse we humans leave behind in urban centres.
Don’t let either the word “crypt” or “theatre” mislead you; this site is the remains of an entire Roman street that presents a unique view of life 2,000 years ago.
The site where the museum now stands was, in Roman times, the courtyard (crypta) of the theatre built by Lucius Balbus that had a capacity of about 11,000 spectators. In this courtyard, patrons of the theatre would stroll and pause for a refreshment between the acts of a show, as we do now in a theatre’s foyer.
Crypta Balbi is unusual in that it is “one of a small number of museums in the world that can boast of its origins as a planned research activity involving all fields of knowledge.”
For general info, hours, and tickets:
For more information on urban archeology:
Teatro Marcello (Theatre of Marcellus)
One of those ruins just sitting around in Rome that you can walk right up to and admire, Teatro Marcello (Theatre of Marcellus) tells the viewer a peculiar tale of urban upcycling.
The classic Roman amphitheatre was inaugurated in 12 BCE, right at the end of the Roman Republican era and more than 90 years before the Colosseum.
During the Renaissance the Theatre of Marcellus was transformed into a dwelling. Well, to be precise, a palazzo was built on top of the theatre. Over the centuries more urban transformation occurred, as it inevitably does; today the once private residence of the noble Orsini family houses exclusive apartments for the very well-heeled of Rome.
For a history of the theatre:
Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla)
To get a sense of the social atmosphere of ancient Rome and the grandeur of the public baths during Imperial Roman times, there’s no place better than the Baths of Caracalla. The sprawling thermal complex was, astoundingly, not the largest of its day but arguably the most spectacular.
Dating back to the early 3rd Century CE, the complex was comprised of pools of varying temperature as well as areas for exercise, relaxation, refreshment, and socializing. Today the ruins make an impression due to their sheer vastness and magnitude, with some of the walls extending skyward up to 30 meters (100 feet).
The not-so-typical thing about the Baths of Caracalla today is that you can tour it with a virtual reality visor. With this high-tech headgear you can experience the splendour of the complex as it was almost 2,000 years ago.
For general info, hours, and tickets: