People who visit the Eternal City do well to know which are the historical monuments of Rome so as not to miss the opportunity to visit them. One of my recommendations if you are planning to go to the Italian capital is the Circus Maximus in Rome, a place whose ruins transport you to the past.
The Circus is located in the Murcia Valley, between the Palatine and Aventine mountains, its construction dates back to the reign of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus. The site is over 600 meters long and approximately 118 meters wide. Just as in ancient times there were several things to do and see inside it, today too. Here are some of those activities.
Visit the Circus in the company of an expert guide
Although Rome's Circus Maximus does not have many specialized tours, there are many tours in the city that include it and many tour guides in Rome offer to do them.
If your goal in your visit to Rome is to learn more about the history of each monument, I recommend you to book a guided tour of the Circus Maximus.
They are usually conducted in small groups of about 10 people, so you have the opportunity to walk around the site quietly, listen to the guide, ask questions and of course, take lots of pictures.
This guided activity will allow you to travel back in time to Ancient Rome. You will be able to visit what was once an important hippodrome, climb the Aventine Hill and see the city, walk through the Garden of Oranges and pass by the Baths of Caracalla.
Don't worry about organizing the visit and enjoy a more complete experience through this guided tour.
Take a close look at the remains of the Circus Maximus
As with other important monuments of ancient Rome, today only the remains of what was once the largest stadium in the city remain. Some elements will show you that this was a majestic place where thousands of people attended.
In the esplanade it is possible to perceive what was the shape of the enclosure in its best days. Among the ruins are what were once artisan stores and taverns. After it was no longer used as a performance center, the Circus Maximus in Rome was a Hebrew cemetery.
Get up close to the only standing tower inside the Circus Maximus
Not everything is ruins in this place, there is a tower of medieval construction that is still standing. It was built long after the origin of the Circus, its purpose was to take advantage of the Aqua lulia, a stream that was in the area.
The name of the building is "Torre della Moletta", besides this, in the Circus there were other medieval buildings. It was in the early 1940s when they were destroyed, some of the elements demolished were:
- A mill.
- Houses of the Frangipane family.
The reason for the destruction of these constructions was that an excavation was planned in the area, but it was not concluded because of World War II. This historical event caused, among many other things, that there was no excavation in which more ruins of the Circus Maximus were discovered in Rome.
Get up close to the horse exits and imagine the races
Among the remains that are in the Circus you can find the gates where the horses were kept until the start of the races. These were one of the most seen competitions in this great place. Thanks to its size, 12 chariots were pulled by up to 4 horses.
The horse races that took place in this Roman circus were dangerous for both people and animals. On some occasions, horses and/or jockeys were killed.
When you approach the gates of the animals that were used in the races, get your imagination going. Think about how the competitions were experienced in the Circus Maximus, from the noise of galloping to the noise of people shouting.
Relax in the green areas of the Circus
Because there are not many buildings and the stands were removed hundreds of years ago to build other monuments, there are many green areas in the Circus Maximus. Being a free access area, you have the opportunity to go and enjoy nature.
I recommend you to bring a blanket and sit on the ground while you watch other people, appreciate the ruins and admire the Italian sky. Of course, this activity is perfect for summer in Rome, in case you visit the city in winter, I invite you to read my guide on what to do in Rome in winter.
If you are left wanting more green spaces, another recommendation: the article on the best parks in Rome.
Take your kids to the Circus Maximus in Rome
One of the things kids love the most is to have a big place to run around and have fun. If this is the case for your kids, this Roman circus is perfect for them! As I mentioned before, it is an ideal area to be outdoors on days when the weather allows it.
If you go with children, there are many activities you can do for everyone to have fun, my recommendations are to play with them and explain to them what was there before where the ruins are now.
An additional tip I give you is that if you bring something to eat, do not leave trash on the ground. Also, if you allow your children to walk around the Circus on their own, remind them to be careful not to get too close to the ruins. In another article I tell you about 10 other activities to do in Rome with kids.
Learn about all the historical stages of the Circus through Virtual Reality
Technology is useful in many aspects of our life, even when we are tourists in a city. And thanks to the project with II ONE Zeiss VR ONE, you will have the opportunity to get to know this important place in a unique way through virtual reality.
It is the first time that this kind of technology is used in such a large outdoor area. With the glasses you will be able to see different places inside the Circus and how they have been through time. You will learn from the origin of the Circus to the Middle Ages.
With the virtual reality experience , images from the past are superimposed on the environment that exists today through flashbacks that take you back hundreds of years into the past.
Walk on the Palatine Hill
Less than a kilometer from Rome's Circus Maximus is the Palatine Hill, one of the 7 hills on which the city was built. Due to its historical importance, there are many places of interest, such as the house of Augustus and Livia, his wife.
On this hill are also the Farnese Gardens, these fabulous botanical gardens were located on the site of the palace of Tiberius. Once you are on the Palatine, I advise you to go to the twin aviaries, from there you get a great view of Rome. Other things you can visit are:
- Arcate Severiane.
- Palatine Museum.
- Domus Flavia.
- Hippodrome of Domitian.
Marvel at the views of the Aventine Hill
A little more than a kilometer from the Circus Maximus is the Aventine Hill, the walking distance between them is about 10 minutes. Being one of the main hills of Rome, both in ancient times and today, there are many things to see and do including enjoying the best views of Rome.
From the Aventine Hill you can see well known points of the Italian capital, for example, from the Garden of Oranges you have a view of the Tiber River. In addition, from there you can see the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and the Trastevere district. These wonderful panoramic views are one of the reasons why this hill is so famous.
On the Aventine Hill there are historic buildings that are very well preserved, some of them are:
- Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, from it you get an excellent view of Rome.
- Basilica of Santa Sabina, it dates back to the 5th century and is in a perfect state of preservation. One of the most wonderful things about this basilica is its door formed by 28 wooden panels, 18 of them are the ones that were placed in the construction.
Walk through the Arch of Titus
This arch is located at the eastern end of the Circus, it is less than a kilometer away. It was built to honor the Emperor Titus for the victory he won in Judea. When you go to the Arch you realize that it is very well preserved.
The monument has an arch, you can walk through it and get close enough to the walls to see its images up close. The Arch of Titus was built with marble and you can see many reliefs commemorating the emperor's victory.
The reliefs that stand out the most are those depicting soldiers from Rome carrying objects from the Temple of Jerusalem, such as these:
- Silver trumpets.
- Table of the Ark of the Covenant.
- Seven-branched candelabrum.
What is the price of tickets to the Circus Maximus in Rome?
Circus Maximus is a public access area, so in addition to being open 24 hours a day, there is no need to pay for a ticket. Of the activities I have named for you, only the virtual reality experience needs to be paid for, but you do not have to give money for any of the following activities:
- Getting to know the ruins of the Circus.
- Getting close to the Torre della Moletta.
- Enter with children.
Likewise, walking around the Palatine and Aventine mountains is free, but to enter some of the buildings you will be asked to pay the entrance fee.
How to get to the Circus Maximus?
The means of transport available to reach this Roman circus are: metro, cab, streetcar and bus. Below I specify how to use each one to reach your destination without complications:
- Rome subway: take the B line, it takes you to a station named "Circo Massimo".
- Cab: it is the fastest way to get there and takes you directly to the Circus, just tell the cab driver where you want to go.
- Streetcar: line 3 or 8 to the Aventino/Circo Massimo stop.
- Bus: lines 75, 80, 81, 85, 118, 122, 175, 271 and 673.
If you want to get an idea of how far the Circus Maximus in Rome is from where you plan to stay, here's an idea. This place is located just over 600 meters from the Colosseum.
Is the Circus used for any events today?
Even if it doesn't have the same glory as a few centuries ago, this is still an important point in Rome and not only for tourists, but also for citizens. Several events have been held at the Circus in modern times, some that I would like to name you are:
- Celebration of Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup.
- Laura Pausini's concert in 2018.
- Presentation of the Rolling Stones in 2014.
Perhaps when you visit Rome, some musical (or other) event is planned at the Circus Maximus. That way, you'll have something else to do at this historic venue. Wishing you a happy trip!