Among the best preserved constructions of ancient Rome are the Baths of Caracalla or Terme di Caracalla. Unlike many similar sites found in other parts of the world, those in Rome were a very complete social complex.
Although they were not the only baths in the city in ancient times, they were the most luxurious. Today it is possible to enter them, see their different areas and imagine the splendor they had while they were in operation. If you spend about a week in Rome, don't hesitate: a visit is a must. What can you see and do in this amazing place? I'll tell you below!
Touring the Baths as if you were living in ancient Rome
With the first activity I tell you about, you feel like an ancient Roman going to the Baths for your personal hygiene routine. Augmented Reality glasses are available on site, if you put them on, you see how the building starts to reconstruct itself in front of your eyes.
Those who participated in the design of the Baths had the objective that these were samples of how wonderful Roman architecture could be. For this reason, it had the following characteristics in its construction and decoration:
- Walls covered with marble.
- Mosaic floors.
- Sculptures considered works of art.
- Heating and water supply systems.
- Drains that kept the water clean.
With augmented reality you have the opportunity to relive much of this architectural wonder. Orient the glasses to the place you want and in a few seconds you see how it was in ancient times, when the baths were visited by thousands of people a day. You can even see recreations of the sculptures.
Stroll through the gardens of the facilities
Although the green areas are not the same as the first centuries of this era, they are still places worth being in. The exteriors of the Termas are very well kept, for visitors to stroll around while enjoying the views.
The ruins of the Baths are impressive, so just imagine what they were like in ancient times. The building was very complete, not only did it have rooms where you could take baths with cold, warm and hot water, it also had a large swimming pool. In the Thermal Baths there was even a garden, as this was intended to be a real area of enjoyment.
The gardens were surrounded by a great wall that protected the whole construction. Every corner of these thermal baths is full of history. Do you like outdoor places? If so, I encourage you to read my guide to the best parks in Rome.
Get an audio guide to learn more about the Baths
As I said before, these Baths are full of history and, although some visitors prefer to tour them on their own, you might want a guide. Inside the site an audio guide is sold to those who want it, with it you get a complete tour of the ancient construction.
The Baths of Caracalla were very different from others that existed in Rome at that time, within them there were several sections. The most interesting thing is that these were ordered with the objective that many people completed a complete hygiene routine. The sections were as follows:
- The vestibules.
- The changing rooms.
- The gymnasium.
- The laconicum, this was a sudatorium with high temperature in order to activate perspiration.
- The caldarium (its pillars are still standing), here they bathed with very hot water and used a strigilum to eliminate sweat and other impurities.
- Tepidarium, for baths with warm water.
- Frigidarium, here there were four pools in which baths were taken with cold water to tone the body.
- Natatio, an outdoor area where there was an Olympic pool.
It can be said that the Baths of Caracalla were like country clubs, because in addition to the named areas, they had porticoes and libraries. Looking at a plan of the ancient baths gives you an idea of how large the facilities were.
See the mosaics that are still on the site
Although many of its incredible elements were taken elsewhere, some sections of the floor still have the original mosaics. These are samples of how beautiful the building was centuries ago. In addition, there are portions of some of the drawings that were there.
The Baths stopped functioning in 537 A.D., at which time the aqueducts that supplied the city were destroyed. As a consequence, people stopped going to the baths and, with the passage of time, they were abandoned.
Due to the abandonment, the majestic building was attacked by looters who took away its sculptures and valuable materials, such as marble. That is why today you cannot see all the luxuries that the baths once had. In addition, much of the site was destroyed in an earthquake in 847.
Enter the subway of the Baths
In addition to the great construction that was visible to everyone who visited the Baths of Caracalla, the building had subway levels. Slaves worked there all day long to ensure the optimal functioning of the baths and pools. Today, these have become a museum of the Baths.
They were not always accessible to visitors, but a few years ago they opened their doors to receive them. There were the hydraulic systems, boilers, furnaces and chimneys. All this helped the Romans who went daily to the baths to enjoy their baths.
The space was adapted so that people can enter and see the objects that have been found during excavations in the area. If you would like to visit other subway museums in Rome, I leave you with this article about a comparison of two of the largest catacombs in Rome.
Take the tour on your own
In addition to the Augmented Reality and the audio guide, in the Baths it is possible to do the tour without any of these aids. If you prefer, it is valid to walk through the facilities on your own, no matter if you are alone or in company. All along the way you will see signs that tell you about the area you are in.
Some things to keep in mind during the tour is that it is a one-way tour and the exit is at a different gate than the entrance. The map of the visitor's route that you can find on the official website of the hot springs is very helpful when you do the tour on your own.
Think of what an architectural marvel it was when it was built
The Baths of Caracalla fulfilled all their functions for several centuries, among them was to demonstrate how marvelous the Roman constructions were. Today they are ruins, and yet, admiring the huge walls is astonishing. As you walk through the baths, remember all that once was.
The systems that brought water to the baths, its heating and drainage were very sophisticated, hence everything worked optimally. From the architectural point of view, the place had a complex design, construction and operation. Today we are amazed at how well planned every point was.
The ways in which the areas of the Termas were distributed facilitated the mobilization of people and contributed to the comfort of all. The ruins may make you forget all this, but I encourage you to think about how extraordinary its construction and the appearance of this building was.
Grab a bite to eat while you enjoy the walk
Near the remains of the Baths there is usually a stall where visitors can buy snacks. This is ideal if you are going to spend a few hours getting to know this incredible place, as there are not many restaurants near it.
Of course, if you eat at the hot springs, do not leave waste on the floor, it helps the area to maintain a good condition. On the other hand, if you want to know where to eat in Rome, in another article I will tell you about the best places to do it.
Theatrical performances with the ruins of the Baths in the background
Nowadays, the Baths are still used, obviously, not in the way they were used many centuries ago. Sometimes theatrical performances are planned in the Baths, so its great walls are seen in the background. Undoubtedly, a unique setting.
When you travel to Rome and visit the Baths of Caracalla you do well to find out if in the next few days a play will be presented. If such an event is planned, get information on how you can attend.
Attend opera performances in summertime
During the summer, the Baths of Caracalla are the stage for the shows planned by the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. Since 2001, the remains of the great building have been the perfect stage on which to stage major performances of the opera and ballet season.
In several decades of the 20th century these performances also took place, but were interrupted for various reasons, including World War II. But now it is held uninterruptedly every summer, if you visit the Italian capital at this time, why not get more information about the shows?
What is the entrance fee to the Baths of Caracalla?
Tickets are priced from 4€, what you are charged depends on your age and whether you are a European citizen. Minors and students of certain majors enjoy free access to these ancient baths.
It should be noted that tickets do not include guided tours, so it is also possible to purchase an audio guide. This has an approximate price of 7 €, in case you buy it, do not forget the following:
- Ask if it is available in Spanish.
- On some occasions, they tend to sell out due to the number of visitors to the site.
I recommend that if you have the opportunity (and do not want to do the tour on your own, i.e., without a guide), you purchase an audio guide. Although there are informative signs, they do not show as much information. In addition, they are far apart.
Where to buy augmented reality glasses?
At the ticket office where you buy tickets to the Baths you also ask for glasses. These are useful if you want to see what the building looked like, what sculptures were there and what the marble-covered walls looked like. The recreation is accurate, as the existing records of the Baths of Caracalla were taken into account when creating it.
As with the audio guides, Augmented Reality glasses are sometimes not available. The reason is that the number of visitors exceeds the number of glasses available to the administration of this building.
What are the opening hours of these ancient Roman baths?
The days of the week when they are open are from Tuesdays to Sundays. The opening time is at 9:00 and the closing time depends on the day of the year, normally, there is access until 18:30.
Due to the security measures applied by Covid 19, currently, the Thermal Baths have limited admissions. A certain number are allowed inside, so you may have to wait a bit to get in.
Where are they located?
The Baths are located on Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, so if you don't know much about Rome, don't worry. One way to locate the area is to know which places are nearby, the best known are the following:
- Circus Maximus is almost 1 kilometer away.
- The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine are about 1.2 kilometers away.
The ways to reach the Baths are very similar to those of the places named above. Access to them is not difficult, as the nearby terrain has no difference in elevation.
How to get to the Baths?
Two public transports that you can use to go to the Baths are: the subway and the bus. Once you are in Rome, the way to reach your destination successfully is:
- By subway: line B takes you to the Circo Massimo stop, which is about 2 kilometers from the Baths.
- By bus: buses 628 and 760 are the ones you can take to reach the Baths of Caracalla.
In case you want a guide to the Rome Metro, you can find it on this page. Click on the link and get all the information and tips about this Roman means of transport.
Is there parking at the Baths of Rome?
Visitors to these thermal baths in Rome have access to a parking lot, which contributes to the maximum enjoyment of their tour. In addition, there are adequate bathrooms on site. Nowadays, the Baths also have the necessary amenities for those who enter them.
Surely with what you have read here you want to know more about the Termas, what they looked like in ancient times and what you will see in them. I have found a video in which they analyze these points, I leave you the link.