Rising above the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill is supposedly where the city of Rome was founded, and is home to some of its most ancient remains. In a way it’s a greener, more pleasant site to tour than the Forum. In the days of the Republic, the Palatine was the most desirable address in Rome (the word “palace” is derived from Palatine), and big names continued to colonize it during the imperial era, trying to outdo each other with ever larger and more magnificent dwellings.

Along the main path up from the Forum, the Domus Flavia was once one of the most splendid residences, and, to the left, the top level of the gargantuan Domus Augustana spreads to the far brink of the hill. You can look down from here on its vast central courtyard with fountain and wander to the brink of the deep trench of the Stadium. On the far side of the Stadium, the ruins of the Domus and Baths of Septimius Severus cling to the side of the hill, while the large grey building nearby houses the Museo Palatino, which contains an assortment of statuary, pottery and architectural fragments that have been excavated on the Palatine during the last 150 years. Beyond the Domus Flavia is the Cryptoporticus, a long passage built by Nero to link the vestibule of his Domus Aurea with the Palatine palaces, and decorated with well-preserved Roman stuccowork at the far end, towards the House of Livia. The latter has been recently restored and can be visited on daily tours, its courtyard and inner rooms decorated with mosaic floors and frescoes depicting mythological scenes. The structure was originally believed to have been the residence of Livia, the wife of Augustus, but it’s now identified as simply part of the House of Augustus, which is also accessible on guided tours. Visits take in the vividly frescoed rooms, some of which are very well-preserved, with designs on rich Pompeian-red backgrounds.

Climb up the steps near the House of Livia and you’re in the bottom corner of the Farnese Gardens, among the first botanical gardens in Europe, laid out by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in the mid-sixteenth century and now a tidily planted retreat from the exposed heat of the ruins. The gardens surround the foundations of the Domus Tiberiana, a once lavish palace begun by Nero, established by Tiberius and extended by Hadrian a century or so later.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Rome and Lazio features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Where to find the best beaches in Italy

Where to find the best beaches in Italy

From secluded coves to lively seafronts, there are plenty of places to sun worship in Italy. But with an increasing number of hotels charging for access to the …

20 Jul 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
The best places to get off the tourist trail in Rome 

The best places to get off the tourist trail in Rome 

Ticked off Rome’s big sights and wondering where to go next? Natasha Foges picks some of the city’s off-the-beaten track highlights. Lose yourself in the Q…

25 Jan 2017 • Natasha Foges insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook