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Roman Houses of Celio Hill

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

Caelian Hill, 00184 Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome Capital, Italy

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

EUR 2

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expert
Ambra
Local tour guide
"For a truly immersive experience at the Roman Houses of Celio Hill in Rome, visit in the late afternoon when the golden light enhances the ancient frescoes with a magical glow. Be sure to ask the staff about the lesser-known underground Mithraeum—a hidden gem often overlooked by hurried tourists."

What is the Roman Houses of Celio Hill?

The Roman Houses of Celio Hill, known as Case Romane del Celio in Italian, are an extraordinary complex of ancient Roman buildings hidden beneath the Basilica of Saints John and Paul on Rome's Caelian Hill. These underground structures hold a series of residential and commercial spaces that date back to the 2nd-4th centuries AD. The houses are intricately adorned with beautiful frescoes and mosaics that transport you back to the height of the Roman Empire.

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The Celio Hill itself is one of the famous Seven Hills of Rome and has always been an area rich in history and legend. The Roman Houses are a lesser-known gem, often overshadowed by Rome's more famous attractions, but they represent an intimate glimpse into daily Roman life and are a treasure trove for anyone interested in archeology and ancient history.

History of the Roman Houses of Celio Hill

The Roman Houses of Celio Hill were developed over the span of a few hundred years. Originally they were the elegant homes of wealthy Roman citizens during the period of the Roman Republic and subsequently the Empire. Over time, a variety of modifications were made to these houses, reflecting the changing needs and statuses of their inhabitants. As Christianity began to take hold in Rome, some of the houses were converted into Christian worship sites, including a 3rd-century AD titulus, which is thought to be among the first official Christian worship spaces in the city.

This transformation from private noble residences to places of Christian assembly is a fascinating story and indicative of the broader changes sweeping across the Roman world at that time. But the houses were forgotten and only rediscovered in the 19th century during renovations to the church above. Since then, extensive excavations and restorations have allowed visitors to explore this historical labyrinth and gain insights into various aspects of ancient Roman architecture and society.

Why is the Roman Houses of Celio Hill Important?

The Roman Houses of Celio Hill are an important cultural and historical site for several reasons. Firstly, the preservation of homes from the Roman period is rare, especially those which have maintained much of their original décor. These houses provide a unique perspective on the domestic life of the Romans, their social structures, and their aesthetic preferences. The well-preserved frescoes and mosaics are an excellent example of Roman interior decoration, showcasing both mythical and everyday themes.

These houses also bear testimony to the transformation of Roman society, including the adoption of Christianity. For historians and archaeologists, the overlapping of Pagan and Christian elements in the same complex offers valuable evidence of the transitional period when the Eternal City was shifting from paganism to Christianity as the official religion.

Moreover, due to their location beneath a historic basilica and their underground nature, the Roman Houses have been naturally protected from weather and human interference over the centuries, allowing them to keep secrets of the past that are only now being uncovered. The stories they hold are not just captivating; they are crucial pieces of the vast historical puzzle of Rome.

Things to Do & See at the Roman Houses of Celio Hill

Visiting the Roman Houses of Celio Hill is akin to stepping back in time. Once inside, you can explore the various rooms and corridors of this underground city. Notice the frescoes as you pass by — they range from Pagan imagery, such as the punishment of Dirce, to early Christian symbols that reveal the community's religious beliefs and artistic styles.

You should also pay attention to the geometric mosaics that adorn the floors. These intricate designs echo the sophistication and artistry that Roman craftsmen were capable of achieving. Guided tours often highlight interesting architectural features, like the anterooms that served as a kind of ancient "lobby" for the more private spaces, and the heating systems that reveal the Romans' mastery of urban comfort.

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Additionally, since the Roman Houses are situated below the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, you won't want to miss the church above after your subterranean exploration. The basilica itself is rich with its own history and impressive in its architecture. By visiting both sites, you get a comprehensive understanding of how sacred sites were reused and repurposed through the ages. If the complex layers of Rome's proverbial historical onion fascinate you, then the Roman Houses on Celio Hill are definitely a slice not to be overlooked.

Frequently asked questions

What are the Roman Houses of Celio Hill?

The Roman Houses of Celio Hill are an archaeological site of ancient Roman noble dwellings, located under the Basilica of Saints John and Paul on the Caelian Hill in Rome. They are notable for their well-preserved frescoes and complex architecture.

How can I visit the Roman Houses of Celio Hill?

To visit the Roman Houses of Celio Hill, you can purchase tickets at the entrance or online if available. It is recommended to check the opening hours in advance as they can vary seasonally or due to special events.

Are there guided tours available for the Roman Houses of Celio Hill?

Yes, guided tours are often available for the Roman Houses of Celio Hill, providing a deeper insight into the history and significance of the site. It is best to inquire at the ticket office or online for the latest tour schedules.

What is the significance of the frescoes in the Roman Houses of Celio Hill?

The frescoes in the Roman Houses of Celio Hill are of great historical and artistic significance as they reflect the Roman lifestyle and decoration preferences of the upper class during the period. They are among the best examples of ancient Roman wall paintings in situ.

Can I take photographs while visiting the Roman Houses of Celio Hill?

Photography policies at the Roman Houses of Celio Hill may vary, so it's important to ask for the current regulations at the ticket office. In many historical sites, flash photography is prohibited to protect the artworks.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

Caelian Hill, 00184 Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome Capital, Italy

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

EUR 2

Find it on google maps