The Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands above the Forum Romanum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other. According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the Lupercal cave where Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive.
Many affluent Romans of the Republican period had their residences on the hill but it was during the Empire (27 BC-319AD) that the Palatine Hill came into is own as the emperors resided there in the Flavian Palace. This palace, which was extended and modified by several emperors, extends across the entirety of the Palatine Hill and looks out over the Circus Maximus on one side and the Roman Forum on the other, was the primary residence of the Emperors for over 300 years. The English word “Palace” comes from “Palatium” the Latin name for the area.
Built by the Emperor Domitian, who ruled from 81-96 AD, The Flavian Palace is made up of several sections. The best preserved are the Domus Flavia, which was the greeting, reception and public palace of the Emperors, and the Domus Augustana which was the actual home of the Emperors.
Domus Augustana should not be confused with the nearby House of Augustus, which is believed to be the actual home of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. All subsequent Roman emperors were called “Augustus”, a title that lasted for over 300 years, and thus the name is reflected in the designation of Domus Augustana.
The Domus Augustus was built down several stories into the hill on the south slope overlooking the Circus Maximus with a private balcony for which the Emperor could watch the chariot races. One of the benefits for its design is for the geothermal properties creating both, warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer months. Pools were located at the bottom of open-air stairwells to provided light to these lower levels. Currently you are unable to visit the lower levels.
The Palatine Hill Stadium formed part of Domus Augustana. The exact purpose of the Stadium is unknown, with some historians saying it was a private garden and others thinking it was a place for the emperors to exercise their horses.
The House of Livia, also known as Livia’s House or Livia’s Villa, was the home of the third wife of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire and the mother of its second emperor, Tiberius.
Set on the Palatine Hill, Ancient Rome’s most desirable location, the House of Livia is currently being excavated by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma and so is usually only accessible by prior appointment.
In January 2007 archeologists announced that they had probably found the legendary Lupercal cave beneath the remains of Augustus' residence on the Palatine, the Domus Livia. Archaeologists came across the 16-metre-deep cavity while working to restore the decaying palace. The first photos of the cave show a richly decorated vault encrusted with mosaics and seashells. The Lupercal is not currently open to tourists.
The House of Augustus, was the modest home of Ancient Rome’s first emperor Augustus and contains a vivid collection of frescos. Open to the public since 2008, the House of Augustus has been carefully restored and offers a fascinating insight into the life of Ancient Rome’s elite.
The Palatine Museum (Museo Palatino is located in between the two halves of the Flavian Palace, Domus Augustana and Domus Flavia and houses a collection of finds from the Palatine Hill, with artifacts dating back as far as the Middle Palaeolithic era, though the main exhibits at the Palatine Museum are that of Ancient Rome, particularly between the first and fourth centuries AD, when the Palatine Hill was the best address in the city and home to Rome’s emperors.
Forum Visitor Information
The Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum beneath it, is now a large open-air museum and can be visited on the same ticket as the Colosseum.
Location: Main entrance on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, but there’s another at Via San Gregorio 30.
How to Get There: Colosseo Metro stop, bus lines 60, 75, 85, 87, 95, or 175
Admission Fee: €11 (This is a ticket that covers the Forum, the Colosseum, & Palatine Hill, and it’s good for 48 hours.)
Hours: Daily, 09:00-19:00 (or one hour before dark)