Among the best preserved constructions of ancient Rome are the Baths of Caracalla or Terme di Caracalla. Unlike many other 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 splendour they enjoyed 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 about it below!
Touring the Baths as if you were living in ancient Rome
With the first activity I'm talking about you feel like an ancient Roman who goes to the Baths for his 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 involved in the design of the Baths had the aim of making them a showcase 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. Point the glasses at the place you want and in a few seconds you can see what it was like 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 they were in the first centuries of this era, they are still places worth being in. The exteriors of the Baths are very well maintained, so visitors can stroll around them 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, but also a large swimming pool. There was even a garden in the Thermae, as it was intended to be a real area of enjoyment.
The gardens were surrounded by a large wall that protected the entire 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. An audio guide is sold inside the site for those who want to take a complete tour of the ancient construction.
The Baths of Caracalla were very different from other baths in Rome at that time, inside there were several sections. The most interesting thing is that they were arranged in such a way 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 a 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 remove sweat and other impurities.
- Tepidarium, for baths with lukewarm water.
- Frigidarium, here there were four pools in which baths were taken with cold water to tone the body.
- Natatio, an open-air area with an Olympic-size swimming pool.
It can be said that the Baths of Caracalla were like country clubs, for in addition to the above-mentioned 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 a testament to how beautiful the building was centuries ago. In addition, there are portions of some of the drawings that used to be there.
The Baths ceased to function in 537 AD, at which time the aqueducts that supplied the city were destroyed. As a consequence, people stopped going to the baths and, with the passing 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 underground of the Baths
In addition to the great construction that was visible to everyone who visited the Baths of Caracalla, the building had underground levels. Slaves worked there all day long to ensure the optimal functioning of the baths and pools. Today, these have been converted into a museum of the Baths.
They were not always accessible to visitors, but a few years ago they opened their doors to welcome them. There were the hydraulic systems, the boilers, the furnaces and the chimneys. All this helped the Romans who went to the baths every day 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 underground museums in Rome, here is an article about a comparison of two of the largest catacombs in Rome.
Take the tour on your own
In addition to Augmented Reality and the audio guide, in the Baths it is possible to do the tour without any of these aids. If you prefer, you can walk through the facilities on your own, whether you are alone or in company. All along the way you will see signs telling you about the area you are in.
Some things to keep in mind during the tour are that it is a one-way tour and the exit is at a different gate than the entrance. The visitor's route map on the official website of the thermal baths 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 marvellous the Roman constructions were. Today they are ruins, but even so, 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, their heating and drainage were very sophisticated, which is why everything worked so well. From an architectural point of view, the place had a complex design, construction and operation. Today we are amazed at how well planned everything was.
The way the areas of the baths were laid out made it easy for people to move around and contributed to everyone's comfort. The ruins may make you forget all this, but I encourage you to think about how extraordinary the construction and appearance of this building was.
Grab a bite to eat while you enjoy the walk
Near the remains of the baths there is often 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 nearby.
Of course, if you eat at the hot springs, don't leave waste on the ground, it helps to keep the area in 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 their great walls can be seen in the background. Definitely a unique setting.
When you travel to Rome and visit the Baths of Caracalla you would do well to find out if a play will be performed in the coming days. If such an event is planned, find out how you can attend.
Attend opera performances in summertime
During the summer, the Baths of Caracalla are the setting for the shows planned by the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. Since 2001, the remains of the great building have been the perfect setting for the great 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 continuously every summer, so if you are visiting the Italian capital at this time of year, why not find out more about the performances?
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 admission to these ancient baths.
It should be noted that the entrance fees do not include guided tours, so it is also possible to purchase an audio guide. This costs approximately €7, so if you buy one, don't 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 you don't want to do the tour on your own, i.e. without a guide), you should buy an audio guide. Although there are informative signs, they don't show that much information. Moreover, they are far apart from each other.
Where to buy augmented reality glasses?
At the ticket office where you buy your tickets to the Baths, you can 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 have been taken into account when creating it.
As with the audio guides, Augmented Reality glasses are sometimes not available. The reason for this 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 Tuesday to Sunday. Opening time is at 9:00 and closing time depends on the day of the year, usually until 18:30.
Due to the security measures implemented by Covid 19, the Thermal Baths currently 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 sites are close by, the best known of which are:
- Circus Maximus is about 1 kilometre away.
- The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine are approximately 1.2 kilometres away.
The ways to reach the Baths are very similar to the above mentioned places. Access to them is not difficult, as the nearby terrain does not differ in altitude.
How to get to the Baths?
Two forms of public transport that you can use to get to the Thermal Baths are the metro and the bus. Once you are in Rome, the way to reach your destination successfully is:
- By metro: line B takes you to the Circo Massimo stop, which is about 2 kilometres 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 a car park at the Baths in Rome?
Visitors to these thermal baths in Rome have access to a car park, which contributes to the maximum enjoyment of their journey. In addition, there are adequate baths on site. Nowadays, the Baths also have the necessary amenities for those who enter them.
I am sure that 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 these points are analysed, I leave you the link.