Visitors to the Eternal City would do well to know about Rome' s historic monuments so that they don't miss the opportunity to see them. One of my recommendations if you are planning to go to the Italian capital is the Circus Maximus in Rome, a place whose ruins transport you to the past.
The Circus is located in the Murcia valley, between the Palatine and Aventine mountains, its construction dates back to the reign of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus. The site is over 600 metres long and approximately 118 metres wide. Just as in ancient times there were many things to do and see inside it, so too today. Here are some of those activities.
Visit the Circus in the company of an expert guide
Although Rome's Circus Maximus does not have many specialised tours, there are many tours in the city that include it and many tour guides in Rome offer to take you on them.
If your goal in your visit to Rome is to learn more about the history of each monument, then I recommend you to book a guided tour to the Circus Maximus.
They are usually conducted in small groups of about 10 people, so you have the opportunity to walk around the site quietly, listen to the guide, ask questions and of course, take lots of pictures.
This guided activity will allow you to travel back in time to Ancient Rome. You will be able to visit what was once an important hippodrome, climb the Aventine Hill and see the city, walk through the Garden of Oranges and pass by the Baths of Caracalla.
Don't worry about organising your visit and enjoy a more complete experience with this guided tour.
See the remains of the Circus Maximus up close
As with other important monuments of ancient Rome, today only the remains of what was once the largest stadium in the city remain. Some elements will show you that this was a majestic place where thousands of people attended.
In the esplanade it is possible to perceive what the shape of the enclosure was in its best days. Among the ruins are what were once artisan shops and taverns. After it was no longer used as a performance centre, the Circus Maximus in Rome was a Hebrew cemetery.
Get up close to the only standing tower inside the Circus Maximus
It's not all ruins here, there is a medieval tower still standing. It was built long after the origin of the Circus, its purpose was to take advantage of the Aqua lulia, a stream that was in the area.
The name of the construction is "Torre della Moletta", besides this one, there were other medieval buildings in the Circus. They were destroyed at the beginning of the 1940s, some of the elements demolished were:
- A mill.
- Houses of the Frangipane family.
The reason for the destruction of these buildings was that an excavation was planned in the area, but it was not completed because of the Second World War. This historical event caused, among many other things, that there was no excavation in which more ruins of the Circus Maximus were discovered in Rome.
Get up close to the horse exits and imagine the races
Among the remains of the Circus you can find the gates where the horses were kept until the start of the races. The races were one of the most popular competitions in this great place. Thanks to its size, 12 chariots participated, which were pulled by up to 4 horses.
The horse races that took place in this Roman circus were dangerous for both people and animals. On some occasions, horses and/or jockeys were killed.
When you get close to the gates of the animals that were used in the races, get your imagination going. Think about what it was like to compete in the Circus Maximus, from the noise of galloping to the noise of people shouting.
Relax in the green areas of the Circus
Because there are not many buildings and the stands were removed hundreds of years ago to build other monuments, there are a lot of green areas in the Circus Maximus. As it is a free access area, you have the opportunity to go and enjoy nature.
I recommend you to bring a blanket and sit on the ground while you watch other people, appreciate the ruins and admire the Italian sky. Of course, this activity is perfect for summer in Rome, in case you visit the city in winter, I invite you to read my guide on what to do in Rome in winter.
If you are left wanting more green spaces, another recommendation: the article on the best parks in Rome.
Take your kids to the Circus Maximus in Rome
One of the things kids love most is having a big place to run around and have fun. If this is the case for your kids, this Roman circus is perfect for them! As I mentioned before, it is an ideal area to be outdoors on days when the weather allows it.
If you go with children, there are many activities you can do so that everyone has fun, my recommendations are to play with them and explain to them what was there before where the ruins are now.
An additional tip I give you is that, if you bring something to eat, don't leave trash on the ground. Also, if you allow your children to walk around the Circus on their own, remind them to be careful not to get too close to the ruins. In another article I'll tell you about 10 other activities to do in Rome with kids.
Learn about all the historical stages of the Circus through Virtual Reality
Technology is useful in many aspects of our lives, even when we are tourists in a city. And thanks to the project with II ONE Zeiss VR ONE, you will have the opportunity to get to know this important place in a unique way through virtual reality.
It is the first time that this kind of technology is used in such a large outdoor area. With the glasses you will be able to see different places inside the Circus and how they have been through time. You will learn from the origin of the Circus to the Middle Ages.
With the virtual reality experience , images from the past are superimposed on the environment that exists today through flashbacks that take you back hundreds of years into the past.
Walk on the Palatine Hill
Less than a kilometre from Rome's Circus Maximus is the Palatine Hill, one of the 7 hills on which the city was built. Due to its historical importance, it is home to many places of interest, such as the house of Augustus and his wife Livia.
Also on this hill are the Farnese Gardens, these fabulous botanical gardens were laid out on the site of Tiberius' palace. Once you are on the Palatine Hill, I advise you to go to the twin aviaries, from there you get a great view of Rome. Other things you can visit are:
- Arcate Severiane.
- Palatine Museum.
- Domus Flavia.
- Hippodrome of Domitian.
Marvel at the views of the Aventine Hill
A little over a kilometre from the Circus Maximus is the Aventine Hill, the walking distance between them is about 10 minutes. As one of the main hills of Rome, both in ancient and modern times, there are many things to see and do including the best views of Rome.
From the Aventine Hill you can see some of the most recognisable landmarks of the Italian capital, for example, from the Orange Garden you can see the Tiber River. From there you can also see the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and the Trastevere district. These wonderful panoramic views are one of the reasons why this hill is so famous.
On the Aventine Hill there are historic buildings that are very well preserved, some of them are:
- Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, from which you get an excellent view of Rome.
- TheBasilica of Santa Sabina dates back to the 5th century and is in a perfect state of preservation. One of the most wonderful things about this basilica is its door formed by 28 wooden panels, 18 of them are the ones that were placed in the construction.
Walk through the Arch of Titus
This arch is located at the eastern end of the Circus, less than a kilometre away. It was built to honour the Emperor Titus for his victory in Judea. When you go to the Arch you realise that it is very well preserved.
The monument has an arch, you can walk through it and get close enough to the walls to see its images up close. The Arch of Titus was built of marble and features many reliefs commemorating the emperor's victory.
The reliefs that stand out the most are those depicting soldiers from Rome carrying objects from the Temple of Jerusalem, such as these:
- Silver trumpets.
- Table of the Ark of the Covenant.
- Seven-branched candelabrum.
What are the ticket prices for the Circus Maximus in Rome?
Circus Maximus is a public access area, so apart from being open 24 hours a day, you don't need to pay for a ticket. Of the activities I have named, only the virtual reality experience needs to be paid for, but you do not have to give money for any of the following activities:
- Visit the ruins of the Circus.
- Visit the Torre della Moletta.
- Enter with children.
Likewise, walking around the Palatine and Aventine mountains is free, but to enter some of the buildings you will be asked to pay the entrance fee.
How to get to the Circus Maximus?
The means of transport available to reach this Roman circus are: metro, taxi, tram and bus. Here is how to use each of them to reach your destination without complications:
- Rome Metro: take line B, which takes you to a station called "Circo Massimo".
- Taxi: it is the fastest way to get there and it takes you directly to the Circus, you just have to tell the taxi driver where you want to go.
- Tram: line 3 or 8 to the Aventino/Circo Massimo stop.
- Bus: lines 75, 80, 81, 85, 118, 122, 175, 271 and 673.
If you want to get an idea of how far the Circus Maximus in Rome is from where you plan to stay, here is an idea. This place is located just over 600 metres from the Colosseum.
Is the Circus used for any events nowadays?
Even if it doesn't have the same glory as a few centuries ago, this is still an important point in Rome and not only for tourists, but also for the citizens. The Circus has hosted a number of events in modern times, some of which I would like to name:
- Celebration of Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup.
- Laura Pausini's concert in 2018.
- Rolling Stones performance in 2014.
Perhaps when you visit Rome, a musical (or other) event is planned at the Circus Maximus. That way, you'll have something else to do in this historic place - I wish you a happy trip!