• Italy's news in English
Six breathtaking Roman ruins that you've never heard of
Italy is packed with incredible ruins you might not have heard of. Photo: Nicola d'Orta

Six breathtaking Roman ruins that you've never heard of

The Local · 22 Feb 2016, 08:56

Published: 22 Feb 2016 08:56 GMT+01:00

Spartacus' Theatre

Photo: Nicola d'orta

The Anfiteatro Campano in Campania was built in the first century AD and is 49m high, with a circumference of 170 metres. It once hosted thousands of baying, bloodthirsty Romans who came to watch gladiators perform.

Although the ruin might not be quite as well preserved as the Flavian Ampitheater in Rome, a visitor ticket costs just €2.50 – some €10 less than the price of a visit to the Colosseum.

What's more, the Anfiteatro Campano was the arena in which legendary gladiator Spartacus led a slaves' rebellion against the might of the Roman Empire.

A crowd-free Pompeii?

Photo: Riccardo Cuppini

Located near Rome, Ostia Antica was once a thriving port town, which handled much of the Eternal City's imports and exports until it was abandoned in AD 476.

The ruins at Ostia Antica are much like those at Pompeii except they don't contain any luxury villas.

They do contain roman public toilets, homes, warehouses, tombs, shops and bars. If you're staying in Rome it's a much easier day trip than Pompeii and a great way to experience life in a Roman town without having to endure the hordes of tourists who flock to Italy's most-visited cultural site each day.

A lost supercity

Part of the Roman forum in Aquilea. Photo: Wikimedia.

Today the town of Aquilea in northeast Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is home to just 7,000 people. But during antiquity it was one of the most important trading cities in the Mediterranean with a population of 100,000.

In fact, it was so large that much of the ancient city has not yet been excavated and lies buried under the countryside surrounding the town.

But Aquilea's Roman forum in the centre of town is extremely well preserved and it's easy to imagine how it buzzed with merchants and traders during the city's heydey.

Visitors can also find a museum filled with pieces found in the area around Aquilea, including ancient mosaics, ceramics, jewellery, bronzes and weaponry, which help paint a vivid picture of life 2,000 years ago.

Nero's massive swimming pool

Older than it looks: Nero's pool. Photo: Wikimedia

It is thought that the plush Villa Oplontis in Campania once belonged to Emperor Nero. The house is certainly a fitting place for a nobleman.

It contains huge rooms with beautiful frescoes and mosaics, a bath house and an incredible 60-meter swimming pool. That's 10 meters longer than Olympic size!

Roman girls in Bikinis

The bikini isn't as modern as you might think. Photo: Kenton Greening

Story continues below…

Located near the town of Enna in central Sicily, the Villa Romana del Casale is a Roman villa with some of the best preserved and finest examples of Roman mosaic art.

Expertly created mosaics provide fascinating insights into Roman daily life depicting the ancients at work and play. Curiously, one mosaic unearthed in 1960 shows Roman girls frolicking in bikinis. Its discovery came 14 years after Parisien designer Luis Rèard came up with the design for the iconic swimsuit.

The Empire's forgotten capital

Mosaics above the tomb of Queen Galla. Photo: Wikimedia

Ravenna is the town where Julius Ceasar gathered his troops before marching on Rome in AD 49 – but the city only really came into its own during the twilight of the Roman Empire.

It was even the Empire's western capital from AD 402 until its collapse in  AD 476. Owing to this the town provides many fantastic examples of late Roman art and early christian churches.

The Basilica di San Vitale is a unique blend of Roman, Byzantine and Baroque, while the Mauseleum of Roman Queen Galla includes a stunning scene of San Lorenzo in flames, which allegedly inspired poet Dante Alighieri to write The Divine Comedy.  

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.it)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Italy hails mafia killer's arrest as historic
Fazzalari was convicted in absentia in 1999 of mafia association, kidnapping, illegal possession of weapons and a double homicide. Photo: Italian police

A convicted killer who was one of Italy's most wanted mafia bosses was arrested Sunday in an operation hailed by prosecutors as a historic breakthrough in the fight against organised crime.

Pope visits Armenian genocide memorial
Francis laid a wreath and prayed at the Tsitsernakaberd site. Photo: AFP

Pope Francis on Saturday issued a rallying cry to protect memory at the Armenian genocide memorial in Yerevan, on day two of a trip likely to stir tensions with Turkey.

Italians in the UK: 'After all these years, we feel unwanted'
Thousands of young Italians have moved to London in recent years. Photo: TJ Morris

Italian expats in the UK shared feelings of anger, fear and confusion after Britain voted to leave the EU. And they never even got a say.

How to get Italian citizenship (or at least stay forever)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Looking to stay in Italy long term? Here's how.

Where does Britain's exit from the EU leave Italy?
(L) Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, which campaigned for Britain to leave the EU and (R) Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Photos: Geoff Caddick/Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Britain may have taken a leap into the dark, but this is what's expected in Italy.

Europe needs renovating after Brexit: Renzi
Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has called on the remaining EU members to reorganize the EU. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Renzi said it was "not an easy day."

'Brexit is a disaster for Great Britain': WW2 veteran
Harry Shindler MBE. Photo: Rosie Scammell

“I would have thought that 70 years of peace would have been sufficient for people to say ‘we’re not going to change’ anything."

Renzi calls urgent meeting as Italy's far-right rejoice Brexit
Italy's Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, summoned the country's top economic minds to his home on Friday morning. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy's Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, called an extraordinary meeting on Friday morning as global markets were plunged into turmoil by the UK's shock decision to leave the EU.

Brits in Italy left stunned after UK votes for Brexit
Britons on Thursday voted to leave the EU. Photo: Emanuel Dunand/AFP

Britons in Italy woke up to the shocking news on Friday that the UK has voted to leave the EU, sending the pound crashing and fuelling concerns about their future on the continent.

Venice beaches offer 'sun or your money back' deal
Venice beaches are offering 'weather insurance' in a bid to boost visitor numbers this summer. Photo: Darkbeach/Flickr

Authorities hope the move will attract more beachgoers.

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Has the time come for Italy’s Five Star Movement to shine?
Why Italy must change after young woman’s brutal murder
Is Italy's Five Star up to the challenge of running Rome?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Six of the most bizarre Italian foods everyone should try
Italian restaurant crowned the best in the world
Ten breathtaking Italian gems you've never heard of
Eritrean held in Italy denies being trafficking kingpin
Italian man 'turns French' after brain injury
Six reasons why South Tyrol will absolutely blow your mind
Why Italy's facing another tough summer
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
Five reasons Rome's mayoral elections actually matter
Ten Airbnb apartments where you'll feel at home in Rome
Quiz: Silvio Berlusconi versus Donald Trump - who said it?
Crew who sunk with WWII sub 'wanted to be found': relative
Why the average ancient Roman worker was dead by 30
Did a Nazi official save Ponte Vecchio from destruction?
How the brutal murder of an anti-mafia hero altered Sicily
These are the best beaches within easy reach of Rome
Why Italians are falling out of love with the EU
Business & Money
Foreign, female and a self-made success in arduous Italy
jobs available