Exploring Roman Italy

Roman Sites in Italy

Antas Roman Quarry

The quarry represents a rather rare case in the ancient world, since it is in direct contact with the site where the stone was quarried. Approximately 800 m away, in a path not too far from the sanctuary, but still challenging due to the uneven terrain, there are three quarry areas set within a grove. Looking around, one can still clearly see the cutting lines that were followed during the extraction of the limestone. The beginning of the quarrying activity could refer either to the first Roman phase of the sanctuary in the 1st century BC, or to its reconstruction in the 3rd century AD.

Brixia Roman Archaeological Area

Brixia, the Roman town of Brescia, is among the best preserved archaeological sites in Italy. First excavated in 1823, architectural features that have survived include a first century BC Republican sanctuary, the town’s capitolium dated to 73 AD, and a theatre from the first to third centuries AD. Excavations recovered an extraordinary collection of large bronze statues – the most spectacular of which is the Winged Victory. Following considerable conservation work, the statue was placed on permanent display in one of the halls of the capitolium.

Castel Sant'Angelo - Hadrian's Mausoleum

Castel Sant’Angelo is one of the most important historical sites in Rome. Now a museum, the structure was first built on an artificial mound on the northern banks of the Tiber River. It was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and is wife Sabrina. In the early medieval period it was converted into a military fortress. Given its proximity to St Peter’s Basilica, in the 14th century it was converted into a residence for the Popes. The Vatican also used it as a prison. All of this history is on display to visitors , including the Papal chambers and  their exquisite frescoes.

Castelseprio Archaeological Park

The Parco archeologico di Castelseprio contains the ruins of a Roman fort that developed into a small fortified Lombard town. It was destroyed and abandoned in 1287. In the church of Santa Maria foris portas are a number or frescoes that show a distinct Byzantine influence, these are beneath frescoes that are younger. Thought to be dated to the 9th century, the early frescoes depicting a cycle in the life of the Virgin Mary or Christ himself have been described as some of the finest frescoes of early medieval Europe.

Flavian Amphitheatre

The Flavian Amphitheatre in Pozzuoli is said to be the third largest Roman amphitheatre in Italy. Constructed during the first century AD, the amphitheatre is remarkably well preserved, with an interior that is mostly intact. Parts of the gears that were used to lift animal cages up on to the level of the arena can still be seen here. It is thought that this particular amphitheatre was built by the same architects that built the Colosseum in Rome – which was also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre.


The ancient city of Herculaneum, buried under 30 metres of ash and volcanic material in the eruption of 79 AD, was brought to light in 1738 under the reign of Charles of Bourbon. Excavations of the site were extremely demanding and concentrated on the area that once overlooked the sea. The visit allows you to move between the ancient streets on which the various craft and commercial activities opened, and the entrances to the domus. Some places such as the Palestra, which remains partly buried and accessible through a gallery, or the College of the Augustales, in which painted scenes of the myth of Hercules survive.

Nora Archaeological Site

According to ancient sources, Nora was the first city to have been founded in Sardinia, home to a number of different cultures over the centuries. Nuragics, Phoenicians, Punic and Romans followed one another on this small peninsula, which established itself as an important trading centre in the ancient Mediterranean. Most of the visible structures are from its Roman phase, built between the 1st century BC and the 4th century AD. Visitors can explore the remains of the Roman city’s main features, such as the baths, sanctuaries and living quarters, in which splendid mosaics survive, and the theatre, which, given its excellent condition, is still used for concerts in the evenings during summer.


The archaeological site of Pompeii is one of the most well-known and much visited sites in the World. Pompeii was a Roman city that was largely destroyed and buried under four to six metres of volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The site has been a tourist destination for about 250 years, and today over 2.5 million people visit each year making this one of the most popular attractions in Italy. For conservation reasons, only a fraction of the site is open to the public – but there is still much to see.

Roman Amphitheatre, Cagliari

One of the best examples in Sardinia where an archaeological ruin merges with the modern city. It was built between the end of the 1st  and the beginning of the 2nd century AD, becoming part of the city landscape from that time on. Throughout its history it had many roles: it was the site of gladiatorial battles, a quarry, a family shelter and a concert arena. It is undoubtedly a symbolic place of the city of Cagliari, which can be admired from the streets that surround it. By paying a small ticket, it is possible to get closer to better observe it, but unfortunately, neither walking in the arena nor visiting its inner areas is allowed.

Roman Fountain of Sant'Antioco

In the heart of Piazza Italia is the ancient fountain named ‘Is Solus’. This was built by the Romans during the canalisation of spring waters, and consists of four interconnected stone tanks with barrel vaults. The place acquired fundamental importance for the town of Sant’Antioco over the centuries, since it was the only water supply point for a long time. In 1911, works were carried out to preserve the monument, which hid it from view under the pavement of the square. Today, with some difficulty, visitors can catch a glimpse of the ancient fountain by approaching the glass windows once they have descended the stairs.

Museums With Roman Collections in Italy

Archaeological Museum Ferruccio Barreca

The museum has been open to the public since 9 January 2006, and houses numerous artefacts related to the ancient city of Sulky, which lies beneath modern Sant’Antioco. The centre was founded by the Phoenicians towards the end of the 9th century BC and was one of the most important trading ports in Sardinia throughout antiquity. The museum tour is narrated in three rooms, which respectively display the finds of the settlement, the necropolis, and the tophet, i.e. the three main nuclei of the urban settlement. Phoenician, Punic and Roman artefacts are displayed in the showcases, which attempt to narrate the different aspects of society, related to daily life, religious, funerary and sacred contexts.

Archaeological Museum of Campi Flegrei

In a recently restored 15th century Aragonese Castle, that once guarded the Gulf of Pozzuoli, is the Museo archeologico dei Campi Flegrei. The Campi Flegrei, or burning fields, is a large volcanic area that is now a national park. And it was the many volcanic thermal springs in the area that attracted people in antiquity. On display in the museum are a number of reconstructions of shrines and temples, some of which are now submerged, from the area.

Archaeological Museum of Olbia

The archaeological museum in Olbia celebrates hundreds of years of history in Sardinia’s north-east area. Located in the city’s harbour, this modern building was designed with portholes and walkways to reflect Olbia’s history as an important port. The permanent display take an extensive view of the various periods of Olbia’s past, from the Phoenicians, Greeks, to the Punic and Roman eras. Pride of place in the museum are the conserved remains of Roman boats that had sunk in the ancient harbour and discovered again during the construction of the museum building.

Capodimonte Museum

In 1738 King Charles of Bourbon ordered the construction of the Royal Palace that today houses the Museum. It was initially founded as a hunting reserve, but ended up becoming one of the residences of the royal family, in which part of the Farnese Collection was exhibited from the very beginning. Already in the 18th century it was an obligatory stop for visitors to Italy, given the importance of the works on display. The Museum, opened on 5 May 1957, is one of the most important picture galleries in Europe, and houses in its 124 galleries numerous works by great names such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian. In addition to these are extraordinary collections of porcelain and decorative arts, tapestries and royal furniture, as well as Roman sculpture.

Civic Archaeological Museum of Cabras

The Museo Civico “Giovanni Marongiu” – Cabras opened in 1997 exhibiting the local history of the Cabras municipality (including the Sinis Peninsular), from prehistory to medieval times. Artefacts come from Neolithic, Nuragic, Phoenician-Punic, Roman and medieval sites in the area. Two notable displays include the Roman shipwreck of Mal di Ventre, dated to the 1st century BC, and a small collection of the large stone statues, the ‘Sardinian Giants’, recovered by archaeologists at the Nuragic necropolis of Mont’e Prama.

Este National Museum - Museo Nazionale Atestino

In pre-Roman times, the area around Este was the centre of the Veneti Iron Age tribe. During the 2nd century BC Este became a Roman Colony – Ateste. The history of the region, from prehistory to the Roman period is on display in 11 galleries created in the 16th century Palazzo Mocenigo. From the museum, a six mile, self-guided walk leads visitors around the city taking in a series of pre-Roman and Roman points of interest, including a prehistoric necropolis and a Roman/medieval Castle.

National Archaeological Museum of Naples

The Museum is the most important in the world for Roman painting, and was founded in 1816. The original nucleus of the collection is due to King Charles of Bourbon, who promoted excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum and brought part of the Farnese collection inherited from his mother to Naples. There are many famous finds to admire, such as the Alexander Mosaic or the bronzes from the Villa of the Papyri, while the collections display Roman mosaics and frescoes, Egyptian artefacts and those from Magna Graecia, as well as entire sections dedicated to prehistory and protohistory, epigraphy and numismatics, concluding with the Farnese Collection, which includes the famous sculptures of Hercules and Bull.

National Archaeological Museum, Cagliari

Given the quantity of objects from all over the island, this museum is certainly the most important in Sardinia. Since 1993 it has occupied one of the buildings in a complex known as the ‘Citadel of Museums’, built within the district of Castello, reusing the space of the ancient medieval walls. It houses more than 4,000 objects that tell 7,000 years of history, ranging from Prehistory to the Early Middle Ages, in an itinerary that is divided over 4 floors, each with different themes. In the collections visitors can admire statuettes of the mother goddesses, Nuragic bronze statues, a large part of the Nuragic giant statues of Mont’e Prama, as well as Punic and Phoenician jewellery and Roman statuary.

Santa Giulia Museum, Brescia

The Museo di Santa Giulia is a museum exhibiting objects and art from prehistory to the present, in a architectural complex of Roman and Longobard origins – taking up some 14,000 square metres. The museum is a series of historical sites in itself, including two Roman era houses, the 8th century AD Longobard basilica of San Salvatore, the 16th century Choir of the Nuns and the 12th century Romanesque Oratory of Santa Maria in Solario. the collection on display, chronologically, is equally wide ranging, about 12,000 artefacts show the history of Brescia from the 3rd third millennium BC to the Renaissance.

Villa Sulcis Archaeological Museum

Opened in 2008, the museum aims to tell the story of the Sulcis territory by exhibiting important artefacts, found in various archaeological sites. The tour begins by recounting prehistory and protohistory starting from 6000 BC, analysing the evolution of society from that time onwards. Particular attention is paid to the Nuragic civilisation, and Phoenician artefacts, to which a room is dedicated with material from Sant’Antioco-Sulky and Bitia. Another room is dedicated to the Phoenician-Punic centre of Monte Sirai, in which, in addition to the artefacts, reconstructions of a kitchen, burials, and tophet are proposed. The experience is certainly educational, and allows visitors to fully understand the identity of the area.