Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

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Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

If you find your imagination stretching to picture Rome as it was two millennia ago, make sure to check out this "new" ancient site just a stone's throw from Piazza Venezia. As was common practice in Renaissance-era Rome, 16th-century builders simply filled in ancient structures with landfill, using them as part of the foundation for Palazzo Valentini. In doing so, the builders also unwittingly preserved the ruins beneath, which archaeologists rediscovered during excavations in 2007. It took another three years for the two opulent, imperial-era domus (upscale urban houses) to open to the public on a regular basis.

Descending below Palazzo Valentini is like walking into another world. Not only are the houses luxurious and well-preserved, still retaining their beautiful mosaics, inlaid marble floors, and staircases, but the ruins have been made to "come alive" through multimedia. Sophisticated light shows re-create what it all would have looked like, while a dramatic, automated voiceover accompanies you as you walk through the rooms, pointing out cool finds (the heating system for the private baths, the mysterious fragment of a statue, the porcelain left here when part of the site became a dump during the Renaissance) and evidence of tragedy (the burned layer from a fire that ripped through the home). If it sounds corny, hold your skepticism: it's an effective, excellent way to actually "experience" the houses as ancient Romans would have—and to learn a lot about ancient Rome in the process. A multimedia presentation halfway through also shows you what central Rome would have looked like 2,000 years ago.

The multimedia tour takes about an hour. There are limited spots, so book in advance over the phone, online, or in person; make sure you book one of the three daily English tours (at 1:30, 2, and 2:30 pm). The tour should be enjoyable for older children, but little ones might be afraid of how dark the rooms can be.


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