Are you traveling to Rome anytime soon? Do you want to see some fascinating sites, full of ancient history, but far from the tourist crowds? Guess what? Rome is full of amazing places that the tour buses don’t go to. Places you can wander around at leisure, experience ancient Rome without the crowds, and that are right in the heart of the city. Today I want to introduce you to one of these treasures.

Why You Need To Visit The Baths Of Diocletian In Rome

Personally, I find Diocletian fascinating.

Just between you and me I knew exactly nothing about him until I started googling his namesake public baths and pool. Partway down my never ending list of things to do in Rome was an entry for Diocletian’s Baths and I had decided to read up on Diocletian and then visit them on the next trip to the Eternal City.

It seems as though every emperor I research has something quirky or interesting going on…

About Diocletian

Anyway, old Diocletian was a Dalmatian military guy who rose to power towards the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. Said crisis was caused by invasions, civil war, economic depression and the plague. The reign of Diocletian stabilized the empire and ended the crisis.

Diocletian was emperor of Rome from 284 - 305 A.D. Although he never set foot in Rome, his co-emperor Maximian dedicated the massive Baths of Diocletian to him. These were the biggest public baths and pools in the Roman Empire

Diocletian, Emperor of Rome

Diocletian became Emperor in 284. He understood that the empire had become too huge and too far reaching to be successfully governed by just one person, so in 286 he made Maximian his co-emperor. He ran the Eastern Empire himself and had Max take care of the west. It is thought that Diocletian never set foot in Rome.

The empire had had a revolving door of emperors, some only lasting weeks or months, others just a few years. In order to ensure smooth succession for themselves and for future emperors, they created a system whereby two competent, experienced administrators would be in place as “junior emperors”, learning how to run the empire so that when the time came the transition would be seamless. (Greed and power hunger meant this would be short lived, even though it was a brilliant idea)

He reformed and restructured the government, essentially keeping it intact for the next 150 years. It had been on the verge of collapse during his youth. Diocletian was an important emperor.

A Life With Vegetables

All went well until 305 when in poor health Diocletian decided to become the first emperor to abdicate. He moved back to the Dalmatian Coast and retired to a palace in a Croatian town now known as Split, living out the rest of his life growing vegetables. Years after his abdication when his system of co-emperors and junior emperors collapsed and the empire returned to chaos, Rome asked him to come back, be emperor again and fix everything, but he was happy with his tomatoes and cabbages (or whatever vegetables he was growing) and chose to stay in Croatia.

RELATED POST: 10 THINGS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DO IN ROME

The Baths

Emperors left their mark on the empire by building structures designed to last the test of time. The third century was to a degree a building wasteland, so it was time for something huge to be built.

Maximian was co-emperor of Rome. Diocletian ruled the Eastern empire and Maximian ruled the western empire. Maximian commissioned the Baths of Diocletian, named for an emperor who never set foot in Rome

Maximian, co-emperor of Rome

And so the Baths of Diocletian, the largest of all the imperial baths in the Roman world, was commissioned. They were actually commissioned by co-emperor Maximian in 298 and completed in 306, by which time neither were still emperor. Maximian named them the Baths of Diocletian. Diocletian himself never saw them, as he didn’t go to Rome.

The Baths of Diocletian are not just huge, they are gargantuan. They take up 130,000 meters (or 32 acres) between the Viminal and Quirinal Hills. They were designed to be public baths/pools for the people living in the Viminal, Quirinal and Esquiline quarters of the city.

Supposedly large enough to accommodate 3000 people at any time, the complex was made up of a cool water pool (frigidarium), and medium temperature pool (tepidarium) and a hot pool (caldarium) as well as a 4000 square meter outdoor pool. There was an open air gym (palaestra) on either side of the pools, as well as libraries and beautiful walkways.

Today the ruins of the baths are still enormous. As you walk through the ruins the size and scope of the project is quite overwhelming. You can almost hear the patter of Roman sandals ambling through the common areas nearly 2 millennia ago. How incredible it must have been for the people of Rome to stroll these giant walkways on their way to the pools, how sensational the beauty must have been!

For two centuries water was supplied to the pools via the Aqua Marcia aqueduct, until the siege of Rome in 537 when Ostrogothic king Vitiges had the water supply cut off.

If the shell of the building and the pools were all there was to see I would recommend you add this stop to your Rome itinerary, but there is more.

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The Statues

Statue at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. Statues here date from the 1st century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.

Throughout the complex, everywhere you turn there are statues.

Statue at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. Statues here date from the 1st century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.

Spectacular, awe inspiring statues of Gods and Kings, beasts and beauties. Statues and artifacts that will take your breath away.

Statue of a water nymph from a 2nd century fountain. Found at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome

Water nymph from a fountain, dating back to the 2nd century

Sometimes I think they just dig up so many treasures in Rome that there is no place to put them. The Baths of Diocletian are as good a place as any to line up endless treasures from antiquity!

Walking through the cloisters looking at them all lined up throughout the inner courtyard was just incredible.

Cloisters at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome

Statues line the cloisters of this inner courtyard at the Baths of Diocletian

Some date back to the 1st century B.C. Plenty are dated to the 1st century A.D.

Bust of Nero from the 1st century A.D, at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome

From Nero’s head to a bust of beautiful Antonia Minor, mother of Emperor Claudius, dated to around 18 A.D, that stands taller than me.

Bust of Antonia Minor, mother of Emperor Claudius, dated to 18 A.D. This statue is at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome

Statue of Antonia Minor, mother of Emperor Claudius, 18 A.D.

Sarcophagi from 160 A.D, water nymphs from 2nd century fountains – there is just so much here to look at!

the details on this 4th century sarcophagus are amazing. 1700 years later the eyes and noses and facial expressions are all still there. You can see it at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome

I actually spent a small amount of time exploring the pools and an enormous amount of time walking around and around all the areas with statues.

Statue at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. Statues here date from the 1st century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.

And here is what is even more fascinating: once again I had the whole place almost entirely to myself.

Statues lining the cloisters at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome

My first trip to the Baths of Diocletian was in June of 2018. That day Rome was packed to bursting point and stifling hot. I had initially been going to tackle some items on my list that were close to the Colosseum but the crush of tourist humans in the area forced me to head back out of there as fast as I could.

On the map Diocletian’s Baths didn’t look far so I decided to walk, which wasn’t an entirely brilliant idea on a day so hot and humid. A taxi would have only cost a few euros and buses run right up to the Piazza della Repubblica which abuts parts of the walls.

The entry is beautiful, with trees and a huge fountain, a lovely place to escape the heat, or if not visiting during the middle of summer just a lovely place to sit and enjoy the scenery.

The cost of entry was around 10 euros and was worth every penny. There were other people visiting that afternoon – I wasn’t the only one, but I might as well have been. Everywhere I walked I had a clear, uninterrupted view. I could look at the statues from every angle, I could see it all unimpeded.

Inner courtyard at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome

Statues line the walls under these cloistered porticos. It was a busy day in Rome, but there was no one here

I think my favorite part was walking round and round the cloistered internal courtyard, cool and shaded from the heat of the day. A few artists were scattered around sketching, but when I look at all the photos and videos I took, I can’t even see them.

This, to me, is part of the incredible magic of Rome. There is so much to see and do, most of which is far from the tourist crush.

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What else is there?

Diocletian was said to be the most ardent persecutor of Christians. He killed more of them than any other emperor. I have read that the Baths of Diocletian were built by 10,000 Christians. Whether that number is true or not, suffice to say it was a rough time to be a Christian.

This wasn’t based on theology so much as it was based on continuity, obedience and legitimacy. Emperors presented themselves as semi-divine, almost Gods. The concept of aligning yourself with the “one true God” was a direct challenge to that legitimacy. The current system had worked so well and Romans had successfully worshipped their Gods for 1000 years. Why change?

In the end the Christians got the last laugh. Pope Pius IV commissioned Michelangelo to build a church on the site to commemorate the Christians who died building the baths. Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri was built using the frigidarium and tepidarium structures, and a small cloister was built using part of the natation (outdoor pool). St Mary of the Angels and Martyrs is a must see while in the area.

A second church is also there, San Bernardo alle Terme (St Bernard of the Baths). This one was built in 1598 and is quite remarkable in its own right. Similar to the shape of the Pantheon this church is cylindrical, has a dome and an oculus. There are statues of 8 saints in wall niches, by Camillo Mariani dating to around 1600.

You could spend a fabulous afternoon exploring the Baths and the 2 churches. As with so much of Rome you are away from the crowds while still in the heart of the city.

 

How to get there:

Take a bus from any direction to the Piazza della Repubblica.

From the Colosseum/Forum area it is an easy walk up the Via Nazionale.

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What Information Should You Put On Your Luggage Tag?

Do you have your own luggage tags or do you just use the paper ones the airlines provide? Have you ever thought about the specifics of what information goes on your luggage tag? What is too much information and what is too little?

Regardless of how or where you are traveling it is essential to have luggage tags on your suitcase. Should you and your suitcase become separated there has to be a clear and easy way to get you reunited.

Why You Need Luggage Tags

So many suitcases look the same or very similar, making it very easy for tired travelers to make mistakes and leave with the wrong bag. The easiest way to make sure no one walks off with your suitcase is to put something very distinctive on your bag, such as a sticker on a hard-sided case or a bright handle grip or strap on a soft sided case. You also need a covered luggage tag.

When you travel by plane you know there is a chance your suitcase won’t arrive with you. Surprisingly it doesn’t actually happen that often and 97% of bags are returned to their owners within 2 days.

Airlines provide paper luggage tags and they also attach their own barcoded tags to ensure your bag gets on your plane. But. Things happen. Paper can rip off, leaving your bag tagless. Earlier this year I sat on a plane and watched 2 suitcases marooned on the tarmac in the pouring rain. I imagine the baggage guys rescued them before we took off, but heaven only knows what state the paper tags were in by the time the bags were rescued?

I had a traveler on one of my tours whose suitcase arrived in Rome 8 days after she did. She was on an eleven day tour, so having no suitcase was quite drastic.

While she flew from JFK in New York to Rome, her bag did its own little tour, first stop Boston, then La Guardia New York, then Amsterdam, then all over the place before heading back to JFK, and then coming back to Europe and ending up in Rome on day 8.

One of the things that contributed to her bag being gone for so long was that she didn’t have a luggage tag on it. At no point along the way could anyone reach out to her and say they had her bag. When I asked her why she said because her suitcase looked different from everyone else’s.

Although that is a definite advantage at the baggage carousel it is no help at all when a bag goes missing. Your suitcase must have a luggage tag on it. A covered tag that secures by looping through itself instead of buckling on. Buckles break under stress.

RELATED POST: SHOULD YOU GET TRAVEL INSURANCE?

Safety first

Have you noticed yet that I keep saying you need a covered luggage tag? There is a safety reason for it.

Several years ago I was on a flight home from a makeup job in Nashville, sitting in the dreaded middle seat. The fellow sitting next to me was chatting with me during the flight and suddenly asked me if I ever went to restaurant X, which was not far from my house.

I hadn’t said anything about living in Phoenix, let alone where in Phoenix I live. When I questioned him on it he told me that he had been standing behind me at check in and had read it on my luggage tag.

I thought I was going to throw up.

I wondered if I was sitting next to a serial killer or a madman. I was stuck in the middle seat on a full flight, next to a stranger who knew too much about me. And he knew too much because I had made a careless, thoughtless mistake. Two of them actually.

(The end of that story is that he was probably just a nice enough fellow who thought he had something cool that we could chat about. So I lucked out.)

Covered Luggage Tags

Covered luggage tags keep both you and your suitcase safe. Brightly colored luggage tags help to make your suitcase easily identifiable.

 

My first mistake was not having a covered luggage tag. When you buy a luggage tag it is essential for personal safety that your information is covered up. If someone needs to find out who the suitcase belongs to they can open the tag to read it.

You seriously don’t want strangers knowing your personal information. That includes the strangers you may encounter as you maneuver your bags through the airport and also the strangers handling your bags one you have checked in.

RELATED POST: SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN EUROPE

What Information Should Be On Your Luggage Tag?

The information on your luggage tag should be printed clearly so that it is easy to read. Don’t write in script or in goofy, swirly letters. Keep it simple and legible.

Your name. Use your first initial and your surname. That’s all. Using your Christian name can make your gender easily identifiable. No one needs to know that.

Bill Smith becomes B. Smith. Barbie Smith becomes B. Smith.

Your Phone Number: Either your phone number or your work phone number. The fastest way to connect you to your suitcase should it go missing is to be able to phone you.

An Email Address: Yours or someone you can trust to stay actively on top of reuniting you with your suitcase. I just use my own because no one is going to be as proactive as me when it comes to tracking down my suitcase!

No Street Address: You don’t need to put a street address on your luggage tag. The airline can track your address easily enough because it is part of your booking information. When they see a suitcase that has a tag saying B. Smith with a phone number (555) 123-4567 and an email address of BSmith99@yahoo.com, they can connect that to B. Smith’s flight info and get all the details they need.

Don’t Notify The Burglers:

Your address on your luggage tag is everything a burgler dreams of. They can read that and know with certainty that you will not be home for the next however many days.

Business Card:

Some suitcases have a sleeve for a business card. So long as there isn’t an address on the card, or the address doesn’t lead a stalker to your door or your office door, slip your card in there. Its an easy way to reach you.

No Flag:

Having your country’s flag on your suitcase although patriotic is not necessarily a good idea. I am all about being an individual, but when you are traveling you don’t necessarily want to draw that attention to yourself.

The flags of countries that are everyone’s friend such as Canada, Australia and my country, New Zealand, are pretty harmless, but you may want to think twice about having the flag of a country that is considered hostile or problematic or the enemy of another country. Most of the time you won’t have a problem, but why take the risk?

Bonus Content

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I have made a Pre-Travel Checklist PDF that you can download and print off before each trip. Broken up into 3 months before you travel, 2 months , 1 month, 1 week, 1 day and the day you leave, these checklists take the stress out of getting ready for a trip to anywhere. You check off items as you get them done and can see clearly and easily what is next on the list!

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Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

From the beginning of the bridge an imagination as active as mine could look out and pretend it was the Great Wall of China. But it wasn’t. I was in Italy, the sun was searing hot on my back, and I was about to cross the chasm that would take me to The Dying City.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

For years my friend Silvana had been telling me I should visit this fantastic little town, suspended in the sky. She told me there were less than 100 locals still living there and that American tourists and wealthy Italians had been buying up the (very old) houses as vacation homes.

Finally I was here.

Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the most sensational hilltop towns in all of Italy.

There is a free PDF at the end of this post – make sure you read to the end!

Why You Should Visit Civita di Bagnoregio

One of those fantastic little Italian towns that you wouldn’t necessarily just stumble upon by accident, Civita is a little bit off the beaten path, midway between Orvieto in Umbria and Viterbo in Lazio. I finally made it there a few years back when I was staying near Viterbo and we were able to make a little detour on our way to Orvieto for the day.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

The little town of Civita sits atop a hill made of volcanic tuff, high, high above a huge canyon, overlooking the Tiber River valley. (I had to google volcanic tuff – it is stone made from volcanic ash during an eruption. In Civita’s case it is friable tuff, which is prone to breaking apart under stress)

The stretch of land that once connected Civita to nearby Bagnoregio has eroded away and now the only way to access the little town is via a footbridge. No cars or trucks can go over, the only motorized vehicles are mopeds and the occasional motorbike.

The Dying City

In Italy Civita de Bagnoregio is known as La Citta Che Muore, or the dying city. Over the centuries (or maybe millennia?) the city has been eroding and literally falling away.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

Turning a corner we stumbled across a Renaissance palazzo, repleat with a big wooden door, shuttered windows and ivy growing over the façade. Turns out a façade is all it was – the rest of the home had fallen down the eroding hillside decades earlier.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

As we wandered we found other shells of homes that had fallen victim to erosion.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

Over the past few generations the young folk moved out to more modern towns that offered an opportunity to work, and the old folk started dying off, hence the double entendre of the dying city.

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A Little History

As with approximately everywhere in Italy, Civita has a fascinating history.

The Etruscans built the huge stone passageway that leads into town when they founded Civita more than 2500 years ago. (This entire area is full of Etruscan tombs and archeological treasures.) In the 12th century the passageway was decorated with the Romanesque arch that you now walk through as you leave the modern world and enter a village that hasn’t changed much since the Middle Ages.

Saint Bonaventure was born here in 1221 and died under mysterious circumstances in 1274. I couldn’t find anything particularly fascinating about him, but when you first arrive in Civita you see an empty space where his childhood home fell down the hill centuries ago.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

By the 16th century Civita had begun its decline as life began moving to nearby Bagnoregio. At the end of the 17th century a massive earthquake sped up the town’s race with erosion, forcing the municipal government and the bishop to also move to Bagnoregio.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

In the 19th century erosion reached the layer of clay below the volcanic tuff, fast tracking the speed at which the town was falling down the hill. In 2004 there was talk of strengthening the town by reinforcing the plateau with steel rods. I don’t know how far that has come along, but in 2006 Civita made its way onto the World Monuments Fund 100 Most Endangered List.

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Civita Today

There are now only 5 year round residents in Civita, a number that swells to around 100 over the summer.

Civita di Bagnoregio

Wandering past vacation homes in Civita

Locals cross the bridge by day to run the eateries and artisanal shops that keep this island in the sky running.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

Don’t expect to find tourist shops or signs leading you to museums or notable sites – although Civita di Bagnoregio does get tourists coming to explore its cobblestoned streets it can in no way be described as a tourist town. Which in my opinion is even more reason to love it!

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

We stopped at a restaurant for some local bruschetta (definitely recommended!) and the owner explained the history of the giant olive press inside. The press itself is 1500 years old and up until the 1950’s or 60’s was operated by blindfolded donkeys who walked round and round all day.

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

Vacation homes with views from the top of the world

Make sure to visit the church in the heart of town. Originally an Etruscan temple it was repurposed as a Roman temple before eventually becoming a catholic church. Chunks of the temple columns line up outside the church like broken sentries whispering secrets from the past.

 

Civita di Bagnoregio is Italy’s most spectacular hilltop town, and most people have never heard of it! Known as the Dying City, Civita is slowly eroding and falling down the mountain from the high peak it teeters on top of. It is like an island in the sky. You need to know about Civita and add it to your Italian itinerary. Read on to find out why

The perfect spot for an evening spent in Civita

I haven’t yet stayed the night in Civita di Bagnoregio, but it is on my ever growing list of things to do in Italy. With no bars or shops open and no wandering crowds of locals or tourists, evenings sitting out under the stars with a glass of Orvieto wine must be incredible. I can only imagine how beautifully the moonlight plays on the old buildings after the sunset has painted the huge valley below in Umbrian gold.

 

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Civita di Bagnoregio

The houses in Civita date back to the Middle Ages

How To get There:

From Orvieto train station you can catch a bus to Civita di Bagnoregio.

By car from Orvieto by car take SR71. The drive is around 35 minutes.

By car from Viterbo Civita is an easy 30 minute drive on the SP6

BONUS FREE PDF

Do you get stuck trying to plot out the perfect trip? Or do you feel overwhelmed trying to figure out where in Italy to go, what to see and what to miss this time? In my book Glam Italia! How to travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) I talk about a questionnaire that I give to all my Glam Italia Tour travelers to help me plan the perfect travel experience for them. The Questionnaire is available to my blog readers as a free, downloadable PDF that you can print and use as many times as you want. It works for anywhere in the world that you are planning to travel to!

If you would like a free download just  CLICK HERE