Why You Need To See Palazzo Valentini In Rome

This is one of my absolute favorite things to see in Rome.

You can stand outside the door and look at thousands of tourists in the vicinity of the Forum and Colosseum, then walk back inside and only have a small group of you waiting to go on the tour of the Palazzo. This one is on the list of places in Rome that most tourists don’t ever hear about, and don’t even realize is right there in front of them. It’s pretty fantastic. And now you are in the know too…

Why You Need To See Palazzo Valentini In Rome

Palazzo Valentini is a beautiful Renaissance palazzo, with an interesting history. At one point it was owned by an incredibly handsome fellow by the name of Giacomo Boncompagni, Duke of Sora, Aquino, Arce and Arpino. He was a feudal lord and also happened to be the illegitimate son of Pope Gregory XIII. Those Popes were a raunchy bunch – celibate to the world but with mistresses and wives and children. I find it fascinating!

What’s Below Palazzo Valentini?

In 2005 while renovations were being done on the palazzo, the remains of two magnificent Imperial Roman homes and thermal baths were discovered underneath. Archeologists spent years working on it and now the 20,000 square foot space is open for viewing. Let me tell you, it is amazing!

2000 year old mosaics on the floors of the Domus Romane underneath Palazzo Valentini in Rome

2000 year old mosaic floors still in perfect condition, in the Roman houses underneath Palazzo Valentini in Rome

Buried for centuries under the palazzo, the Domus Romane (Roman Houses) are incredibly well preserved. You will see the original ancient staircases, mosaics, frescoes, inlaid marble floors, all dating back to around the 3rd century.

Frescoes lining the wall at Palazzo Valentini in Rome

Ancient frescoes lining the walls at Palazzo valentini in Rome

You walk across a glass floor, with ancient Rome lit up below you, so rather than observing from the sidelines you feel as though you are in it.

Glass floors at the Roman Houses under the Palazzo Valentini in Rome allow you to see the homes from directly above rather than from the sidelines, giving you a more inclusive experience

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The thermal baths give you an idea of how wealthy this family must have been, and the location alone speaks to their importance – right outside the roman forum.

There is a glassed off room full of ancient Roman trash – plates and cups and kitchen gear that had been thrown away.

A multi media installation at the Domus Romane at Palazzo Valentini Rome lets you see how the houses would have looked back in the 2nd century

It keeps getting better too, because this museum has a multi-media element to it. While a taped narration explains what you are seeing (in clear English, over a speaker system so you don’t need to wear headphones), the lights go down and the multi media part lights up, letting you see how it would have been back then, completing rooms and walls and ceilings.

The multi media installation at the Roman Houses at Palazzo Valentini in Rome shows you how the houses would have looked back in the 2nd century A.D.

The multi media experience lets you see how the homes would have looked in the 2nd century

A multi media show in the Domus Romane at Palazzo Valentini shows you how everything would have looked back in the 2nd century A.D. It's fantastic!

Part of the multi media experience at the Roman houses underneath Palazzo Valentini in Rome

One part that I really loved was looking down onto the remains of a Roman road. A laser lights up the stones and shows you how clever they were with their construction and how the shapes of the stones were repeated and not random, making strong roads that lasted for millenia.

An ancient Roman road underneath Palazzo Valentini in Rome. During the tour a laser lights up the ptterns in the stones

The remains of a Roman road run between the two houses. A laser lights up the shapes of the stones and you learn just how clever the Romans were when building their roads. They are a variety of sizes and shapes making up a repetitive pattern. It’s incredible!

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The final part of the tour takes you into a video room where the stories on Trajan’s Column are explained (it’s brilliant). When the video is done they walk you to a private viewing area that looks out at the column, immediately in front of the palazzo.

This is one of Rome’s treasures that I will keep returning to. It is just fascinating and fabulous.

Ancient mosaics on the floors of the Roman house underneath Palazzo Valentini in Rome. These mosaics are 2000 years old!

2000 year old mosaic floors, still intact, in the Roman houses underneath Palazzo Valentini in Rome

You can only go through the Domus Romane with a guide and they have set times for each tour. The tour lasts around 90 minutes and is in English. The Domus Romane are closed on Tuesdays.

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Make sure you book ahead. You can get dates, times and online tickets at the Palazzo Valentini website. You have to arrive 30 minutes before your tour to turn your voucher into a ticket.

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On the On the secret Rome list this is an absolute must see! Two roman houses from the 2nd century, underneath Palazzo Valentini

Why You Need To Read This New Book About Rome

If you are planning a trip to Rome, or have been to Rome, you need to know about this book.

The History Of Rome In 12 Buildings

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. See Disclosure Page for details.

I have been reading, underlining, ear marking pages and sticking post it notes to this fabulous new book by Phillip Barlag.

The History of Rome in 12 Buildings: A Travel Companion to the Hidden Secrets of The Eternal City
is a fantastic way of exploring Rome, learning about its history and at the same time learning about some intriguing buildings.

Of the 12 buildings there are three of the usual suspects, the Colosseum, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, but the author’s view of them and the information he gives shed another new light on them. Even if you have been to these buildings a hundred times over as I have (well, maybe not 100, but definitely more times than I can count) you will still gain something new from reading these chapters.

The History Of Rome In 12 Buildings

 

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The remaining 9 buildings he takes you to are fascinating and although within walking distance of the Colosseum, quite possibly haven’t yet made it onto your itinerary. From the Mamertine Prison to the Mausoleum of Augustus to Ara Pacis, there is something new for everyone! If you are already familiar with all 12 buildings in the book you will still take away something new.

Rome is huge, and its sprawl can feel overwhelming to a traveler. There have been times when I haven’t ventured out to see a site or monument because it has just seemed too far, only to find later that it was in fact quite close. In the book Barlag uses a well known site, the Colosseum, as the starting point from which you head out to each of his buildings, telling you that with your back to the Colosseum this is a 15 minute walk. (Or however long it takes.) This gives you an easily understandable concept of where everything is.

He also gives you the metro stop for each site, and knowing that travelling is hungry work he gives you the names and addresses of his favorite restaurants close by.

As he closes each chapter he also gives you another building nearby that either bridges the story or the space between the one you’ve just read about and the next. It is fantastic!

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If you’ve been following this blog for more than 5 minutes then you will already know that I love Rome. I adore Rome. I can’t wait to get back to Rome (in just a few weeks from writing this post) and will be taking this book with me when I go back.

The History Of Rome In 12 Buildings is available here on Amazon.com
Find The History of Rome in 12 Buildings on Audible here

Buy it for yourself if you plan on ever going to Rome or if you want to re-live memories of this magnificent city. Buy it for family or friends who are going to Rome.

Please also take the time to leave me a comment once you have read The History Of Rome In 12 Buildings – you will love this book, and I love hearing from you!

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.
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