ROME — Southern Rome

The southern part of the city is a large area that is difficult to walk because the attractions found here are spread out. The neighbourhood of San Giovanni is a popular area of shops, bars and markets and is also a popular residential area. Two of Rome’s seven hills are found in this area. Caelian Hill was once the home of Rome’s wealthier citizens and it also served as a ‘zoo’ for the animals taking part in the games at the Colosseum. Aventine Hill has sweeping views over the Tiber river to St Peters and is mostly a residential area.

The sights you will find in this area include:
Basilica di San di Giovanni in Laterno
Scala Santa & Sancta Sanctorum
Chiesa di San Gregorio Magno
Terme di Caracalla
Bocca della Verità
Forum Boarium
Teatro di Marcello

Basilica di San Giovanni Laterno

Basilica di San di Giovanni in Laterano
This church which is one of the major basilicas of Rome is dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. It is also the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, the Pope, and is known as Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput (Cathedral of Rome and of the World). It was built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century, and was the first church to be built in Rome. It contains several important relics, a lovely 13th century cloister and an ancient baptistery.

Scala Santa

Scala Santa & Sancta Sanctorum
The steps of the Scala Santa (Holy Staircase), found across the street from the Basilica di San di Giovanni in Laterano, are said to be the stairs that Jesus walked up to see Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. They were bought to Rome by St Helena in the 4th century. They are considered to be so sacred that you can only climb them on your knees, saying a prayer on each step. At the top of the stairs is the Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies), once the Pope’s private chapel.

Traveller's Tip

The Sancta Sactorum with its fantastic mosaics, frescoes and marble floor is quite a sight to behold and well worth the visit.

Chiesa di San Gregorio Magno
To the English, this is one of the most important churches in Rome. It was from here that St Augustine was sent on his mission to convert England to Christianity. The main attractions of this church are the three chapels: the Capella di Santa Silvia with its frescoes of angels, the Capella di Sant’Andrea dedicated to St Andrew and the Capella di Santa Barbara with frescoes of St Augustine.

Terme di Caracalla

Terme di Caracalla
This is a hugely impressive sight. It is one of the largest and best-preserved examples of an ancient spa complex. It was constructed under the Emperor Caracalla and exhibits the rectangular plan typical of Imperial spa centres. The spa itself was not simply a place for bathing, sport and health, it was also a place of study and for relaxing. Around the centre of the structure the various parts of the spa are found in sequential order: the ‘Calidarium’, the ‘Tepidarium’, the ‘Frigidarium’ and the ‘Natatio’.

Bocca della Verità

Bocca della Verità
You will probably have to line up for quite a long time to be able to stick your hand in a round piece of marble that was once used as an ancient manhole cover. The famous ‘Mouth of Truth’ is a large disk in the shape of a mask. Legend says that if you put your right hand in the mouth while telling a lie the mouth will snap shut and bite your hand off.

Traveller's Tip

This is the place where Gregory Peck pretends to lose his hand accompanied by the screams of Audrey Hepburn in the movie Roman Holiday.
Forum Boarium

Forum Boarium
This was the cattle forum of Ancient Rome and its oldest forum. It was located at a flat place near the Tiber between the Capitoline, the Palatine and Aventine hills. It is also here where the first bridges were built. The Boarium was near the main port of Rome (Port Tibernius), and experienced intense commercial activity. The Forum Boarium was the site of the first gladiatorial contest in Rome which took place in 264 BC as part of an aristocratic funerary ritual — a funeral gift for the dead. The site was also a religious centre housing the Temple of Hercules Victor, the Temple of Portunus, and the massive Great Altar of Hercules built in the 6th century BC.

Teatro di Marcello
This historical site was begun by Julius Caesar and finished by Augustus who dedicated the theatre to his favourite nephew Marcellus. Later the theatre was taken over by the Fabi family, who built a fortress on top of the arches. After that the building passed through the hands of the Savelli and Orsini families. In the 16th century the former theatre was converted into a palazzo. You cannot usually get inside the building unless you are lucky enough to know a resident but the archeological area around the base is usually open in daylight hours.

Traveller's Tip

In summer piano recitals are held in the Portico of Otavia. Just walk past the great arches of the Teatro di Marcello.