The Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill: why and how to visit this Rome hidden gem

by marta

All you need to know to plan a visit to the ancient Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill (Case Romane del Celio), a Rome hidden gem perfect for history lovers

If you love ancient Roman history and want to visit an archaeologic site that truly gives a sense of life in Ancient Rome, then I highly recommend to you plan a visit to the Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill (Case Romane del Celio).

As the name suggests, these roman houses are ancient residential spaces on the Caelian Hill, one of the historical seven hills of Rome.

Despite being located in front of the famous Palatine, the houses tend to be outside of Rome’s tourist track and lie as a quiet, beautiful and incredibly interesting historical site and a bit of a great for the savvy visitor.

detail of fresco in the Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill representing human figures and vines

The houses are now underground and you need to know where they are or you’ll easily miss them!

In this guide, I share all you need to know to plan a visit to the ancient Roman houses of the Caelian Hills, my tips for visiting and why Recommend them to history lovers.

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The Ancient Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill: what they are, why you should visit

The ancient Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill are a Roman houses dating back to the II-IV century AD.

They are on the slopes of the Caelian Hill and currently sit under the Basilica of St Paul’s, meaning they are, for the most part, underground.

The houses have an interesting history and their rooms saw several different uses, over the course of the centuries.

The earlier parts of the homes date from the II century and they have been identified as ancient Roman Domus, the bigger and wealthier type of ancient Roman residential house.

In the third century, the street level part of the houses got transformed into shop fronts, with storage areas at the back and homes at the upper floors.

Finally, in the IV century, the different spaces seem to have been unified again and turned into a newer Domus, decorated with elaborate frescoes we can largely still see.

In this latest form, the houses saw the lived and death of martyrs and saints St John, St Paul and other Christian martyrs who lost their life during the latest stages of the Pagan Roman Empire.

A visit to the Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill is a unique opportunity to see how these spaces developed and get a sense for what they may have felt like for the people using them as their home and work place.

Compared with the Domus at Palazzo Valentini or the Insula beside Ara Coeli, these houses have the advantage of retaining memory of different uses over the course of the time and they also have fantastic frescoes, that make them unique.

How to visit the Roman House at the Caelian Hill

Visits to the Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill are by reservation only.

Tickets can be purchased directly from Coopculture, which is the company managing the visitors’ access to the site or by the more >>> flexible booking platform Tickets <<< .

Advance booking is usually not necessary.

The address of the houses is: Clivo di Scauro, 00186 Rome

The closest tram station is tram n3 and the closest metro stop is Colosseo.

The Roman Houses of Celio: what to expect from your visit

The Roman Houses of Celio are a rather large site.

As you enter, you first see the ticket counter and (small) bookshop here is where you can get the audioguide to the site, which I highly recommend.

Ancient Roman houses of the Caelian Hill entrance

While you do have some introductory information in the first room, by means of an info panel, there are no information in the different rooms so, without the audio guide, it is pretty much impossible to know what you are looking at.

The guide can be used with a loudspeaker so, if you have others with you and no other visitors, you can get one and use if for your group.

Please note that you will need to leave your ID at the counter as guarantee, until you return the device.

After you pass the entrance, the houses come into their own.

The first space you see is a wonderful, tall room with stunning frescoes and this is only the first of several spaces, all with different decorations and uses.

Red frescoes and altar inside the Roman houses of the Caelian Hill in Rome, Italy

As you walk around, you find yourself in several rooms, many corridors, some level, some going downhill, up and down steps and, at time, you find yourself on a bridge suspended over a deeper escalated areas.

Overall, the site doesn’t feel claustrophobic however, the bridge may pose problems to people with severe fear of heights (it is only a small part of the site, though!)

Colorful frescoes I blue, red and yellow tones inside the ancient Roman houses of the Caelian Hill in Rome

At the end of the space, you also find a very modern room with a display of decorations and budding materials, interesting to put in contact the construction and architecture of the place.

Visiting the Roman houses of Caelian Hill with kids

I visited the houses with my two kids of primary school age and the loved them.

The audio guide was interesting but too detailed for them (I’d say: it is probably too detailed for most visitors, but you are able to fast forward bits, when needed!) but they found the corridors and passages just about adventurous enough to make the space ‘cool’.

They also loved the frescoes, which are colorful and impressive enough to pique the attention of children as well as adults.

The houses are not stroller friendly and, because of the bridge part, I would not recommend them with toddlers

Visiting the Roman houses of Caelian Hill: what to bring

To visit the houses, I recommend you:

  • Wear a comfortable pair of shoes, to keep you safe on their uneven floors
Inside of Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill with visible uneven flooring

How to find the Roman Houses of Celio

The address of Roman Houses of the Caelian Hill is Clivo di Scauro, 00184 Rome.

From Piazza della Navicella, you need to walk under the Arch of Dolabella and Silvanus and pass the Basilica of St John and St Paul and you will find the houses on your right.

If climbing up from the Palatine side, you will find the houses on your left.

Clivo di Scauro is easy to recognise as is it a small road with distinctive Roman arches in red bricks. A unique sight itself!

Clivo di Scauro (street) in Rome. Italy

What else to do in the area

The Caelian Hill is a wonderful area with beautiful churches and atmospheric streets.

You can find our guide here >>> our guide to the Caelian Hill.

These Roman Houses are also close to many other attractions and interesting areas such as:

Love unusual sites? Then don’t forget to also check out our guide to Rome off the beaten path, full of lesser known yet wonderful secret spots in Rome!

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