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Via Sacra- Visiting The Oldest Street In Rome

Via Sacra- Visiting The Oldest Street In Rome

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The famous Via Sacra used to be the main street in ancient Rome. It connected the Roman Forum to the top of Capitoline Hill and passed by some of the most important religious sites in the city. In this article, we’ll help you expand your knowledge about this legendary trip and help you plan your trip to this part of the city by providing a ton of useful information like places to visit, interesting facts, accommodation options, and more.

But first things first…

History Of Via Sacra

Via Sacra hidden gems in rome

Via Sacra in Rome was the main street in the ancient city built to guide travelers and citizens into the main business center known as the Forum. The street also housed several different temples and hosted celebrations for all major Roman military victories. The triumphal marches would start from Via Sacra and head to the Jupiter Temple on Capitoline Hill. In addition to this, a lot of religious festivals and celebrations took place on Via Sacra and one could often find prostitutes looking for new customers in the western stretch of the street.

The western stretch of Via Sacra was connected to the Forum while the eastern stretch connected the street to the Arch of Titus and the Colosseum. The construction of the street took over a century with a few Roman emperors changing power in the meantime. After the rain of Augustus, Via Sacra also started hosting a ceremony in which deceased emperors were concealed under death masks and carried from the top of Palatine Hill through Via Sacra into the Forum where funeral customs would take place.

During the early days of the Republic, Via Sacra was forked towards the Velian Hill and the House of the Vestals (today occupied by the Maxenitius Basillica). Another rebuilding endeavor took place during Nero’s rule when the emperor had the route straightened, redirected between the two hills (Palatine and Velian), and expanded to create more space on each side for more shop stalls.

After this, Via Sacra hasn’t been modified and kept its original appearance throughout the years.

Ethymology & Origin

via sacra rome

Via Sacra translates to “the sacred way” in English and is one of our favorite hidden gems in Rome. The street got its name because many of Ancient Rome’s holiest sites were lying on this path. This includes the Temple of Vestals, the Temple of Venus and Rome, the Temple of Caesar, and the Saturn Temple just to name a few. In addition to this, other important monuments like the Colosseum and the Arch de Titus were also located on this street.

What Was Via Sacra Used For?

via sacra rome

The Sacred Street was an important part of several different aspects of everyday life in Ancient Rome. As we mentioned in the beginning, it was used for triumph marches after successful conquests. Generals would lead their army on the street and take processions to Jupiter’s Temple on top of the hill. The victorious emperor would wear formal clothes and a crown and would be worshipped almost as a deity while passing by.

Another purpose of the street was for the funeral processions of emperors. Their bodies would be dressed in fine clothes, their faces covered with death masks, and their body was paraded into the Forum before being moved to the Campus Martius.

Last but not least, Via Sacra was also used as a general route locals would take every day. The street was said to have the highest concentration of shops and craftsmen in the entire city.  

A Few Interesting Facts About Via Sacra

  1. The Via Sacra is the oldest road in Rome and is entirely made of cobbled stone.
  2. Construction took more than a century and the last time the street was redirected was in 64 AD after the massive fire.
  3. The oldest section of the street is the area around the Domus Publica. In Ancient Rome, this place was the home of the person guarding the Vestal Virgins.
  4. In early times, many of the richest people in Rome had their houses built on this street and were called Sacravienses.
  5. Despite its name (holy or sacred way), Via Sacra was not immune to sins. Prostitutes used to roam around this road looking for business without any interruptions.
  6. It was one of only two streets in Rome to be called via (the other one was Via Nova).
  7. The name of the street was actually Sacra Via. Via Sacra was used mainly in poetry and literature but seems like this name stuck around.
  8. The street has officially been in use since the 5th century BC, making it one of the oldest roads in Europe.

How To Get There?

via sacra panorama

Via Sacra lies in the ancient archaeological section of Rome, between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia in the southeastern part of Rome’s historical center. The nearest metro station to this legendary street is Colosseo and the nearest bus stations are Colosseo and Celio Vibenna.

Interesting Tours Of The Area

Since it’s located in the heart of the city, there are many interesting tours to take near Via Sacra. My personal favorite is the Gladiators and Roman Emperors walking tour, an elaborate tour that takes you on a journey that showcases Rome’s glorious past. If you’re looking for an incredible, in-depth tour of the Colosseum, I warmly recommend this awesome 3-hour private tour or this Colosseum underground tour. This small group guided tour of the Forum is another great choice for learning the history of the area and last but not least, if you’re looking for an even more in-depth experience, check out this 2-day tour of Rome’s historic center that will make you an expert in the history of the area.

Are you a fan of Italian history? Then you may also enjoy our list of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy.

What to See Around Via Sacra?

In the area surrounding the oldest street in Rome, there are a handful of fascinating historical landmarks and monuments. Here are some of the most famous ones.

The Colosseum

colosseum historical sites in europe

No trip to Italy is complete without visiting the Colosseum, an ancient building infamous for its violent past. The Colosseum hosted numerous gladiator fights, animal fights, naval battle recreations, and even musical performances. It’s located on the eastern side of Via Sacra right next to the Roman Forum. It’s without a doubt, the most recognizable landmark in the area.  

Palatine Hill

palatine hill

Palatine Hill is located a short walk away from the street. The hill used to be home to the Jupiter Temple (Jupiter was the supreme god according to ancient Romans) and is the oldest part of Ancient Rome. The area is home to countless ancient ruins, artifacts, and frescoes and the views from the top of the hill are absolutely astonishing.

The Temple of Venus and Rome

Temple of Venus and Rome

Located down the street from the Colosseum, the Temple of Venus and Rome dates back to the 2nd century AD. The temple was designed personally by Emperor Hadrian and was the largest temple in ancient Rome at the time. The temple had two statues, one of Roma, the goddess of Rome, and one of Venus, the goddess of love. Both statues were seated on a throne and faced towards the Colosseum. 

House & Temple of Vestals

Temple of Vestals

The House and Temple of Vestals was for years the residence of the Vestal Virgins who were priestesses of the mighty Vesta cult. They were very respected and honored in Roman society because people thought they were very powerful beings who were in charge of protecting the city by worshiping and honoring the Goddess Vesta, goddess of hearth, home, and family. This was done by continuing to keep alight a magical fire that was supposedly given to the cult years ago. The temple still hides some very interesting artifacts, statues, and sections of the building that illustrate some of the most fascinating facts about the Vestal Virgins.

Arch Of Titus

titus arch

Located down from the House of Vestals, the Arch of Titus is a large, 15-meter tall, and 6-meter wide arch that was built after the death of Emperor Titus in 81 AD. The arch is supposed to honor Titus, the god of war, and the victory in the war of Jerusalem.

Temple Of Saturn

Temple Of Saturn

Located in the central part of the forum, you’ll find the remains of the temple of Saturn, the Roman god of sowing or seed. The best-preserved part of the temple are its eight pillars. This was one of the oldest temples in Rome; it was built in 498 BC and reconstructed in 42 BC.

Basilica Of Maxentius

Basilica Of Maxentius

Down the street from the Saturn Temple, you’ll find the remnants of the once grandiose Maxenitius Basilica. The basilica was one of the largest structures in Rome. It was built to honor the new, up-and-coming religion of Christianity and to celebrate Constantine, the emperor who allowed Christianity to become the main religion of Rome. The magnificent building was supposedly covered in white marble and had a 15-meter-tall statue of Emperor Constantine.

Temple Of Caesar

Temple Of Caesar

The Caesar Temple was erected to honor the deified Julius Caesar. After his assassination, the emperor’s body was cremated on the site and his followers built an altar which was soon after torn down by the same people responsible for his death. Years later, the shrine was rebuilt during Emperor Augustus’ rule.  

Nice Hotels In The Area

colosseum accommodation

Because the area surrounding Via Sacra is filled with historic landmarks, monuments, temples, and archaeological remains, there aren’t any hotels in the area itself but there are plenty of options only a short walk away. Staying in this part of the city is very convenient because you’d be closer to most tourist sites but it also comes at a relatively higher price compared to hotels further away from the city center. Here are a few nice hotels in proximity to the oldest street in Rome.

San Daniele Bundi House

San Daniele Bundi House is probably the most affordable accommodation in the area. It’s located only 500 meters away from Via Sacra and at the time of writing, the price is around $80 per night (up to 10% lower if you use our affiliate link).

Hotel Romano

Hotel Romano is another great budget alternative with slightly better facilities and conditions. It’s also around 400 meters away from the street and the price per night is around $110.

B&B Colosseo Panoramic Rooms

B&B Colosseo Panoramic Rooms is a cute bed and breakfast, nothing fancy but clean and tidy, with breakfast included. The distance from the historic street is around 500 meters and the price per night is around $130.

Domus Real Cardello

Domus Real Cardello is a beautiful, small mid-range hotel located on Via del Cardello with beautiful views of the historic center of Rome. It’s located around half a kilometer away from Via Sacra and its rooms start from $170 per night.

Royal House

If you’re looking for a nice, affordable hotel with views of the Colosseum, Royal House should be on the top of your list. The hotel is located across the street from the Colosseum and around 400 meters away from the historic street. Its rooms start from $170- $180 per night.

HS 311

If you’re looking to add some luxury to your trip, HS 311 is a gorgeous high-end hotel located right across the street from the Colosseum and about 500 meters away from Via Sacra. The prices here start from $300 per night.

DRS- Roman’s Ruins Colosseum

DRS- Roman’s Ruins Colosseum is another luxurious hotel with a gorgeous garden, large terraces, and beautiful views of the historic city center. The hotel is located 300 meters away from the Colosseum and 500 meters away from Via Sacra. The room prices start from $320 per night.

Palm Suites

Palm Suites is one of the most beautiful hotels I stayed in while visiting Rome. It’s part of the global chain Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The interior is just lovely, it’s perfect for couples, there’s a beautiful garden, free bicycles for guests, and the overall design of the building is stunning. Palm Suites is about 400 meters away and room prices start from $650 per night.

Hotel Palazzo Manfredi

Hotel Palazzo Manfredi is a beautiful 5-star hotel located in the heart of Rome’s historic district. The hotel has its own private parking, a fully-equipped fitness center, a great restaurant, and some amazing views of the Colosseum. The distance from the oldest street in Rome is 600 meters and the price per night is around $650.

Did you ever visit Via Sacra in Rome? How did you like our guide? Do you think there is some other important information we forgot to include in the article? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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