It’s no secret the Ancient Romans loved a good bath. Indeed, we probably wouldn’t have spas today had it not been for those hot-water-worshipping Romans. Sadly, many first-time tourists to Rome miss the ruins of one of the city’s most opulent public baths: the Baths of Caracalla. However, travelers to Rome “in-the-know” consider its relative obscurity a selling point. Sparing a little extra time to visit the Baths of Caracalla rewards travelers with a surprisingly intimate ruins experience. Right in the heart of Rome, no less.
A Brief History of Rome’s Baths of Caracalla
Although the Baths of Caracalla are named after Emperor Caracalla, it’s believed Caracalla’s father (Emperor Septimius Severus) ordered construction in the early 200s AD. Completed in 216 AD, Romans considered the Baths of Caracalla the most opulent in the city. Until, that is, they fell into disuse in the turbulent 6th century.
Designers spared no expense creating this luxurious urban oasis, which included marble flooring, vast indoor gathering spaces, gardens and various hot-and-cold rooms. Several bathing areas, each containing multiple pools, tied the complex together. Plus, countless exquisite statues, mosaics and frescoes graced the interior. Historians believe over 1,500 Romans could’ve used these baths at any one time.
Fun fact: The architects behind NYC’s Pennsylvania Station and Chicago’s Union Station drew inspiration from the Baths of Caracalla. Unfortunately, Penn Station lost this visual ode after a 1960s renovation.
Easy Access From the Colosseum
The Baths of Caracalla make a nice detour from the main ruins district. Only about a 15-minute walk from the Roman Forum and Colosseum, head south on Via di San Gregorio. Then turn left on Piazza di Porta Capena and continue on Viale della Terme di Caracalla. It’s that easy. Get off at either Circo Massimo or Colosseo if riding the metro.
General Info on the Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla are usually open between 9AM–6:30PM Tuesdays through Sundays and between 9AM–2PM on Mondays. Included on the much-recommended Roma Pass, the baths cost about €6 per person. Do yourself a favor and spring for the audioguide so you can better appreciate these magnificent baths.
In addition to offering tours, the baths frequently hold live music and theatrical performances, especially in the summertime. It’s a good idea to check if any special events overlap with your visit to Rome.