The Baths of Caracalla were one of the largest thermal complexes in ancient times and are the iconic exemplar of a huge Roman bath. A trip to the Baths of Caracalla offers a chance to learn about Roman culture throughout Classical Antiquity. Today left as ruins, their strong wall and enormous size, leave the visitors captivated by the elegance and grandeur of the place.
Built in the early 3rd Century, the Baths of Caracalla is an elaborate spa complex that hosted gymnasiums, libraries, and elaborate gardens within its premises. The second-largest bathing complex in Rome, it could host thousands of people at once.
What remains today are some of the brick walls and large vaults that have caved in, succumbing to the years. As you make your way toward the massive complex, you are met with immaculate gardens on both sides. Once landscaped to perfection, this vast stretch of gardens now sees visitors sitting down and enjoying a picnic lunch.
The extensive ruins are farther inside, waiting to be explored. While most of it has withered beyond recognition, the sheer size of the remaining structure gives you a fair impression of its lost grandeur. Visitors can observe the large red-bricked walls and the intricate black and white mosaic used to line the floors, providing a brief glimpse into its past glory.
Though the ceiling has now caved in, parts of the grand pillars and the gigantic porticoes still remain and are accessible to visitors. An ode to Rome’s architectural excellence, the Baths of Caracalla once stretched across an area of 33,000 sq m.ft, adorned with giant granite columns and numerous frescoes.
Today, as we walk along with the perfectly maintained gardens and into the ruins, all we can do is imagine the Baths of Caracalla as they once were, in all their glory.
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The nearest airport to the Baths of Caracalla is the Fiumicino/Leonardo da Vinci airport, which is located at a distance of around 30 km. If you choose to take a taxi, the journey will take around 30 to 40 minutes. There is also a regular shuttle service from the airport to the city.
Visitors can take the Leonardo Express, which is scheduled every 20 minutes. Tickets cost around ₹1,106 and the journey takes a little more than half an hour. Trenitalia Frecce also services this route twice daily.
Visitors can take bus No. 628 and 714 to reach the Baths of Caracalla, which will take around 15 to 20 minutes.
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It is recommended that you visit the baths during Spring (March to May) or Autumn (September to November) so that you can beat the crowd. Moreover, the weather is at its best during these months.
However, perhaps the best time to visit the Baths of Caracalla is between August and September as, during these months, tourists can visit these red-bricked ruins at night. Exploring the Caracalla bath under the moonlight will leave you wanting more!
The Baths of Caracalla are open throughout the year, except on certain select days. If you are visiting during the summer, make sure that you carry plenty of water with you as it is difficult to find water once you enter the ruins. If you are visiting during the winter, it is recommended that you dress in layers as it can get quite windy inside the ruins.
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Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Roma RM, Italy. Located south of the city center, along a corridor of ancient archaeological sites that stretch from the Colosseum to the Appian Way, the Baths of Caracalla are easily accessible.
- The baths are open daily, except for December 25 and January 1 when they remain closed.
- It is open to the public from 9 am every day. However, the closing hours depend upon the season.
- Visitors are allowed to enter the ancient ruins till one hour before closing time.
- On Mondays, the site closes at 2 pm. Here are the closing times for the rest of the week:
- 4:30 pm - From the last Sunday of October to 15 February
- 5:00 pm - From 16 February to 15 March
- 5:30 pm - From March 16th to the last Saturday of March
- 7:15 pm - From the last Sunday of March to 31 August
- 7:00 pm - From 1 September to 30 September
- 6:30 pm - From 1 October to the last Saturday of October
- For night visits: 8 pm - From late August to late September
Except on certain selected days when the entry is free, visitors are required to purchase a ticket of 8€. But with the opening of the underground area, tickets now cost 11€. However, everyone under the age of 18 can gain free entry. Visitors can also make use of Rome City Passes for free or discounted entry.
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The ancient baths were built during the reign of Emperor Caracalla. Even though he is largely credited for having the baths built, it is assumed that the idea and the design were conceived by his father, Emperor Septimius Severus. Construction began in 206 and was completed by 216 or 217.
Because of the cement they made and the arches they constructed, the Romans were able to create gigantic structures even in those ancient times. Once completed, the baths could hold up to 1,600 people. It is said that around 6000-8000 people visited the Caracalla baths in a day.
Since the Romans did not have running water in their houses, they had to resort to using public baths for their daily chores. However, the Baths of Caracalla served as more than just a public bath. It was also the place where most of their social interactions took place. The baths were used for hundreds of years until 537 when the aqueducts that were used to supply water to the baths were destroyed by the Ostrogoths.
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As is prevalent in Roman architecture, the Caracalla baths also followed a symmetrical layout. The structure was constructed using a mixture of baked brick and concrete. But what is most fascinating is perhaps the network of tunnels the Romans managed to build so early on. These tunnels were mainly used for inspection purposes and also to store water and wood. They also had a working drainage system.
The outdoor pool was decorated with granite columns. Large, ornate bronze mirrors reflected sunlight, lending much-needed light to the room. The walls were made of marble and decorated with frescoes. The floors, on the other hand, were made with black and white mosaic, remnants of which can still be seen at the site. Numerous statues added to the grandeur of the complex.
The intricately designed garden is another example of the Romans' aesthetic finesse. The elaborate landscape design included statues, fountains and social spaces. The complex in its entirety is proof of the Romans' architectural superiority, making it one of Rome’s must-visit attractions.
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What makes the Baths of Caracalla so important is that it is one of those rare ancient structures in which we can still see the impressions of the original decor. Archeologists have found manuscripts with proof of marble floors, pillared halls, and mosaic interiors. As we walk through the ruins and try to reimagine its history, we are offered a glimpse into the ancient city of Rome.
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If you are looking to beat the crowd prevalent in the touristy areas of Rome, head over to the Caracalla baths. You can walk right in, looking for the signboards to lead the way. The history buff in you will be happy to find placards explaining the significance of each spot.
With the now open underground, you get to witness the engineering expertise of the Romans. The sheer size of the underground that once housed up to 50 ovens will leave you overwhelmed. It will also give you a clear perspective of the size and scope of this monumental structure.
Many have described the grandeur in size and architecture to be a symbolic instrument of the Roman imperial power. If you are visiting during the summer, do not forget to check out the various open-air concerts that are often hosted in these ancient ruins. Mostly consisting of iconic operas, these performances are not to be missed.
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1. The Colosseum
Perhaps the most recognizable of all the attractions in Rome, the Colosseum is merely a stone throw away from the Baths of Caracalla. About 1.2 km away, the ancient amphitheater can easily be reached on foot.
2. The Roman Forum
Another famous tourist spot, the Roman Forum is also quite nearby. A little more than a kilometer away from the baths, it is easily accessible. Originally a marketplace, it now houses the ruins of several important government buildings of Rome.
3. Circo Massimo
A large stadium built for the purpose of chariot racing, the Circo Massimo was the first and the largest stadium in ancient Rome. What's more, it's said to have been capable of holding up to a quarter of the city’s population! Located quite close, it would make the perfect addition to your Caracalla baths trip.
4. The Bocca della Verità
The Bocca della Verità or the Mouth of Truth is the sculpture of a bearded face carved on a marble disc. According to legend, the sculpture will bite your hand off if you put your hand inside its mouth and tell a lie. Conveniently located near the Caracalla Baths, you can test the powers of Bocca della Verità for yourself.
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The sprawling structure that once housed an expansive bathing complex leaves much to be explored. Most of the structure is still standing, including the impressive natatorial or the swimming area. It once featured a gym, several changing rooms, and a steam room.
In the swimming area, visitors can still see the remains of a poolside game that the Romans used to play.
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The ethereal marbles and mosaics with motifs of sea animals, Roman Gods, and nature are truly worth admiring. Even though the second floor of the complex which originally housed these exquisite artworks is now gone, visitors can still spot them on the ground floor, as they visit the ruins.
It is said that during the Renaissance, Donato Bramante and Andrea Palladio used these baths as inspiration for their own architectural endeavors!
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The underground, which is now open to the public, is truly worth a visit. When the baths were still functional, numerous slaves would stoke fires in order to supply hot water to the Roman public. Often described as the technological heart of the baths, the underground housed several ovens and water pumps among other things.
It is said that around 20 gallons of water were pumped per second into various tanks and pipes for bathing purposes!
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To fully understand the significance of the baths and to reimagine the baths in all its glory, it is essential that you visit the exhibition that is usually held underground. You will see yourself transported back to ancient times as you learn more and more about Rome. What's more, all your questions regarding the Baths of Caracalla will be answered after you visit the exhibition.
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Right under the Baths of Caracalla lies the Mithraeum, where worshipers of the ancient religion of Mithraism met in order to perform their rituals. The fresco of the God Mithra can be found here, which is hundreds of years old. A visit to the Caracalla baths is not complete without visiting the Mithraeum.
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No, the Baths of Caracalla are not free. Tickets can be purchased for 11€. However, it is free for everyone below the age of 18. Similarly, if you have a City Pass, you get a free or discounted entry as per your pass.
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