Baths of Caracalla, or Romans’ knack for pampering themselves

One of the top landmarks to visit in Rome to better delve into ancient imperial history is the Baths of Caracalla. Also known as Thermae of Caracalla, these Roman baths were built by the will of emperor Caracalla to show off in architecture, style, and luxury.

baths of caracalla
Theatre inside the Caracalla Baths where still now the Opera is organized during summer

The Baths of Caracalla a must-see Rome attraction

Despite being close to the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla are often overlooked. As all local ruins can hardly disappoint, this ancient Roman spa will go beyond your expectations. You do need to go a bit further, walk past the Foro Romano and the Arch of Constantine heading towards the Palatine Hill and the Circus Maximus, but I can guarantee your extra walk will be totally worth it.

baths of caracalla
Rooms in the ancient baths, mosaic floors still visible and well preserved

Gone down in history as Thermae Antoninianae, the Baths of Caracalla were commissioned by Caracalla in 212 AD. It took 5 years and 9,000 workers to build what now is one of the biggest and best-preserved ancient Roman thermal baths. Inaugurated in 216 AD and renovated several times, they ceased to be operative in 537, when Gothic King Vitige severed the aqueduct to bend and conquer the city by thirst.

The complex of the Baths of Caracalla is huge and so well preserved that it’s easy to imagine how they were in their heyday and picture sauna lovers debating, sweating and sprucing themselves up. Apart from the wide gardens, there are also big chunks of the original mosaic floor, columns, and the figures and statues used as decorations, different areas each with their own purposes, such as the gym, changing rooms, shops, libraries, and pools to please some 6,000 spa-goers.

READ MORE: Check out what to do in Rome in 4 days.

baths of caracalla
Pieces of mosaics decorating the walls

How the Baths of Caracalla worked

The original baths were beautifully decorated, obviously, typical of the Roman style, with hundreds of statues, paintings, and mosaics. As it happens with art masterpieces, the more beautiful the more looted and removed from their original context, so at the Museo Nazionale of Naples you can find some sculptures from the Baths, in Piazza Santa Trinità in Florence you can see a huge column from the natatio (pool that apparently was of Olympic size), while in Rome’s Piazza Farnese you will find the two gorgeous basins in grey granite from the original frigidarium now employed as fountains.

A typical spa day started at the gym, then the sauna to get ready for the proper treatment that consisted in the calidarium, a warm room heated by an efficient heating system of hot air under the floor (oh, did you think we invented this only recently?), the tepidarium, to start bringing body’s temperatures down, and the frigidarium, the cool room to get all firm and toned with cold water pools and a play of waterfalls. This hall, frigidarium, was so beautiful that reminded of the structure of a basilica, and its style inspired in fact many buildings afterwards, such as Diocleziano Baths and Massenzio Basilica.

baths of caracalla
Other rooms, or gym or sauna in the ancient baths. Here too the floor is beautifully preserved

Underneath the whole complex, chariots went back and forth carrying wood to be burnt in the ovens linked to the heating and lies an impressive water system that shows Romans’ incredible hydraulic expertise.

In Rome, you will always be in awe. Anywhere you go, whatever you visit will inevitably make you think how proud and aware ancient Romans were of their status of the centre of the world. Truth be said, today’s Romans don’t really try to hide their pride, it will suffice to say that still now they go to bring flowers where Julius Ceasar was cremated about 2,000 years ago.

If you are a history lover, the Baths of Caracalla are one of the top things to do in Rome. A full immersion in ancient Roman architecture, a way of life and self-celebration.

Address and how to get there

The Caracalla Baths are in Viale delle Terme di Caracalla. You can easily reach them on foot with some 15 minutes walking from the Colosseum or using public transport. Here is the easiest way to get there:

  • By bus: 160, 671, 714, 792, 118, 628.
  • By metro: Circo Massimo station, line B.

READ MORE: You are not sure where to eat in Rome? Check out our guide to the best Rome restaurants for every preference.

Tags:

12 Comments
  1. Nice that you are settling into Rome. The baths look amazing and the history is very interesting. I’m really impressed with how the floors have been preserved. Beautiful.

  2. A’ VOIR ABSOLUMENT, C’EST UNE MERVEILLE!

  3. Avevo visto le terme tanti anni fa, non ricordavo questi colori! da rivedere al più presto!

  4. Once again you have come up with a great post. One need not research more after reading this post if they are planning a trip to Caracalla Baths. The fact that it is close to Colosseum could be one of the reason it is often overlooked by tourists. It is often so with lesser known attractions and one such example in Delhi (where I live) is Mehrauli Archaeological Park which has over 70 protected monuments but is often overlooked by tourists who visit Qutub Minar, A UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mehrauli Archaeological Park has some stunning monuments like Tomb and Mosque of Jamali Kamali, Metcalfe’s Dilkusha, Rajon ki Baoli and Balban’s Tomb and it is located right next to Qutub Minar.

    Now the thing is that talking about these often overlooked places do enlighten the visitors and that is why I must say that this post of yours is a great share supported with equally good photograph as always. And hey! Congratulations on landing a job at Forbes. I do believe they are fortunate to have you :-)

  5. Surprising history of Bath. Floor looks beautiful in your picture and I am glad to know about the fact that opera performance is still going on in this ancient theater. Really Rome is amazing.

  6. Hello,
    Greetings for the day!

    I had a chance to read blogs on your site and was wondering if you would be interested in publishing one of my articles. I believe my article will be of great value for your site.

    The piece would be around 500 words and 100% unique, with one link back to one of my travel website.

    if interested please feel free to get back to us .

    Thanks

    Rajesh

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.