Roman Insula Rome

Fresco Roman Insula

The Roman insula to the left of the Aracoeli Staircase at the bottom of the Capitoline Hill in Rome is the only remaining example of a typical 2nd century AD Roman apartment block. It is thought that around 400 people may have lived in this particular insula, which might have been taller than the six floors that are visible now. The ruins of the adjacent bell tower were part of the San Biagio de Mercato Church.

Roman Insula Rome

Location, admission and opening hours

Insula Romana Rome (fresco)
14th century fresco

The Roman Insula is located to the left of the staircases leading up to the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli and the Piazza del Campidoglio. The monument can be seen from the street. (Sometimes cultural groups organize visits to the interior of the monument. The cost is 4 Euros (3 Euros concessions), plus whatever these groups charge for the tour. For Rome residents admission is free on the first Sunday of the month.

History and description

Insula (plural: insulae) were apartment blocks where Rome’s less wealthy used to live in the times of the Empire.

The insulae were badly maintained and often lacked running water and a good drainage system.

Apparently it was not recommended to walk past these apartment blocks in the dark, since you would never know what might land on top of you.

The smell was of course horrible. The higher you lived the worse the conditions were.

Half of what is left of the building (the 4th, 5th and 6th floors) is above the present ground level. When the area was cleared during the Fascist period the three lower levels were unearthed.

The ground floor of the insula was nine meters below the present street level.

San Biagio de Mercato Church

Bell Tower insula Romana Rome
Bell Tower

In (probably) the 12th century, the Church of San Biagio de Mercato was built on top of the ruins of the insula. The church was constructed by the Boccabella family. It consisted of a single nave. There were numerous plaques on the walls. The de Mercato part of the name probably refers to the nearby ancient market place.

Piazza d’Aracoeli Rome

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