Decoding Rome's S.U.P.E.R. Pass for Restricted Archaeological Sites
Here's my guide to buying and using Rome's new S.U.P.E.R. Pass.
This special pass gets you into some spectacular restricted archaeological sites on Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Some of these sites have just recently opened to the public and are still hidden gems in Rome.
Launched in 2018, the SUPER Pass stands for "Seven Unique Places to Experience in Rome." It gives you skip the line access to 8 sites (one is a combo site).
You can't visit these sites with the regular trifecta ticket covering the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill. You can ONLY visit them with a SUPER pass. Because the SUPER pass is limited to specific times and small groups, you can enjoy a less touristy experience.
But the SUPER pass can seem very complicated, with a slew of requirements.
Let's break down how to purchase and use the SUPER Pass.
In this guide, I explain everything you need to know about the SUPER Pass -- how to buy it, what sites it covers, how to make timed entry reservations, etc.
Bottom line: the SUPER pass is a super value for some super sites in Rome. Allora, let's get down to details.
What is the SUPER Pass?
The SUPER pass is a themed skip the line ticket. It allows a single access to 8 special archaeological sites on the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum: Domus Transitoria, the House of Augustus, the House of Livia, Aula Isiaca & Loggia Mattei, the Palatine Museum, the Neronian Cryptoporticus, the Temple of Romulus, and Santa Maria Antiqua Church.
These ancient sites were previously only accessible via a private guided tour. They're now open to the public, but on a very limited basis. They contain precious paintings, frescos, marble, and sculptures and can't accommodate large groups.
These sites are for the serious history buff. A few of these imperial sites also offer multi-media curation. You can take a deep dive into ancient Roman art and civilization that isn't available elsewhere.
Where To Buy the SUPER Pass
You can buy the SUPER Pass at a ticket office at the Colosseum or Palatine Hill entrances. But there likely will be a massive line.
It's vastly easier to buy the SUPER pass online on the Coop Culture website. While you're buying it online, you can simultaneously reserve a time slot for the sites that require this, which I'll explain below.
How To Purchase the SUPER Pass: 2 Choices
There are two main options for buying the SUPER Pass. First, you can buy the pass as a stand alone ticket online for 16 euros and a 2 euro reservation fee. It gives you entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill and the 8 additional SUPER sites.
You have one day to use this SUPER pass. As with the regular trifecta ticket, you can only enter the Roman Forum or the Palatine Hill once. And both of those places have to be visited on the same visit. If you exit the Roman Forum, you won't be able to access the Palatine Hill later (or vice versa). So you need a good plan.
Once you've purchased the ticket, you'll get an email with a voucher.
The second SUPER Pass option is to buy the SUPER pass as a 6 euro add on to the regular 16 euro trifecta ticket for the Colosseum/Forum/PalatineHill. It's a total of 22 euros plus a 2 euro reservation fee. You can also upgrade on the same day at the Palatine Hill entrance.
You have two days to use the pass. But you can only access the entry to the Forum or the Palatine Hill once. With this type of pass, you should plan one day for the Colosseum and one day for the designated SUPER sites.
Please note that a reservation to visit the Colosseum has to be made separately. As of March 2019, you can no longer visit the Colosseum without a reservation. There's an online reservation fee of 2 euros. As you might guess, the slots go very quickly.
If you purchase this option, don't throw out your SUPER ticket after the first day. You'll need it on day 2! Wear sensible shoes. There's not really anyplace to eat or use the rest room on Palatine Hill, except for the Palatine Museum.
Practical Information & Tips For Using the SUPER Pass
1. Day and Times to Go To the SUPER Sites
Not every SUPER site is open every day. You need to plan your visit carefully based on when the 8 sites are open. Opening hours vary by season. For the current hours of the 8 SUPER sites click here.
Generally, the Roman Forum sites are open in the afternoon and the Palatine Hill sites are open in the morning. Saturday and Sunday are the only days when all 8 sites are open to the public. Some of the sites are closed on Mondays and some on Fridays.
2. How To Reserve Timed Entry Spots for the SUPER Pass
Three of the 8 sites require you to make a reservation for a specific time slot to visit because only small groups are allowed inside: Domus Transitoria, the House of Augustus, and the House of Livia.
The reservations are free. The online site technically requires you to "buy" them. But you'll be charged 0 euros.
To make a reservation on the Coop Culture website, click "buy now." There are reservation options for both English and Italian tours. Click the "details" button. Then choose your time and date and add it to your cart.
You can only tour these sites during the time and date you've reserved. Arrive early at the site so that you can find the entrance.
Staff onsite will have a list with your name and reservation information. If you've purchased a ticket but failed to make a timed entry reservation, you'll be turned away.
3. Parco Colosseo App
You can also download a new app from the Parco archeologico del Colosseo. It contains all the rules for visiting the sites, tickets options, hours, and routes you can take to visit the sites.
What Sites You Can Visit With the SUPER Pass?
There are 8 sites you can visit with the SUPER Pass. They're all worthwhile. My favorites were the Houses of Augustus and Livia and Domus Transitoria. Let's take a look at all 8 sites.
1. Nero's Domus Transitoria
Before there was Domus Aurea, there was Domus Transitoria. The Emperor Nero's first palace was built between 60 and 64 BC. The palace had a short life. It was destroyed in the great fire of Rome in 64 BC. (The fire that prompted the saying that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned.")
Like Domus Aurea, Domus Transitoria was a massive and lavishly decorated palace, connecting the Palatine Hill and Esquiline Hill. It was dubbed the Transit House. According to the historian Seutonius, Domus Transitoria had all the pomp, gold, and luxury one typically associates with grandiose Neronian architecture.
Domus Transitoria just opened in April 2019. You enter and descend a staircase to inspect the site underground. Virtual reality headsets bring the dank place to life, allowing visitors to see vignettes of the palace in its former glory.
2. House of Augustus
The home of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, is located on the most sacred area of the Palatine Hill, next to the Temple of Apollo. The House of Augustus was modest by imperial standards, especially given Augustus' enormous wealth.
The House of Augustus is nonetheless celebrated for its lavish red Pompeian frescos. They were first unveiled in 2014, the 2,000 year anniversary of Augustus' death, after years of restoration. The most exquisite frescos are in the Pine Room, the Room of the Masks, and the Room of the Perspective Paintings -- so named for their recurring motifs.
The western end of the house held the domestic rooms. The eastern end held the public reception rooms. By far the most elegant room is the Emperor’s Study, where Augustus burned the midnight oil. Protected behind glass, the walls are beautifully decorated with stylized winged obelisks, gryphons, and floral elements. The colors are bold -- green, black, green, and yellow.
3. House of Livia
First excavated in 1839, Livia's House was attributed to her because Livia's honorific name was found stamped on a lead pipe. Built in the first century BC, Livia's house was actually a bit larger and grander than her husband's house.
The best preserved section is the atrium and three adjoining rooms. The central room (the tablinum) was the most richly decorated. Known as the Room of Polyphemus, it had mythological frescos showing Mercury kidnapping the nymph Io.
In the dining room, there was a stunning garden fresco that made the walls almost disappear. The fresco has flowering trees, blossoms, and flying birds in delicate shades of faded purple, blue, yellow, and white. The original of this fresco was moved to the Palazzo Massimo all Terme museum. An replica is now in the House of Livia.
4. Aula Isiaca & Loggia Mattei
The Aula Isiaca was discovered in 1912 beneath the Basilica of the Domus Flavia on Palatine Hill. The apse chamber is decorated with frescos from around 30 BC. They depict Egyptian symbols -- lotus flower, snakes, vases, etc.
The Loggia Mattei was frescoed by artist Baldassare Peruzzi in the 1520s. (Peruzzi also created frescos in another Rome hidden gem, the Villa Farnesina.) The vault contains grotesque frescos, a style popular in the Renaissance that was copied from Nero's Domus Aurea.
5. Palatine Museum
The Palatine Museum is a treasure trove of ancient Roman ruins. It contains a wealth of Roman artifacts discovered during excavations on Palatine Hill, from emperors' palaces and aristocrats' homes.
You'll find frescos, sculptures, mosaics, and other objects. If you're a history buff, the Palatine Museum is a must visit site in Rome.
READ: 20 Best Museums in Rome
One of my favorite pieces was a rare bust of Emperor Nero. After the great fire, all likenesses of Nero were destroyed by decree. This bust is one of the few surviving relics of his time. There's also an interesting reconstruction of the Huts of Romulus, where Rome's founder Romulus once lived.
6. Neronian Cryptoporticus
Nero built the Cryptoporticus to connect his Golden House, Domus Aurea, with the other imperial palaces on Palatine Hill. It's an underground corridor that was 400 feet long.
It allowed the imperial entourage to travel in privacy and splendor. The tunnel was once decorated with elaborate stucco decorations. Traces of them are still visible.
The Neronian Cryptoporticus was also the scene of imperial murder. According to the historian Seutonius, this is where the Praetorian Guard assassinated the infamous Emperor Caligula in 41 AD. Like Julius Caesar, he was stabbed many times by a group of conspirators.
7. Temple of Romulus (in the Roman Forum)
The origin of the Temple of Romulus has been the subject of conjecture. Most historians think that Emperor Maxentius used it as a temple for his son Valerius Romulus, who died at age 4 in 309 and was deified.
The temple's original bronze door is decorated with two porphyry columns -- a marble so rare that it's almost extinct. Inside, the temple has several cycles of frescoes. There are 13th century wall paintings that imitate curtains. There's also a funerary tabernacle with a madonna and child.
8. Santa Maria Antiqua with Domitian Ramp (in the Roman
Santa Maria Antiqua is one of the earliest surviving Christian churches in Rome. The Byzantine church was discovered in 1900. It was built within a 1st century AD Roman structure built by Domitian. The church has a wealth of frescos from the 6th to 9th centuries depicting the Virgin Mary. It's considered the Sistine Chapel of the medieval era.
During a 9th century earthquake, the church was buried in rubble. It was sealed from the world for over 1000 years. This fate might have saved the precious works from a subsequent Baroque redo.
In ancient Roman times, the space was likely the entrance hall to the Ramp of Domitian. The ramp connected the public area of the Roman Forum to the private imperial palaces on Palatine Hill. The ramp has seven levels, six hairpin turns, and is both above and under ground. It empties into a hilltop terrace with a lovely view over the Roman Forum.
After years of conservation, the church and ramp opened to the public in 2015. Now, you can walk along the 2000 year old passage, just like the emperors did.
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