Terme di Diocleziano and S. Maria degli Angeli
The Terme di Diocleziano was ancient Rome’s largest bath complex, covering about 13 hectares and with a capacity for 3000 people. Today its ruins constitute part of the impressive Museo Nazionale Romano. This branch of the National Roman Museum supplies a fascinating insight into Roman life through memorial inscriptions and other artefacts. Outside, the vast, elegant cloister was constructed from drawings by Michelangelo.
It’s lined with classical sarcophagi, headless statues and huge sculptured animal heads, thought to have come from the Foro di Traiano.
Elsewhere in the museum, look out for exhibits relating to cults and the early development of Christianity and Judaism. There’s a particularly interesting section about amulets and spells, which were cast on neighbours and acquaintances to bring them bad luck and worse. Ups’tairs exhibits tomb objects dating from the 11th to 9th centuries BC, including jewellery and amphora.
As you wander the museum, you’ll see glimpses of the original complex, which was completed in the early 4th century as a state-of-the-art combination of baths, libraries, concert halls and gardens – the Aula Ottagona and Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli buildings were also once part of this enormous endeavour. It fell into disrepair after the aqueduct that fed the baths was destroyed by invaders in about AD 536.