The centrally located Largo di Torre Argentina is easy to pass by, but the archaeological complex dating from ancient Rome is well worth a detour!
It sounds like a mouthful, but Largo di Torre Argentina is one of the most important ancient historical sites in the Eternal City.
It's commonly referred to as 'Largo Argentina' to make life a little easier, and Area Sacra di Largo Argentina in Italian.
It happens to be where Julius Caesar was assassinated, but for many visitors and Rome residents alike, it might be best known as the home of Rome's largest sanctuary and shelter for stray cats.
As of June 2023, the area has been opened for the first time to public access.
We can now walk among the stunning temple remains, thanks to a long restoration project by Rome-based luxury jewelery house Bulgari!
On this page, we'll go over:
Largo di Torre Argentina is an archaeological zone in Rome.
It's known for being the site of the sacred area of Torre Argentina, which is a complex of ruined Roman temples and structures.
The area gained prominence when several well-preserved ancient Roman temples were discovered and then subsequently excavated in the early 20th century.
Largo di Torre Argentina is located in the historic heart of Rome.
You can easily reach Largo di Torre Argentina from pretty much anywhere in the city.
There is also a large taxi rank there.
The holy area of Largo di Torre Argentina is believed to date back to the 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE and was an important religious and political center in ancient Rome.
During the time of the Roman Republic, four temples, known as Temple A, B, C, and D, were constructed in the Campus Martius (Campo Marzio) area in around 509 -27 BCE.
One of the most significant events associated with Largo di Torre Argentina is the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March (March 15) in 44 BCE.
It is believed that the Curia of Pompey, a Senate meeting place located nearby, was the spot where Caesar was murdered.
Later during the Roman imperial period, emperors such as Augustus, Vespasian, and Domitian made renovations and additions to the existing structures.
With the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, and over the course of the subsequent centuries, the buildings in the area fell into disrepair.
The site was eventually buried under layers of sediment and debris.
The ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina remained hidden and forgotten for centuries, with medieval and Renaissance buildings constructed on top.
The rediscovery of the site occurred in the early 20th century during construction work at the location.
The ruins of the Roman temples were unearthed, revealing their architectural beauty and historical significance.
In modern times Largo di Torre Argentina has become famous for the the cat sanctuary located there (more about this below!), and most recently, for the extensive renovations and restorations sponsored by Bulgari.
The most distinctive feature of Largo di Torre Argentina are the four temples dating from the Roman Republican era.
These are referred to as as Temple A, B, C, and D respectively.
The lettering is used because it is not known exactly which gods each temple was dedicated to, although historians and archaeologists have come up with some generally accepted theories!
These structures are characterized by their well-preserved architectural elements, such as columns and friezes.
They provide valuable insights into Roman temple design and construction because the Republic era predates a lot of the most famous Rome sites.
Temple A is the best preserved temple and is generally believed to have been dedicated to Juturna, the goddess of fountains, wells and springs.
The temple follows a typical Roman architectural style with a frontal staircase leading to a portico supported by columns.
The interior of the temple housed a cella, which was the innermost chamber where the cult statue of the goddess would have been placed.
Temple A's high standard of preservation is in part due to the fact it was converted into a church.
A church was here as early as the 6th century, and you can still see parts of the flooring, altar and frescoes today.
Temple B, while smaller and less preserved than Temple A, remains historically significant.
It is believed to have been dedicated to the female deity Fortuna Huiusce Diei (Fortune on this Day).
Like the other temples in the complex, it was constructed during the Republican era, specifically in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE.
The exact architectural details of Temple B are not as well-preserved or documented as those of Temple A but it featured a frontal staircase leading to a portico supported by columns like Temple A.
During the excavations of Temple B, fragments of a colossal statue of Fortuna was discovered which can be seen at the Centrale Montemartini Museum.
Temple C is the oldest temple of the four and was likely constructed in the 4th or 3rd centuries BCE.
It was possibly dedicated to Feronia, the goddess of fertility, but there is not sufficient archaeological evidence or remains for this to be certain.
It was in the area behind temples B and C where Julius Caesar was murdered, during a session of the Roman Senate in the first century BCE within the Curia of Pompey.
Temple D is the largest of the four temples and was dedicated to Lares Permarini (Lares who protects sailors) in honor of a Roman naval battle victory in the second century BCE.
The facade originally featured six Corinthian columns across the front and eleven along the sides.
Unfortunately only a small part of it has been excavated, as the majority of the structure is under the modern street level.
This hall was originally part of a large complex commissioned by Pompey, one of the key figures in Roman politics at the same time as Julius Caesar.
Finished in 55 BCE, the complex was huge.
It linked the first permanent theater built in Rome with gardens and shady porticoes that led to the Curia building, as well as a temple dedicated to Venus Victrix.
Technically permanent theaters were banned from being built at this time, so Pompey used the temple as an excuse for the theater to get around the rules!
The Curia was used as a back-up to the main Senate building in the Roman Forum, where the senators met on occasion.
Julius Caesar's successor, Augustus, had the Curia building walled up in memory of the assassination so it became unused and eventually assimilated into later structures in this area.
Nowadays not much remains, but you can see the foundations of the Curia building and the supposed spot where Caesar was struck down.
Pompey's theater also no longer exists, but many of the buildings between Largo Argentina and Campo di Fiori have fragments of arches, walls and foundation blocks in their basements.
As these buildings were constructed on the foundation of the theater, they follow the curved shape so you can get a sense of the scale of it!
Its possible to see all the temples for free, from any of the streets that ring Largo Argentina; just step up to the fences and look down!
From here you'll notice that the ancient ground level is way below the modern city of Rome.
While you can see some of the site from the city roads, I would recommend visiting inside the archaeological area to get a closer look at the temple remains in this fascinating attraction.
Once inside, you will find a wealth of information creating an immersive experience that takes you back in time.
You can even visit some of the areas under the structures, which you cannot see from the street level!
When inside, you'll follow an elevated walkway to get up close to the ancient ruins as well as a collection of artefacts found during the excavations.
The new site has been planned out so you can learn the whole history of this central part of the city, from its ancient origins to the rediscovery in the 1920's.
The new area is also accessibility friendly, with a platform lift and an even walkway suitable for wheelchairs and people with reduced mobility.
You can buy tickets online here, and also in person from the entrance located at the southeastern corner of the square where Via di S. Nicola de' Cesarini and Via delle Botteghe Oscure meet.
The entrance ticket is just €5!
Largo di Torre Argentina is open Tuesday-Sunday:
End of March - End of October: 9:30am-7:00pm (last entry 6:00pm)
End of October - End of March: 9:30am-4:00pm (last entry 3:00pm)
Cat lovers are in for a treat when visiting here!
The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is home to a large number of stray cats who live in the ancient remains.
This is the largest cat sanctuary in the city of Rome, with over 100 cats currently residing here.
It was unofficially founded in 1929 by cats themselves when they moved into the newly excavated site.
Over the ensuing decades generous Rome residents took it upon themselves to look after the cats.
The sanctuary became famous in the 1950's when Italian movie star Anna Magnani became a patron when working in a nearby theater.
Skip forward to 1995 and the sanctuary was officially founded by Lia Dequel and Silvia Viviani after many years of hard work by a lone volunteer.
Since then the shelter has gained recognition for its work in protecting the cats of Rome, not just in Italy, but across the world.
You can learn more and support their work by visiting the official website here.