The Pyramid of Cestius: discover the Rome Pyramid

Did you know there is a Rome pyramid in the Eternal City?

full view of pyramidThe impressive pyramid is quite a sight!

Lots of people ask how such a distinctively Egyptian monument came to be in Rome.

This page is here to answer this question and much more!

The Rome Pyramid - Everything You Need To Know

Pyramid of Cestius next to the gatehouse of Porta San PaoloThe Pyramid of Cestius next to the gatehouse of Porta San Paolo, quite an entrance to Rome!

Yes, there is an ancient Roman pyramid in the Eternal City, but why was it built, and who by?

Keep reading for everything you could possibly want to know about this unusual monument, including:

What is the Pyramid of Rome?

The simple answer to this question is 'a tomb', but like most things in the Eternal City, the full answer is more complicated!

The pyramid is officially know as the Pyramid of Caius Cestius (Piramide Cestia or Piramide di Caio Cestio in Italian) because it was constructed to house the remains of Caius Cestius Epulo.

More about him below!

As was customary in the ancient city, tombs including the pyramid were placed outside the city walls.

As Rome grew rapidly in the imperial period the pyramid slowly became surrounded by buildings.

In the third century, emperor Aurelian ordered the construction of a new set of walls, known as the Aurelian Walls, which delineated Rome's official boundaries at that time.

pyramid from ancient street levelFrom this angle you can clearly see how the pyramid was built into the ancient wall

It was decided that the Pyramid of Cestius would be incorporated directly into the new Aurelian Walls in a bid to save money.

Ironically, evidence from the time states that it cost more to do this compared to just building a regular wall around the pyramid, due to its unique and difficult-to-work-with shape.

The good thing about this decision is that it ensured the Pyramid of Cestius remained largely intact over the centuries due to its importance in defending Rome.

This made it one of the city's best preserved buildings from ancient times.

pyramid seen from porta san paolo train stationYou can see the pyramid from the train platform at Porta San Paolo station - the pyramid has acted as a way marker for travel in Rome since its construction.

Since that time the tomb-come-fortification has constantly been admired by visitors to the Eternal City, and in recent years has become a popular tourist site.

How many pyramids are there in Rome?

While the Pyramid of Cesitus may now be the only pyramid in the city, this wasn't the case in ancient Rome.

Until the 15th century there was another very similar pyramid in Rome, constructed around the same time as Cestius'.

It stood close to the Vatican, where you will now find the Via della Conciliazione.

vatican city from via della conciliazioneThe road leading up to the Vatican is a modern creation, but in ancient Rome another large pyramid stood here

It was known as the Meta Romuli because it was mistakenly identified at the time as the tomb of the founder of Rome, Romulus.

As the smaller pyramid of the two it was assumed to be the burial place of Romulu's twin brother Remus so it was given the name Meta Remi. 

The Meta Romuli was destroyed on the orders of pope Alexander VI Borgia, to clear space for new constructions in preparation for the imminent jubilee in 1500.

The only remaining visible material from that pyramid are the white marble slabs which covered its facade and surrounded its square base.

These were repurposed as the stairs in front of St Peter's Basilica.

view of popolo at sunsetIn ancient times there was supposedly another pyramid here in what is now Piazza del Popolo

Additional accounts also state there other pyramids in Rome, including two pyramids at the Flaminian Gate, where you will now find the twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto in Piazza del Popolo.

Who was Caius Cestius?

Caius Cestius Epulo (sometimes written as Gaius Cestius Epulo) was a prominent ancient Roman magistrate and priest who lived in the first century BCE.

During this period the Romans were fascinated with all things Egyptian and the ancient Egyptian monuments.

Just a few years prior to the construction of the Pyramid of Cestius, Egypt had been assimilated as a province of the Roman empire following Augustus' (Rome's first emperor) defeat of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.

Augustus took direct personal possession of the whole country and ordered the transportation of various Egyptian relics, landmarks and monuments to Rome.

This included many obelisks, tall sculptural monuments with distinctive pointed tops resembling pyramids.

san giovanni obeliskMany of the obelisks, like this one at the Lateran Palace, were brought over from Egypt in ancient Roman times

During this time the emperor also ordered various military expeditions to the areas bordering Egypt to secure the new frontier.

One of the these expeditions was to the kingdom of Meroë in Nubia in 23 BCE (modern day southern Egypt/northern Sudan.)

In Meroë there are countless pyramids, most of which are in the same style as the Pyramid of Cestius.

This suggests that Gaius Cestius Epulo was present during the expedition and took inspiration for his tomb from these ancient structures, rather than the famous pyramids of Giza in ancient Egypt.

There is no evidence to confirm this theory, but it would explain why priest Cestius styled his pyramid the way he did!

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More history of the Pyramid of Cestius

The construction of the Pyramid of Cestius took three hundred and thirty days and it is documented, like Egyptian pyramids, as being surrounded by ornate decorations including bronze statues.

Following the disintegration of the Roman empire and the depopulation of Rome that followed, the history of the Pyramid of Cestius was lost to time.

ancient road next to pyramidThe evidence of the ancient Roman road and structures were only uncovered when this part of the Eternal City was excavated

During the late Middle Ages, pope Alexander VI ordered the excavation of the area around the pyramid and the clearing of vegetation that had obscured the inscriptions.

In doing this, the myth that the pyramid was the tomb of Remus was dispelled.

Skipping forward to the age of the Grand Tour, the pyramid featured prominently on the itineraries of European travelers due to its location next to the graves of prominent figures in the neighbouring non-Catholic cemetery.

protestant cemetery keats gravestoneThe graves of the poets Keats and Shelley in the neighboring Non-Catholic cemetery

In modern times the Pyramid of Cestius has become a popular tourist attraction, particularly following conservation works which formally ended in 2016.

This conservation project included the restoration of the white marble façade of the pyramid, along with the interior spaces.

pyramid inscription close upYou can get very close to the pyramid, and its ancient inscription for free, just cross the road from the Piramide metro/Porta San Paolo train station.

The white marble façade states on the northern side:

G · CESTIVS · L · F · POB · EPVLO · PR · TR · PL[3]


Therefore the pyramid inscription reads Gaius Cestius, son of Lucius, of the Pobilia, member of the College of Epulones, praetor, tribune of the plebs, septemvir of the Epulones

The inscription is replicated on the southern side.

Where is Rome's pyramid and what is nearby?

The Pyramid of Cestius is located on the piazza/roundabout that connects Via Marmorata and Via Raffaele Persichetti with Via Ostiense and Viale della Piramide Cestia.

At this intersection you'll also find Porta San Paolo, a well preserved ancient Roman gatehouse of the Aurelian Wall which is home to the Museum of the Ostian Way.

pyramid from main roadThe ancient gatehouse of Porta San Paolo to the right of the pyramid is well worth a visit in its own right

Porta San Paolo gives its name to the train station on the opposite side of the piazza from the gatehouse.

This station connects the city center of Rome with Ostia, both the modern (Lido di Ostia) and ancient (Ostia Antica) towns.

Adjoining the train station you'll find the Piramide metro station (line B) from which you can connect to Termini main station and other major ancient sites such as the Colosseum and Circus Maximus within a few minutes.

pyramid cemetery cat viewThere are always some cute cats around in the cemetery grounds

Immediately behind the Pyramid of Cestius (if you are in the piazza) is the Protestant Cemetery, also known as the Non-Catholic Cemetery.

This cemetery is home to the graves of Goethe and Keats, as well as a number of other famous figures from history, and a number of stray cats who are looked after in a sanctuary.

Want to know more about this and some of the other cemeteries in Rome?

Check out my video all about them:

How to visit Rome’s Pyramid

view of pyramid from cemeteryGetting to see the pyramid from multiple angles is simple!

You can see the exterior of the Cestius pyramid for free very easily, simply follow Google Maps with your destination set as the Piramide train station on Metro Line B.

Cross the road from the metro station to get an up close and quick view of Rome’s pyramid. 

Its also possible to walk to the Pyramid of Cestius from Rome's main historical center.

You should allow between 45-60 minutes each way for the journey on foot depending on where you start.

However, for a better view and all around more peaceful experience, head to the Protestant Cemetery, whose entrance is on Via Caio Cestio.

Once inside, bear left and follow the path that skirts the edge of the cemetery which will lead you to an open area with umbrella pines and a grassy lawn.

cat and pyramid viewIf you have time why not enjoy a book or have a picnic? This is one of my favorite places to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Sit on one of the benches (or the grass if its dry!) and enjoy a view of the Rome pyramid uninterrupted by traffic and in the company of the cemetery’s resident cats. 

You can even join a tour that takes you via the cemetery as part of its route!

The perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome

Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.

In my 3-day itinerary, you'll see all the major must-see Rome attractions like the Vatican, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo, and much more.

And if you have more time, or want suggestions for extra/other things to do, you'll find that there too.

Visit my page with the best 3-day itinerary in Rome for first-timers.

Can you visit the inside of the Pyramid of Cestius?

pyramid internal decoration ancient frescoesHaving the opportunity to go inside the pyramid and see the ancient frescoes was incredibly special

Occasionally it’s also possible to visit the inside of the Rome pyramid.

It is not open regularly or consistently but if you can find a way to do this, I thoroughly recommend doing so!

The most direct way to visit the inside of the Pyramid of Cestius is to contact Coop Culture, however, at the time of this page's last update, regular tours of the pyramid's interior are not currently available.

Occasional limited-time openings have happened recently, so it's always worth checking!

A (potential - no promises!) workaround to this, is to sign-up to newsletters from Roma Sparita.

They are a cultural organization that facilitates special permission access to Rome’s lesser-known attractions, their name translates as ‘Vanished Rome’ or 'Lost Rome'.

Once you are on their email list you will receive regular updates with their upcoming visits, which could include the internal area of the pyramid.

To book you simply request to join a tour and pay the required fees, including a membership fee on your first visit.

All tours and experiences are in Italian but I’d advocate attending just to access unusual sites even if you don’t speak the language!

What there is to see inside the pyramid

I was lucky enough to visit the interior of the Cestius pyramid in 2019.

Here's an overview of what there is to see inside:

The entrance to the inner chambers of the pyramid are located on the north side, facing the Protestant cemetery.

You'll venture down a narrow corridor (I don't recommend this if you suffer from claustrophobia!), and at the end you'll find a small burial chamber where the remains of priest Caius Cestius were kept in antiquity. 

Gaius Cestius Epulo's remains are now long gone however.

pyramid internal decoration ancient frescoesStepping inside the burial chamber and seeing the decorations that were created over 2000 years ago is indescribable

The first violation of the tomb likely occurred when marauding tribes and invaders sacked Rome in the 4th century CE, or in the middle ages when treasure hunters and grave robbers broke into the tomb.

pyramid access hole insideYou can see the original access holes from when the internal area of the pyramid was rediscovered

While the outside of the Pyramid is undoubtably Egyptian or Nubian in style, the inside is very Roman.

The walls are lined with detailed frescoes painted in rich colours, displaying nymphs and winged Victories.

pyramid internal decoration ancient frescoesOne of the detailed depictions of Victory painted on the ceiling of the interior chamber.

Where to Eat and Drink Near the Pyramid of Cestius

Casa Manfredi

If you're looking for one of the best breakfast spots in Rome, look no further!

Here you'll find top quality pastries, coffee and of course, Roman maritozzi.

Note that there is no indoor seating so it's a stand-at-the-bar kind of place in the winter, but during the rest of the year you can grab a seat outside.

Address: Viale Aventino, 91/93

Open daily: Monday-Saturday 7:30-21:00 | Sunday 8:00-20:00

The nearby neighborhood of Testaccio isn't at the top of many visitor's must-sees, but there are lots of great places to eat and drink here!

Explore one of Rome's traditional neighborhoods with this in-depth food tour to learn more about a new part of the city.


This is my go-to brunch place in Rome.

The international team that runs Marigold are always reinventing their menu to offer classics alongside more modern creations.

cakes at marigoldThere is no better place to relax with a sweet treat than Marigold!

You'll find they have a fantastic bar offering a range of natural wines, artisan coffees and curated cocktails.

Address: Via Giovanni da Empoli, 37

Open Wednesday-Sunday 9:00-15:00


I wouldn't normally recommend a big brand name like Eataly but their store in Ostiense, just a 10 minute walk from the Pyramid of Cestius, is a flagship store.

As such this is your one-stop spot for eating and drinking the best Italian produce.

Of course there is also their huge market hall spread across multiple floors if you have space in your suitcase for some take-home treats!

Eataly is well connected to the rest of Rome.

Address: Piazzale 12 Ottobre 1492

Open daily 9:00-00:00

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