Getting to the Ara Pacis by train
The altar stands inside its own museum, which opened in 2006. Visitors can find the Ara Pacis Museum in the historic centre of Rome, in the Campo Marzio area. Thanks to its central location, you should be able to walk to the monument while spending a day in the city.
Taking the train to Rome
If you’re travelling from a little further and don’t fancy the hike, you can take a train or sleek Metro service to a station near the Ara Pacis. You can easily reach Rome by train from any major city in Italy thanks to the frequent high-speed rail connections operated by Trenitalia and Italo. The most popular routes are from Venice to Rome (3h 15m), Milan to Rome (3h 10m), Florence to Rome (1h 18m) and Naples to Rome (1h 08m). Once you get off at Roma Termini station, you can either take the Metro or the 70 bus service.
Which station is nearest to the Ara Pacis?
If you’re riding the Metro to the Ara Pacis, choose the orange line A and get off at Spagna. From here, it’s less than a ten-minute walk to the museum. There are lots more exciting things to see and do nearby, including Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps, which means it’s easy to spend a full day here. Alternatively, you can get off at Flaminio, which is also a ten-minute walk from the museum, or take a city bus to Ripetta, just two minutes away.
Public transport in Rome
Public transport is cheap in Rome, so travel shouldn’t take up too much of your pizza budget. We recommend you pick up a transport card when you first arrive. Buses, Metros, trams, and light rail are owned and operated by the same company in Rome, so you can use any service with the same ticket. The Roma Pass is a good option, letting you ride any of the city’s transport for two to three days. You might also like the Rome Public Transport Card, which includes an airport pickup. Another popular choice is the 100 minutes ticket. These are available from tobacco shops, or tabaccaio, for just €1.50.
Exploring the Ara Pacis
The Ara Pacis, or Ara Pacis Augustae, is impressive to look at without knowing its history. When you learn the meaning behind each carving, and consider just how old the monument is, you start to get a feel for the significance of what’s in front of you.
The altar is surrounded by a decorative wall with entrances on the eastern and western sides. Both the outsides and insides of the walls are decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures. Look out for cultural and mythical themes, as well as some artistic floral designs.
The West Wall
Visitors today will approach the Ara Pacis from its western side. One of the carvings on this side of the altar shows the Trojan hero Aeneas offering a drink to the Penates, the household gods he brought from Troy.
On the other side of the western wall, a panel depicts the origins of Rome. It shows Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of the city, in the mouth of the Lupercal cave. Mars, God of War, stands nearby. It might seem strange for the God of War to have a place on an altar of peace. Mars represents the idea that peace can only be achieved through successful war and the favour of the gods.
The North Wall
The intricate north wall of the Ara Pacis boasts a detailed carving of a procession of senators. Each figure is wearing a toga and a laurel wreath on his head, symbolizing victory. If you look closely, you can see some of the senators are also carrying olive branches, a traditional symbol of peace. This side of the altar represents the aristocracy of the day. At the same time, the intricate floral pattern which stretches along its lower portion is impressive and aesthetically beautiful.
The East Wall
Along with the western wall, this is one of the most significant parts of the Ara Pacis. On the left panel, a feminine figure sits with two infants, surrounded by leaves and vegetation. This is a typical way of representing fertility and abundance. The woman has two companions, seated on a sea creature and a swan, representing water and air. Carvings of a cow and a sheep are at her feet.
While we don’t know who this figure represents, some guesses include Mother Earth, Venus, Ceres, or possibly Pax, Goddess of Peace. Most altars to peace include a representation of Pax. Experts aren’t sure about this figure because the Ara Pacis represents peace brought about by Emperor Augustus, not by the goddess. Who do you think the female figure represents?
On the right side of this east wall, we see the goddess Roma sitting on a pile of armour. This image again represents peace brought about through military victory. Most of the carving has been lost over time, but the image has been completed with a stencil.
The South Wall
Much like the northern wall, this side of the Ara Pacis is split into a top and bottom panel. Along the top, members of the imperial family and their servants are carved. There are lots of children among the crowd, which represents Emperor Augustus’ wish for more generations among the upper classes. Emperor Augustus himself is carved into the procession on the south wall. Can you spot him?
Inside the altar
The inside of the Ara Pacis is much simpler than the intricate external walls, featuring some symbolism and straightforward decoration. There are some carved ox skulls, which represent the sacrifices taking place at the altar, and garlands with fruit from all seasons.
Look out for small notches running from inside out. These were designed to help keep the space clean during sacrifices, letting blood flow out of the altar. The features are a reminder that the Ara Pacis was once more than just a symbol, but a functioning altar for sacrifice to the gods.
Ara Pacis History and Facts
As one of the best-preserved artefacts from Ancient Rome, with roots in 13 to 9 BC, the Ara Pacis is fascinating for history buffs. Let’s take a look at the story of this unique altar.
Augustus returning from Spain and Gaul
In the year 13 BC, Emperor Augustus returned from successful campaigns in Spain and Gaul. This meant peace for Rome. The emperor wanted to celebrate his return with a new masterpiece, so the idea for the Ara Pacis was born. This would be the first monument built to celebrate peace, rather than military victories.
Augustus wanted the monument built in the Campus Martius, a public part of Ancient Rome close to his mausoleum.
Building the Ara Pacis
The Ara Pacis was carved from marble over the next four years. It would have also been painted during its day, with some touches of gilding making its appearance even more impressive.
Losing and rediscovering the monument
Because of its location close to the Tiber, the monument was eventually buried beneath sediments from the rising river. The first pieces of the Ara Pacis weren’t found until the 16th century, buried beneath a palace in Lucina. More fragments were unearthed in the following decades. Still, it wasn’t until 1937 that a full operation set out to discover the entire altar.
By then, fragments of the Ara Pacis had been sent to museums including the Louvre, Vatican Museums, and the Uffizi. When the whole Ara Pacis had been excavated, its fragments were brought together, reconstructed, and restored. Today the altar is housed inside its own white and glass museum building, designed by American architect Richard Meier.
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops near the Ara Pacis
The Ara Pacis is situated in one of Rome’s liveliest areas, right amid the historical centre. Thanks to its prime location, there are lots of excellent cafés, restaurants, and bars around the museum. You can also find a choice of fantastic shopping, from sweet souvenirs to luxury picks to treat yourself.
Where to eat near the Ara Pacis
There are lots of great eateries in the Centro Storico, the city’s historic heart. Here are some of our favourites, perfect for a visit after you’ve been to the Ara Pacis Museum.
- Ditirambo – a cosy spot serving traditional Italian food with great prices
- Pierluigi – one of the most high-end restaurants in town with unbeatable seafood on the menu
- Ristorante Fiammetta – a homey choice for wood-fired pizza and fresh seafood
- Open Baladin – a laid-back spot serving burgers and beers
- Emma – for an extensive menu with something for everyone
- Da Francesco – for fuss-free meals and perfectly crispy pizza
- Enoteca Corsi – a traditional Roman lunch spot with an extensive wine list
- Il Falchetto – for modern versions of classic Italian dishes
- Piperno – one of the best traditional restaurants in the city, dating back to 1860
Since you’re looking for food in one of the busiest parts of the city, it’s easy to feel spoilt for choice. If you’re after somewhere a little more peaceful, head towards the relatively quiet Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina and grab an outdoor table at Antico Caffé Vitti. This elegant café-restaurant happens to be close to the spot where the Ara Pacis was rediscovered. What could be more fitting?
The best bars near the Ara Pacis
Fancy a drink after your visit to the Ara Pacis? When in Rome, as they say. There are lots of great wine and cocktail bars in the city centre, so you can find a glass without much effort. Here are some of our favourite spots.
Wander around the historic centre and discover the delis of your dreams, perfect for picking up something tasty to take home. You can find lots of antique and vintage shops around too, as well as jewellers, clothes shops, and leather traders. You never know what you might find!
- Antica Enoteca – a rustic bar serving a large selection of Italian wines
- Cul de Sac – Rome’s first wine bar founded in 1977
- La Botticella – another traditional spot for great wine and a memorable atmosphere
- Antico Caffé Greco – this rustic café is one of the best historic spots in Rome
- Bar Rosati – for delicious pastries and refreshing drinks in Piazza del Popolo
- Il Goccetto – an atmospheric wine bar and one of the best in the city
Shopping near the Ara Pacis
It should come as no surprise, shopping in central Rome is excellent. From independent makers to high-end brands and well-loved chains, there’s something for everyone in the Italian capital.
Opening Times and Ticket Prices
Visiting the Ara Pacis couldn’t be more straightforward. It’s open from 09:30 to 19:30 every day, with the last admission at 18:30. The monument is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and on the 1st of May.
We recommend you book your tickets in advance to skip the queue when you get there. Here are the most recent ticket prices for entry to the Ara Pacis Museum:
Youths (age 6-25)
Children (under 6)
If you’re looking to save money, you can view the Ara Pacis from outside the museum. The building is made of glass to allow natural light around the monument, which means thrifty travellers can get a good look at the altar without buying a ticket. If you’d like to go inside and see all the intricate details up-close, it’ll be worth the price of your entry to get a good look at the masterpiece.
Whether you check out the Ara Pacis during a busy day’s sightseeing or simply wander past it during some time in the city, we’re sure you’ll be impressed. With roots in the 1st century BC, the beautiful carving might just send a shiver down your spine.