Rome’s newest tourist attraction is over 2,000 years old. The Mausoleum of Augustus finally reopened to the public earlier this year after decades of neglect. A major restoration project saw the circular tomb – built by Rome’s first emperor in 28BC – undergo extensive excavations and a facelift to create a new pedestrianised area around the monument. It’s still a work in progress, but here’s what visitors can expect right now.
Entrance is below street level and visitors walk down into the site to reach the Mausoleum itself.
I remember the Mausoleum hidden away behind a fence with years of plant growth sprouting from its walls so it’s nice to now be able to see more of the structure itself. Once development of the surrounding piazza is complete, the monument looks set to become even more of a focal point of the area.
The tour began in the outer chambers of the Mausoleum, where the guide explained some of the construction techniques used.
The circular structure measured around 90 m (295 ft) in diameter and was estimated to reach as high as 45 meters (150 ft). Topped by a bronze statue of Augustus and surrounded by cypress trees, it no doubt served as an imposing reminder of the emperor’s rule. Two pink granite obelisks, which now stand at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and in front of the Quirinale Palace, only added to the grandeur.
In the inner chambers, visitors can see what’s left of the carved stone blocks that held the ashes of the emperor and his family. As well as Augustus (aka Octavian), Octavia (Augustus’ sister), Livia (wife), Agrippa (son-in-law, close friend, and prominent architect), and many other important names from ancient Rome were also buried here.
Moving deeper inside the structure, we learnt how its function changed over the years. In the Middle Ages, it was fortified and turned into a castle. Later, it hosted bullfights, firework displays, and, after the addition of an auditorium, even classical music concerts and theatrical performances.
Mussolini attempted restoration during the Fascist era but abandoned the project after the outbreak of World War II.
In 2007, new archaeological excavations took place but work once again seemed to stall until 2016 when it was announced telecommunications company TIM had donated €6 million towards the Mausoleum’s restoration. Part of the funds went to building this glass roof and walkway that show off the structure’s inner chambers.
Mausoleum of Augustus Tickets
Visits to the Mausoleum of Augustus last around 50 minutes and are currently led by an Italian-speaking guide. Rome residents – and a number of other groups, including Roma Pass holders – get free entry until the end of 2021. Book tickets on the Mausoleo di Augusto website (new time slots have just opened up and the last batch sold out quickly so I’d book now).
Looking for more inspiration in the Eternal City? Check out these things to do in Rome.