Once the largest thermal complex in ancient Rome, the Baths of Diocletian have beautifully survived the test of centuries.
They now comprise the Museum of the Baths of Diocletian – one of the 4 locations of the National Roman Museum – as well as the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
More confidential than many of the ancient sites of the Italian capital – such as the Roman Forum , the Baths of Caracalla , the Domus Aurea to name but a few – the Baths of Diocletian are nevertheless worth a visit if you’re staying long enough in the Eternal City.
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Want to know more about the history of Rome? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
Brief history of the Baths of Diocletian
The origins of the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian were built between 298 and 305 AD, under the reign of Maximian, co-emperor of Diocletian (Maximian controled the West of the Empire, Diocletian the East).
The Baths of Diocletian were inspired from the Baths of Caracalla but were twice as large. They extended over no less than 14 hectares / 35 acres, and remained the largest spa complex ever built under ancient Rome.
According to Roman custom, the baths included a caldarium (a hot room), a tepidarium (a warm room), a frigidarium (a cold room), as well as a natatio (a swimming pool), not to mention a library and vast gardens. The thermal baths were supplied with water by one of the city’s many aqueducts.
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Want to find out more about Rome’s top landmarks, activities & museums? Why don’t you check out the Captain’s detailed article on the best things to do in Rome?
The decline of the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian remained in activity for over three centuries. In the 6th century AD, the Goth invaders cut off the Roman aqueducts and the thermal baths of the Italian capital fell into disuse.
Like many ancient sites, the Baths of Diocletian were used as a quarry whose materials were looted and reused for new constructions.
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
In the 16th century, at the request of Pope Pius IV, Michelangelo converted part of the old Roman baths into a basilica.
Dedicated to the Christian martyrs who worked on the construction of the thermal baths some 12 centuries earlier, the basilica is located in the former frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room) and natatio (swimming pool) of the thermal baths.
The Baths of Diocletian and the National Roman Museum
In 1899, the National Roman Museum moved into the Baths of Diocletian. The museum aims to bring together and display ancient sculptures and work of arts discovered in the Italian capital and its surroundings.
Over the years, the collections were enriched to such an extent that the Baths became too cramped to store and exhibit everything.
The National Roman Museum’s collections were therefore divided and are exhibited today in 4 different locations: the Baths of Diocletian, the Palazzo Altemps , the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and the Crypta Balbi.
🚃 Termini Station 🚃
The water that supplied the thermal baths during Antiquity was stored in a vast reservoir called the “ botte di Termini ”. The was destroyed in the second half of the 19th century to make room for the construction of the famous Termini station, which is therefore named after this ancient reservoir.
Visiting the Baths of Diocletian
Today, the Baths of Diocletian comprise two sites:
- The Museum of the Baths of Diocletian (Museo nazionale delle Terme)
- The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels)
The Museum of the Baths of Diocletian
Visitors can discover the remains of the impressive thermal complex (in particular the apodyterium (the changing room) and the atrium), as well as a beautiful collection of statues and ancient works of art.
The museum’s cloister – attributed to Michelangelo – is an absolute gem!
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri still displays many of the original architectural elements of the Baths of Diocletian.
The Basilica is also home to the Meridian of Bianchini, an astronomical meridian line dating from the 18th century. More or less similar to a sundial, it measures solar elevation and time of year.
Getting to the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian are located a stone’s throw from Piazza della Repubblica and Termini station, served by metro lines A and B as well as numerous bus lines.
💡 For information 💡
Please note that unlimited access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and Omnia Card. Find out more here.
Opening hours of the Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian are open from Tuesday to Friday from 2 to 7.45 p.m., as well as on weekends from 10.30 a.m. to 7.45 p.m.
Admission tickets to the Baths of Diocletian
The price of admission is €13 for full price tickets, €2 for European nationals aged 18 to 25. Admission is free of charge for European nationals under 17 and over 65. The admission ticket also provides access to the other three locations of the National Roman Museum: Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and Crypta Balbi.
👉 FYI, the entrance to the National Roman Museum is included in the Roma Pass. Find out more here.
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions!
🎟️ Activities: as for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide , Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!
🎫 Citypass: if you are staying in Rome for several days, it may be worth investing in the Roma Pass or the Omnia Card . As well as entries to some of the capital’s most iconic sites, these passes include access to public transport.
🚐 Transfers: if you want to arrive in Rome serenely, you can book your transfer from the airport to the city centre in advance. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. For more information: transfers in Rome.
🚌 Local transport: Rome has a comprehensive public transport system: metro, bus and tram. Access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and the Omnia Card . If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included).
✈️ Flights and trains: to book your flights to Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
The Captain recommends Trainline for booking train tickets.