Caelian Hill is the most south-eastern hill of the of the famous “Seven Hills of Rome,” which are located east of the river Tiber and form the geographical heart of Rome, within the walls of the ancient city. The other hills are Aventine Hill, Capitoline Hill, Esquiline Hill, Quirinal Hill, Viminal Hill and Palatine Hill, where Romulus founded the city and where the main archaeological remains can still be seen today.
The hills were initially not grouped in any way, and only started to interact with each other when denizens began playing religious games and turned the valleys separating them into lively markets named fora in Latin. It wasn’t until the 4th century, however, that the Servian Walls were built to protect newly-formed Rome.
In Republican-era Rome, Caelian Hill was reserved to the wealthy; it was a fashionable residential district and the site of many lavish villas. The western slope of the hill is one of the few tranquil and unpopulated places in Rome, seemingly stuck in ancient times. Several ancient churches can be visited on Caelian Hill, including the little known but fascinating 4th century Basilica di San Clemente (burial place of St. Paul’s of the Cross which founded the Passionists and station church of the first Friday in Lent), as well as the circular, 5th century Santo Stefano Rotondo. Visitors can also admire the foundations of the temple Nero erected in honor of his predecessor Claudius and where the 17-year-old Emperor came to the throne. Elegant tree-lined gateways lead to Villa Celimontana, one of Rome’s nicest parks.
Visitors wishing to visit Caelian Hill can do so by metro (Circo Massimo and Colosseo stations), by tram (line 3) or by bus (route 81).