Lovely Rome is a hectic place, and to catch your breath a visit to the “Baths of Caracalla” can be recommended. The serene and majestic ruins of this gigantic public baths complex (thermae) are beautiful in an almost organic way. They were used as a backdrop to the famous Three Tenors concert in 1990, and are every year used by the Rome Opera Theatre as a stage for the summer season. The place has also been a source of inspiration for modern day architecture, among them the Pennsylvania Station in New York City.
The baths were built between AD 212 and 216 by the Roman emperor Caracalla. They were free to use by the public and as such served the political purpose of heightening the public’s opinion of the emperor. The baths contained all the luxuries of the time with hot, tepid and cold pools, gyms, several shops, an outdoors stadium, gardens and libraries. The walls and floors were covered by beautiful mosaics and the rooms were decorated with statues and art. The water was brought there by an aqueduct of course, and the heating of the large pools was done in an vast underground network of tunnels with wood and coal furnaces. The baths were in use until the 6th century when Rome was invaded by Ostrogoths and much of the complex was destroyed.