Rome’s New Sound-and-Light Shows

Sound-and-light shows are so 1970s to me. But, with new laser technology, they are coming back and coming back strong. In the old days, travelers would gather on folding chairs in courtyards (at a temple in Luxor, the Invalides in Paris, or a château in Amboise) and listen to thundering voices of great historic figures (a pharaoh, Napoleon, Leonardo) tell stories as colored lights made the stony walls more evocative. Today, the power of laser projections is so strong and the images so vivid that a cathedral facade (in Reims) can be filled with workers treading in mills and carrying stone. And now, in Rome, we can walk through the ruins of a forum under the stars and see shops peopled with merchants, the Curia filled with senators, and fire sweep the Eternal City as Nero just fiddled. What are your old-school sound-and-light show memories? And what new shows have you enjoyed in Europe?

Below is the listing for the new sound-and-light show options in Rome (excerpted from the upcoming 2018 edition of my Rome guidebook). This is truly big news for people visiting Rome:

Sound-and-Light Shows: Forum of Caesar and Forum of Augustus

For an atmospheric and inspirational sound-and-light show giving you a chance to fantasize about the world of the Caesars, two similar and adjacent evening experiences are offered. With each of these “nighttime journeys through ancient Rome,” you spend about an hour with a headphone (dialed to English) listening to an artfully crafted narration synced with projections on ancient walls, columns, and porticos that take you back 2,000 years and bring the rubble to life. Each show is distinct and worth the €15 (or do both for €25, nightly from mid-April through mid-November, bring your warmest coat or sweater, tickets sold online and at the gate, tel. 06-0608, If planning to see both shows, do the Forum of Caesar first and allow 80 minutes between starts. While shows can sell out on busy weekends, generally there are plenty of seats.

Forum of Caesar Stroll: For this show you’ll stroll a few hundred meters on a wooden sidewalk, making about eight stops over the course of an hour, as the narration tells the dramatic story of Julius Caesar. During this nighttime walk, you are actually on ground level in normally closed-to-the-public archeological sites, enjoying views you’d never see otherwise. This show starts at Trajan’s Column, with departures every 20 minutes from dark until nearly midnight.

Forum of Augustus Show: At this show you’ll sit on wooden bleachers for the duration while looking out at the remains of a vast forum. Its surviving rear “fire wall” provides a fine “screen” upon which to project the images telling the story of Augustus. Showings are on the hour from dark until 22:00 or 23:00. There is plenty of seating and shows rarely sell out. Enter on Via dei Fori Imperiali just before Via Cavour (you’ll see the bleachers along the boulevard).


This is Day 35 of my “100 Days in Europe” series. As I travel with Rick Steves’ Europe Tours, research my guidebooks, and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences in Italy, Portugal, France, Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, and more. Thanks for joining me here on my blog and via Facebook.