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FROM SEVILLE TO ITALICA: Discover the Legendary Birthplace of Emperors

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Just outside of Seville lies Italica, the birthplace of not one but numerous emperors. This once-mighty Roman city in Spain isn’t just old ruins; it’s a proud national monument knocking on UNESCO’s door for World Heritage status. Let’s uncover what makes this archaeological gem one of Seville’s top day trips.

Italica Spain: ruins of the amphitheatre Italica in Spain

Step into the sandals of ancient Romans and uncover the secrets of gorgeous Italica.


Italica – The first Roman settlement in Spain

Italica Seville: The Italica archaeological site near Seville was once the first Roman settlement in Spain and the birthplace of numerous Roman emperors.

Italica was born out of war, growing through love and integration.


We’re zipping back to 206 BC, right into the heat of the Second Punic War fought between Carthage and Rome. After a spectacular win against Carthage, the Roman general Scipio decided to treat his retired veterans to a little slice of home in Spain. But this wasn’t just any campsite, but the very first Roman settlement in Spain. He named this brand-new Roman colonia Italica, as most of the weary soldiers came from Italy. It wasn’t long before this veteran village turned into a thriving centre with roots that extended far into history.


A Roman emperor factory

Italica isn’t just another dot on the map near Seville – it’s practically the nursery for ancient VIPs. Imagine this charming small town in Spain saying, “I don’t just produce wine and olives; I also make emperors!” Yes, that’s right; Italica is the birthplace of not one but two of the most important Roman emperors: Trajan and Hadrian. And guess what? Historians also suggest that even Theodosius, another influential emperor, had his first cries echoing through these ancient streets.


Italica Seville: Italica near Seville is the birthplace of two of the most important Roman emperors: Trajan and Hadrian. What's more, historians also suggest that even Theodosius was also born here.

These guys didn’t just rule; they shaped Western culture as we know it. Under emperor Trajan (the one on the right), the Roman Empire reached its largest territorial size. And Hadrian, the artsy one on the left side, built a wall across Britain to mark the northern limit of Britannia. He also spruced up the empire with architectural projects like the Pantheon and the vast Temple of Venus and Roma in Rome. So, visiting Italica offers more than a walk through ancient ruins. It’s a journey through the footsteps of legendary rulers whose policies and projects echo through history.


From Sleepy Town to Roman Powerhouse

Trajan Statue

Now let’s zoom back to Italica in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Under the reigns of Trajan and his nephew Hadrian, Italica wasn’t just surviving – it was thriving. As these two emperors came into power, Italica rapidly climbed the Roman social ladder, faster than a chariot racing at the Circus Maximus.


Italica didn’t just get a facelift; it underwent a complete transformation. By the 2nd century, Italica earned the prestigious status of a colony. Hadrian named it Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica, making it one of the earliest Roman cities in Hispania. The town’s population hit 8,000, and the surrounding lands, rich with olive trees and grain fields, became essential to the empire. These weren’t just crops; they were the cash cows of the Mediterranean, shipped off to Rome. They represented the wealth that filled both the farmers’ bellies and their bank accounts. This prosperity transformed locals into some of the Roman Empire’s most favoured suppliers.


Urban renewal

But Hadrian’s vision for Italica didn’t stop there; he was all about transforming and improving his birthplace. One of Rome’s Five Good Emperors expanded the city limits northward, creating the ‘‘nova urbs” or new city. This expansion wasn’t just about growth – it was about legacy and honour. The town witnessed the construction of new public buildings and temples, including the grand Traianeum, dedicated to his adopted father, Trajan.


A showcase of urban perfection

a model of Italica

Italica could teach other cities how to master urban style.


Thanks to Emperor Hadrian, Italica stands as a masterclass in Roman urban design. What sets it apart is that it’s the only city in the Western Mediterranean with a strictly ”ex novo” Hadrianic urban planning project. This wasn’t just any city layout; it was an advanced design that positioned Italica ahead of its time compared to other cities in the Western Roman Empire.

But Italica wasn’t just about looking good – this Roman town near Seville became a hub of architectural innovation. While other cities stuck to traditional designs, Italica adopted a bold approach. It brought in diverse construction materials and techniques from across the empire. The city even welcomed new architectural designs and brought together highly skilled labour to transform the cityscape. And their avenues? They were more than just roads; they were grand statements.


Not just dirt tracks but grand avenues

Italica avenues

In Italica, streets were more than just paths; they were statements of style. These avenues were paved with fancy polygonal stones, separated from the sidewalks by an elegant edge. And guess what? The pedestrian areas even had fancy porticoes for a classy stroll. Romans could walk under those, avoiding the sun or rain. Fancy, uh? But hold on, there is more!

When you combine the pavement and roads, they were a whopping 16 meters (about 52.4 feet) wide. These wide roads suggest that the locals used these processional roads for carrying statues of the imperial gods and members of the imperial family. Historians even suggest that these celebrations included music, light shows, and aromas.


Hadrian didn’t just transform his birthplace; he turned it into a ceremonial city. Italica served as the religious, spiritual and ideological capital of the Far West. These grand festivities regularly attracted large crowds to the city, which explains the unusually wide streets.


What you can see today in Italica near Seville (Spain)

As you stroll through the excavations, you’ll step back in time to the bustling streets of once-thriving Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica. Walk down the same wide avenues that once buzzed with the vibrant daily life of its citizens. Each corner of Italica offers a glimpse into its grand, making it a must-visit attraction for everyone coming to Seville. These are the highlights that tell tales of Italica’s glorious past.


1. Roman amphitheatre of Italica

Italica Seville: Visit Italica on a day trip from Seville because its amphitheatre ranked among the largest in the entire Roman Empire, surpassed only by the Colosseum in Rome at the time. Today, it's the third largest amphitheatre in the world.

This Roman amphitheatre isn’t just any old pile of rocks – it’s a mammoth testament to Roman entertainment. And yes, Italica was also one of the filming locations for the seventh season of Game of Thrones.


Just a stone’s throw from the northern gate of Italica lies the remains of an exceptional amphitheatre. Commissioned during Emperor Hadrian’s reign between AD 117 and 138, this wasn’t your average sports arena. It ranked among the largest in the entire Roman Empire, surpassed only by the Colosseum in Rome at the time. Today, it stands as the third-largest amphitheatre in the world.


Grand stadium

a model of Italica amphitheatre

 This impressive amphitheatre could pack in a whopping 25,000 spectators – more than three times the city’s total population. It’s pretty wild, considering Italica was a cosy town with just 8,000 residents. So, why such a massive arena, do you ask? Well, it was all about status. This colossal structure was more than just a sports arena; it was a bold statement of prestige and influence. It hosted extravagant games, that would attract visitors from across Hispania and beyond.

Italica Amphitheatre: Originally, the Italica Amphitheatre had three levels of seating: today, only the first level remains intact.

Now, let’s look at its striking dimensions. It has an oval shape with a major axis stretching 160 meters (525 feet) and a minor axis of 137 meters (449 feet). Originally, it had three levels of seating: today, only the first level, reserved for a ruling class, remains intact. The second level is partially present, and the third level for children and women? It’s mostly a memory.



gladiatorial games Italica

The locals used amphitheatres only for a few weeks each year, primarily during major city festivals. These occasions featured hunts, public executions, and, of course, the ever-popular gladiatorial games.



  • The Service Pit.

The Service Pit

 This was the underground area, originally covered by wooden decking. You can still spot marks on the brick floor from animal cages which used to be part of the show.


  • Places of Worship of various gods and goddesses.

Italica Seville: Italica near Seville is home to the second-largest temple dedicated to this goddess after the one in Carthage, Tunisia. It’s the only temple of its kind inside an amphitheatre.

 In the first corridor (entrance to the arena), there was a place of worship for the goddess Dea Caelestis. Why you should find it? According to UNESCO, this is the second-largest temple dedicated to this goddess after the one in Carthage, Tunisia. And here is the fascinating part: it’s the only temple of its kind inside an amphitheatre. You can even spot several well-preserved marble plates decorated with footprints on the floor.

Dea Caelestis Italica


  • Gladiatory Law of Italica.

Gladiatory Law of Italica.

This is a bronze plaque from the time when Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus ruled Rome. The plaque, a replica of the original found here in Italica, lays out the rules for gladiatorial fights. It sets maximum prices based on the fighter category and caps the cost of festivities.


  • Access gallery to the Ima Cavea. Italica amphitheatre: Access gallery to the Ima Cavea offers the best views of Italica amphitheatre.

This gallery, reserved for the second privileged social class, offers the best views of the amphitheatre.


2. Traianeum

Did you know Italica was home to a huge temple dedicated to Emperor Trajan? His greatest fan and successor, Hadrian, built a massive religious complex at the highest point of Italica’s new city. The Traianeum used to be the highlight of this new neighbourhood, shining like the cherry on top of a Roman architectural masterpiece.


A temple fit for an Emperor.

Italica Seville: Italica near Seville was home to the Traianeum - a massive temple dedicated to Emperor Trajan. It was the beating heart of the Hadrianic city.

So, what makes the Traianeum so special, you may ask? Well, it was massive – measuring a whopping 108 x 80 meters (354 x 262 feet), surrounded by a large porticoed square. But it wasn’t just its size that impressed. It was also stunningly decorated, with sculptures lining a fancy colonnade.  As the model shows, there were also two semicircular rooms called exedrae that probably served as chapels. At its heart was the large temple itself, probably with eight columns at the front. It stood on a podium in the centre of the square, with an altar placed in front of it.


And the materials? This temple was a grand art project, with Hadrian sparing no expense. The emperor wasn’t messing around – he brought in the fanciest polychrome marbles from all corners of the Empire. Some of these stones travelled from local spots near Italica. Others took a grand tour from imperial quarries far away. And its columns? Over a hundred of them, all made from Cipollino marble from Euboea – yeah, that’s in Greece.


More than just a pretty temple

Why all this extravagance, you may ask? The Traianeum was the beating heart of the Hadrianic city, pumping Roman values and imperial power through its veins. It wasn’t just a religious site; from here, grand imperial processions would start, winding through the city’s arcade streets. Imagine animal sacrifices and processions heading towards public buildings. The air buzzed with the thrills of athletic competitions, theatrical dramas and gladiatorial fights.

And here’s the kicker: this temple was all about honouring the emperor and his family, who, by the way, were considered living gods. And when an emperor passed away, he got promoted and became an instant god.


No time to read now? Save the Roman ruins of Italica near Seville to read later.

Italica Seville


3. A museum under the Sun

Italica mosaics

When Emperor Hadrian decided to expand Italica, he wasn’t just playing city planner. He transformed the new city into a canvas of grandiosity, turning streets into masterpieces of urban design. During his reign, Italica expanded from a modest 14 hectares to an amazing 51 hectares. But it wasn’t only about adding more space – it was all about creating upscale, luxurious living to reflect imperial grandness.


Living Large in Italica

Italica Seville: Roman homes in Italica near Seville

This new posh part of Italica was mainly residential, featuring over 40 blocks, each divided into two lavish homes. These massive houses ranged from 1,500 to 2,200 square meters, featuring a central courtyard, two floors and numerous rooms. They even had reception areas and posh salons capable of hosting between 8 and 18 guests in style. And the crowning glory? Their floors, adorned with stunning mosaics. Many colourful mosaics remain exceptionally well-preserved because of the lack of modern urban development of this part of Italica.



While many of Italica’s finest mosaics are still in their original location, others have found new homes. You can pop over to the Seville Archaeological Museum, where you’ll find more treasures from Italica. Additionally, the Countess of Lebrija relocated a few mosaic floors for her palace despite some complaints from a local archaeologist. You can spot these beautiful Italica mosaic floors at her Palace of the Countess of Lebrija in Seville.


The best mosaics in Italica, Spain

the Cardus Maximus, the main streets

The Cardus Maximus


So, where can you see the best mosaics in Italica? As you wander down the Cardus Maximus, the city’s main street, you’ll come across the remains of ancient homes. Don’t miss the following sites, each famous for its unique and stunning mosaic floors:

  • House of the Planetarium
  • House of the Birds
  • House of Neptune
  • House of the Exedra
  • House of Hylas
  • House of the Rhodian Patio.


4. Planetarium House

Italica Seville: The Planetarium House is one of the highlights of Italica on a day trip from Seville because it's one of the largest excavated homes. It's famous for its gorgeous mosaics with the days of the week according to the stars.

Now, this isn’t your average house, it’s a slice of ancient luxury from the 2nd century. The Planetarium House is one of the largest excavated homes in Italica and a serious show-off with its fancy floors. But what sets it apart? There’s a mosaic that’s out of this world – an ancient version of a star chart. Imagine a floor adorned with its very own Planetarium, showcasing the days of the week according to the stars. It’s like having your celestial calendar right under your feet!

planetary deities

And here’s a fun fact: Back in the 1st century B.C., Egyptian astronomers noticed something fascinating about the stars. While most stars don’t move, seven celestial bodies change their position relative to each other. These are the Sun, the Moon and the five planets visible to the naked eye: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. So, naturally, people started naming their days after these cosmic wanderers. How cool is that?

But wait, there’s more! Don’t forget to check out the mosaic floors featuring Bacchus and Ariadne in the house’s private areas. These mosaics aren’t just floor décor; they’re ancient stories laid out in stone, celebrating the Roman god of agriculture, wine and fertility and a Cretan princess, Ariadne.


5. House of the Birds

Now, let’s talk about our favourite spot, where we discovered some of the finest mosaics in Italica, the House of the Birds. This isn’t just any old house; it was the first completely dug-out house in all of Italica. It has two main spaces and covers an area of around 1,700 square meters. But what makes it special? It’s all about the mosaics!

Italica Seville: Also, the House of the Birds is one of the best things to see on a day trip to Italica from Seville because it has one of the finest Roman mosaics. This luxury floor features thirty-five small square mosaics, each showing off a different bird species.

Historians even named it after these spectacular bird mosaics. Imagine a luxury floor featuring thirty-five small square mosaics, each showing off a different bird species, from peacocks and owls to parrots and pigeons. And these aren’t just slapped together but neatly framed by two beautiful border styles that really make the birds pop.


6. House of Neptune

Neptune Labyrinth mosaic in Italica

Afterwards, find the House of Neptune – it’s a mosaic lover’s paradise. Why, you may ask? First up, we’ve got the Hall of the Labyrinth. Although it’s missing its centrepiece, don’t let that dampen your spirits. Take a closer look, and you’ll see a maze-like pattern with one gate and walls with towers all around. It’s like stepping into a puzzle straight out of ancient times.

Next, feast your eyes on the mosaic of Bacchus, the god of wine. Sure, the central emblem is also missing, but that doesn’t take away from its awesomeness.  But it gets even cooler: this house didn’t just have fancy floors; it had its own baths, too! And to top it off, there’s another mosaic featuring Neptune himself, chilling with sea creatures.


7. House of Hylas

House of Hylas

This house in Italica got its name from its most celebrated mosaic, now displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Seville. The mosaic shows a famous scene from Greek mythology where Hylas, the young friend of Heracles, is trapped by nymphs while collecting water from a spring.

The mosaic is no longer in its original location; it has been moved to preserve its superb details. This story still continues to captivate those who are passionate about mythological tales. Relocating it also ensures that you can view the mosaic in the best possible condition, helping you appreciate the ancient craftsmanship and its techniques.


8. Collective latrine in Italica

Collective latrine in Italica

Curious about ancient Roman bathrooms? Picture this: a room with a long stone bench with perfectly aligned holes – yes, this was their version of a toilet! And it was communal, can you believe it?


But here’s where it gets juicy: this restroom wasn’t just functional; it had style. Imagine walking in to find a mosaic floor where the Romans could see comic scenes of pygmies battling cranes. Next to this latrine set-up, you’d typically find buckets equipped with toilet brushes – think natural sponges on wooden handles for cleanup duty. And get this – there was even a canal circling the room, with running water to keep things clean, including those trusty toilet brushes.


9. Water in the city

When Italica upgraded to colony status, water management became a big deal. To meet the increased demand, the Romans had to add a new section to their aqueduct, probably dating back to Augustus’ time. Smart right?


This wasn’t just any upgrade; the new section channelled water straight to a massive tank on the city’s high ground. After filtering the sediments, a network of lead pipes took the water all over town. Where did all this water go? Fountains became the trendy spots around town, popping up on street corners for everyone to enjoy. And let’s not forget about the public baths – the hotspot for relaxation and socializing. Italica had two major bath complexes: the smaller baths and the larger one, the grandest thermal baths in the Iberian Peninsula. But wait, there’s more!

Sophisticated water treatment and sewage system

Sophisticated water treatment and sewage system in Italica.


The water didn’t just make the citizens of Italica clean and hydrated; it also flowed into other buildings like the theatre and the posh houses. And get this – they even had an underground system for wastewater, still lurking beneath the streets today. You can still spot ancient sewage channels – how cool is that?


10. Roman theatre of Italica

Roman Theatre Italica

Before you go, make sure you check out the Roman theatre – it’s not just old, it’s ancient. The Roman Theatre of Italica is the oldest preserved building in the area. And good news, it’s just a quick 10-minute stroll from the main archaeological site. So, there’s really no excuse to miss this charming site. It’s been around since the time of Emperor Augustus.


Back in the day, the theatre got a major update in the first century A.D. to accommodate more Romans. Then, when Emperor Hadrian came into power, the theatre got a fancy makeover. They even added monumental buildings on the top of the hill.

But hey, nothing lasts forever, right? After the 4th century A.D., the theatre started showing its age and slowly fell into disrepair. By the 5th century A.D., everyone had left the building. After that, it turned into a cemetery during the Middle Ages. Fast forward to 1979, and recovery work began. Thanks to its 2014 restoration, the Roman theatre of Italica had a major comeback. What you see today is a blend of old-school charm and modern restoration magic. So take a leisurely stroll, enjoy the view, and soak up thousands of years of history.


Important information to know before visiting Italica on a day trip from Seville

Italica Visitor Centre

First, visit the visitor centre, which you will find on the right-hand side after you walk into the archaeological site. 


ADDRESS:  Avenida de Extremadura, 2,41970 Santiponce, Sevilla, Spain

ADMISSION: The entry to Italica archaeological site is free of charge for EU citizens with proof of nationality. Otherwise, expect to pay €1.50 (as of May 2024).

OPENING TIMES: The Italica archaeological site is open every day, except on Mondays. You also cannot visit it on 1st of May 2024, the 24th, 25th and 31st of December 2024, and the 1st and 6th of January 2025. Opening times vary during the year; check their official website before you plan to visit the site.

  • 1st April–15th June 2024: Tue–Sat 9 am–8 pm, and Sun and public holidays 10 am–3 pm.
  • 16th June–15th September 2024: Tue–Sun and public holidays 9 am–3 pm.
  • 16th September–31st December 2024 and 1st January–31st March 2025: Tue–Sat 9 am–6 pm, and Sun and public holidays 9 am–3 pm.

Don’t forget that the last entrance to the site is 30 minutes before closing time (as of May 2024).

HOW TO GET TO ITALICA FROM SEVILLE: Catch bus number 170 A or 170B from Plaza de Armas in Seville to Santiponce. The 170 A bus is more frequent (leaves every 30 minutes), and the journey takes only 30 minutes.

PARKING: There is a large car park right next to the entrance to the site.


Don’t forget to save a pin about Italica near Seville (Spain) for future reference, so you don’t lose it!

Italica Seville

Have you visited Italica on a day trip from Seville? Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below. If you like our post, save it also to Pinterest.


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