Aquileia Archaeological Area - History and Facts | History Hit

Aquileia Archaeological Area

Aquileia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy

The Aquileia Archaeological Area is home to the remains of an affluent Roman trading port.

Peta Stamper

08 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Aquileia Archaeological Area

Aquileia in northern Italy’s Udine province was an important and affluent Roman trading port now famed for its archaeological sites and particularly it Patriarchal Basilica. Aquileia’s impressive remains have earned it UNESCO World Heritage status.

Today, the city is much smaller than its classical predecessor, which in the 2nd century AD was home to around 100,000 inhabitants.

Aquileia Archaeological Area history

Founded in 181 BC, the Romans only intended Aquileia to be a colony, but its excellent links meant that by 90 BC it was a thriving municipium, its residents rewarded not just with beautiful infrastructure but with Roman citizenship. On the frontier, the colony kept an eye on the advance of the hostile Carni from Gaul and the Celtic Taurisci who had settled nearby.

Yet located at the head of the Adriatic, Aquileia was also a commercially important spot – especially in the trade of Baltic amber – and soon connected with Roman Bologna in the 2nd century BC. Over the centuries Latin colonists and their families would reinforce the garrison by moving to the fortified frontier town.

However in 452 AD, Attila the Hun and his men destroyed the city as Roman inhabitants fled.

Aquileia Archaeological Area today

Attacked by Attila in 425 AD, much of Aquileia was destroyed but there is still a lot to see. The archaeological site boasts a set of baths, the Republican macellum, some grand homes, part of the forum, an amphitheatre and a cemetery. The Basilica at Aquileia is also a massive draw: whilst the current church was consecrated in 1031, parts of it – especially its stunning mosaics – hark back to the original 4th century structure.

The sites are actually spread out throughout Aquileia and many of them are visible from the roadside. There is also a museum, the National Archaeological Museum of Aquileia, housing a series of ancient finds.

Getting to Aquileia Archaeological Area

On the coast, Aquileia is under an hour’s drive from Trieste via the E70. Alternately, you can get the train from Trieste to Cervignano-Aquileia-Grado, then the 401 bus to the via G. Augusta. There is then a short walk over to the archaeological site.