The House of the Vestals was the home to the Vestal Virgins, the priestesses of Vesta. Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth. The Vestal cult was an important and elite Roman cult.
The Vestal Virgins were chosen at the age of six to ten. They were selected by the emperor in his role as the Pontifex Maximus, the chief religious authority of the State. The main duties of the Vestals were to guard the sacred eternal flame in the temple and to follow the vow of chastity. The sacred flame stood for the eternity of Rome. It was believed that if the fire extinguished Rome would fall.
Because of their important duties, the Vestals belonged to the most powerful women in Rome. They were allowed to own land, they had the right to pardon prisoners, and nobody was allowed to injure a Vestal Virgin.
Vestals served for 30 years - 10 years for studying, 10 years for attending their duties, 10 years for teaching new priestesses. If a Vestal broke the vow of chastity she was buried alive!
Architecture & Art
The House of the Vestals and the Temple of Vesta were some of the most important buildings on the Roman Forum ground.
The remains of the House of the Vestals is located behind the Temple of Vesta. It was an impressive palace with water basins in a central atrium.
The current remains are from after Nero's Fire in 64 BC. The earlier house was destroyed by the fire. You can walk through the ruins of the house and gardens. Beautiful ancient statues are positioned next to each other. Most likely not the original arrangement. However, strolling between the statues and the ruins give you an idea of how everything looked like in ancient times. Imagine this glory!
Especially during summer, it can get quite hot. Since you can hardly find any shadow it is a good advice to visit the Roman Forum in the morning hours. And bring comfortable shoes because the ground is a bit rough.
I also advise you to book tickets online. Usually, the tickets are sold as combi tickets that also allow access to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.
Last but not least, you shouldn't miss the view from the top of Palatine Hill. From there, you can nicely overlook the whole Roman Forum.