Rome is undeniably one of the worlds greatest tourist cities, with so many breathtaking sights to see and things to do, but there is just so much more to this ancient city than its grandiose tourist attractions.
By all means, go and visit the Colloseum and the Roman Forum, these are popular tourist attractions for a reason after all, but make sure you spend some time exploring the other side of the city too, the local side. Get lost in some of the historic back streets, explore every nook and cranny and let the history and the culture seep into your bones.
Spend some real time here and get much more out of your experience than the average tourist.
With that in mind, here are 10 awesome sights and experiences you can’t miss.
Visit the Borghese Gallery.
This is one of Rome’s finest art galleries, and whilst you will undoubtedly be there with a ton of tourists, there are few better places to simply sit back and take in the gilded finery of Roman art and architecture, especially when the villa is set in the picturesque Borghese park.
Nothing encapsulates the saying ‘when in Rome …’ more than this. I know, you will obviously be doing that anyway as your stomachs protest at too much sightseeing and not enough eating, but you haven’t lived until you have experienced food like a Roman. It is all too easy to eat bland, overpriced touristy food in a city that is very much geared toward tourists, but just take a little bit of time and search out the smaller family run places down little side streets, you know, the ones that don’t have English menus. Food isn’t just a necessity in Rome, it is a religion, and you should definitely treat it as such!
Go to any Italian barista and ask for a frothy, milky latte macchiato in the afternoon, I dare you! You’ll be greeted with an explosion of brain melting rage akin to asking a Glasgow barman for a lager with lime and escorted off the premises quicker than a creepy old man at a sweet shop. If food is a religion in Rome, Coffee is the equivalent to the Catholic church! Immerse yourself into Roman culture by animatedly shouting your order at the Barista, ordering the right coffee at the right time of day (this is always trial and error and at this point I’m not even sure the Italians know what the rules are exactly) and risking permanent physical scarring by downing the steaming holy grail in one whilst standing at the bar.
Visit the Lorenzo District.
This trendy, up and coming area is relatively unknown to tourists, but has a bohemian, hipster vibe with a slew of underground bars and trendy eateries that the locals love. Come for a stroll in the early evening and spend a bit of time bar hopping.
Explore the flavours of Gelato.
This isn’t just any ice cream, this is Roman ice cream! Spending time in the countless gelaterias in Rome is a cultural institution, and you could spend a lifetime discovering the range of flavours as family run vendors get ever more creative in an attempt to out do each other. My personal favourite is honeycomb, but if you have a hankering for lavender and hazelnut ice cream or dragonfruit sorbet, you know where to come!
See Rome from a different angle.
The Giancolo may technically only be the second tallest hill in the city, but it offers unbeatable and unparalleled views across the Roman skyline and is a perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset with a loved one and enjoy a late evening drink as the city lights burst into life. There is a reason this vantage point is popular with locals, and you should take advantage of it too!
Learn to cook.
As if eating out and enjoying a feast of gelato isn’t enough to show you how close food is to an Italian’s heart and soul, there are also tons of classes where you can learn to cook like a local too, and what better way to have a long lasting and meaningful souvenir from your Roman adventure than to take a few recipes and a learned skill home with you. It’s much better than another fridge magnet of the Colosseum!
The Municipal Rose Garden.
This is perhaps one of the single most romantic spots in Rome, full of young, local lovers taking romantic strolls and enjoying the stunning views and picturesque landscaped gardens, but don’t let that put you off. Even if you are solo these beautiful gardens are a great place to escape the tourist crowds.
Take a bath.
The famous Roman Baths of Caracalla won’t be completely free of tourists, but they aren’t as crowded as some sites either, and there is no better way to immerse yourself into Roman life across the ages.
Climb Palatine Hill.
When you think of exploring Roman history you instantly think of the Colosseum, the Trevi fountain, or any one of the famous Roman ruins or Renaissance landmarks and churches. Let’s face it, Rome is not short of historical landmarks.
But Palantine Hill is intrinsically woven into Rome’s mythology as the site where Romulus himself decided to build his city after killing his brother Remus, and is far more off the beaten tourist trail than most. The multitude of ruined castles, churches and fortifications make this a stunning part of Rome, and one where you can connect to the cities ancient past and escape from the majority of the tourist hordes at the same time.
Visit the Vatican.
Okay, this isn’t exactly an alternative tourist site like many of the others on the list, but no visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the heart of the Catholic Church in Europe. With 11 museums, the Sistine Chapel itself and countless art and architectural wonders, the papal residence is an intrinsic part of the Roman experience as a tourist or a local, and should not be missed.
Rome is an extremely popular weekend getaway or short break for tourists across the world, and the famous tourist sites that any guide will tell you to go to should not be missed, they are popular for a reason. But Rome is worth far, far more than a simple short sightseeing trip. Visit some of these alternative sites. Delve more into the local culture and try to see things from a local perspective, and you will get far, far more out of your time in this great city.
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