“Veni, vidi, vici.”
Rome, the city of Marble. I find it difficult to go to Italy and not visit Rome, a treasure trove of history and architecture where it promises la dolce vita. There’s much more than the city streets and cityscapes to explore in Rome. It was once the center of one of history’s greatest empires which makes it a mecca for those looking for historic sites. To visit such revered sites as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain carries a huge allure and – combined with its reputation for food, wine and romance it makes Rome a truly iconic destination. The layers of history, the chaos, the loitering – there are things about it I just love and things that make me want to hold it at arms length.
Taking a city break to Rome appears to be a ritual of transit for most couples because the city is known as the “Eternal City” and also “Caput Mundi,” coming from Latin which means capital of the world – so why not just seal their promises in the Eternal City right? Here are some of the things to do in Rome if you’re not doing it by the book.
Visit Trevi Fountain at Night
While it is nice to see the world’s famous fountain during the day, having the place swarmed with hundreds of tourists might be a turn off – it’s like a mob scene. To avoid being cramped in the crowd and having your pictures photobombed by almost everyone, a visit to the Fontana di Trevi at night is nothing short of spectacular. It’s less crowded, more romantic with the lights and the sounds from the fountain are more tranquil.
Wine O’Clock Near the Collosseum
Considering its eminence and status in history and modern culture, one should not pass up the chance to visit the Roman Colosseum. But if you’re not into sweating in the line, waiting for hours with hundreds of other people, a walk around the Collosseum would suffice. After having your pictures taken, indulged in the architectural marvel and finally irritated with the crowd volume, you should quench your thirst by having some fresh juice or wine (non-alco for me) if you fancy at a restaurant by the Collosseum. I’d recommend Oppio Caffè. Searching for a seat won’t be easy but this is definitely a great place to stop and have a wine and even a pizza to share.
Take a Breather Near the Spanish Steps
Who am I kidding? There’s no place in Rome that is not overcrowded but that’s understandable as Rome is a very popular tourist destination so you can’t be complaining about the crowd. If you really want to see the city with the least amount of tourists, you have to see it in a different hue – some places are best seen and visited at night. It’s fun to take a stroll up or down the Spanish Steps but the other fun thing to do is to sit by Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Ugly Boat) at night. After a late night Gelato rendezvous, why not take a breather by the fountain and enjoy the view of the Spanish Steps from there, it’s pretty amazing!
Drive Up to Ostia Beach
Explore Rome like a local by renting the most sighted car in the city, Fiat 500. It will only cost you around €40/day and you can drive around the city aimlessly and get lost for once. Ostia Lido Beach is located about an hour drive from Rome, not the best beach but the closest and does the trick when you’re tired of the historical city and in dire need of some R&R. So go ahead and skip yet another museum in favour of a relaxing day in the sun.
Don’t Pay a Visit to The Pope
Why not? It’s the smallest state in the world, it should be exciting right? The major attractions here are the Vatican grounds and Museum as well as St. Peter’s Basilica and the St. Peter’s Square. It’s a city like any other, with the exception that it’s a walled enclave within Rome, holy buildings are colossal in scale but only slightly bigger than the Disneyland. But it’s ok to miss the trip inside Vatican City because how many religious paintings you need to see before you’ve seen them all? The place admitted thousands of visitors into a relatively small area, it is impossible to either enjoy or appreciate what you are seeing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from visiting Vatican City but I’m just saying it’s OK to skip it. You can still stop by and enjoy its grand exterior facade.
Cross The Largest Roundabout in Rome
To get a good full picture of Altare della Patria. Altar of the Fatherland is one of the most prominent structures of Rome and also one of the controversial structures, this white building represents remarkable architecture. In a city full of ancient history, this building stands out as it is all about more contemporary history of Italy – a matter of immense pride at the turn of the 20th century.
Be Vain in The Back Alley
This old city has beautiful back alleys, what other nice way to discover those alleys if not by walking off the beaten path. Once you have seen the famous fountains and visited all the museums you should venture off the beaten track to get a true taste of Rome. There is so much to see and discover – every corner has a picturesque background. My love for Rome started not with the historical sites, but with a few special places, a little off the beaten track.
Enjoy panoramic view of Rome from Viale Della Trinita dei Monti. Rome is said to be built on 7 hills, and in fact the ancient city walls were indeed surrounding the area of 7 mounts, these enchanting hills can be reached by walking and experiencing the pedestrians pulse through the narrow streets that crisscross the buildings in the city. There are truly some great panoramic photo opportunities in Rome that you shouldn’t miss.
Get High on The High-ends
There are a number of popular shopping neighbourhoods in Rome; each has its own flavor and attractions. Italy is well known as the home of fashion. So when you’re in Rome, burnt out by all those historical sites’ visits, put aside a day for shopping. Every major Italian brand can be found with discounts more than 50%. Think Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Valentino, to name a few. There are several shops that sell extras from designer showrooms or secondhand duds from the city’s fashion set at a bargain!
Rome is one of the best cities in the world for people watching and to watch the world go by. Here’s a typical sighting. A group of tourists out on an adventure to tick off “things to do in Rome”, some with travel book in their hand, others rely on their smartphones. You see groupls of people flock from one place to another, with loud music playing in the background, people chit-chatting in different languages and children running around while parents screaming trying to tame their nuisance. Entertaining, yes — but can’t help to think of why I choose to be here rather than a more peaceful vacation in a secluded island. Well, it’s all about experiencing the Roman history.
Waste Your Money on Fine Dining
If you’re out of idea on what else to do in Rome, let’s say you’ve completed and checked all the to-do-list and places to go, and you have some extra cash/budget to splurge – why not experience a culinary adventure at a Michelin-starred restaurant overlooking part of the city? It’s not an elaborate triumph but dining at Imàgo was indeed an exclusive experience. It’s not located in the highest building but because of the building’s location on top of a hill, this restaurant offers a unique view over the city and a bird’s-eye view of the roofs of old Rome. The price is nothing over the top, get ready to pay around €200 for two people.
While it was great to see such history it just never grabbed me the way that Paris, Prague, or Porto did but trust the wisdom of the ages. If you think there is something in Rome that you’d enjoy – go and explore it. The city is crowded, moderately expensive (moderate compared to say, London) and in some ways hidden in plain sight. Beautiful courtyards lie behind forbidding facades, but you will stumble upon them when you choose the roads less traveled.