When I first arrived in Rome I stepped off the plane brimming with excitement. I had wanted to visit the city my whole life and I had finally made it. I was excited not just for the regular tourist spots but also to explore the spots a local guide would take me. The driver to the city was friendly and was excited that we had made an effort to learn a bit of Italian before arriving. He was happy to point out the sites as we drove. As we came into the city I was blown away. Rome is, well, it’s everything you’ve read, imagined, been told. I am a bit lost for words trying to describe it. I fell in love from the first moment and the city haunts me now; my daydreaming has a permanent backdrop. So here are 7 things off the tourist path that you can do in the eternal city.
1. Grab a drink at a speak easy
When you think of Rome speak easy doesn’t really come to mind. At all. But after a twenty five hour flight I needed a drink and believe it or not one of Rome’s best bars is a speak easy. The Jerry Thomas Project is a fantastically themed bar that you’ll need a password to get into (don’t forget this). It’s a place for you to channel your inner Hemingway with a 1920’s style cocktail, highly recommended. See the link above to get the password to enter.
2. Take a break in a beautiful park
Whenever we think of Rome we think of ancient buildings and history. But Rome does have a few amazing parks. A local guide recommended the park to me and I was not disappointed. I highly recommend visiting the Villa Borghese, a lavish villa in the middle of Rome’s third largest park. A beautiful spot for a stroll.
3. People watching at Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is the Northern gate to Rome and is home to Rome’s oldest obelisk. It’s an often forgotten Piazza in Rome. But it’s worth the visit not just as a historical view point (seeing the influence that Northern Africa had on the city) it is also home to the Museum of Leonardo Da Vinci and surrounded by beautiful basilica’s. It is a great place to people watch and listen to buskers.
4. Take a day to explore Trastevere
Trastevere is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Rome. It comes from a working class background and is the inspiration of many an artist. A street artist was our local guide and recommended we stop this neighbourhood. The cafe’s and restaurants are everywhere and are a great place to hangout with locals.
5. Go book shopping – a local guide will find this one
I’m in love with books to the point that I buy more books than I have time to read. I guess that’s the definition of a collector or a money waster. After visiting the Pantheon I stumbled upon two places, the first being the Biblioteca della Camera dei Deputati (Library of the Chamber of Deputies). This in itself was beautiful library that any book lover should visit. But the best discovery was the tiny bookstore which was a hundred metres down the road from here.
After searching for a long time I’ve given up finding the name of the store (it was large enough to have three people in, all of which had to say excuse me to switch places). But browsing the stacks of piled books uncovered books that dated back several centuries.
6. Take in some history
Sounds like a silly thing to say about Rome. History is literally everywhere. But surprisingly there are a few spots which hold amazing historical value which remain relatively ignored by tourists. One spot which was truly inspiring during my trip was a church built over the jail of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Whether or not you are a Christian the damp, musty jail cell in the basement of the church will take your breath away. Wall paintings dating back to the time of Christ depict the Saint’s. During our visit there was one other person visiting.
7. Go to the opera
It’s a little cliche but seeing the opera in Rome is an experience that will stay with you for life because it’s authentic. The Teatro dell’Opera is one of Rome’s best theatres and a great place to mingle with the locals. To see Verdi’s La Traviata or Puccini’s Tosca in the eternal city is something that you’ll never forget.
Comment below if you have any other places off the tourist path in Rome that you would recommend. Interested in other cities? How about Sydney?
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