It is the Eternal City where sightseers flock to the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps, St Peter’s Square and the Trevi Fountain et al, but there are also some offbeat things to do in Rome that are just as awesome as the iconic attractions. Rome is full of unusual sights and things to do/places to go if you’ve had your fill of/or don’t enjoy classical buildings, spectacular art and eclectic architecture. Here are just some of the offbeat things to do in Rome.
If you want a different way to get a feel of the city, take a ghost tour. Ghost tours are popular in Rome and with such a lengthy history, there’s been plenty of time for ghosts to find a home here. And there’s so many of them that some even only appear on specific dates - like Beatrice Cenci, Rome’s most famous spectral resident. Beatrice is a noblewoman who only appears on the 10th or 11th November every year, carrying her head under her arm, naturally! If you’re feeling lucky, seek out the two revolutionaries(again carrying their own heads) who roam the Muro Torto because if you confront them without fear they will provide you with winning lottery numbers. Whether you poo poo the paranormal or not, ghost tours are one the fun offbeat things to do in Rome.
Traveling to Rome with your man? Does Russell Crowe as Decimus Maximus Meridius get your heart a fluttering? Turn your man into a gladiator by enrolling him in the Gladiator School. Offered at the Gladiator School of Rome Museum, the two hour lesson is provided free by the Members of the Historic Group of Rome. But it isn’t just about the lesson. There is a full back-to-Gladiator-School experience which brings Ancient Roman history alive and is suitable for the whole family. Learn all about the life of the gladiators, their weaponry, the rituals of the arena and receive instruction in how to fight.
It may seem odd to suggest a specific hotel to stay among the offbeat things to do in Rome but when I learned about this place I just had to share it with you. If you’re going quirky on your Italian Adventure, the Best Western Hotel Franklin is a great choice. Designed with music lovers in mind, the individually designed rooms are kitted out with the latest audiovisual technology featuring a selection of the best music around. Want your hotel room to have drums for coffee tables and revolving disco and mirror balls in the bathroom? This is the place for you. It’s ideally located right in the center of the city too, right near to the Vatican and St. Peter’s.
Bored of churches, monuments, statues and museums dedicated to the great history of Rome? (Yeah, incredible as it may seem, boredom does happen for people who don’t love this stuff!) When it comes to food, Italy has so many associations (pizza, salami, ice cream, mozzarella …) but I don’t think anyone would argue that the most well known connection is pasta. A visit to the Museo Nazionale delle Paste Alimentari is the perfect aperitif to a meal in a Rome trattoria. Spend a couple of hours learning everything there is to know about pasta. There are 11 different exhibit halls covering 8 centuries of history of this humble foodstuff!
A pyramid? You thought they belonged in ancient civilizations in Egypt, Mexico and South America right? Very true, but Rome also has a pyramid, and it is one of the most well preserved ancient buildings in the city – The Pyramid of Cestius. It is the burial place of Gaius Cestius, a magistrate of Ancient Rome, and it was built into the city’s fortifications sometime between 18BC-12BC. You can’t actually visit the interior (the internal frescoes have all but disappeared now anyway), but the façade of white marble is impressive and just the fact that the pyramid seems so incongruous makes seeing it one of the offbeat things to do in Rome.
Now you may not consider visiting a market that offbeat, and normally, I would agree with you, but I make an exception for the Porte Portese Market. Rome’s flea market is the perfect panacea to all those other so called “authentic” markets around the city center where every other stall is packed with “genuine” souvenirs (made in Taiwan). Wandering the stalls of Porta Portese is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. Search for your own bargains among the piles of gadgets, trinkets, books and clothes, or just admire the eclectic collection of goods and enjoy the sight of locals hunting and haggling. If you want to visit a food market, I recommend the ethnic produce market in the Piazza Vittorio.
Sure you can do this anywhere, but it is one of my very favorite things to do in Rome. There just always seems to be more of a show going on, even though it is just people going about their daily lives. And, the tableaus change as you pull up a pew in each district. It’s also a great excuse to find a new coffee shop or gelateria every hour or so. Head to the Jewish Ghetto (behind the main synagogue) for a seat next to an ancient bookstore and sip coffee in a busy restaurant street where the focus is on organic produce. Make your way to Testaccio for some quirky sights, a great market and a vibrant food scene (people always seem so much more animated when food is a factor – don’t you think?). Find a seat in a tiny family run café in the winding cobblestone streets of Trastevere where the buildings seem so dilapidated they might fall on you any second, but are so atmospheric, dripping with ivy and with balconies of trailing flowers. Walk in the shoes of Audrey Hepburn and head to La Bocca della Verità and see if you can spot fellow fans of the movie icon doing the same.
This was a short list of some of my favorite offbeat things to do in Rome. I’d love to hear from readers who have been off the beaten track in Rome and what they recommend. Do share!
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