Rome. Beautiful, beguiling Roma. Home to some of the world’s most treasured and revered historical sights: the Colosseum, Vatican, Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.
If you’ve been to Rome, chances are you’ve ticked each of those sights off your ‘to do’ list. Of course, if you’re again in Rome, each is worth a second or even third visit. But if you are after some lesser known (read: less touristy), but still incredible sights, Rome can offer up some amazing little known treasures – all it takes is some research and willingness to wander outside the well-worn sightseeing paths.
So, instead of traipsing the tourist traps, why don’t you:
- Walk up to Gianicolo (or Janiculum) Hill for a breathtaking panoramic view of Rome. Located west of the Tiber River and outside the ancient city (in the Trastevere neighbourhood), the hill is said to offer one of the best views of the city. We decided for an early morning trek to the hill’s summit, negotiating narrow near-deserted streets as we wound our way up, passing along the way the church of San Pietro in Montorio (said to be the site of St Peter’s crucifixion), the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola and the impressive Garibaldi Monument, featuring an immense equestrian statue of Italian patriot, Giuseppe Garibaldi, known for his fighting role in confronting French troops attacking the city in 1849.
Reaching the top of the hill, we were rewarded by a dusky pink skyline, viewing in silence (apart from two others, we were the only ones there) the magnificent sprawling sight of rooftops beneath us. I would imagine sunsets to be just as breathtaking, while at noon each day, visitors have the opportunity to hear a 19th century tradition with the firing of a single cannon shot to mark the exact time.
- Enjoy a cocktail at one of Rome’s finest hotels, the majestic Hotel de Russie.
Designed in the early 19th century by architect, Giuseppe Valadier (also responsible for redesigning the nearby Piazza del Popolo), this five-star luxury hotel features an internal secret garden, featuring 2,800 square metres of terraced gardens. It is an absolutely stunning oasis of greenery and a welcoming calm refuge from Rome’s chaotic streets. Head to the outdoor Stravinskij Bar, order something cold and exotic and simply sit back and take in the lush botanical beauty surrounding you.
- Discover a lesser known district. While most tourists linger around Rome’s traditional hotspots, like the Vatican, pantheon or Spanish Steps areas, to spy a real slice of Roman life, head towards more residential areas for authentic restaurants and gourmet haunts. We opted for a food tour of the Testaccio area, regarded as Rome’s original foodie neighbourhood and birthplace of true Roman cuisine. Along the way we met cheese artisans, tasted flaky, buttery pastries from a café that had been around since 1934 and were fascinated by the unbelievable selection of tomatoes spied at a local market. Even more interesting, was a visit to Rome’s only pyramid (built 30BC) and the stunning Testaccio protestant cemetery, where English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried.
- Pack a picnic or grab a slice of takeaway pizza and head to the Borghese Gardens. With a circumference of about six kilometres, stretching from the Piazza del Popolo to the top of via Veneto, this 91-hectare public space features endless statue-lined pathways, along with other stops including theatres, fountains, an artificial lake and museums. The most notable museum is the Galleria Borghese, a beautiful 17th century villa housing an extensive collection of antiquities, renaissance and baroque art. With so much space to wander, peacefully sit and take in the lush gardens, it’s hard to believe that just metres away is a bustling city jam packed with cars, motorcycles and people.
- Written by Jan Phyland, Melbourne-based writer and Italophile Follow Jan on Instagram @janphy
Tags: 2onthewing.com, an artificial lake and museums, antiquities, architect, baroque art, Borghese Gardens, cheese artisans, Colosseum, five-star luxury hotel, Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, Food and wine, food tours of Italy, fountains, Galleria Borghese, Garibaldi Monument, Gianicolo Hill, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Giuseppe Valadier, Hotel de Russie, hotspots, Italy, Jan Phyland, Janiculum, John Keats, local market, Montorio, panoramic view of Rome, Pantheon, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Piazza del Popolo, renaissance, Roman cuisine, Rome, Rome’s original foodie neighbourhood, San Pietro, Spanish Steps, Stravinskij Bar, Testaccio, Testaccio protestant cemetery, theatres, Tiber River, Tour Italy, tour Rome, tourist traps, Tours, Trastevere, Trevi Fountain, Vatican, Veneto