Rome is a city of ancient history, sacred art and inimitable cuisine that exudes a heady lust for life. Around each corner lies a historic monument more epic than the last, whilst the streets are lined with cosy eateries; beckoning you to come inside and sample the sumptuous flavours of the Lazio region. Young and old mingle in bustling piazzas, spiritedly exchanging views over aromatic espresso, and Vespas buzz busily over centuries-old cobbles.
Millions of people flock to the hot-blooded Italian capital each year, invariably making their way to the heavyweight champions of the huge historic site world; A.K.A the Colosseum, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica. And, hey, we get it. These are incredible, awe-inspiring sights which quite literally put Rome on the map and secured its spot on the list of the world’s greatest cities. But there is so much more to discover in the Eternal City.
Go for a roam around Rome with a difference by checking out our favourite authentic, unusual and altogether unforgettable experiences in this multi-faceted city.
1) Puzzle over a 2000 year-old pyramid
With the ancient boundary wall of the city cutting it nearly in two, it’s fair to say that this imposing pyramid looks out of place on the wide via upon which it sits. So much so that throughout the centuries some more imaginative among its admirers have sworn that it must’ve been put there by aliens.
Whilst I’d love to tell you that E.T. had a hand in this unusual architectural feature of the city, it was in fact constructed during a time when Egyptian style was very in in Rome, so the building is simply the result of the ancient Romans’ penchant for pyramids.
2) Cop a load of the cool Quartiere Coppedè
Think of Rome and your mind probably conjures up images of elegant buildings with fading paintwork lining cobbled streets which lead to grand piazzas – but there is a neighbourhood in Rome which went its own way and developed its very own architectural style.
The Quartiere Coppedè is a quirky corner of the city with a whimsical, fantastical beauty – thanks to its unique Gaudi-esque buildings. The neighbourhood sprung up in the early 20th century and is a head-spinning mix and match of Art Nouveau, Medieval, Baroque and even a smidge of ancient Greek styles. Take a stroll through this part of tow, which is made up of just a couple of streets for a respite from the bustle of more well-known areas. Another great neighbourhood to explore is the buzzing local hang-out of Trastevere.
3) History AND cuddles with furry creatures? Purrrfect.
Fancy walking in the footsteps of Caesar, delving deep into the Roman history and getting cuddly with some of the city’s cutest residents? Well, your very niche prayers have been answered. Visit the remains of the Pompey Theatre – the very site where the Emperor of Rome, Julius Caesar, was murdered – and you will see dozens of cats who have made their homes amidst the ruins.
The cats have been a permanent fixture since the site was excavated and you’ll often see locals stopping by to feed them. There is even a dedicated cat-sanctuary on the site, which always welcomes kind-hearted people to donate a little of their time to feed, play with or simply have a cuddle with the kitties.
4) Give yourself the creeps at the Capuchin crypts
The Marquis de Sade described it as “striking” (now that’s saying something), whilst Frommer’s called it horrifying – pay the Capuchin Crypts a visit and decide for yourself. To put it bluntly, it’s a collection of small rooms beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione which are decorated with the bones of deceased Capuchin monks, around 4,000, if you’re counting.
Although it’s absolutely heebie-jeebie inducing, it’s worth mentioning that all the monks who were laid to rest here were fully on board as they believed that in death their mortal forms would serve as an important reminder that life on Earth is temporary, but to be accepted into Heaven promises eternal life.
5) Fill up on fried fancies in the form of sinfully-delicious ‘Suppli’
For a cheap eat on the go, you can’t do much better than this popular Roman street food. Suppli –or, deep-fried rice balls to the uninitiated – often oozing with mozzarella and can be stuffed with anything from salty prosciutto to sweet peas or even rich, satisfying ragù. These tasty treats sizzle in fryers all over the city, but our favourite is Mondo Arancina. This no frills, authentic eatery welcomes locals and visitors alike to satisfy their hunger with a range of quick, affordable and mouth-watering options.
So, grab a couple of balls to go (*sniggers*) and let’s roll – the city’s not going to explore itself.