First thing that comes to mind, the Colosseo? Maybe the Città Vaticano or the Fori Imperiali, Castel Sant’Angelo perhaps.
But, does Roma have more to offer? To answer this, I have decided to live like a local and explore outside the tourist heart.
There is a significant difference in both price and quality inside and outside the city walls. Around the centre, from Barberini to the Colosseo, from Piazza Del Popolo to the Vaticano be prepared to pay double for half the value. The cuisine has, in general been adapted to suit the tourists’ palates. This is particularly evident when sampling pasta, which should traditionally be cooked Al Dente.
For authentic Italian food, look no further than Pizzeria Da Remo, situated in the lively Testaccio neighbourhood. Practice your Italian and charm the waiter in order to get the paramount service and table. It’s a well-known restaurant in Roma, meaning queues are likely, but the food is well worth the wait.
Also in this area, next to Piramde on the metro B line is 100% BIO. With such an array of healthy food to choose from, for any super foodies or vegetarians, it is a must visit. It’s a hub of activity, particularly at lunchtime when the sun is shining. You pay for the weight of your food with minimum order starting at seven euros. There are also vegan and gluten free options.
For dessert, visit one of the many Gelatarie spread out across the city. Start at Gelataria La Romana, near Castro Pretorio on the B line. With a renowned reputation, seasonal flavours and a chocolate surprise within the cone itself, a queue out of the door is a normality. On the other side of town, north of Ottaviano on the A line is Gelataria Iamotti. Here, they do a variety of unusual flavours, including delicious Croccante alle Arachidi or ‘Crunchy Peanut.’
Try sampling a Tiramisu at Pompi. One of their ‘bars’ is in Re di Roma on the metro A line. Here you can order a variety of flavours, including banana and chocolate, with or without alcohol and they even do gluten free!
To really live like a local, have an Aperitivo, an all you can eat buffet with alcohol included! Momart, a short distance away from Piazza Bologna on the metro B line is a lively place on a Sunday night. If you get there around 8, it is full of young professionals. For a cost of eleven euros you can pick from a selection of dishes including pasta, pizza, fish and more and included is a cocktail! Alternatively, also near Bologna is Meeting Place, their Aperitivo encompasses international and local cuisine, a wealth of cocktails and often live music, all for ten euros.
The quarter of Trastevere at the weekend is the place to be, a trendy, bustling neighbourhood, full of restaurants and bars. At one of these, I Vinaioli, for twenty euros, you are served three full size courses, including pasta or sea food, with drinks included.
How do you say it? Tras-teh-veh-ray.
It is located across the river Tiber, via tram 8 from Piazza Venezia and in front of the Garibaldi monument with its incredible view of Roma, well worth the climb. After dinner, sit and laugh with friends on the steps at Piazza Trilussa, take in the atmosphere and watch a busker performing. It is a lovely way to spend a Friday or Saturday night.
My friends always say, ’you love nothing more than sitting in a park relaxing’ Well, sometimes, it’s important to sunbathe, people watch or have a picnic in the park.
Out of town is the Parco degli Acquedotti, named after the aqueducts which still stand and once ran water to the city. With barely any tourists and situated just five minutes from Metro A stop Subaugusta, it’s a pleasant place to take a leisurely stroll on a lazy afternoon whilst admiring the surrounding mountains. Instead of taking the metro, try renting a bike from one of the numerous rental companies across the city and head to the park. From there, you can cycle to the ancient Via Appia. Or for a more comfortable option, simply rent a bike in the park itself. Be sure to check availability prior to arrival.
Nearer to the centre is Villa Borghese, one of Roma’s largest parks, with a fascinating galleria and reconstructed Globe Theatre. The further you wander away from Spagna and Piazza Del Popolo the more peaceful it becomes.
Just north of Villa Borghese is the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea. All over the city you can find astonishing architecture and this building, although more modern, is no different. The museum’s current exhibition showcases several masterpieces including Monet’s Water Lilies.
It is worth a visit, particularly on the first Sunday of every month, when it is free museum day!
So take this opportunity to learn more about Roma’s ancient history or be inspired by the wealth of art on show from all over the world. However, be careful, it is only the national museums that are included.
Indeed, one mesmerising site sadly not classified as a national museum is the Catacombe di San Callisto. Take a rather bumpy fifteen minute bus 118 journey straight from the Colosseo to the Via Appia one of the original cobbled streets of Roma. Alternatively, go for a walk down this fascinating ancient road.
Costing only nine euros, for about an hour you will be given a guided tour for which there are a variety of languages in one of Roma’s largest and most historic cemeteries. With a complicated past and the chance to see an open ancient tomb, for those who fancy something a little different put the Catacombe di San Callisto at the top of your list.
To get a genuine feel of Italian culture, take one of the regional trains from Termini or Tiburtina and venture to one of the surrounding towns and villages for the day.
A day trip or two
In Anzio you can sit and relax on the beach, watch the local fisherman bring their catch in, enjoy lunch whilst talking to some of the locals or learn about the town’s significance during WWII. It has a strong community feel, and reminds me of some of the Mediterranean’s most well-known quintessential coastal towns. This is particularly visible on a warm Sunday afternoon, after the traditional family lunch when the whole town comes out to socialise.
Then there is Viterbo, north of Roma. It is particularly worth visiting when the Christmas market is on, during which you can stroll around this pleasant town. Ensure that you also take advantage of the free to enter temporary exhibitions.
If you are in the vicinity of Viterbo in the summer, make your way to the nearby Terme dei Papi. For 18 euros, spend the day in the thermal bath or for a little bit extra get spoilt with a vast array of massages and spa treatment on offer. It’s another great way to spend a day, getting a tan, having a few drinks or just simply relaxing.
Another option is Orvieto, a picturesque town in Umbria, situated on top of a hill with stunning views of the landscape below. The new town is on the mainline between Roma and Florence, it’s about halfway between the two. I would recommend going before the height of the summer season when there are less tourists and the weather is pleasant. When you get off the train, either take the two minute funicular or if you fancy a challenge, hike up to the old town. You can easily spend a day there, visiting the incredible cathedral, going into the caves below the square or simply taking in the views.
The final word
Now picture Roma again. There is far more here than the standard checklist that includes the Colosseo and the Città Vaticano. In order to fully appreciate the city and the culture, explore past the big attractions. Whether, it’s simply having an Aperitivo or relaxing in one of the many parks, going on a day tour to a surrounding village or visiting one of the less well known sites…
… Rome has so much more to offer. In fact, you can spend weeks here and still have plenty to do!