A Peculiar Guide To Rome
Rome is such an ancient city with a rich history that it can be hard to settle on just one thing to see or do at a time.
To prevent paralysis by analysis, it helps to have a few things on your list. But don’t let that stop you from going off the beaten path and straying from your list. In truth, less is more if you plan on visiting again.
Each time I’ve been, I’ve had no shortage of things to do. But I’ve always looked for more than just the normal attractions (though you should hit those too).
And there is something special to be gained by experiencing the extraordinary, the more peculiar the better. What you’ll find though, is that the richness of the city is in itself strange. Many of the “normal” attractions would be considered outlandish in any other place, so you may see a few of those too on the list.
So in no particular order, here is a list of far-out things to do in Rome.
The Mouth of Truth (la bocca della verità)
No trip to Rome (and Osaka, Japan!) is complete without a visit to the Mouth of Truth. Made famous in the smash hit Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn, you’ll find the relic in a humble location in an unassuming spot.
While you’ll find a few visitors attempting to stick their hand in the famous mouth, it’s usually easy to do yourself without much waiting.
The Japanese love this movie so much, they created their own giant size version in the Kansai hub of Osaka!
Walk from the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain.
Let’s face it. You will go to the Colosseum. And if you’re like most people, it will take hours to get through the line into the Colosseum (even in a skip the line tour!) and then back out. And while the Colosseum itself is fabulous, what you can get afterward on the return if you walk has an appeal all its own.
The trek by foot will take you roughly twenty minutes if you’re hoofing it, but the trick to the stroll is to take your time. W’d recommend forty minutes to an hour to take it all in. Along the road are so many fabulous ruins, including modern houses built on the back of ruins! If it’s your first trip to Rome, this will stun you.
So take your time and enjoy the view all the way to the Trevi Fountain. Italian architect Nicola Salvi designed the Boroque fountain, one of the largest in the world, which was later finished in the mid-1700’s. But you’ll find the modern homes adjacent equally unique.
The Colossus in the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini
After your trek to the Trevi Fountain, venture a little farther and you’ll see portions of this statue on Capitoline Hill, high atop the west end of the Forum.
Nowhere but Rome (with perhaps the exception of Athens) will you find such massive ruins of statues on full display and celebration, and what a marvel it is!
If the statue stood erect, it would measure forty feet tall. The head alone is over seven feet tall.
Once you’ve made it to the Colossus, you’re not far from interesting museum pieces even more bizarre, and there are several to choose from.
And since you’re already there, you might as well come on in. Just be sure to check the time before the final entrance. I recommend attempting just before sunset. You’ll see why in a moment.
Of all the museum pieces, my personal famous is the Medusa, but you’ll for more as equally strange alongside others that are simply breathtaking. She is small in comparison to some of the others, but she packs a wallop.
View of the Ruins from inside Musei Capitolini on Capitol Hill facing the Colosseum
Of all the items on my list, the view from inside the Musei Capitolini overlooking the Colosseum in the distance is hands down my favorite. You could stand there for hours taking it all in.
The best time is at sunset when the majestic orange and reds cast an otherworldly glow against the already mystical ruins. The great thing about visiting any museum during that time is that the crowds thin. You will not want to miss this view. If this is the only thing you do on your trip to Rome, do this!
We recommend doing the prior excursions in order on the same day since they are all along the same path. Let the Museum be your final destination just to take in the sunset view, and then come back again the next day if you have time.
Next on the list is none other than the Vatican. As ordinary as it sounds, there is nothing at all ordinary about this small piece of real estate, starting with the massive sphere on the interior courtyard. It’s a uniquely modern piece that seems out of place yet feels at home at the same time. And that’s the feeling you get once you go inside on our way to visit one of the most well-known masterpieces of all time, The Sistine Chapel.
Once inside the chapel, the intricate detail on the walls leading to the main entrance will floor you. We recommend a full day just to spend within the museum itself. If you’re lucky, you might even get a visit by the Pope.
But be warned, inside the actual chapel area, no photographs are allowed. So take all the time you need to suck it all in. It will be an experience you will never forget.
Basilica of Santa Maria
You’ll find a near-infinite number of churches within the city, but be sure to stop by the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the largest Catholic Marian Church within Rome.
Everything about the church is magnificent, from the architecture to the statues within. And while you may not be aware, most churches within the city, as well as other Italian cities, will ask you to remove your hats and cover your shoulders and legs if you are showing too much skin. So be respectful, as many churches are not just tourist destinations but actual places of worship.
Once you’ve visited some of the more expected destinations, you will find other of the beaten tracks have their own unique appeal. This section I call random architecture because you’ll find many just around the corner as you tour the normal places.
These are places where you think you are lost but are just one street off. And there are really too many to list, but W’ll include a few here in case you want to venture out on your own just to find them when you have some time.
Let’s start with the Palazzo Zuccari,
and amazing archway you’ll find situated between via Sistina and via Gregoriana. The archway itself may be small, but it carries a unique impression you won’t forget.
Another location you’ll want to visit is any random rooftop more than a few floors up.
The lowrise zoning in the city makes views atop most B&B’s with a view uniquely Roman. Juxtaposed amid a mix of ancient and more recent additions, you’ll find the stucco and rustic colors blend well against the evening sunsets.
Of course, once you leave your wonderful morning breakfast or evening dinner, don’t forget to look for the all too common graffiti, which you’ll find popping up not just on street signs and store shops, you’ll also see many examples on ancient ruins themselves!
Ostiense Street Art
While we don’t find graffiti all that appealing, you’ll find the more artistic versions of places like Ostiense with “proper” Street Art. Ostiense is located in the Ostiense District with large murals and an intriguing blend of cultural styles is a wonder to marvel.
Of course, no trip to Rome should conclude without sampling a few of the delectables. You will have no problem finding tons of pasta. But you may find it harder than you think to find good pasta. In this case, you should intentionally avoid the main tourist locations and travel a couple streets down.
The same goes for gelato. You absolutely must sample the sweets in Rome, particularly the gelato. The flavors and textures are uniquely Roman and not at all what you’ll find in the states or other popular locations. I won’t list any in particular due to the fast-changing nature of pop-up shops, but a simple search will get you what you’re looking for when you arrive.
Finally, you should be aware that Rome is simply too large to visit everything in a few days, or even weeks. It’s a destination you should visit many occasions, so while you’re there, consider limiting your plans to one or two big destinations a day to get the most of it. And while you are in-between stops, take the time to toggle back and forth between streets to examine the near infinity number of unique statues and architecture along your route.