BEST THINGS TO DO IN ROME (BESIDES THE USUAL...)
The sites of Rome are so iconic that it’s not hard to build up a ‘must see’ list when planning your visit. Places like the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain are famous for a reason, and will reward any visitor who braves the year-round crowds.
There is so much to see and do that you could spend weeks exploring the city, and months soaking up the culture. If you happen to be lucky enough to be there for more than a whirlwind ‘highlights’ visit, we’ve compiled a list of things to do in Rome (in no particular order) besides the usual!
Nestled in a stunning public park, Villa Borghese holds some of the most incredible works of art in Italy. Generally you need to book a few weeks in advance because the gallery is small and only allows a small number of visitors at time - and you only get two hours to soak it all up. If you’re not into the gallery, the grounds of the villa are worth a visit themselves. They’re a lush oasis in the middle of the city, and offer spectacular views.
Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary/Caesar’s murder site
Chances are you will stumble upon this place without even realising it. It’s not far from Campo De’ Fiori and the Pantheon, and close to numerous bus stops. It will catch your eye because it looks like a large excavation site (you can see the ruins of 4 temples and part of Pompey’s Theatre), but when you look closer you will see that it is brimming with cats and kittens. The sanctuary is run by volunteers, they allow visitors, and you can buy souvenirs to fund food and medical care for the rescued cats - most of which are available for adoption. The sanctuary has caused some controversy in the past, as the ruins are considered to be the site of the murder of Julius Caesar (city officials tried to evict the cats), but the sanctuary has fought for the felines and been firmly established for a number of years now.
Wine Tasting Dinner at Rimessa Roscioli
There’s no shortage of incredible food in Rome, but our favourite dining experience was at Rimessa Roscioli. We joined a wine tasting dinner with a group of other people and were guided by an amazing sommelier through some of Italy’s most iconic wines and matching food. You learn so much about Italian culture, and also get to make new friends through this divine gastronomic experience.
There are over sixty catacombs in Rome, hundreds of kilometres of underground passageways, and thousands of tombs. Only 5 catacombes are open to the public, however. The most popular are the Catacombs of San Sebastiano on the Via Appia Antica, but we enjoyed the Catacombs of Domitilla. They are the largest and most ancient and the site of secret masses at times when Christians were being persecuted.
This is Rome’s largest park, and the perfect place for a bike ride or stroll between Rome’s iconic umbrella pines. You will see plenty of locals here, and the vibe on the weekend is particularly relaxed, with young families clustered around the playgrounds, painters with their easels and watercolours, dogs chasing sticks, and groups of tai chi devotees. The villa itself (called Casino del Bel Respiro) and it’s beautiful hedge maze is unfortunately now closed to the public, but the exterior and grounds are still worth a visit.
It is hard to comprehend the amount of Rome that is actually beneath your feet as you walk around the city, which is one of the things that makes a visit to Domus Aurea so fascinating. Domus Aurea is the Golden Palace of Rome’s most reviled emperor, Nero. The palace covered somewhere between 100-300 acres and most of it now lies under Colle Oppio park. You can join a guided tour (it must be guided as it’s still an excavation site) with an archaeologist and visit the rooms of this palace built only for pleasure, including the famous octagonal dining room where guests would have been showered with rose petals from the spinning dome above. The best part? Your tour includes a virtual reality experience that brings the ruins to life in order to give you an idea of what they looked like in their heyday.
Art Class with Lauren (and wine)
Okay so we didn’t get time to do this one, as it only happens every other Monday, but it’s definitely on our list for next time - we love art and wine classes and this one has rave reviews. Hosted at Alembic Bar in Trastevere, local artist Lauren Lombardo will guide you through the painting process while you sip on an aperitif (or two). You can check out her website to find out what her next guided painting project will be and book ahead to avoid disappointment!