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Experience More than the Main Sites of Rome

Like most capital cities, getting around Rome is an art of reading the map whilst dodging and weaving through crowds of other tourists. Between the Colosseum, Vatican, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish steps and more, there are enough sites to keep you busy for days. But there’s so much more to Rome! After these incredible monuments are ticked off the bucket list, it’s time to explore. Sometimes it takes a number of visits to the eternal city for people to really appreciate Rome for everything it has to offer. 

Looking for the best places to eat? See the a domenica recommendations here.

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If you’re limited on time, an open air ‘hop-on, hop-off’ bus can be a really convenient way to see all of the sites in one day and avoid entry queues. You can sit on the rooftop and admire the sites as your drive by or you can hop off and explore before jumping back on the bus when you’re ready. Bus companies such as Big Bus Tours offer discounts when you purchase tickets online. Tickets from some companies allow you to skip the entry queues at popular monuments such as the Vatican. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting on the first Sunday of the month, Rome’s state-owned museums, galleries, archaeological sites, parks and gardens are free! 

A fool is one who admires other cities without visiting Rome.

-Francesco Petrarca

Once you have had your fill of site seeing and you’re officially mind blown, it’s time to finally relax and take in more of the ‘every-day’ Rome. In fact, most Romans tend to avoid the city centre and touristy areas all together. Below are some ways to enjoy the simple pleasures in Rome.

Take your time to sit back in Piazza Navona listening to the trickling fountain with a gelato from nearby Giolitti Antica Gelateria. Open since 1900 it’s been frequented by many Italian and international celebrities including Pope Jean Paul II, Prime Minister Burlusconi and more. Don’t forget to ask for doppio panna for ‘double the cream’ – both on top of the gelato and in the bottom of the cone. From here you can wander to Via Dei Coronari, known for beautiful antique stores. Via del Governo Vecchio is another street in the area for small boutique shopping.

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Piazza Navona

Visit a Roman deli or one of the many food markets and pack a picnic of prosciutto and cheese to sit in the shade of the Borghese gardens. In the garden they also rent pedal carts. The 80 Hectare gardens were created in 1606 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Prior to this, the area was his personal vineyard which he decided to turn into Rome’s largest garden where he would construct his Villa Borghese that now serves as a gallery. The park became public in 1903.

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View of Piazza Popolo from the Borghese Gardens

Stroll along the Tevere or Tiber river that snakes its way through the city. In the summer months there are markets, pop up bars and events that take place on the river banks. You can even get a view of the Vatican from a distance that you will never see whilst standing in the queue outside.

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Cross the river, and traverse Tiber Island, to make your way toward the Jewish Ghetto. This is said to be the most ancient Jewish community in Europe occupied since the 2nd century before Christ. When Jews started to become persecuted in Rome, they moved to this district which soon became overpopulated, dirty and dangerous. After the Jews were freed in 1870, the Ghetto was partially re-designed, and it’s now one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Rome. In the ghetto you can find Via dei Giubbonari with small boutiques selling Italian made shoes and leather goods.

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Smell the citrus in the air at Parco Savello where orange trees shade the lookout point revealing a view over the entire city. Situated on Aventine Hill its known as Giardino degli Aranci, or Park of the Orange Trees and is the perfect spot to escape the summer heat or have a picnic.

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View from Parco Savello

Be sure to visit the many Roman markets including the famous Campo Dei Fiori held every morning from Monday to Saturday. Find fresh produce, Italian made products and great gifts to take home.  

Mercato Trionfale is an enclosed market just outside the Vatican City where you will find everything under the sun from fresh fruit to bread, cured meats and pizza. This is the perfect opportunity to put the Italian phrases you’ve been practicing to good use! Pick out some salami, prosciutto and cheese to take to the park.

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Campo Dei Fiori Markets
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For dinner, visit the vine covered neighbourhood of Trastevere that sits on the Tiber river. Most restaurants in this picturesque area of narrow cobbled streets offer fixed menus with three courses and wine for around 15-20 Euro. Outdoor seating gives the opportunity to admire the old buildings, Juliet balconies and vespas passing by. On Sundays, this area hosts Rome’s biggest and most historic flea market- Porta Portese. Check for hours of operation before going.

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Monti is a neighbourhood found behind the Colosseum which many visitors don’t see as they rush onward to other sites. Go to Piazza della Madonna Dei Monti and have an aperitivo at one of the small wine bars in the area. Via Urbana and Via del Boschetto run parallel to each other and are home to independent boutique clothing, antique and accessory stores. There are often designer and vintage markets held here. Check the opening days here

San Lorenzo is an up and coming district of Rome for its young student crowd that gathers around the university area. Expect graffiti and a grungier feel to this artsy and alternative neighbourhood with dark underground bars, popular pizzerias and local art exhibitions.

Pigneto has been transformed from a working-class suburb to a more hipster area. The pedestrian only street Via del Pigneto is a lively area for nightlife and is also the place for flea markets on the fourth Sunday of the month.

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Prati is a laid-back local’s suburb of Rome which is mostly residential and quite exclusive for its leafy outlook, wide, quiet streets, lovely restaurants and a daily produce market frequented by people living in the area for their fresh fruit and veg. 

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The Testaccio neighbourhood lies on the Tiber river across from Trastevere and used to be home to the largest slaughterhouse in Europe. It’s hard to imagine how this industrial zone was transformed into an arts neighbourhood, also popular with foodies for its organic market and meat focused restaurants inspired by the areas history. It’s not as picturesque in terms of architecture as what you’d expect to find in the historic centre but it’s interesting to explore if you want to visit some un-covered territory. You can even pass by Monte Testaccio hill constructed from broken terracotta pottery from ancient Roman times.

Rome wasn’t built in a day…so it shouldn’t be seen in just one either. Take your time and explore a different side of Rome!