Beyond Trevi and Colosseum: Rome like a Local
February 7, 2020
by Lisa Oppermann
Rome – the Eternal city – is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Over 7 million travelers visit the metropolis at the Tiber each year; most of them just stay for a short trip spending their time between the Colosseum, Forum Romanum, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps and the Vatican and complaining that it is ‘such a touristy place’.
Italy’s capital however has so much more to offer. If one dares to take a look at things that lie beyond the typical attractions, Rome is a young, exciting and colorful city full of people actually spending their everyday-lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The Orange Garden and its little brother
The Orange Garden close to Circo Massimo and the area Testaccio offers an incredible view over the Tiber, the picturesque neighborhood of Trastevere and the Gianicolo hill, overlooked by the copula of St. Peter’s. Especially during sunset the panorama of the Eternal City is breathtaking and the place has been on the list of secret tips for years now and it is not so secret anymore. Not only tourists roam the place, it has also become one of Rome’s most popular spots for newly-weds taking their wedding pictures. So, having a picnic or a bottle of good Italian wine during sunset does not only offer one of the best views over the Eternal city, but also the endlessly entertaining spectacle of watching young couples fully dressed-up navigating trying to get a picture without crowds of tourists and not ruining their spotless white dress, while also pretending to have the time of their lives.
Those who like it a little bit quieter and less touristy only have to go a couple of meters up the hill and they will find another garden. It does not have the same old walls surrounding it or the beautiful orange trees, but the view is almost the same and most tourists completely ignore this place situated perfectly between the famous Orange Garden and the even more famous keyhole.
Speaking of which: waiting in line for the keyhole is not worth it, except for saying that you actually did look through it. You get almost exactly the same view as from the two gardens – you simply have to wait about 30 minutes for it.
Garbatella – a small Italian town in the middle of the capital
Away from the crowds in the city centres, but just as enchanting, the quarter Garbatella is easily reachable by hoping on Rome’s metro line B. Built in the 1920s to bring the charm of a small Italian town in the countryside to the big city, Garbatella has lost nothing of its appeal. Nowadays it is a popular neighbourhood for left-wing activist groups and young families. Just stroll around the little alleyways and discover a completely different side of Rome that most tourists miss out on!
Villa Ada – Borghese’s big, overlooked stepsister
Of course, Villa Borghese is stunning and if you are interested in culture, then the art museum is a must. However, if you are looking to get out of the bustling city for a while to experience a bit of nature, Villa Ada in the north-east of Rome is the place to go. Not only does it offer a bigger space with little pathways through the forest and a stunning lake that is much more beautiful than the small one Borghese has to offer, at Villa Ada you will basically not see any other tourists. The people you can see lazing around in the grass or walking their dogs – those are the true Romans!
After your nature walk you can also have a look around the area surrounding the parc. The delicious local food or authentic espressos and cappuccinos are of a much better quality than most of those offered in the city centre – and will cost you almost half as much.
During summer also watch out for cool concerts or other events happening at Villa Ada! They normally take place on the little peninsula in the middle of the lake – and there is probably no better spot in the whole of Italy to listen to some good live music.
Requiescat in pace – stroll around Rome’s graveyards
New York might never sleep – but Rome also certainly doesn’t! In the ever-noisy city there is almost no place as quiet and beautiful as the various graveyards that are scattered around Rome. Not only are the graves in themselves often impressive monuments with beautiful sculptures and architectural masterpieces, but they also offer landscapes that are better cared for than most parcs. The famous Cimitero Acattolico, the only non-Catholic cemetery in Rome, is a tourist magnet, since it is home to the graves of English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley and is overlooked by the Piramide Cestia, Rome’s only pyramid of 36.4 meters, but still worth a visit. Especially because it is close to Testaccio, the most Roman area of Rome!
One of the more hidden gems is Verano, a beautiful cemetery in the university and student area San Lorenzo. Spend your evening strolling along the paths between the graves, monuments and beautiful landscape, before going to the near-by restaurant Il Podista for one of the best pizzas in Rome!
In vino veritas – Party in Bella Roma
No trip to Rome would be completely without a night out – the wine and the aperol-spritz are way too good and cheap for that! So, where to?
- San Lorenzo: is the university and student area of Rome. During the warmer months the bars and restaurants of this area north of the main station are bustling with students looking for a night out. Go to the area around the Piazza dell’Immacollata, grab a spritz at one of the surrounding bars and then have an unforgettable night out on the piazza with your friends!
- Basilica San Paolo: Talking of spritz, there is no better place to go out for a cheap spritz than Basilica San Paolo. Every Wednesday night the bar El Chiringuito Libre is selling spritz for only 2 euros – and the piazza is always bustling with young Romans!