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Rome is one of the most incredible cities in Europe. It’s packed with winding streets, ancient history, archaeology — and of course, delicious Italian food. While most tourists visit sights such as the Spanish Steps, St Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain, we love getting off the beaten track and seeing some of the lesser-visited areas. From the city’s ancient Jewish quarter through to the best gelato, here are some of the things you must see in Rome.
1. Explore the City’s Ancient Jewish Quarter
Strolling through the Historic Jewish Quarter feels like taking a step back into the Medieval era. The Jewish quarter is known as one of the most ancient in the western world, and it was constructed in 1555 under the authority of anti-Semitic Pope Paul IV, who declared the Jews had to be segregated and locked up behind steep walls between sunset and sunrise. Today, you can walk the quarter’s streets, soak in the atmosphere, and try some delicious foods. Be sure to sample some of the Jewish-style fried artichoke, or carciofi alla giudìa.
2. Off-the-beaten-track Piazzas
Rome is full of piazzas, or squares, and some of the most famous in the city include the likes of Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, and Piazza Venezia. Why not soak in a different square and visit the Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli and the Basilica de San Pietro? Here you can see one of Michelangelo’s stunning pieces, which is a statue of Moses. The statue was sculpted in the early 16th century and as it’s off the tourist trail, you won’t be competing against other tourists for a view.
3. Quartiere Coppede
The Quartiere Coppedé, which is located in Rome’s Trieste neighborhood, is a stunning enclave designed by architect Gino Coppedè in the early 20th century. The surrounding buildings feature odd and grotesque architecture, with tongue-in-cheek figures, monsters, and other symbols and characters from Greek and Medieval history.
4. When in Rome, Eat Like a…Viking
If you’re looking to Eat Your Way Through Italy, of course, we recommend sampling fine Italian cuisine while in Rome. But, if you’re looking for a dinner with a difference, visit Smor. The restaurant brings delicious Scandinavian food to Italy, and is located in Trieste, very close to the Quartiere Coppede. Be sure to order Smorrebrod, which is a traditional open-faced sandwich with toppings such as smoked salmon or Swedish kebab.
5. Explore Mussolini’s Bunker
While the history of Ancient Roman Emperors and the mysteries of the Vatican City tend to be the main draw for tourists visiting Rome, the country’s darker 20th-century history should also be explored. Pay a visit to Mussolini’s wartime bunker, which was built to protect the dictator after the outbreak of World War Two. It’s a huge wartime complex located under the grounds of Villa Torlonia, a private villa used by Mussolini and his family. The building of the bunker stopped in 1943, when Mussolini was forced from power, leaving the bunker unfinished. Today, you can stroll the bunker’s complex tunnel system and see some of the original objects.
6. Visit Santa Cecilia
Santa Cecilia is a beautiful fifth-century church. While it is not as well-known as churches such as Santa Maria and doesn’t look like much on the outside, it has a stunning interior and a mysterious crypt to explore. It’s well worth a visit!
7. Look for Antiques at Porta Portese
To see what locals really get up to on the weekend, head to Porta Portese, a bustling flea market. Porta Portese is overspilling with antiques and you can find some great bargains, alongside some tasty cheap street-food eats.
8. Buy fresh foods at Testaccio food market
If you’re using Airbnb Rome or staying in a home rental, you’ll be wanting to cook with some fine Roman ingredients. Head to the Testaccio food market where you can stock up on foods like a local. The market has a buzzing atmosphere.
9. Relax in Villa Borghese
As the largest park in Rome, Villa Borghese isn’t a hidden gem but many tourists don’t take the time to visit the park, as they’re too busy exploring the city’s more traditional tourist sights. The park is a definite item for any Rome itinerary, even if just for an hour or so to escape the hectic, noisy streets of the city.
10. Eat Gelato
When in Rome…eat gelato! One of the best spots is Il Gelato di San Crispino, where visitors tuck into a truly authentic Italian ice cream experience. While there are tons of gelato shops in Rome, this no-frills ice cream joint has the flavors kept under traditional steel lids — great for temperature control — and there are barely any tourists around.