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10 Alternative Activities in Rome without the Crowds

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Judd Elterman

Judd is a third culture kid from the United States doing an MA in media in business in the Netherlands. He likes to spend his days with copious amounts of pop culture, sci-fi and baking.

We’ve already listed some of Rome’s unmissable spots, but don’t stop there – the Eternal City has so much more culture to offer, and it’s equally enthralling. If you think you’ve seen all that Rome has to offer, think again! These alternative venues will delight you just as much:

Domus Romane

What did ancient Roman villas look like? Good question. Sure, there are lots of ruins scattered around the city, but nothing immerses you in Ancient Roman domestic life quite like Domus Romane. Situated under the Palazzo Valentini, this unique attraction takes you on a virtual tour of a typical Roman house before the centuries had their way with it. It’s all brought to life with cutting-edge augmented reality technology. Rome is full of grandiose historical sites, but we guarantee this lesser-known activity will be a unique experience you won’t want to miss.

Alternative Rome Activities

Colonna Gallery

Love a good art museum, but find yourself underwhelmed by the basic decor? Look no further than the Colonna Gallery. Housed within a stunning Baroque-style palace, this gallery is an artwork in itself. After you tear your gaze away from the building’s gorgeous architecture, you can peruse masterpieces by Carracci, Bronzino, and Guercino. Make sure you look up and take in the numerous frescoes adorning the building’s ceilings – they’re just as impressive.

Palazzo Colonna

Centrale Montemartini

Continuing with the theme of art in cool buildings, the Centrale Montemartini gallery is housed inside a former thermoelectric power station and features numerous ancient Greek statues and other sculptures juxtaposed with a decidedly industrial backdrop. The striking counterpoint of ancient and modern in this unique space is definitely something you’ll be raving about long after you leave.

Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna

Speaking of modernity, if you happen to stroll through the gorgeous Villa Borghese and you’re craving something new amidst all of Rome’s old, stop by Italy’s National Gallery of Modern Art. This huge collection of modern art features the likes of Van Gogh, Mondrian, Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni and other masters from the 19th and 20th century. With names like that, it may not seem like one of the more alternative activities in Rome, but it’s grossly underrated in this art-saturated city.

Ara Pacis

Encased in a modern structure made mostly of glass, this museum is dedicated to the intricate and striking altar of peace, which was excavated and reassembled from fragments after being submerged in mud for over 1000 years! Although this attraction is on the smaller side, the altar is truly a feast for the eyes and is probably one of Rome’s more important monuments. The recent addition of a VR feature has turned this ancient attraction into an immersive modern experience that’s sure to delight the younger ones.

The opera at Capuchins Crypt

If you’re into music appreciation, but find most concert venues to be too cheery, look no further than Capuchins Crypt. This shocking crypt is lined by over 4.000 bones of Capuchins friars (including a few mummified bodies still wearing the clothes of their order), and regularly hosts opera concerts within the chapel. It’s a uniquely moody experience and a music lover’s dream. Fun fact, the crypt is located near Piazza Barberini, made famous by the film La Dolce Vita. So, if you’re into reenacting a classic Fellini scene, now’s your chance. Tickets can be found here.

Villa Adriana

Originally intended as Emperor Hadrian’s retreat, but turned into an official residence because of his fondness for the villa, Hadrian governed Rome from this little oasis just outside of the city. The easily accessible Villa Adriana is home to ruins of ancient pools, steam baths, and fountains spread across lavish gardens, making for a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Rome.

The Stadium of Domitian

Built as Rome’s first permanent venue for gladiator games and competitive athletics, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is hidden beneath Piazza Navona, just waiting to be discovered. The ruins of this U-shaped stadium offer a first-hand glimpse into Ancient Rome’s obsession with sports, and they’re a great supplement to a Colosseum visit. The scale and grandeur of the Colosseum may have overshadowed the Domitian Stadium over the years, but this smaller arena was an equally popular venue for bloodsports and other family-fun outings in the ancient empire.

Palazzo Braschi, the Museum of Rome

Piazza Navona offers another incredible museum, which traces the history of Rome. The neoclassicalPalazzo Braschi has an immense historical collection with over 100,000 pieces,  including paintings, drawings, photographs, statues, furniture, and costumes. Look out for unique items like an original design of the Trevi fountain and a rare old photo of the Pantheon.

The Baths of Caracalla

Isn’t it nice to pamper yourself once in a while with a rejuvenating spa day? Well, for the Romans, treating themselves was a weekly, sometimes daily ritual. Spread across 25 hectares of green space, the Baths of Caracalla offer a nice little sneak peek into Ancient Rome’s best-preserved spa. it’s well worth a visit for the gorgeous mosaics alone.

What are your favorite alternative activities in Rome? Let us know on our Instagram or Facebook accounts!

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The 10 things in Rome you really, really shouldn’t miss

By

Judd Elterman

Judd is a third culture kid from the United States doing an MA in media in business in the Netherlands. He likes to spend his days with copious amounts of pop culture, sci-fi and baking.

Rome is big, it’s loud, and it’s also one of the birthplaces of Western civilization. This – combined with its religious significance – makes it an epicenter of culture which millions of people make a special pilgrimage to every year. Whether you’re drawn to history, crave delicious cuisine or you’re a sucker for beautiful art, Rome has it all.
We saved you the trouble and compiled a list of 10 iconic things to do in Rome, which we’d rather you not tell your friends you missed:


1. The Pantheon

Built almost 2,000 years ago, the Pantheon (literally) still stands the test of time, proving Ancient Rome’s architectural ingenuity and its development in concrete technology. In fact, the structure’s massive rotunda is still the largest unreinforced dome made entirely of cement in existence. The entrance is free of charge, but for a more informative experience of this former temple, we highly recommend picking up an audio guide.

10 things to do in Rome


2. The Colosseum

Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of ancient Rome, the Colosseum is a sight to behold and needs no introduction. Funded by spoils of war, the biggest amphitheater ever built held numerous sporting events and gladiator battles for half a millennium. Nowadays, you can visit the ancient arena and soak up its chilling history, but make sure you get your ticket in advance, as lines can get long during peak periods! Ain’t nobody got time for that.

The Colosseum in Rome

3. The Roman Forum

Not too far from the Colosseum, you’ll find ancient Rome’s central hangout, the Forum. With its complex system of buildings and temples, this area was central to commercial and religious life during the heyday of the Roman empire and its remaining structures are just as impressive. Give yourself a few hours to visit, as it’s slightly spread out.

The forum in Rome

4. Castel Sant’Angelo

Once the tallest building in Rome, this ancient fortress was designed by emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for his family and himself, but over the years became a papal residence. The museum now houses a weaponry and perfectly preserved frescoes from the Renaissance period. Make sure you get your cameras ready because the terrace offers stellar views of the city and is a perfect photo op.  

Castel Sant'Angelo  in Rome

5. The Borghese Gallery

Beautifully located in a former villa, which is very much a piece of art in itself, this museum features some of Bernini’s more iconic sculptures such as the Rape of Proserpine and his version of David. Moreover, you will encounter numerous masterpieces by the likes of Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, and Peter Paul Rubens. The gallery is located in a lovely garden, so it’s a great opportunity to picnic while taking a break from all the art.

The Borghese Gallery in Rome

The Rape of Proserpine by Bernini

6. See the pope

Every Wednesday and Sunday, the pope makes a public appearance at St. Peter’s Square. If you manage to score one of the limited tickets available, you will have the opportunity of a lifetime (and the bragging rights) to tell your friends that you saw the pope in Vatican City.

7. St Peter’s Basilica

Speaking of St. Peter’s Square, make sure you come back and check out its basilica in all its glory. The waiting time to enter the church can take over an hour, so skipping the line here is highly recommended. Insider tip: there’s a fun optical illusion if you look at the basilica from Via Niccolò Piccolomini street – the further you walk away, the bigger the St. Peter’s Basilica looks!

St Peter's Basilica in Rome


8.The Vatican and the Sistine Chapel

You can’t visit Rome and not go to the Vatican, it’s heresy. Located in the smallest country in the world, the Vatican’s museum is chock-full of masterpieces, including its crown jewel, Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. We can guarantee the Vatican will be full of visitors during any season or time, so make your life easier and buy tickets ahead to skip the line.

The Vatican in Rome
The Vatican’s famous Bramante Staircase

9. Capitoline Museum

Technically the world’s first museum, this is the perfect place to enrich your knowledge about the city’s history. Some of the more notable pieces in its collection are the famous she-wolf sculpture featuring Rome’s founders Romulus and Remus, Medusa by Bernini, and a fountain in the form of a horn-shaped drinking cup. The museum takes its name from the hill it’s situated on, so count on a great view of the Roman Forum while you’re there.

Capitoline Museum  in Rome

10. Trajan’s Markets

Ever wonder how Ancient Romans shopped till they dropped? Well, look no further. The Markets of Trajan were built for Emperor Trajan around 107-110 AD, and are considered to be part of the world’s first great shopping mall complex with some 150 shops and administrative offices. This multi-level structure boasts an impressive display of the Ancient Romans’ architectural ability and is still just as endearing today.

Trajan's Markets in Rome

*Honorable mentions go to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Campo de’ Fiori Square for market bargains during the day and vibrant nightlife in the evenings. If there’s any essential Roman attraction you think should have been mentioned, feel free to let us know in the comment section!



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Our 7 top tips for traveling solo

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With remote working becoming more popular, and cheap flights making the world even smaller, lots of us are now traveling by ourselves. If you’re switching group travel for solo adventures, here are a few things to remember.

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