Rome gets millions of visitors a year, and with so much to see, it’s hardly surprising. Most of them, however, follow the same route from the Colloseum to the Forum, posing for the same pictures that have been taken a thousand times before them. But if you’re considering a trip to Rome in 2013, don’t fall into the tourist traps. Here are a few of the best-kept secrets to help you get off the tourist trail and to the best parts of the city:
See the view from Aventine Hill
Many of the ancient ruins in Rome are so well known that they are over-run with visitors. But the most famous aren’t always the most beautiful, or the most interesting, and a trip up to Aventine Hill will show you that. See the Square of the Knights of Malta, a collection of quaint little churches, and the orange garden. But the real reason to venture up the hill isn’t for the peace and quiet; it’s for the staggering view through one special ancient keyhole. Ask the priests who reside in the area to direct you to this secret spot.
Tour the Vatican Gardens
If you find yourself visiting these manicured gardens, you’ll be surprised they’re not busier. But that is because only those who plan in advance and book tickets are lucky enough to gain access. With fortifications, grottoes, monuments and fountains from anywhere between the 9th century and the present day, there’s much to see and the magical gardens make an excellent spot for an afternoon wander.
Try Rome’s finest “pick me up”
Tiramisu, which literally translates as “pick me up”, is possibly the most famous Italian dessert. The secret here is the place that produces the best versions of it in all of Rome. Bar Pompi, near the Re di Roma metro, is still largely a locals’ spot, but once you’ve tasted one of these delicious sweets, you’ll be sending any visitor you encounter in the café’s direction. And you might find yourself needing to make more than one visit, as they produce a variety of flavours of tiramisu, which even includes Pina Colada.
Visit San Giovanni in Laterano
St. Peter’s is the most famous church in Rome, but the secret is that it isn’t actually the most important or religiously significant. That role is fulfilled by the oldest Basilica in Rome, the beautiful San Giovanni in Laterano. The building is huge, which its comparative emptiness will only exaggerate, and the architecture is captivating. It is actually here the that the Pope must officiate church before he’s considered the leader of the Catholic Church, so make sure you pay the original Vatican a visit!
Do the big sights by night
Several tour companies offer night tours of Rome, and this is a great way to do all the tourist hot spots while avoiding the heat and chaos of the middle of the day. Many of the best buildings, like the Colloseum and the Forum, are lit up beautifully at night, and there’s nothing like darkness to make the mystery of some of the historical sights come to life. What could be more romantic than the Trevi Fountain by moonlight?
Explore a different neighbourhood
If you’re looking for young Italy, where locals are full of life and things are constantly changing, take a trip to San Lorenzo. This suburb is just outside the center of Rome, but will offer you a window into a totally different world from the one you can see from the tour bus. Street art and pop up cafés are popular here, as are “festino” street parties. Rome is so dense with history, it’s easy to forget that it is still very much a living and breathing city. But this neighbourhood is sure to remind you!