What to See in Rome (the Out-of-the-Ordinary Edition)
And whether you’ve been before or you just need a little break from the heaping crowds collectively craning their necks to gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, these unusual things to do in Rome let your see the ancient city in a brand new light.
Photo by Flickr user stu_dio
Crowds, lines, heat, humidity, jostling, an utter inability to find a spot in an open, decent restaurant when you’re hungry . . .
Visiting Rome in the summer can sometimes leave you needing a bit of a vacation from your vacation. So I recently visited Rome for some new inside scoops. (How inside? Here's me with the mayor of Rome)
And whether you’ve been before and want know what to see in Rome for your second (or third or thirteenth) visit, or you just need a little break from the heaping crowds collectively craning their necks to gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, these unusual things to do in Rome let you see the ancient city in a brand new light.
At Top Speed
Once futuristic, Segways seem an odd pairing with ancient Rome. But these days, they are such an everyday occurrence that they ply the roads of the ancient imperial capital four times a day. It's a surprisingly apt combination.
Segways zip you around Rome at motor speeds and ease, but your views are unhindered by car or bus windows. Plus, Segways raise you up nearly a foot above your normal height, giving you a view over the crowds. I tried one out late last month and it's a great activity for families, but children must be 12 years or older to use them so the machine registers the weight.
And if you have people in your group who aren’t comfortable standing for hours, electric apes (think of an electric-motored, three-wheeled rickshaw in the style of the Italian 1950s) offer a similar experience with lots of comfort.
For a really different view of the city, head underground. From the Capuchin crypts, with sculptures made of skeletons, to a tour of the ancient Roman necropolis hidden under the Vatican, some of Rome’s best history lies right underfoot.
To visit the Vatican scavi, home to the actual tomb of St. Peter which only admits 120 per day, you’ll need to book far, far in advance and be flexible on dates if possible. But there is a neat alternative easily open to the public that I recently checked out.
Every Friday, the Case Romane del Celio, a underground series of highly preserved Roman houses complete with intact (some for adults-only) frescos, open for an evening aperitivo (wine and appetizer reception). Reservations are a must.
Photo by Flickr user Dale Gillard
For literature lovers, a museum dedicated to poets Keats, who came to Rome as a sort of medical refugee, and Shelly hides right at the base of the Spanish steps with tens of thousands of letters and books belonging to the authors.
Though Shelley never lived in the home (he had a place in Pisa), he visited Keats there during Keats’ final days and created several works inspired by these experiences. The poets’ memorabilia has been painstakingly maintained for over 100, even though the collection went underground during the Nazi occupation of Rome.
To discover the story of Rome during the Nazi occupation as well as the long history of Rome’s Jewish community – which predates Christians in the city – take a tour of a Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. Look for more on Jewish history in Rome and around the country here on the blog later this month.
But if your favorite parts of Roman history are the bellicose Ancient Romans, consider signing up for “Gladiator School.”