After Paris, Rome is the most visited city in Europe with 10 million tourists on an average year, and it’s easy to see why. The Vatican City, the Roman archeological sites, the splendid architecture, and the food are all must-items in every traveler’s bucket list.
Here’s the thing, be prepared to stand in line, because the most important landmarks are packed with visitors all year long. And with a population density of 6,000 people per square mile, expect the hottest spots to be crowded.
Here’s an idea. Rome is 3,000 years old, which means it holds many secrets, so why not explore the path less traveled? Here are four extraordinary things to do in Rome while avoiding mass tourism.
Rome Crowd Forecast
1. The Quartiere Coppedè, An Unexpected Neighborhood
If you’re into eclectic architecture and awesome Instagrammable backgrounds, you’ll feel right at home at the Quartiere Coppedè. A few minutes north from Rome’s center, in the Trieste district, this masterful building complex, designed by Florentine architect Gino Coppedè in 1919, is not at all what you’d expect.
Eighteen palaces in total and twenty-seven buildings make this out-of-this-world setting where there’s something interesting in every corner, and don’t forget to check out the frog fountain in the center of it all. This is not only a sight to remember, but a nice break from the crowds.
2. The Aventine Keyhole, A Peek Through History
Sometimes the most memorable moments are the briefest, and that’s precisely what awaits you at the Aventine Keyhole. This is not only a catchy name; it’s an actual keyhole, from where you can peek through for a pleasant surprise — The Saint Peter’s Basilica at its greatest splendor.
The sturdy door is property of the Medieval crusaders called the Priory of the Knights of Malta, the last remaining chivalric order surrounded by Templar myths and intriguing history.
Visiting the gorgeous gardens behind the door is by appointment only, but sometimes just a peek is enough to fuel your imagination.
3. The Mithraeum of Circus Maximus, The Underground Temple
There’s plenty of Ancient buildings in Rome, but none like the Mithraeum of Circus Maximus. This is not the only Mithrea in Europe, temples to worship the god Mithras from between the 100 B.C. and A.D. 300, but the newliest discovered.
The underground temple was brought to light in the 1930s, below the Circus Maximus, or the chariot-racing stadium, which is a sight to behold as well. Five marble chambers and a central sanctuary makes this complex a singular place, and you feel the chills as you realize it’s been there for over two thousand years.
Like the best things in life, you must make an appointment to visit the temple, but it’s well worth it.
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4. Carciofi alla Giudia, A Unique Dinner
It’s easy to find a good meal in Rome; there’s a reason the ancient city is one of the world’s most important food capitals. Nevertheless, some dishes are more memorable than others, and nothing quite beats the Carciofi alla Giudia, the Jewish-style artichokes.
Artichokes are in season in spring, so you want to hit the old Jewish ghettos in the Sant’Angelo neighborhood for the meanest fried artichokes ever. This might be a veggie dish, but it’s meaty and substantial and one of the most iconic Roman dishes along with the carbonara and the bucatini all’ Amatriciana. Don’t miss it!
Rome Has Something For Everyone
Sure, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the St. Peter’s Square are unmissable, and you should dedicate some time to visit them, but Rome is full of secrets. If you lose yourself in the city’s streets, you’ll find something wonderful guaranteed, your own Roman treasure, and chances are it’s all for you to enjoy.