City blog. Rome based.

Off the beaten track: not ordinary Rome (part 1)

EDIT: I started writing this post before Italy’s lockdown due to the Coronavirus outbreak. It was originally supposed to be the second part of this post. At that time the emergency wasn’t so big, and didn’t seem to be any real danger even in Rome. The whole country was living as usual, and no alarm had yet shaken Italy and Rome. The situation quickly changed:

Questo articolo è disponibile in Italiano.

Cet article est disponible en français.

Questo articolo è disponibile in Italiano.

Cet article est disponible en français.

  • on march 4th schools were closed for two weeks
  • on march 7th even all Italian museums have been closed (the Vatican Museums since 9 March)
  • on march 10th started the real lockdown. The stores have been closed. At the same time, the quarantine began: right now it is allowed to leave the house exclusively for essential goods shopping, to go to work or for urgent health reasons.

The whole situation is crazy. Right now, we can’t change the past, but we can all act for a better time; so, we stay at home, neverforgetting to be positive about what is going to happen when the emergency will be over.


CORONAVIRUS is looking like the most popular word in the last few weeks. Despite the virus isn’t too dangerous, it seems that following the hygienic indications provided by the WHO (washing your hands often and keeping a safe distance from potentially infected people …) is easy to avoid. Fear, however, often dominates. And travelers are also afraid of possible contagion.

Like all those involved in the tourism field in Italy, during the past weeks I have experienced travelers frightened by fear of a disease, but also by the hazard of not being able to go back home. After the first infected Italians have been discovered in late February, in fact, some countries have barred the customhouse for Italians or travelers from Italy.

The actual situation is not as dramatic as that described by the international media.

However, if encouragement are not enough for you but you don’t want to skip the best of the trip of your life in Rome, in this post you can read about all the best alternatives for you. Indeed, when one started to talk about this disease, one of the first things coming in my mind was:

springtime in Rome → many tourists → long lines → inordinate human contact→ DANGER!

And, honestly, I perfectly understand that spending hours inside a museum just a few millimeters away from other potentially infected people could be considered dangerous. But above all HORRIBLE.


Choosing to visit the unmissable places in a city like Rome is certainly an unforgettable experience, but it could easily turn into something much less pleasant if you had not planned to do it with thousands of other travelers who, attached to you, scream and elbow looking for a selfie like thousands of others selfies, or yet another crooked video for Instagram stories.

This is even a bit ironic post, because each place is truly unique and there are no real “alternatives”. But it can be interesting to discover what is hidden behind the most visited places.

#1 Vatican Museum

The most visited places in Rome (even if it’s not Rome!).

Incredible. Unforgettable. So rich in history, art and beauty. Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel.

That’s all true. But… there are even around 30.000 visitors a day. And it seems to be unreal, but they are used to cross the gate when you are too!

Crowd. Smells. Inability to move and see everything. So hot in summertime, and no air-conditioning.

30.000 visitors.

At the same time.

This is often all we can think about while visiting this wonderful place.

The Vatican Museums are truly an extraordinary place, unfortunately often too crowded. So what could have been one of the most beautiful experience in Rome does not take long to turn into a nightmare from which getting out as quickly as possible.

Let me be clear, I don’t want to scare anyone. The Vatican Museums can REALLY be the most beautiful place you have ever seen: just choose the right day and time.

But this is not the only worthy museum in Rome.

To see some ancient art you can go to the Capitoline Museums, the first public museum in the world (1471) in the heart of Rome [you can read a post or watch a video about the Capitoline Museums], or the Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, a stone’s throw from the main railway station Roma Termini. Or the Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Altemps, next to Piazza Navona. These are just few of the several museums in Rome which preserve the most beautiful ancient sculptures you have ever seen. In all these museums (and more) I’ve often been the only visitor.

#2 Sistine Chapel

And the Sistine Chapel? Michelangelo is good reason to face the epic feat of crossing the Vatican Museums to be ecstatic even if only for a few seconds with your eyes on the sky. Even I am still open-mouthed every time.

The Sistine Chapel is always as crowdy as in this picture. Picture found on the web, because in the Sistine Chapel is forbidden taking pictures.

Even when I go to roman churches I usually prick my nose up, and I am rarely disappointed. Go to Sant’Ignazio, to the Chiesa del Gesù, Sant’Andrea della Valle, Santa Maria dell’Orto and you will agree with me.

And in the central room of Palazzo Barberini, and to the Villa Farnesina.

Don’t you trust me? Click here.

#3 Trevi fountain

Rome is the city of water. Here the fountains are scattered fairly evenly throughout the city center. Of course, some are much more popular than others, either thanks to the location, or for the hype of the past years. Of course, the Trevi Fountain is the most popular, an almost obligatory destination for all those who want to throw the coin.

This popularity can be traced back to the 1960s movie “La dolce vita” by Federico Fellini.

If the popularity is definitely deserved, the situation is getting out of hand: in recent years it has become possible to take advantage of this beauty only from 10 p.m. to 8 am. At night, in fact, when everyone is back to their comfortable rooms, the thunderous beauty of the 1700s fountain is finally just for us, and it becomes one of the most unexpected and romantic squares in Rome.

Click here to read a post about the Trevi Fountain

If, after a whole day discovering Rome you are too tired and you just want to go back to your comfortable room, or simply to avoid the frightening and noisy crowd of the day, or if you still want to focus your attention on a less known but equally spectacular destination , climb the Janiculum hill.

On the top of the Janiculum hill, not far from the Trastevere district and a stone’s throw from my house, there is the Roman’s fountain. The Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, the Fontanone for those who live in Rome. It is as beautiful as the Trevi Fountain, just a century older. The most amazing part is, however, when turning your back on the fountain. What is glowing in front of you is simply


#4 Colosseum

The largest amphitheater in the Roman world, the emperor Nero, the gladiators, its impressive size. This is the most visited place of Rome and even the symbol of the city…

The Colosseum has so many records to not be compared to anything else. And, obviously, one of the firsts is the waiting lines. In summertime under the Roman sun, you can even wait 3/4 hours to cross the same arches used by the Roman spectators. By purchasing the ticket online, the wait is much shorter, but especially from April to October, even getting a pre-purchase ticket from home is an impossible task; so, to enter the Colosseum you just have to wait.

The Colosseum is a building than cannot be compared to anything else; I don’t have any valid alternative. For this reason, I would suggest to visit it only from the outside, avoiding the wait for the entrance, and instead walk few hundred meters away.

You can move to the Baths of Caracalla, to learn more about one of the favourite activitie among the Romans (you can read a post about the Baths of Caracalla at this link), or going down to the underground of the Basilica of San Clemente.

Once you are at the Basilica of San Clemente, your time machine will be ready to go. The journey will be real, because to discover this unique place you have to go down. And go down again.

I have to admit that I always enjoy taking my guests to San Clemente Basilica because every time I understand what the word AMAZING really means.

Amazement at the disruptive beauty of the church mosaic.

Amazement at the stories hidden in the details.

Amazement at the depth of the story.

Amazement for the unexpected.

My advice is: fasten your seat belts, empty your mind and get carried away. Don’t take anything for granted and be open to news.

Have a good trip!

Not enough? Click here for the second part of this post.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *