When in Rome don’t always do as the tourist guides tell you…
I have a dislike of many of the big tourist hot spots, only equalled by my distaste for London’s Leicester Square and New York’s Times Square.
So my advice is to walk briskly through Barberini and Trevi districts, stopping only to pause once to see the famous fountain where even Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita) would find it tricky to fight off the crowds and pose for a snap .
The experience has become so ruined by mass tourism and hawkers that it is pretty unbearable. The whole area is one massive tourist trap – restaurants and bars included.
My advice is to head down to quieter authentic areas like Trastevere or even head out on the train or bus to places that mass tourism has not yet tainted.
For lovers of underground churches, try a trip down the vaults at San Crisogono in Trastevere where subterranean tunnels take the visitor down to the 2nd Century church with its sarcophagi and early frescoes.
Rome’s quieter streets
Quieter streets around the Pantheon and Gesu are much more pleasant for a stroll. Don’t miss the Pantheon either despite the crowds as it is a remarkable piece of architectural history.
For something completely different…
We caught a train out to the Centrale Montemartini (a bus ride from Pyramid or a 10 minute Metro ride from Termini to Ostiense) where an old power plant has been converted into an archaeological museum.
The neighbourhood is being regenerated but remains semi-industrial – nevertheless the museum is quiet and choc-a-bloc with Roman statuary. The whole experience reminded me visually of Metropolis the movie mixed with Ben Hur.
Tony wasn’t entirely convinced that it was his sort of thing – and complained about the limited curation and interpretative panels – but in fairness there are some good pieces and basic English explanations.
Another quieter tourist trip is to the Via Appia Antica, the authentic Roman road complete with the original paving slabs.
It’s littered with a variety of fascinating ancient monuments which form part of an interpretative trail in the park… and it’s great fun.
Time your trip right and you could also squeeze in a visit to one of the Catacombs (check opening times as some close over lunch times).
Film lovers will take delight in one of Tammy’s favourite places – Cinecitta, Europe’s biggest film studios, famous for Cleopatra, La Dolce Vita, Ben Hur, Gangs of New York.
This set of Rome has been used in several classic movies and recently featured in the TV drama series of Rome.
The huge structures are very convincing, even though they are made largely of fibreglass. It’s only when you get up close that it’s obvious these are not what they appear to be!
Tammy’s top travel tips: Rome
The Via Appia Antica is best visited by car or bike although you can catch a couple of buses out there but it’s a little tricky. The old road stretches for a fair length so a bike is quite a good way of seeing it properly.
Cinecitta is an easy Metro ride and the station is next door to the film studios. Alternatively, take a car and park opposite in the underground car park.
Tours of the back lot take place on the hour – and are only in Italian but you’ll get the gist of what’s going on so this is not a deal breaker. There is also an interesting museum with costumes and wigs including those from Cleopatra (Liz Taylor’s dress) and Gangs of New York – and a variety of props and movie production material.
Favourite unusual places include San Clemente and its church vaults (with several layers of history), Fosse Ardeatine (scene of a 2WW Nazi massacre) and the slightly sinister ossuary with its patterned bones at Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.
The Catacombs can be combined with the Via Appia Antica but beware – the tunnels have long lunch time closing times so check opening schedules and tour times before embarking on your trip.