Rome is easily one of our favourite European cities so when we were contacted by a travel blogging city native who offered to give us a local’s guide, we didn’t have to think too long about our answer. Davide Vadalà is one half of Nomad travellers a blog about an international couple with itchy feet, from Italy and Romania. So far Davide has visited 37 countries and covered more than 30,000 km all without flying! Here are 10 of his Rome favourites that he believes no visitor should miss….
Even if I’ve been traveling the world for the last three years, it’s always a pleasure to go back in Rome to visit my family. It’s the occasion to rediscover the city where I grew up with the eyes of a foreigner, the knowledge of a local and the experience of a gypsy traveller. You could spend weeks visiting every day something new, and never get bored: archeological sites, parks, famous architectures and museums. And to finish the day you can just sit in one of the many squares, with a drink and a guitar on your side. It’s impossible to compress what to see in Rome in a short article, but the good thing is that you’ll know what not to forget: 10 places not to be missed in Rome. Trust a local!
Nothing more obvious than this, but how not to include the symbol of Rome in my selection of 10 places you can’t miss? Since you already know everything about it, I add just a couple of hints: the Colosseum was a Stadium with a movable fabric roof, called “Velarium”. Yes you got it right, it was possible to close it or to leave it open according to the weather, thanks to the work of a team of sailors! Shows in the Colosseum were free for everybody and it could contain up to 80 000 people. Not bad for being 2000 years old.
Il Buco di Roma
This is a good local tip, and you can praise yourself with your friends for knowing it. Il “Buco di Rome” is the keyhole of an entrance door, from where it’s possible to see Saint Peter’s Cathedral at the end of an avenue framed by vegetation. It’s the perfect place to go if you are planning to impress somebody. It’s not easy to find it, you better ask some locals when you are in Aventine Hill, not far from “Circo Massimo”.
Giardino degli Aranci
Il Giardino degli Aranci, is in direct proximity of “Il buco di Roma”, just a few hundred meters before it. As the Italian name is stating, it’s a garden with plenty of orange trees. The fruits are quite bitter, and they are collected by local associations to make jam to sell and fund projects. From the garden there is also a terrace overlooking Tiberim river and the city skyline. Nearby it’s possible to have also a great view over the Palatine Hill, and visit the Municipal Rose Garden if you happen to be there in May (Free entrance).
On top of the Capitoline Hill is situated the Municipality of Rome and the Capitoline Museums, a 600 years old exhibition where it’s possible to go through the history of Rome since its origins. The square was designed by Michelangelo, with the creation of a new palace, “Palazzo Nuovo” symmetrical to the original one “Palazzo dei Conservatori”, and a new pavement with a star shape, built only some centuries later. On the middle of the square is standing the equestrian statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. From the terrace on the back, it’s possible to have the best view over the Roman forum.
The self sustaining dome of Pantheon is a masterpiece of ancient engineering, considering the size and the materials available at that time, still the biggest dome in the world made out only of concrete. Originally a Roman Temple, the Pantheon has been used since the 7th century as a catholic church, “Santa Maria della Rotonda”, still functioning today. Inside the church are buried the last Italian Kings and the world famous painter Raphael.
An urban legend pretend that it’s not raining inside the Pantheon, because of the warm air rising and going out through the hole: that’s a lie, and you’ll see it yourself even if it’s not raining, because on the floor there are several gutters to drain rain water.
Vatican Museums are actually part of Vatican City as it’s easy to understand, but for Roman inhabitant there is no difference between Rome and Vatican City. To be able to visit them completely, one whole day is needed, and you still need to go in a hurry. After you’ll be full of masterpieces and you’ll have admired enough the Sistine Chapel, you’ll be welcomed outside by the sumptuous spiral staircase leading to the exit. If you are on a budget, the last Sunday of each month, the entrance is free, but be ready to stand in line for hours.
The “Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana” has been nicknamed Squared Colosseum after the series of arches that is covering its facades. Made popular by history, television and commercials, it’s possible to admire it in the district of “EUR”, (Universal Exhibition of Rome), one of the newest neighborhood built during fascist time. Nowadays it is eternally closed or under restoration, but it’s still possible to admire it from the exterior, emerging on top of his podium.
This is something that most of the travelers don’t even know it exist, but it’s definitely worth a visit. It’s a sumptuous Villa with a luxurious garden built during the 17th century, and completely transformed two centuries later. Originally owned by a local wealthy family, it was made famous later for being the private residence of the fascist dictator Mussolini. That’s why in the underground there are bunkers built transforming the pre-existent catacombs, that sometimes it’s possible to visit. Around the garden there are several dependencies, of which the “Casina delle Civette” is the jewel not to be missed, one of the few Art Nouveau buildings in Rome that it’s worth a visit.
Altar of the Fatherland
The “Altare della Patria” was built in memory of the first King of Unified Italy, and it houses today the eternal flame in memory of the “unknown soldier”. Locally know also as “Vittoriano” or the “typewriter”, it is commonly believed, by Romans themselves, to be built during fascism: this is a wrong fact since it was designed almost 50 years earlier. Inside it’s possible to visit a quite boring military museum, but with an extra ticket you have access to the elevator reaching the roof to have a 360° panorama of Rome.
Aniene Valley Nature Reserve
Rome is beautiful but it’s also really chaotic. If you had enough of the traffic, of the people sounding their horns and you risked several time to be crashed at the zebra crossing, then it’s time to escape from the city and take some rest. There are plenty of big urban parks in Rome, either in the center or in the suburbs. But if you are looking for something wilder than that, but still easily reachable, then a good option is to rent a bicycle and visit the “Aniene Valley Nature Reserve”. It’s a protected park following the river Aniene, one of the affluent of Tiberim, where it’s possible to cycle in the dedicated track not worrying about the traffic.
All words and photos by Davide Vadalà. Davide is a travel writer and travel photographer from Rome, but you won’t easily find him there since he is permanently traveling the world. You can follow his stories reading his website http://www.nomadtravellers.com/ and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.