Italy Travel: Exploring Rome Beyond The Ruins

Colosseum

Colosseum. Photo courtesy of Guillermo Alonso/flickr

While the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Vatican museums are worthwhile sites, sometimes you need a break from Rome’s ruins, landmarks, churches—and crowds. So, once you’ve had your fill of sights and tour buses, spend some time having lesser-known experiences like these:

Get A History Lesson

One of Rome’s largest parks at 148 acres, Villa Borghese offers a week’s worth of attractions and experiences all in one place. Walk up the famous Spanish Steps (although admittedly, this will send you straight into the crowds—the Spanish Steps are one of the most crowded sites in Rome) into the park, with its well-manicured English-style gardens, public art, temples, lakes, museums, villas and attractions.

If you’re interested in broadening your knowledge, visit the Museo Civico di Zoologia, focused on natural history; Museo e Galleria Borghese with its sculptures and masterpieces; the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna housing 19th- and 20th-century paintings by Italian artists; and the Museo Nazionale Etrusco, featuring pre-Roman objects. There are also a number of architectural gems, like the Temple of Diana, the English Pavilion, the Arco di Settimio Severo, the Casino dell’Orologio and the Temple of Asclepius. And for those who want to enjoy the beautiful outdoors, stroll through the park’s many themed gardens, Bio Park and Aviary.

Pair Wine With A View

Italy is renowned for its wine, and Rome is home to a number of rooftop bars where you can enjoy your vino while taking in aerial views. First there’s 0° 300° Cold and Grill—located in the First Hotel—known for its menu of cold and wood oven-baked dishes cooked in a farm-to-fork fashion. Along with wine, 0° 300° serves delicious cocktails made with fresh, natural ingredients. Another great option is the rooftop at Hotel Raphael, with panoramic views that include the Vatican. And at Hotel Atlante Star Rome’s luxurious La Terrazza Paradiso, one can sip Sangiovese and Cabernet while getting great shots of St. Peter’s Basilica.

gelato

Gelato. Photo courtesy of stu_spivack via flickr.

Enjoy Some Gelato

No trip to Italy would be complete without savouring some gelato, especially in Rome where high-quality sweet shops abound. For the city’s best gelato, head to Gelateria del Teatro, an artisanal ice cream parlor known for its carefully sourced ingredients from around Italy. Choose to sit indoors or outdoors while enjoying innovative flavors like lavender, al latte, puro (70 percent chocolate), white chocolate and basil, rosemary with lemon and honey, chocolate and wine, fennel and caramelized almonds, fig and walnut, and crunchy sesame, to name a few. Call ahead to arrange a morning visit and watch these ice cream artists crafting traditional Italian gelato.

Consider A Life Of Crime

Featuring three floors dedicated to crimes and punishments, the Museum of Criminology houses interesting exhibits on prisons, torture and criminal anthropology. Operated by Italy’s federal Prison Administration, visitors will learn about stomach-churning investigation methods, how prisoners were restrained, ways prisoners were executed and how inmates were rehabilitated in the past. Peruse artifacts like the body-shaped Milazzo Cage where mutilated criminals were hung on display, a guillotine, torture chairs, whipping blocks, decapitation axes, a skeleton uncovered in 1933, counterfeit pottery, weapons, prison tattoo guns and other interesting pieces.

Santa Marinella Beach

Santa Marinella Beach. Photo courtesy of Luca Conti via flickr.

Hit The Beach

While Rome isn’t known for its beaches, it’s possible to visit some beautiful stretches of sand near the city. Ostia Lido Beach is about 18 miles away, known for its dark sand and swimmable waters. If you don’t mind paying, there are more secluded coves you can access in the area. For something more scenic, Santa Marinella Beach and Anzio Beach are both about an hour away and have crystalline waters and idyllic scenery.

Go For A Hike

While hiking isn’t the first thing that typically comes to mind when thinking of Rome, a scenic trek can be had at the Parco dell’Appia Antica, an ancient road and protected site for its rich archeological, historical and culture significance. While there are ruins and historical attractions onsite, there are also farms and nature trails. Within an hour of Rome other worthwhile hiking spots include the Lepini Mountains, Lago della Duchessa and the hills of Lazio. And at a little over an hour away, Parco Nazionale del Circeo is a beautiful nature reserve where one can enjoy bird watching and trekking through sand dunes, wetlands and woodlands.

topbike

Photo courtesy of TopBike Rental and Tours.

Take A Bike Tour

For those who want some active sightseeing, a bike tour through Rome is the perfect choice. One reputable company is TopBike Rental and Tours. Choose to rent a bike and explore in a self-guided fashion, or book one of their pre-planned bike tours to ride around with a knowledgeable guide. Cycling excursions include City Center, Rome In 1 Day, Panoramic Rome, Ancient Appian Way, Catacombs and Aqueducts Park and Rome Afternoon.

Taste The Local Craft Beer Scene

While Italy is renowned for its wine, it’s also home to a vibrant craft beer scene worth exploring. Open Baladin Roma is a great place to start, showcasing over a dozen craft beers as well as choices from America and the rest of Europe. At Pizzarium, pair craft beer with traditional Italian pizza topped with fresh ingredients. And at Brasserie 4:20, experimental and barrel-aged beers from Italy and beyond are the highlight.

What’s your favorite non-ruin Rome experience? Please share in the comments below.

*This article originally appeared on Travel + Escape

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