Many people refer to Rome as the Eternal City. Its history dates back more than 2500 years, and many consider it to be the world’s first metropolis. Around 4 million people live in this beautiful, vibrant city. Millions of tourists travel there each year to experience its unique cultural atmosphere, architectural wonders, and culinary fare. When travelers plan trips to Rome, they include the city’s tourist hotspots. Yet there is much more to the city beyond its most popular destinations.
Located in the Trieste district in the northern part of Rome is the Quartiere Coppede, an unforgettable area filled with architectural delights. This is Rome’s fantasy neighborhood, filled with large-scale buildings detailed in Art Nouveau, Roman Baroque, Gothic, Medieval, and Mannerist features. Florentine architect Gino Coppede created the neighborhood, working on the quarter from 1919 until his death in 1927. Don’t miss seeing Coppede’s hanging chandelier or the fantastical Fontana delle Rane, or Fountain of the Frogs. Urban legends say the Beatles visited and maybe even jumped into this whimsical fountain following a performance in Rome.
Builders constructed the Borghese Villa complex for Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V, at the beginning of the 17th century. The exhibition rooms in the Galleria Borghese offer extraordinary interiors, but also display a large collection of art. The Cardinal was the patron of the Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Many of Bernini’s masterful works of art, including his “Apollo and Daphne” now sit on display in the complex. Visitors should not miss out on a stroll through the Villa Borghese Gardens. The extensive plant life, fountains, pathways, and Bernini sculptures are a visual pleasure.
In the late 1920s, Mussolini attempted to rebuild extensive areas of Rome. Workers discovered four Republican-era temples and the remains of a large ancient statue made of marble during the excavation. They also found a section of the Theatre of Pompey, the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BCE. Over time, feral and stray cats began taking shelter there among the ruins. Women known as “cat ladies” fed and cared for them for decades. Then in 1994, volunteers took over and set up the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. In recent years, the sanctuary has come under the threat of closure and eviction of its feline residents. It’s a worthwhile stop for any cat lover or history buff.
Within walking distance of the Colosseum, this 12th-century church, built in honor of Pope Clement around the year 1100, is a beautiful representation of Medieval architecture and art of the time. On the outside, the lackluster building dedicated to probably wouldn’t catch the eye of those who didn’t know about the treasures inside. Both the floor and ceiling feature spectacular artistic patterns. Symbolic mosaics cover the walls. But perhaps the most fascinating fact is that the basilica sits on top of a 1700-year old church. Visitors can explore the two lower excavations and see the original basilica, then continue down to the first level to see a 1st-century Roman home and a temple dedicated to Mithras, the god of light and friendship.
Extending over 33 acres, the Baths of Caracalla are the largest surviving ancient baths complex in Rome. Septimius Severus commissioned the baths. More than 13,000 Scottish prisoners of war built the complex. Severus named the Baths of Caracalla after his son, Caracalla, an emperor who massacred and persecuted people throughout the Roman empire, yet granted citizenship to all freemen. Today, the Caracalla complex features what remains of the floor mosaics, along with a series of broken archways and broken walls, but it is a splendid monument to Rome’s historical past. In the summer, the opera creates stunning productions here, complete with modern acoustics and lighting.
In Rome’s busiest central neighborhood, visitors should visit the Testaccio Market, a foodie’s paradise. The market consists of more than 100 stalls including bakeries, fresh produce stalls, butchers, fishmongers, and delis. Takeaway stalls offer wide selections of local cuisine suitable for picnics or a quick lunch. For those seeking something new to wear, the stalls located on the eastern side of the market sell everything from clothing to shoes. Locals fill Testaccio market is in the mornings, but students from a nearby architecture school pack the area around lunchtime to grab food from the takeaways.
The Tiber River is the second longest river in Italy. It flows through Rome and into the Tyrrhenian Sea at Ostia. A majority of the city of Rome is located to the river’s east. The Ponte Sant’Angelo creates a footpath over the Tiber. It connects the center of the city with the Castel Sant’Angelo, a mausoleum built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The bridge spans the river using five arches. The symmetry and decorative construction make it a popular photography spot. Ten highly detailed angel statues erected at intervals along the bridge seem to maintain a watchful eye over the area.
A trio of fountains, restaurants, and the Baroque-style architecture of its surrounding palazzi makes the oblong-shaped Piazza Navona one of Rome’s most beautiful city squares. Street artists and vendors gather here, along with tourists from around the world. The square stands on top of the Stadium Domitian, a site for sporting events and festivals built by Emperor Domitian in 86 CE. The drains of the piazza’s three fountains were blocked every summer until the 19th century creating the “Lake of the Piazza Navona” in the square for locals to enjoy. The Brazilian embassy is located in the Palazzo Pamphilj, the largest building in the piazza which became a public space during the tenure of Pope Innocent X.
Every morning, Monday through Saturday, people fill the Campo de’ Fiori square to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers from the many markets located there. This bustling square, located south of the Piazza Navona, is one of the most popular spots in the city of Rome and a favorite site for people-watching. The Piazza Campo de Fiori was once a field of flowers, but Pope Callistus III ordered that it be paved in 1456. After the sun sets, the Piazza transforms into an exciting and popular meeting place for tourists and locals who enjoy the wide array of restaurants, bars, and terraces.
Located across the Tiber river from the Campo de’ Fiori market, Trastevere features cobblestoned side streets, shops, and cafes. It was once the home to the less wealthy social classes of Rome and offers an authentic view of Italian life. Locals, tourists, and buskers fill the Piazza di Santa Maria, the heart of Trastevere, each day. Experience a traditional Roman feast at Da Lucia, a popular Italian restaurant. Visit the University of Rome’s relaxing Orto Botanico, botanic gardens located behind the Palazzo Corsini, a baroque palace. If you’re up for a 20-minute climb, the Gianicolo, known as the eighth hill of Rome, is located above the gardens and provides one of the best views of the city.