Another look at the Eternal City
Rome has earned its title as the Eternal City for good reason. With a history stretching back to its founding in the 8th century B.C.E and a wealth of monuments, churches, and art spanning millennia, there’s always something new to discover – even if you’ve visited before. While the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, and pizza romana are certainly must-sees and must-eats, Rome offers a lot more to beckon the intrepid traveler. Returning for a repeat visit? Here are more of the places to visit in Rome and nearby.
A modern look at an ancient arena
Thinking ancient? Think again. In the early 1930s, Mussolini wanted to recreate the glory of Rome through architecture, and it all culminated around the Foro Italico, a sports complex inspired by Ancient Greece and Rome. Located in the Monte Mario area (just north of the city center), the Foro Italico is oddly magical. The sprawling sports complex – here you’ll find the 1960s Stadio Olimpico (the home stadium for AS Roma and SS Lazio), two other smaller areas, and CONI sports center with pool house, fencing center, and other gymnasium buildings – is step in time to the early 1930s, when Italy’s Fascist government transformed the area into an ostentatious celebration of athleticism.
Mussolini chose the era’s best architects to celebrate an idealised Italy, as well as himself. At the entrance to the complex is a 57-foot-tall marble obelisk inscribed with the word “DUX” (Italian for “leader”), and surrounding are wall inscribed with the 1930s African campaigns. On the ground are modern mosaics depicting athletes. Further ahead is the main stadium, while adjust is the Stadio dei Marmi, an incredible Ancient Greece–style track arena surrounded by 60 marble statues of nude athletes in classical poses.
Immersed yourself in the Renaissance, now it’s time to catch up to contemporary
You’ve marveled at the Raphael frescoes, and Michelangelo’s famous ceiling in the Vatican museums. Now it’s time to see some modern art. Housed in a beautiful neoclassical palace near Villa Borghese, the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea boasts a collection of 20,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations by the biggest artists from the last two centuries in Italy and around the world. Look out for works by such names as Van Gogh, Monet, Klimt, Mondrian, and Pollock.
You’ve seen the Pantheon, now visit the Ara Pacis Museum
The centro storico is not all ancient. In fact, there is a contemporary landmark in the very center of the city: the Richard Meier-designed Ara Pacis Museum, located in Piazza Augusto Imperatore, right off Via del Corso. The stunning glass-and-travertine building houses the Ara Pacis monument, a 1st-century C.E. altar depicting Emperor Augustus and his entourage in very detailed scenes You can spend hours on each side looking for hidden details.
After taking it in, head next door to the Mausoleum of Augustus, the largest circular tomb in the world. The cylindrical base has a diameter of 90 metres, on top of which was planted a mound of cypress trees. On the summit, a bronze statue of thee mperor stood guard, taking the total height to 45 metres. In it’s heyday, the cylindrical tomb had burial chamber with urns containing ashes of Augustus’s relatives. Over the centuries, it was pillaged and abandoned, and then used as stage for Rome’s opera and Buffalo Bill shows. For the past decade, Rome has launched an intense endeavour to prequalify the entire piazza and monument. Book this visit in advance.
You’ve strolled through the Roman Forum, now walk around Ostia Antica
As much as I love modern and contemporary, I also love antiquity and will never shy away from suggesting a walk through Rome’s ancient history. Though the Roman Forum is the destination for all visitors, a visit to Ostia Antica is the closest you’ll get to a first person immersion experience in Ancient Rome.
About a 40-minute train ride from the city center, Ostia Antica was Rome’s main port during Republic and Imperial era. Today, the once-prosperous port is a sprawling archaeological site that rivals Pompeii, with impressively preserved apartment buildings, warehouses, shopping arcades, baths, temples, and the earliest synagogue yet identified in Europe.
Let’s go underground
The Roman underground is another world to discover. Start with Vicus Caprarius, also known as Città dell’Acqua, an archeological site south of the Piazza di Trevi that was uncovered in 1999. Nearly 30 feet below street level, it comprises the remains of a 4th-century Roman mansion and a section of the Vergine Aqueduct, which connects to the nearby Trevi Fountain.
Also worth exploring are the Case Romane del Celio, approximately 20 rooms and a nymphaeum dating from between the 2nd and 4th centuries B.C.E. Case Romane are located under the Basilica of Saints John and Paul. The site is filled with frescoes and ancient household items, and a great museum.
It’s time for Cacio e Pepe
You’ve had the Roscioli experience, now it’s time for something with a little less pressure. No-frills trattoria in the Testaccio neighborhood, Piatto Romano serves classic Roman cuisine like carbonara, amatriciana, and saltimbocca. Also on the menu are dishes like tripe and lamb offal—common at restaurants in Testaccio, as the neighborhood was once Rome’s meatpacking district. The vibe here is unmistakably local, with families and regulars packing the tables for a taste of the excellent cucina Romana. Don’t miss favorites like fried artichokes and fettuccine with chicken giblets, and be sure to finish with a slice of the ricotta cake with sour cherries.
You’ve ambled down Via del Corso, now wander Via Appia Antica
Get in some steps—and some history—on Via Appia Antica, the first and longest road in Ancient Rome. Start at Porta San Sebastiano, an ancient city gate built into Rome’s Aurelian walls, where you can walk the ramparts like a centurion and explore the amazing Museo delle Mura, an archaeological museum dedicated to the walls themselves. From there, rent a bike at Eco Bici Roma and cycle down the stone-lined Via Appia, taking in bombastic monuments like Cecilia Metella and Villa di Massenzio along the way.
A tiny Renaissance home in Trastevere
Move over, Galleria Borghese. I’ve got something better (and less crowded) to visit. Welcome to Villa Farnesina, a Renaissance mansion in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood that was once summer of Sienese banker and papal financier Agostino Chigi. Chigi wanted a beautiful getaway so he hired Renaissance’s best and brightest artists to build and decorate his villa.
Baldassare Peruzzi is responsible of the architectural design, and you’re here for the frescoes. On the ground floor are two rooms painted by none-other-than Raphael who, rumour has it, was locked in the villa until he finished the project. His most famous fresco is “The Triumph of Galatea,” which depicts the eponymous nymph skimming across the sea in a shell pulled by dolphins and surrounded by other sea creatures. Some say Galatea is a portrait of Chigi’s lover.The main loggia has very detailed ceiling telling the story of star-crossed lovers Cupid and Pysche. Upstairs are rooms painted with views of 16th century Rome and a cycle of Alexander the Great by Sodoma.
Line up for the pizza at Casa Manco
Everybody goes crazy for pizza bianca at Campo de’ Fiori’s Forno, practically a right of passage for first-time visitors to Rome, but Casa Manco in Testaccio Market is the perfect bite for your second trip. The dough here clocks 100 hours of rise time and the toppings, which range from figs and puntarelle to eggplant and fennel, are both locally sourced and seasonal. Try standbys like the margarita and the pizza bianca with sesame seeds, then sample more unexpected options, like zuppa di cipolla (French onion soup) and Philly cheese steak.
You’ve sampled Regoli’s pastries, now satisfy your sweet tooth at Casa Manfredi
While Casa Manfredi offers delicious coffee drinks, masterfully executed with Lavazza specialty blends, the real reason to come here is the artistic confections by pastry chef Giorgia Proia. The maritozzo (an iconic Roman treat featuring a sweet roll stuffed with whipped cream and topped with powdered sugar) is the thing to get, but there’s also a heavenly selection of cornetti and croissants. There are plenty of reasons to take those pastries to go, too—the Circo Massimo, Palatine Hill, or the Colosseum are all nearby.
A version of this article appeared in Tripadvisor, March 2023.