Rome: The Eternal City. It’s full of history, life, beauty, and a ton of sites to see. But beyond the usual touristic hotspots, this huge city has so much to offer. If you’ve read our article “Top 10 Things To Do In Rome” you’ve got a great list of must-see Roman attractions, but the less well-known spots are the ones that really immerse you in the true Italian culture. Here are our picks for the 7 Must-Have Local Experiences in Rome beyond the typically suggested.
The View at Villa Borghese Gardens
Villa Borghese is a beautiful garden in the heart of Rome, ranking as the third-largest public park in the city. Strolling through, you’ll find a man-made lake, gorgeous gardens, and the Galleria Borghese museum. Take a ride on one of the pedal carts (costing about 5 euros for an hour) where you and a friend can pedal through the park on an adventure. Keep in mind that Villa Borghese features one of the best views in Rome—a part of the park overlooks the entire city, making for a great photo-op. Walk down to the piazza below, Piazza del Popolo, where you can often find live music.
Shopping by the Spanish Steps
Amid all the chaos of such a big touristic city, it’s often forgotten that Rome is one of the greatest shopping hubs of the world. The Spanish Steps, one of Rome’s greatest tourist attractions, is home to Piazza di Spagna, one of Rome’s greatest shopping areas. Around the piazza are an abundance of high-end stores and boutiques, including Burberry, Prada, and Hermes, among many others. Via del Corso, a well-known street for shopping near the steps has your typical H&M, Zara, and less expensive boutiques. As you walk further toward Piazza di Spagna along Via del Corso, you’ll find more luxury brands.
Taking Advantage of L’Aperitivo
Think of l’aperitivo as the Roman version of happy hour—lots of food, wine and friends for a low price. Tourists may overlook those signs outside restaurants advertising their l’aperitivo. DON’T! You can sit down in the early evening for some drinks and buffet or tapas-style snacks, often for a fixed price. If you want to save money on dinner, eat light, or just have a good time, l’aperitivo is a great, overlooked option.
Castel Sant’Angelo at Sunset
One of the most spectacular sights is the Roman sunset from the top of this nearly 2,000-year-old castle. There is an admission fee and certain hours of operation so if you’re unable to make it to the top, don’t fret. The castle is beautiful in itself, and the sunset just as gorgeous from below on Ponte Sant’Angelo, or the “Bridge of Angels,” which is a solely pedestrian bridge leading to the castle over the Tiber River. Take a walk past the castle to get the most beautiful, head-on view of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Bargaining at Campo de Fiori
This cobblestone square is home to one of Rome’s most famous open air markets, full of vendors selling fruits and vegetables, cheeses, spices, souvenirs, bags and scarves, flowers, and more. The crowds, the bargaining, the dozens of vendor stands—it’s truly a can’t-miss experience. Shop around and negotiate prices, as vendors tend to spike prices for overt tourists. While Campo de Fiori serves as a marketplace by day, once vendors wrap things up later in the day the atmosphere shifts. Campo de Fiori at night is a hub for young Italians and students to hang out and party, as bars and restaurants line the perimeter of the square.
Appreciating Roman Churches
When you pass a church, walk inside—every time. With an abundance of churches in Rome, each one is different aesthetically and historically. Any church you walk into will vary, as some might be extremely large and ornate while others are smaller and more simple and understated. However, most churches have enormous, beautifully detailed artwork on their ceilings and incredible architecture inside. If you happen to be near one, it’s definitely worth a peek in! Without a doubt, recommend staying at one of the 11 Best Hotels in Rome near these churches.
Roman Pasta Dishes
When it comes to eating in Italy, it’s a matter of diving in headfirst and trying all there is to offer. In Rome there are three main pasta dishes that are an absolute staple on almost every menu in the city; spaghetti cacio e pepe, bucatini all’Amatriciana, and spaghetti alla carbonara. Don’t be boring and stick with what you know—the art of cooking in Italy is to be appreciated, so order as a true Roman would. You will probably never taste anything better than a handmade Roman pasta dish.