As a newly minted college graduate, I headed to Italy with my Italian art studies class in the summer of 2001. Our group visited cities such as Pompeii, Rome, Florence, and Venice, and I also detoured to Munich, Germany from Venice on a free day.
While these three weeks were among the best of my life, I experienced massive art overload. On some days, it felt like every other building in Rome was a church, with gelato shops taking up the other half.
If I return (and I’m determined to), I plan to do a lot more non-touristy things such as eat like a local in Rome. Here’s my hit list below.
1. Head over to the Parco Degli Acquedotti
The antique stone aqueducts – or waterways – found in this park make for one of the most tranquil spots in the Roman environs. It’s a spot frequented more by the locals as opposed to tourists.
If you want to practice your photography skills, you’ll get an excellent head start right here.
2. Dine with locals
The food in Rome is amazing, but my experience was limited to restaurants. How awesome would it be to dine with actual Roman families and to enjoy authentic, non-touristy food?
You can find unique home restaurants (such as a meal on a rooftop home) with BonAppetour, and then kick back and relax with host families for a truly Italian experience. Their Rome page includes many awesome food experiences happening in the Roman capital.
While most of the tourists are busy rushing to “top-rated restaurants” they’ve seen in their cliché tourist guides -so they can tick off one more item on their “must-do lists”- you can sit down with home-chef Alessandro and enjoy his truly Roman feast overlooking the Vatican City or join a 3 Course Pasta Making Cooking Class in Rome.
Don’t worry about language barriers. Many of the hosts speak English – there is always at least one person present who speaks English. Besides, if you are looking to improve your Italian-speaking skills, this is a fantastic opportunity to grab.
3. Go to San Lorenzo
Local culture flourishes in the trendy San Lorenzo neighborhood. College students and alternative forms of art (think graffiti and street art) proliferate here.
4. Explore Rome’s gay culture
Rome has a fabulous gay culture that is fun for all types of people. Clubs such as Glamda will spice up your nightclub experience, and be sure to explore Gay Street, as the gay area of Rome is known. It’s near the Colosseum, and easy to get to.
5. Take in the Municipal Rose Garden of Rome
The Municipal Rose Garden of Rome (Roseto Comunale di Roma in Italian) is another spot that tourists tend to skip. Which is great for you, as it is one of the most enchanting spots in Rome, even if you are not a huge flower lover. But if you are, all the better!
Living here are more than 1100 rose varieties donated by many different countries. This is an ideal spot to walk, relax, and catch your breath from the busyness that can be Rome.
6. Watch a film flick at Cinema Farnese
Cinema Farnese is a family-run theater with balcony seating. It’s popular with the locals, and you can choose from both artsy movies and commercial successes. If you want an authentic Italian experience, this is one that you shouldn’t miss.
Show up during a festival or premiere at the movie house, though, and you may also experience a bit of glamour (as well as films in languages other than Italian).
7. Simply wander
One thing I do whenever I am in a new city is to start from somewhere – anywhere – and just walk and wander. It’s one of the best ways to find spots off the beaten path, and to become familiar with a place. You never know what adventures await around the corner.
If nothing else, walk or bike along Via Appia – and if walking is not your thing, you can still do a spot of wandering via the bus or subway.
Image credits: 1