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Getting off the beaten path in a very touristed city like Rome can be tricky. Of course, I want to see all the famous sights, but I also want to see neat local places not necessarily in a guidebook. So, what do I do when I have limited time and need a starting point for some fun wandering?
Answer: I get lucky.
A Roman blogger, Angela, is putting together a Foodie Guide eBook for Rome and needed someone to review a draft. I offered to read it, and we got to chatting about my upcoming trip to Italy. She wrote me wonderful emails and has given me permission to share them here with you. I’ve edited them slightly for clarity and to merge them into one.
Rome Off the Beaten Track. Angela’s Email.
Also, if you like industrial archaeology you can visit working-class Ostiense area. There is the old gasometer, the old warehouse, and other buildings not in use anymore in all the streets with murals, especially Via Ostiense, Via del Porto Fluviale and Via dei Magazzini Generali. In Via del Porto Fluviale there is the restaurant Porto Fluviale open all day and serving everything from pizza to sandwiches to street food to normal restaurant meals. It’s pretty big and you can sit down and relax.
Close to Ostiense is Testaccio neighbourhood, also working-class but very nice. Here you can visit the non-Catholic cemetery, gorgeous statues, close to the Pyramid. And nearby is also a delicious vegan restaurant, Cento per Cento Bio, which is also quite affordable. You pay by weight, 2,60 euro for 100 grams. For 10 euro I filled my plate! All organic and whole-food, it was a very pleasant surprise.
If you are into street art, definitely take a walk around Quadraro neighbourhood (metro Porta Furba Quadraro), all their walls are painted. Many international street artists participated in the project. It’s not a touristy area, very local and working-class.
For a nice park visit Villa Pamphilj. It’s lovely and not many tourists (actually never seen one), or Villa Torlonia, the Roman residence of Mussolini. It’s small but a gem, especially the quirky House of the Owls. Also here I’ve never seen a tourist!
Now I’m writing another post about the San Pietro in Vincoli Basilica. Even though it is very central and very important it doesn’t really attract many tourists. So weird. It’s in the Monti quarter, but probably because it’s semi-hidden on top of a steep staircase people just don’t know about it or don’t bother. There are the chains used for Saint Peter in prison and one of the most famous statues of Michelangelo. When I visited there were barely ten people… Located in Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, you won’t find the queue of the Vatican :))
In my ebook also the restaurants Porto and Orto are pretty affordable. Porto is fish but you can find also veg and some meat. Orto is a vegetarian restaurant and the lunchtime unlimited buffet is 9 euro. Most of the restaurants I mention in my ebook are non-touristy, even if some are in the city centre, either because they are new or because they are not mentioned in other guidebooks.
If you like bookshops, there is a big one in Largo Argentina, Feltrinelli. It’s two or three floors, very nice, you really get lost. Some of the historic and small bookshops have closed because these big ones have opened, but you can find quite a few bookshops that are also coffee shops/bistro like Tra Le Righe (Viale Gorizia 29), Caffè Letterario (Via Ostiense 95), Libreria Caffè Bohèmien (Via degli Zingari 36) or the second-hand Almost Corner Bookshop (Via del Moro 45) for English books.
I read that the Trastevere neighborhood is a nice place to stay as a tourist in Rome. And, since my flight will arrive around 8 pm, a budget-priced Airbnb wasn’t available. That’s why I selected Hostel Trustever. It has 24/7 check-in, has both private rooms and dorm rooms, and is a short walk from a metro station, so I can get there directly from the airport.
Planning a trip all around Italy? Click here to read how I planned my Italy trip.
Tours and Tickets
I’ve found that getting tickets in advance for the most touristed sites is a smart move. It was super useful in Spain when I visited the most popular sites (I did a 6-week road trip), for example since you skip the ticket line. Also, sometimes really touristy places simply sell out, so buying your ticket in advance is necessary. You can buy tickets and tours (from a few hours to multi-day) on Get Your Guide. And, if you prefer to have a multiday tour I’ve heard great things about Intrepid Tours and G Adventures tours.
Tip for Time: Reserve timed tickets for very touristy sites when the sight first opens. If the place opens at 9 am, get your ticket entry for 9 o’clock. That way it’s only you and the tourists who entered in your group for the first 30 minutes or so. Once 5 groups have entered at 11 am, the place will be packed with too many people.