What To Do in Rome When You’ve Done… Everything

What to do in Rome when you've done everything

Sometimes, I get a call from a client who needs help planning their second, third, even fourth trip to Rome. The issue isn’t that they need to know how to use Rome’s public transport, or where to eat, or whether to book the Vatican Museums in advance. What they want to know is if there’s anything to do in Rome when you’ve done… everything.

The good news: I always can help. And it’s not because I’m some kind of genius. It’s because you could spend years, even a lifetime, in Rome and never see everything the city has to offer. (I’d know). As much as it seems like you’ve checked off just about every item in your guidebook, I promise: You haven’t. There are always more fascinating, unique sights to see.

So whether you’ve already seen Rome’s main attractions — or you already have them in your itinerary and have more time to play with — here are some sights to add.

Yes, there’s much, much more to Rome than sights like the Pantheon… as beautiful as they are

Nota bene: I’m assuming you really have seen “everything in Rome” for this post, so I’m not including things that have been written about many, many times already, like the Colosseum underground, Borghese Gallery or even Basilica of San Clemente or Appian Way. My litmus test for this list was whether a visitor normally would have seen these attractions in their first three or even four trips to Rome (no!) — and whether I’d recommend that they do (yes!).

(PS: There’s so much you can do in Rome once you’ve done “everything”, this won’t be the only post like this. Stay tuned!)

What to do in Rome when you’ve done everything? Here are 10 more sights to explore:

Rome’s other “Central Park”: You’ve visited the lovely Villa Borghese and seen views of Rome from the Janiculum Hill and Garden of Oranges. What’s next? Monte Mario. Little-known to most visitors, this massive park (actually a nature reserve) is located on Rome’s highest hill just northwest of the city center — and has some extraordinary views of the city. (Also shown at top of post).

What to do in Rome when you've done everything -- Monte Mario park
Views from the little-known park of Monte Mario in Rome

The ancient world of Aventine Hill: If you’ve been reading Revealed Rome, you know I’m a big fan of ancient underground sites — and that many of them can be found beneath churches. One of my favorites, though, is the Church of Santa Sabina in the Aventine.

That’s not just because of the church’s underground, which includes 2nd-century homes and a 3rd-century shrine. It’s also because, even if you can’t access the underground (open only on pre-reserved tours), you can get a glimpse of how the ancient/early Christian world would have looked: this is one of the few churches in Rome that’s been left with its 5th-century structure largely intact.

The Church of Santa Sabina on Aventine Hilla
The ancient Church of Santa Sabina on Aventine Hill: stunning and often nearly completely empty
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The (New) Revealed Rome Guidebook Is Out!

New Rome guidebook

I couldn’t be more excited to announce that, after five years, my new Rome guidebook is out.

The original 2012 version of the Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks to the Eternal City sold thousands of copies (and got rave reviews). This book builds on that success with an in-depth update and serious expansion: It’s crammed full with more than twice as many fun, easy-to-digest tips and tricks than the previous version.

Like the previous version, the new book is not your normal “Rome guidebook”. Instead of providing information easily found elsewhere, it gives you tips and tricks to experiencing Rome like a local, including items like…

  • how to pick an authentic Roman restaurant at a glance
  • budget accommodation options you may not have considered
  • the one place to never take a taxi
  • secrets to skipping the lines at the Colosseum, the Vatican and more
  • off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods that should be on your list
  • how to eat gluten-free, vegetarian or with other dietary restrictions
  • key tips for booking (and taking) trains
  • here to find drinking water, and bathrooms, while out and about
  • how to protect yourself from pickpockets
  • the best neighborhoods in Rome for shopping

New Rome guidebook

…and much, much more. Buy it on Amazon here or by clicking the cover at left.

I’m also really excited to say that, for the first three months of publication, I’m donating a significant portion of the profits (€1/$1/£1 per book, depending on location of sale) to a cause I believe in: the American Institute for Roman Culture, a nonprofit which protects and campaigns for Rome’s cultural heritage. So if you’re thinking of buying a book, now is the time to do it!

The book comes on Amazon as an e-book which can be read on any tablet, iPhone, laptop or Kindle.

Note: Bought the book before today, and now wish you’d waited for the new version? Don’t worry: You can replace the older version with this update. If you’re using a Kindle device or app, turn on Annotations Backup to back up your notes, highlights and bookmarks. Then go to the Manage Your Content and Devices page, select “Automatic Book Update” under the Settings tab and select “On” from the dropdown menu. Your e-book automatically will be updated to the new version.

If you’d prefer to receive the book as a PDF, order it through Paypal by clicking on the button below. When I receive the order confirmation, I will e-mail you the book as a PDF. (Just be aware that this is a manual process, so can take me up to 48 hours to e-mail over).




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Books About Italy I’m Compulsively Reading (and Re-Reading)

No matter where I am in the world, I have a shelf devoted to books about Italy. Which may be why, although I started out this post planning to write a gift guide — something I do every couple of years — I found that everything that came to mind to include was… a book.

While that partly speaks to the fact that I’m a nerd bookworm, it also speaks to something else: whether you’re interested in fiction or memoir, food or art, ancient history or World War II, there are a number of compulsively-readable books about Italy out there these days.

What is my bar for “compulsively readable”? In the last three years, I’ve gone through two transatlantic moves. Each time, I’ve had to winnow down my library. Most of the books on this list are ones that I found myself re-buying after my last move. That’s how much I couldn’t live without them.

So. Here are the books about Italy I’ve sometimes bought not once, but twice — and the person on your gift-giving list (other than you!) who might like them best.

The best book about Italy for the one on your list… who, faced with a table of magazines at the doctor’s office, always reaches for the New Yorker.

Haven’t heard of Elena Ferrante? First, crawl out from under your rock. Second, run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore to pick up the first novel in her “Neapolitan quartet”: My Brilliant Friend.

The series pins down human emotions, flaws and foibles with such searing precision, it’s sometimes almost excruciating to read. On the surface, it’s about two girls who grow up together in the shadows of a working-class neighborhood in postwar Naples. And if you love Italy, especially the south or bella Napoli, it will give you a raw, intense look at a people and culture that tend to be stereotyped, not examined.

Why take a day trip from Rome to Naples?

And yet, as in any true masterpiece, so many of the observations Ferrante makes apply far beyond the backstreets of Naples. For example…

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Seven of the Best Autumn Sagre in Italy

I’ve been obsessed with Italy’s sagre  since my first introduction to them. So much more than food festivals (though food’s a big part of it), these are celebrations of a local community, culture and cuisine. The particular foodstuff they celebrate completely ranges — anything from white truffle to chocolate to pumpkins to chestnuts to wine. And the best season for them? The autumn! Which is why I just wrote about seven of the best sagre in Italy in autumn — from a little town just outside Rome to Puglia to Piedmont — for The Guardian. Check it out here.

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What is the Weather in Rome Really Like? (And How to Pack for It)

Want to know the weather in Rome, Italy? You could obviously just check out the forecast. (Not that that’s necessarily that reliable). But you’ve wound up here instead, so I’m guessing you don’t want to know the Rome weather coming up in the next few days — you’re looking further ahead and curious what, say, the weather in Rome is usually like a few weeks or even months from now.

Maybe you’re trying to decide when to come to Rome. Or you’ve already chosen your dates, and you need to know what to pack.

Although I resisted writing a post about weather in Rome for a while (compared to all of the incredible art and unknown museums and underground ruins and gelato gelato gelato the topic just seems so… banal), I get asked about it enough that it seems like it’s time.

So: here’s what to expect, season by season, in terms of the weather in Rome. And what this means in terms of what to pack and prepare for.

(PS: If you are looking for the weather forecast in the near future, two of my go-to sites are Weathercast and Accuweather).

Weather in Rome in… summer (spoiler: it’s hot, and they’re not that into a/c)

This is when things get nice and sweaty. Temperatures peak in July — that’s when you’re looking at an average high of 88°F (31°C). (While the average low is a comfy 62°F/17°C, if Rome ever hit that temperature in July, I’m pretty sure it’s while I was sleeping). It’s also the driest month of the year, with less than an inch of average rainfall. August is about the same — plus you have the double-whammy of the uber-crowds and that it’s ferragosto (read: when many restaurants and shops close as locals, reasonably, flee to the seaside). If you can swing it, June is milder and less crowded, especially earlier in the month.

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Where Famous Movies Were Filmed in Rome

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, shot in Rome

“Cinecitta Shows Off,” the new exhibit at Rome’s famous movie studios, isn’t the only way to delve into Rome’s cinematic past.

The other way: Simply walking around Rome.

Many famous movies, including many of Fellini’s, were, of course, filmed here. Want to go on a cinema-themed walk? Here are some top stops. (Note: Obviously, I can’t take credit for any of these movie-still photos).

Piazza del Popolo. The piazza is one of the first clues in Tom Hanks’ Angels & Demons.

Talented Mr. Ripley at the Spanish Steps Spanish Steps. This staircase is so famous, it’s shown up in lots of films. Some of the most famous, and most recent: Roman Holiday, where Hepburn enjoys her gelato, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, where Ripley arranges for Meredith, Marge and Peter Smith-Kingsley to meet (above). 

Via Margutta, near the Spanish Steps. Number 51 is where Audrey Hepburn spent that fateful night in Joe Bradley/Gregory Peck’s bed (without him — we’re talking 1953 here) in Roman Holiday. In real life, Fellini himself lived here at number 110. 

Via della Stamperia, near the Trevi Fountain. Here, at number 85, is where Audrey got her (oh-so-shocking!) haircut in Roman Holiday. 

 

Trevi Fountain. It’s the location of one of the most famous scenes in Rome movie history: Anita Ekberg wading through the waters, getting Marcello Mastroianni to come join her, in Fellini’s 1960 blockbuster La Dolce Vita . (If you haven’t seen it, now’s your chance, above). Hepburn and Peck had a scene here, too.

Via Veneto. The slick shopping street where Ekberg and Mastroianni meet, before driving to a castle, in La Dolce Vita.

Pantheon. One of the pivotal clues for Tom Hank’s character in Angels and Demons; Hepburn and Peck come here, too.

Via dei Fori Imperiali. Here’s where Hepburn passed out on a bench in one of Roman Holiday’s first scenes, only to be roused by Peck. At the nearby Forum Hotel’s rooftop bar, The American Bar, the characters from the 1991 rom-com Only You (played by Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei) share a romantic dinner.

Piazza Navona. In that moment recreated on movie posters worldwide (although it looks like they changed the background for it… hmm), here’s where Julia Roberts sat on a bench in front of the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and ate her gelato in Eat, Pray, Love (below). Hepburn and Peck had a scene here. This is also the final clue, and culminating scene, in Angels and Demons. And it’s where Faith and her sister-in-law hunt for Faith’s “soul mate.”Eat Pray Love at Piazza Navona

Via dei Portoghesi. Here, at number 7, is where Julia Roberts stayed as Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love. At nearby Ristorante Santa Lucia (Largo Febo 12), Liz shows off her Italian to her friends by reeling off the Italian on the menu.

Colosseum. Shots of the famous theater play a part in Roman Holiday, Eat Pray Love, Only You, and many others.

Audrey Hepburn at Mouth of Truth at Roman Holiday movie in Rome “Mouth of Truth.” Here’s where Hepburn stuck her hand, much to her fear and delight, in Roman Holiday… a scene recreated in Only You nearly 40 years later.

Castel Sant’Angelo. Where all the dancers fell into the water in Roman Holiday; the exterior was shot for Angels and Demons, too.

St. Peter’s Basilica. Used in TThe Godfather Part III. And the piazza was part of that pivotal last scene in that instant classic… Eurotrip.

Santa Maria in Trastevere. The church here served as a backdrop in a pivotal romantic scene between Tomei and Downey, Jr. in Only You. The nearby Trastevere restaurant, Galeassi Ristorante, is where they eat.

Porta Portese. Key scenes from Bicycle Thieves were filmed at this Sunday market in Trastevere.

Also: the most idyllic island escapes from Rome, 11 etiquette mistakes not to make at an Italian meal and one of the loveliest little leather shops around.

If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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In Rome, the Night of (Free!) Museums

Notte dei Musei 2011

Great news: Across Europe, museums will be free and open late the night of May 14.

Here in Rome, that includes all state-owned museums, like the Musei Capitolini, MACRO, Galleria Borghese, Palazzo Barberini, and Castel Sant'Angelo.

A little more unusually, it also includes museums not often part of these free events, like the Scuderie del Quirinale (currently with a Lorenzo Lotto exhibit); the MAXXI, with its great Michelangelo Pistoletto exhibit; and the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, with its show on European 19th- and 20th-century art including pieces by Corot, Monet, Renoir, Ernst, Klee, and Picasso.

All will be open, and free, from 8pm-2am, with last entrance at 1am.

Another bonus? The Palazzo dell Esposizione hosts two piano concerts by Michelangelo Carbonara, one at 9pm and one at 10:30pm, celebrating the same time period that's also shown with the exhibit.

Happy free culture!

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On Fridays Through Fall, See the Vatican Under the Stars

Raphael rooms of Vatican museums

If you want to avoid the usual Sistine Chapel crowds, here's one way to do it: Go to the Vatican at night.

For the third year in a row, the Vatican museums are having their "extraordinary opening" from 7pm-11pm. Last year, more than 30,000 people took advantage. And whether your day is completely booked or you'd simply like to see the Sistine Chapel and Laocoön in a bit of a more serene atmosphere, now's your chance.

The museums will be open on Friday nights from now until July 15, and then again from Sep. 2 until Oct. 28. Last admission is at 9:30pm.

The areas open in the museums are the Egyptian museum, Pio-Clementine, Galleries of Tapestries, Candelabra, and Maps, Raphael Rooms, Borgia Apartment, Collection of Modern Religious Art, and, of course, the Sistine Chapel. (There's no guarantee, and it's in fact unlikely, that other areas, like the Pinacoteca, will be open).

Tickets must be booked in advance, so the full-price ticket is €19 (includes the €4 reservation fee), or €12 reduced (students, bring your I.D.s!). Click here to book.

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Why You Should Add These Pretty Parks in Rome to Your List

One of Rome's prettiest parks

It’s finally spring in Rome, and you know what that means — sunshine (well, usually), long days, increasingly warm nights… and time to take advantage of some of the best parks in Rome. Here are three of my favorite parks in Rome:

Monte Mario: Located on the highest hill in Rome, just to the northwest of the city center, Monte Mario park — not surprisingly — comes with some of the city’s best views. (Check out the shots above and below if you don’t believe me). Since it’s outside of the city center, north of Vatican City, it’s also one of Rome’s most peaceful parks. And it’s got a perk for astronomy geeks: This is where the Rome Observatory is, as well as the Museo Astronomico Copernicano — and this was the location used as the prime meridian, instead of Greenwich, for maps of Italy until the 1960s. Click here for the location of Monte Mario Park and its nature reserve. Monte Mario park, one of my favorite parks in Rome

Villa Borghese: Rome’s answer to Central Park, Villa Borghese dates back to the early 17th century, when it was the playground for the noble (and pope-producing) Borghese family. Today, locals and tourists alike take advantage of its tree-lined paths and green spaces, jogging, picnicking, even pedaling those funny 4- or 5-person contraptions (and threatening to take out anyone else in their way!). Here’s where to come to people-watch, admire the view of Piazza del Popolo from the Pincian hill, or to pop into one of the park’s several top-notch museums — the Galleria Borghese among them. (Below, part of the gardens at the Galleria Borghese). Click here for the location of the Borghese gardens. Flowers in the Villa Borghese, one of my favorite parks in Rome

Villa Pamphili: Rome’s biggest park, Villa Pamphili, located just west of Trastevere, is also one of its richest with both flora and fauna. Here’s where to come to go for a long jog, admire the fountains, or sit and admire swans swimming across the pond. (And as you can see from the photo, below, it’s pretty in the autumn, too!). Click here for the location of Villa Pamphili.

Villa Doria Pamphili, one of my favorite parks in Rome

Also: two facts about ancient Rome you probably didn’t know, why you should visit Rome’s only pyramid and why you might want to visit Naples.

If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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Happy Open-Museums Holiday!

Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome - one museum open for Easter

Even crazier than the idea of a ginormous, gift-giving bunny is the fact that, on Easter, Rome actually keeps its museums and monuments open. Instead of closing them, which is usually par for the course on national holidays.

Like last year, therefore, you can look forward to lots of sites being open this Easter Sunday and Monday (including even those museums that would normally be closed Mondays). Sites open include the Colosseum, Borghese Gallery, Ara Pacis, Palazzo Massimo, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Barberini, Galleria Corsini, and Castel Sant'Angelo (above). The exceptions: MACRO Testaccio and La Pelanda, which will remain closed. 

So you can sightsee as much as you want to! And that leaves just one big question: which restaurants will be open for Easter.

 

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