Backpacking in Italy: Rome Overlooked

All world-class cities have their attractions and landmarks and Rome is certainly no different in this respect. Here, walking the streets is similar to stepping into an artistic masterpiece but after you’ve enjoyed the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum make sure to search out those offbeat treasures often overlooked by visitors.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Bustling flea markets, ancient roads and spooky catacombs are just a few of the gems to seek out for something that little bit different in Italy’s capital city. Here’s a quick overview.

History at your feet
You’ve probably heard of the Paris catacombs but Rome boasts its own striking labyrinth of tunnels, stretching for over nine miles and dating back to the 5thcentury BC. You can stroll through underground tunnels containing thousands of burial shelves at the Ancient Appian Way, one of the original roads that lead to Rome. Another historic point is the Appia Antica or ‘Queen of roads’, said to be the first ever paved road dating back to 312 BC. This road, which is some 513 kilometres long, is an excellent route past historic ruins and grand houses; begin your walk on this ancient road at the Caracalla Baths.

The Pantheon, Rome, Italy

The Pantheon, Rome, Italy

Join the crowds

It’s Sunday morning, you’re in Rome so follow the locals and head to the Porta Portese Market to stock up on books, jewellery, inexpensive vintage clothes and olive oils. This huge flea market on Via Poruense contains hundreds of stalls and is the perfect place to find some bargains amongst the bric-a-brac. The San Lorenzo district is like Rome’s equivalent of Brooklyn’s hip neighbourhoods. It’s the place to have a drink with the art students in the bars and restaurants while pondering over the meaning of life; a lively and fun part of the city that often has impromptu street parties.

An overlooked church

If you’ve seen the Audrey Hepburn filmRoman Holiday, you’ll no doubt remember the Mouth of Truth scene. The ancient circular carved stone face has a hollow mouth into which visitors place their hand; the story is that if you tell a lie with your hand in the hole the mouth will clamp down. The Mouth of Truth or Bocca della Verità is a popular attraction but the church at which it’s located, the Santa Maria in Cosmedin, is overlooked by the tourists. This medieval church is home to a 12 century bell tower, some beautiful 11thcentury wall frescoes but most amazing of all, it’s the home of the skull of the 3rdcentury Roman bishop, St. Valentine.

The Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church

The Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church

Romans are rightfully proud of their city so make sure to engage in conversation with a local to find out those points of interest not usually on the tourist maps. You’ll get a lot more out of your trip by exploring all that this remarkable city has to offer on Rome holidays both below and above ground.

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