Rome attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. They all flock to the sights, which they have seen in countless brochures or on endless television shows. The Colosseum, soaked in the blood of gladiators, the Pantheon and the Roman Forum all attract these tourists like flames attract moths.
There are, however, some lesser-known sights that will get you away from the crowds and give you a taste of what this ancient eternal city may have been like in the past. If you’re looking for a trip to Italy but don’t want to see the usual attractions, read our guide to some of the lesser known attractions in Rome.
On the darker side of the tourist trail, the Capuchin Crypt may be the world’s first haunted house. This subterranean building is decorated with the bones and skulls of long departed monks that once walked the halls above.
Skulls and bones form the walls and the intricate details of this crypt. Located on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini, it is open from 9am-12 noon and 3am-6pm, but closed on Thursdays. This is not one for the faint hearted.
Keeping with the otherworldly theme the Gothic Sacro Cuore del Suffragio makes strong claims to paranormal activity and there is a group of handprints said to be from wandering souls to prove the point. Scorched handprints mark a bible at this church on Lungotevere Prati.
Trace the Egyptian evidence in Rome at Caius Cestius. Many ancient Romans built their tombs in the North African style, but this is the only one that remains and was built into the defending walls of the city. Built to house the Tribune of the people, it still stands more than a thousand years later.
This pyramid is located at the southern edge of the ancient capital, not far from the Porta San Paolo and makes up part of the Aurelian Wall. If you are taking the subway, ‘Pyramide’ is just the other side of the square.
Italians are famed for their food the world over and their signature dish is celebrated at a wonderful museum dedicated to this staple. The National Museum of Pasta investigates and showcases the origins of pasta in Italy and traces its evolution back to the conception of the tasty treat in the 1100s.
There are incredibly detailed explanations on the cooking methods and variations on how to serve it. This instructional museum can be found on Piazzale delle Belle Arti and costs around ten euros.
The Municipal Rose Gardens are a wonderful place to escape the crowds. They contain more than one thousand varieties of roses from around the world. A trip to the Rose Gardens is an appropriate end to a day spent within the thronging crowds of the city, although it is not open year round but opens between May and June.
Scala Santa and San Giovanni Basilica are located on opposite sides of the street and represent the most famous sights attracting Christian pilgrims from around the world.
The intricate and ornate Basilica of Rome’s own cathedral has been rebuilt time and again since its first stone was laid in the 1st century. When it was originally constructed it was designed as a mansion.
The Scala Santa, or stairway to heaven, was brought to Rome from Jerusalem 1,600 years ago. The marble steps may have been used by Jesus whilst he took the long walk to meet Pontius Pilate before his execution. Today, devotees climb ten stairs on their knees and make for interesting watching whilst tourists enjoy a drink.
Bringing your visit into the modern age the MACRO, Museum of Contemporary Art, was once a large industrial site and stands out clearly in a city so steeped in history. The galleries host some of the best in contemporary art and work as an intriguing contrast to ancient mosaics and frescos.
To see how the other half lived, even way back in the mists of history, why not pay a visit to Villa d’Este where Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este lived in the 16th century. Holy ascetics are a long way from this palatial palace. Out of each window you can catch a glimpse of some of the most beautiful gardens in Europe.
Any number of these sights will prove a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Rome’s streets during high season.
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