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25 Best Things to Do in Rome: Classic and Unusual Finds – Rosetta Stone

Rome has plenty to love: a lavish history, incredible art collection, and impeccable style. There’s a reason why she’s been an icon of the silver screen for so many decades. If you’re planning a visit, you may find yourself thunderstruck with the staggering array of options for your journey. We suggest you explore some of the offbeat and overlooked destinations that make the Eternal City so extraordinary. 

Step into a real life fairytale with a walk through an eclectic neighborhood designed by an architect with a whimsical vision. Visit hundreds of languid felines as they lounge among crumbling ruins where Julius Caesar met his fate on the Ides of March. Venture into an odd ossuary with a series of beautiful rooms that use the intricately arranged bones of monks for their baroque decor. Indulge in la dolce vita (the sweet life) with a trip to a museum devoted entirely to gelato. 

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There is a richness of character to Roma that invites the curious to roam beyond the standard tourist stops. Here are our top 25 recommendations for unique ways for you to eat, play, and love your trip. 

1. Villa Doria Pamphili Park

Nestled in the neighborhood of Monteverde, Villa Doria Pamphili is one of the largest parks in the city—a breath of fresh air hovering above the exciting urban chaos below. Stroll through the lush greenspaces to visit the Casino del Bel Respiro (“small villa of good breath”), lavishly adorned with ornamental details and classical statuary. From this vista, you can look onto the secret garden that lies beneath: a geometric, almost labyrinthine affair. A walk through reveals architectural details, fountains and ruins, and cool burbling streams. This romantic spot is secluded enough to feel like your own private discovery.

2. Torre Argentina (Roman Cat Sanctuary)

The area of Navona, Pantheon, and the Campo de’ Fiori is a bustling, fashionable cluster of easily walkable neighborhoods, filled with galleries, boutiques, bars and cafes. Buried in the center of all this activity lies an important archaeological site, first excavated in the 1920s.The Torre Argentina is home to the ruins of temples that date back to the 4th century BC, including the Curia of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was assassinated. It is also home to over one hundred feral cats, who can be seen lounging in the ruins. The gatti selvatici (feral cats) depend on donations, so please contribute when you visit (or via their website) to ensure the continued care of these aristocratic guardians of history. 

3. Pasticceria Boccione

If you awaken early enough, you can follow the sweet scent of baked goods through the cobbled streets of Rione Sant’angelo until you see a queue of people forming outside a weathered and unremarkable shop. Here in the heart of one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe is a tiny bakery specializing in rare, rustic pastries that conceal a delicious and formerly forbidden surprise.  A papal decree in the 16th century forbade Jews from trading in dairy products, so this clever crostata is baked so dark as to appear burned on top, hiding a delicious filling of fresh ricotta and sour cherries. 

4. Centrale Montemartini

The funky working class neighborhood of Ostiense is an emerging hipster hub with edgy nightlife, street art, and cool restaurants. This favorite attraction takes up an entire block on the Via Ostiense, and was an ingenious and serendipitous response to the needs of two important local spaces. The Musei Capitolini Centrale Montemartini was an abandoned art deco power plant that in 1997 temporarily housed a collection of sculpture from another museum undergoing renovations. The striking juxtaposition of the industrial and the classical became so popular that in 2005 a permanent display was opened on the site.

5. Quartiere Coppedè

An enormous outdoor chandelier hangs beneath the archway on the Via Tagliamento, a sign that visitors are passing into the whimsical world of the Quartiere Coppedè. The spectacular and dreamlike architecture was the magnum opus of Florentine architect Gino Coppedè. From 1919 until his death in 1927, Coppedè built 40 offbeat structures, primarily in the art nouveau style but also eccentrically including elements of medieval, baroque, mannerist, and fantasy. Wander alone or take a guided tour through this magical enclave, and don’t miss the Fontana delle Rane (Fountain of Frogs), the Palazzo del Ragno (spider palace), and the Villino delle fate (fairy house) with its distinctive turret. 

6. Mercato di Testaccio

The starkly modern geometric building in the Testaccio section of Rome conceals surprising secrets. Start at the bottom with a tour of the archaeological digs in the basement of the complex, and work up an appetite for a delicious walk through the airy food market above. Feast your eyes on vibrant local produce. Visit artisan butchers and wine shops while you snack on a variety of delectable street foods. Most importantly, make sure to try pizza al taglio (rectangular Roman pizza sold by the pound), creamy suppli (fried rice balls with mozzarella), or pizza alla pala, a crispy flatbread served on a paddle. Don’t miss the slice topped with bresaola (air dried beef), ricotta, and fresh strawberries.

7. Palazzo Colonna

Built on the ruins of an ancient Roman Serapeum, this opulent palace has remained in the same family for 20 generations. The dazzling Great Hall is an immense, sparkling gallery of giallo antico (golden marble) and gilded surfaces, heaving with treasures including paintings, frescoes, and statuary. The vast art collection covers nearly every inch of this extravagant monument to Baroque style, including the ceiling. Look skyward and you will see a spectacular painting depicting The Battle of Lepanto. Plan ahead, as it is only open to the public for a short window on Saturday mornings, Reservations are required for tours at any other time. 

8. Janiculum Hill

The most spectacular view of the city is on the west side of the Tiber River, high above the borough of Trastevere. “The balcony of Rome” is found on Janiculum Hill, where the sweeping, panoramic sight has long captivated the hearts and imaginations of visitors. Meander around the beautiful grounds and enjoy everything from pony rides and puppet shows to a landlocked lighthouse. Don’t miss the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, a glorious marble fountain dating from the 17th century. Visit at noon to hear (and feel!) the daily firing of a cannon, or swing by in the early evening to relax while watching the glorious sunset. 

9. Baths of Caracalla

The Thermae Antoninianae was a thriving, fully functioning center of activity in the 5th century. More than simply a place to bathe, the Baths of Caracalla had social spaces, a library, saunas, pools, and meeting spaces. In modern times, these historic ruins have continued to serve many purposes, including as four-time host to the Rome Grand Prix, gymnastics events in the 1960 Olympics, a set location for John Wick: Chapter 2, and our favorite, as the summer home of the Teatro dell’Opera. Connect with the box office to reserve tickets for a performance season that offers both classical and contemporary productions in this magical venue under the stars.

10. Teatro dell’Opera di Roma

The Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, or the Teatro Costanzi as it is informally known, is located in the heart of the city just off the Via Nazionale. The lavish interior of deep claret and luminous gold seats 1600 patrons in an acoustic marvel where the premier of Puccini’s Tosca took place in 1900. The illustrious stage has been graced by Enrico Caruso, Maria Callas, and the popular tenors Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti. Above, the domed ceiling is embellished with a fresco by Annibale Brugnoli, and bejeweled by a glittering Murano chandelier with 27,000 individual crystals. The theater has not only opera, but a resident ballet company, orchestra, and small museum. 

11. Carpigiani Gelato Museum

Take a sweet day trip and visit a truly cool museum! Bologna is in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, a few hours north of Rome by train. The Carpigiani Gelato Museum is an airy, modern, sunlight-filled space dedicated to the history and manufacture of Italy’s signature frozen dessert. First opened in 2012, this interactive family-friendly museum is filled with opportunities to experiment with vintage equipment and enjoy delicious samples. Plus serious students of frozen confections can attend hands-on classes at the attached Gelato University. Plan ahead and make reservations, as there are only two English tours per day.

12. The Appian Way

Walk in the footsteps of history with a stroll along the basalt stones of one of the oldest roads in the world. This ancient superhighway was built for military use, and stretched for more than 480 kilometers to the Adriatic Coast. Now, visitors use it for recreation, and the first 10 miles are a beautiful and busy regional park, the Parco dell’Appia Antica. Immerse yourself in antiquity as you meander among monuments, visit the location of a 9th century church rumored to be the site where Peter saw a vision of Christ, or explore necropoli (catacombs). 

13. Piazza di Spagna

A trip to Rome would simply be incomplete without a visit to the Piazza di Spagna. At the foot of the Spanish Steps, water burbles in the massive half sunken travertine ship of the Fontana della Barcaccia, designed by Bernini. The grand, 135-step staircase rises dramatically above it, so beautiful that it has acted as a central set piece in films like Roman Holiday and The Talented Mr. Ripley. It is flanked by baroque palazzi, and on one side there is a museum dedicated to the English Romantic poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Perhaps best of all is the people watching, a combination of international tourists and fashionable Italians who embody the spirit of sprezzatura (effortless cool).

14. Ponte Milvio Antique Market

Follow the verdant bike path along the Tiber and you’ll come upon a crowded area buzzing with activity. The open air stalls of the Ponte Milvio Antique Market have a lively flea market vibe, and offer everything from fine antiques to found object artworks, vintage jewelry to old books, and everything in between. For more than twenty years, upwards of 150 dealers offer their wares from 9am-6pm on the first and second Sundays of each month (but summer travelers should plan to check ahead, as the market traditionally closes for the month of August).

15. Galleria Borghese

The sprawling gardens of Rome’s third largest park are dotted with statuary and fountains, leading guests to the Villa Borghese Pinciana, one of the most outstanding art museums in the world. Originally the private collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, this varied assemblage dazzles with mosaics and reliefs, paintings and sculptures, each one a masterpiece. There is a heavy focus on Caravaggio and Bernini, with a healthy representation of other artists as well. If you are not already an art history scholar, we recommend taking one of the guided tours that offer a greater insight for full appreciation of this magnificent gallery.

16. The Protestant Cemetery

Wander with the feral cats through the meadow dotted with wisteria, pomegranate trees, and century old cypress and look beyond ancient walls to see the white Pyramid of Caius Caestius beyond. This serene and lovely space is the Protestant Cemetery, one of the oldest European graveyards, and is the final resting place of the English Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. The mystery and beauty of this place was so captivating that Shelly said of it that “It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.” 

17. Villa Ada

The second largest park in Rome started life as the private estate of King Vittorio Emanuele III, and is now an animated and active place for locals and tourists alike. The surrounding neighborhood is young and upwardly mobile, dense with cafes, markets, and tony boutiques, as well as the oldest zoo in Europe. The park itself has a swimming pool, and you can explore the grounds by renting canoes, bicycles, and even horses. Since 1994 the Villa Ada has been the venue for a “tour of the world in the name of joy, music, food and wine” during the annual summer world music festival Roma Incontra il Mondo (Rome Meets the World).

18. Santa Maria della Concezione Crypts

This special stop is just for the lovers of the macabre, the gothic, the darker side of art and history. No photography is allowed in the low lighting of the crypts that hold the remains of roughly 4000 Capuchin friars, but the sights will live vividly in your mind, as the ossuary is intricately decorated with their bones. There are six rooms within, including some that are devoted to baroque arrangements of specific body parts: The Crypt of Skulls, The Crypt of Leg and Thigh Bones, and The Crypt of Pelvises. The morbid beauty even impressed the Marquis de Sade, who said of it, “I have never seen anything more striking.”

19. San Pietro in Vincoli

Literally “Saint Peter in Chains,” this basilica in the heart of Rome has a lovely bright interior, featuring two aisles flanking a central nave, surrounded by fluted white Doric columns, and a detailed coffered ceiling. Michelangelo’s imposing, horned figure of Moses is over 7.5 feet tall and sits to the right of the altar. Above, a fresco by Giovanni Battista Parodi depicts the miracle of Pope Alexander healing Saint Balbina with the chains that held Saint Peter. Below the altar is the reliquary, where these very shackles can be seen ensconced in a glass case.

20. Vicus Caprarius

The Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous tourist sites in Rome, and nearby, the legendary Harry’s Bar now has an elegant boutique hotel. In a literal case of “as above, so below”, this chic, upscale accommodation sits atop an ancient upper class home. The Aqua Virgo, one of the 11 aqueducts of ancient Rome, fills the Trevi Fountain above, as well as pools in the excavated area below. Known colloquially as “City of Water,” it was originally an insulae (apartment complex) that was converted into a domus, or residence for a wealthy family. The archaeological site has many artifacts that give an intimate insight into ancient Roman life. 


The striking avant-garde building is a focal point in the Flaminio quarter of Rome. The impressive structure was designed by architect Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid, who describes it as ‘not an object-container, but rather a campus for art’. This is the true spirit of the MAXXI. It’s more than simply a museum of contemporary art; instead, it is a full campus meant to foster cultural and artistic experimentation, research, and exploration. This visionary laboratory actively engages in examining the contemporary landscape. More than simple collections and exhibitions, there are workshops, conferences, shows, projections, and educational projects that constantly evaluate the evolution of art and architecture in the 21st century.

22. Pigneto, Rome

This quirky community is home to students from the nearby university, artists, immigrants, and young families. It’s a working class neighborhood that has always been a hipster haven and multicultural melting pot. Colorful street art abounds, including a large mural of director Pier Paolo Pasolini—you can even visit one of his favorite haunts, Necci dal 1924. Spend an afternoon browsing boutiques and record shops while you enjoy gelato, or sip an aperitivo in the main courtyard. Plenty of restaurants offer international choices for your evening meal, and the streets buzz and hum with edgy bars and a cool late night scene. 

23. Villa Torlonia

There is a photogenic and unusual mix of bold, tropical palm trees set against English style gardens on the grounds, with a wide staircase leading to a stately neoclassical villa. Mussolini was ensconced there in the 1920s, and it fell to ruin after the war. It was renovated in the late 1970s, and the villa and grounds were transformed into charming public spaces. Smaller structures dot the surrounding area, including a small theater, greenhouse, and the enchanting Casina delle Civette (House of the Owls) featuring 20 rooms filled with mosaics, paintings, and colorful stained glass windows.

24. Ostia Antica

Just outside of Rome, amid the cypress and palms at the mouth of the Tiber, lie the remains of a thriving harbor city. Once the most important port of the Roman Empire, the abandoned city complex remained utterly untouched for centuries. The marvelously preserved site is filled with cobbled streets lined with residences, shops and warehouses, inns and taverns—the echoes of ancient life memorialized in detail. There is even a large amphitheater built under Augustus at the end of the 1st century. BC that has been revitalized and is still in use today as a popular summer venue for classical performances, cabarets, and rock concerts.

25. Church of St. Louis of the French

Since 1589 the Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi (Church of St. Louis of the French) has been the home of the French community in Rome. Designed by Giacomo della Porta, this baroque church took more than 70 years to build and was eventually completed with the assistance of Catherine de’ Medici. The late Renaissance facade of travertine leads to an opulent interior of 10 chapels. Inside, visitors can view masterpieces by Domenichino, Guido Reni, and some of Caravaggio’s earliest religious works, showcasing his dramatic use of chiaroscuro (the bold contrast of light and dark).

Get to know Italy even better with Rosetta Stone

Rome is as breathtaking as it is whimsical, and as ancient as it is fresh and fashionable. Exploring both the well-trodden and unusual sites on this list will help you take a deeper look at not just the history but the ever-evolving culture of one of Italy’s most iconic cities. 

Take your cultural exploration a step further by getting to know the people who make Rome so special. With Rosetta Stone, you can immerse yourself in Italian before you even step foot in Italy with bite-sized lessons that fit your schedule. Plus, TruAccent gives you immediate feedback on your pronunciation in every lesson, ensuring you’ll be conversation-ready in no time! 

Written by Erin Vargo 

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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