Rome is one of those iconic destinations, one you add to the list when you are doing your gap-year backpacking trip across Europe. There is more to Rome than 3 days on an itinerary before you head for Brindisi to hop a ferry to Corfu. I rediscovered Rome a few years after I did the whole backpacking trip, and it turns out to be a place I wish I had rediscovered long ago.
Why get enthused about a busy, noisy city filled with tourists snapping photos of the same 8 monuments from the same 12 vantage points? It’s simple really – there is a lot more to this city than you realise.
Rome is an incredibly old city, and it has the monuments and ancient buildings proving this fact on almost every street corner. The usual places to visit are the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, The Forum, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican, the Pantheon… well, you get the idea. These are the places that grace virtually every photo album of everyone who has ever been to Rome as a tourist. I have these same photos… and I got to thinking that there has to be more to the city than these top 10 attractions. I started digging and I discovered quite a few things, and I will share a few here with you.
Starting at the Colosseum, turn and head up Via di San Giovani in Laterano. A couple of minutes and you will be faced with the Basilica di San Climente. Oh no, you say, not another church. Yes this is another church, but what I really found interesting is that it is built on top of three older churches. The one you see at street level was built in the 12th century. It stands on top of a church that was constructed near the end of the 4th century. This was again built on an even older church. You can tour each level, stepping further back in time as you descend below street level.
In this same area you can also find the Baths of Caracella. Emperor Caracella was leading Rome around 198 to 217. In a testament to the incredible abilities of the Roman engineers, builders and architects, these baths were in regular use from when they opened, around 217, until the mid to late 1800s. The facility is still in regular use by the Rome Opera. There is something about the acoustics here that add a richness and warmth to the performances… I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
OK, enough about old buildings. What about a great place to eat? Rome is filled with places that cater to the tourists, and you end up with the usual fare of “Italian” food most of the time. It’s not very inspiring nor interesting. It doesn’t have to be that way though, and the restaurant called The Library Romantic makes up for all that drab tourist food and then some. It is down on Vicolo della Cancelleria. You can’t drive here, so if you’re taking a taxi, tell your driver you want to go to 199 Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Look for the wedding dress shop… the restaurant is just down the little tiny side street next to the shop. Why go through all this effort for a place to eat? Try it, and you will see.