Tourists flock to Rome for its menagerie of high profile sights. There are the ruins of ancient Rome, a magnificent coliseum, pantheon and countless other must-see destinations that make it onto everyone’s Rome itinerary. While these are all great, there’s a whole lot more to the Italian capital than a few postcard-worthy ruins. Modern travellers have learned to peel away from the typical tourist crowds and find some of the city’s hidden gems. If you’ve checked out prices on a flight comparison site like Momondo.co.uk, you’ve probably found some flights to Rome at rock bottom prices, so you’ll have plenty of room in your budget to hit up some of the city’s quirkier and trendy sights. To help get you started, here’s a list of five places in Rome off the typical tourist track:
The Capuchin Crypt
Beneath Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini lays a remarkable crypt decorated with human bones. This beautiful and macabre sight is not for the faint-hearted and is thought to contain the remains of 4,000 Capuchin friars who died between the late 1500s and early 1800s. Skulls and other bones are nailed to the walls of the crypt to create mesmerising patterns over 5 separate rooms. Several of the rooms are dedicated to specific bones such as skulls, pelvises, leg and thighbones. This is truly one of Rome’s most unique and unusual sights.
Attend Gladiator School
Want to know what it was really like to be a Roman gladiator? The Gladiator School can give you a glimpse into the world of Roman gladiators in as little as a few hours. Adults and children alike are welcome to attend gladiator lessons where you dress like gladiators and even learn how to wield weapons. Of course, you’ll also learn important historical facts about gladiators along the way and will also be able to visit the school’s gladiator museum.
The Tiber River
Like many other great European cities, Rome was built around a river. The Tiber River doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but walking along its banks is a great way to introduce you to the city. Along the way, you’ll pass by the Church of Sant’Angelo and Forum Boarium, the former site of an ancient Roman cattle market. Further along the way is the imposing Castel Sant’Angelo, which was built by Emperor Hadrian to house his tomb and the tombs of his descendants.
Palazzo Madama (Home of the Italian Senate)
Rome was once the capital of a vast empire that was largely controlled by its famed Roman Senate. While Rome may not be the power it once was, it is still the capital of Italy. In a strange sense, the Roman Senate lives on in the Italian Senate, which called Palazzo Madama its home. Many tourists to Rome don’t realise that the Italian Senate opens its doors to visitors on the first Saturday of each month (except in August). Along with its obvious political significance, Palazzo Madama also has its own interesting historical background. The powerful Medici family once owned the magnificent palace. Following their demise, it was passed around a series of owners, including Pope Benedict XIV. It wasn’t until 1871 that is was designated as the seat of the new Italian Senate.
Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
Just moments from Piazza Venezia is an unusual no-kill cat sanctuary set within the ruins of ancient Roman temples and theatres. 250 cats call Largo di Torre Argentina home and are free to roam the site where it is believed Caesar was killed. The cats are looked after and cared for by a tireless team of volunteers from all over the world. Dedicated staff are on hand daily and visitors are free to view the ruins and the cats at their leisure.