Many flock to Rome to see 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and a thriving culture spread all over the city. And who can forget The Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum? But more than that, Rome is also a place where culture, art and architecture can be found in the most undisclosed places, outside of what’s written in the tourist books.
Our favorite sites—also recommended by the Romans who’ve lived there for years—are San Clemente, Appian Way, Trastevere, Villa Torlonia and Antico Caffè Greco. These places have deep historical roots often missed by the millions who step inside the ancient city of Rome, but they deserve just as much of the attention.
Basilica San Clemente
Former home to a local wealthy family, and then to Mussolini (a fascist Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943)—the Villa Torlonia is now a museum not known by many tourists. Nonetheless, it has an interesting history dating back hundreds of years. A 3rd- and 4th-century Jewish catacomb was discovered in the north-west area of the grounds in 1919 and was then ordered by Mussolini to be transformed into bunkers against bombers and airstrikes in the 1930s.
The most famous and loved sites located on the large estate is the “Casina delle Civette” (House of the Owls). The name most likely came from the owl theme found throughout the house, especially on the magnificent stained glass windows.
Antico Caffè Greco
Romans love their coffee! If you do too, we suggest you drink a cup at Antico Caffè Greco, better known as Caffè Greco. This is the oldest cafe in Rome, established in 1760 on Via dei Condotti. Aside from the aromatic and smooth coffee, Caffè Greco also has the world’s best hot chocolate, and delicate cakes and sweets to go with it. The atmosphere is oozing with history, and the waiters wearing tuxedos make you feel like a proper royal. Although it’s a bit expensive ($8 for an espresso-based drink), it’s definitely worth the experience. It was also a go-to spot for various famous people who traveled to this ancient city such as Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill, John Keats and Richard Wagner.
Rome has a rich history and a lively culture waiting to be explored every day by visitors from all over the world. Although it may take a few trips back to get a feel for the real Roma, you can still hit up all these hidden gems the first time around. From underground catacombs and early churches to a 250-year-old cafe and a luxurious palace, Rome offers bountiful surprises for everyone to see outside of the usual tourist hot spots.
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