11 ways to get in touch with authentic Roman culture.
As one of the most visited cities in Europe, and the world, Rome has plenty of well-known tourist attractions. The Colosseum and Roman Forum are incredible remnants of the ancient Roman civilization, St. Peter’s Basilica is an important symbol of Catholicism, and the Trevi Fountain represents a world famous artistic masterpiece.
These famous attractions are staples of Rome, though there are ways to explore the city without fighting through crowds of tourists. After marveling at the well-known sights, get to know the more local side of Italy‘s capital city.
1. Picnic At Villa Pamphili Park
Villa Pamphili is a gorgeous seventeenth century villa located in the middle of Rome’s largest public park. On a sunny day, you can find all the local Italians lounging out here on picnic blankets with bottles of wine and plates of cheese and fruit. Italians also come here to workout, walk their dogs, play with their kids, or play football.
It’s hard to believe this space is actually inside the city because the presence of nature is so strong. Giant fields of grass, towering trees, and numerous walking paths create a maze of greenery with endless routes to follow. You can even find statues, fountains, and ruins here that add a sense of antiquity and history.
2. Go Dancing At A Local Club
Rome’s nightlife is full of international students and travelers, but there are some spots that tourists don’t normally go to. In Trastevere, Coffee Pot is a nice restaurant which turns into club at nighttime, and it has two floors full of dancing and drinking Italians. Visit the nearby Piazza Trilussa to find locals hanging out and drinking on the steps. Another awesome dance club is Toy Room, which costs 10 euros to enter and is full of crazy lights and decorations. On Thursday nights, visit a venue in Trastevere called Alcazar and enjoy the enticing live music of open jam night. Or on Monday nights during the summer, head towards the Vatican and walk down to the river for a boat party called Lian Club.
3. Shop At The Porta Portese Flea Market
Every Sunday from early morning until around 3pm, a giant flea market floods the streets of Via Portuense, Via Ippolito Nievo, and Via Ettore Rolli. The streets fill with tents overflowing with shoes, clothes, bags, jewelry, souvenirs, wallets, and tons of other unexpected things. Most goods here are super affordable, though some high quality, pricy Italian leather sometimes pops up amongst the cheap stuff. Vendors are all friendly and sometimes willing to bargain, and there’s a few food stalls selling sandwiches to fuel you up while shopping.
4. Eat Local Food At Suppli
When a restaurant is so crowded that a line spills out into the street, and there is no sign at all except for a little doormat, you know you’ve found a hidden gem. Suppli, a little take-away place in Trastevere, is a favorite among locals. Here you can buy cheap and delicious food, including pasta dishes, roasted or fried vegetables, Roman style pizza (classic pizza rossa is incredible), and of course the hearty fried rice balls known as suppli. Open from 9am to 10pm and closed on Sundays, they often switch up the food selections as well.
5. Chill Out In A Public Square
Europeans thrive in public squares. You can find businessmen on their lunch break, elderly couples sitting on park benches in comfortable silence, kids running around in the grass, and women gossiping enthusiastically. Italians of all ages come to rest in public squares during their day, so they are a great spot for people watching, reading, or observing the landscaping and architecture. Certain squares, like Piazza Del Popolo or Piazza Venezia will be crowded with tourists, but quieter squares reside all over the city and you can find them if you just wander around.
6. Explore Mercato Testaccio
Testaccio is a very quiet, local neighborhood of Rome with few tourists, so it’s a great place to find authentic and cheap food. Mercato Testaccio has tons of market stalls selling amazing produce and ready-to-eat food. Some of the best places to eat here include Casa Manco, famous for their artisan pizza with unique toppings, and Mordi e Vai, famous for their hot tripe sandwiches.
7. Watch The Sunset From Aventine Hill
Aventine Hill is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Rome because it faces west, and there are a few different stone balconies at the hill’s edge for a perfect view. This hill is also home to the Aventine Keyhole, where you can look through the tiny hole and see a picturesque view of the city. The keyhole usually has a line though, so to avoid waiting you can just hang out in one of the gardens atop Aventine Hill, or go inside one of the churches. Basilica di Santa Sabina all’Aventino is actually Rome’s oldest basilica, built between the years 422 and 432.
8. Admire The Rose Garden
While on Aventine Hill, stop by the gorgeous Rose garden, open from 8:30am to 7:30pm. Though the garden is only open from April 21st until June 17th, it is definitely worth a stop if you visit Rome during this time. You can enter for free and spend some time admiring the different colored flowers and walking through the archways dripping with roses.
9. Buy Fresh Produce At Mercato Esquilino
From 5am-3pm near Termini Station, this indoor market hall becomes home to endless rows of international food. If you are in Rome for a while and want to cook your own meals, this is a great place to buy cheap produce as well as nuts, seeds, and fresh spices. There’s also tons of meat and a seafood hall selling every type of fish and mollusk imaginable.
10. Walk Or Bike Along The Tiber
Get some fresh air in Rome by strolling along the Tiber River path. There is a sidewalk at road level, but you can take the stairs down to the lower level which runs right next to the river. Walking towards Testaccio will give you a more peaceful walk with very few people besides a few local runners, but even right next to Vatican City the lower path never gets too crowded. Cool graffiti is plastered all over the stone walls and you can even find pull up bars next to the path in Testaccio.
11. Head To The Touristy Areas At Sunrise
Of course Rome’s famous attractions are stunning and should not be missed. For a more surreal experience free from crowds, visit the popular areas at odd times. Between midnight and 9am, the streets of Rome become basically deserted unless you are near a night club. This way you can take in all the gorgeous sights without any tourists crowding your line of vision or filling your ears with chaos.