I’m an ancient history nerd, so when I accepted BUCKiTDREAM’S #DreamChallenge of ticking off 10 dreams from my bucket list before February – Rome seemed the natural place to start. As soon I arrived it was clear that Rome offers so much more than I imagined, and our best times were stumbled upon by chance. For anyone thinking of taking a trip to Italy’s capital (and you should) here’s a list of the 5 Things To Do In Rome that you won’t find in the history books.
1. Take a Scooter Tour of Rome
It really is as fun as it looks. I was blankly refused a Vespa rental by the first hire shop we found (apparently my total previous scooter experience of “zero” didn’t cut the pesto). It turned out to be the best thing that happened to us on the trip! Instead, my relieved brother and I ended up on the backs of Vespas belonging to two kind – and hunky – gents from Cooltra Scooter Rentals (www.cooltra.com), who took our booking at a moment’s notice and whizzed us around the city, stopping at the best look out points and zipping between cars and down back alleys so we were able to see as many attractions in two hours as we would otherwise have squeezed into two days. It is THE best way to see the city.
2. Hunt For Hidden Treasures
Whether you’re a full anthology or Spark Notes student of history, being shown around the city by someone who knows a bit about its past is essential in Rome. There is a story behind every stone. Get within scouting distance of the Colosseum and you’ll have an entourage of guides punting for your custom but, if you’re looking for something special, try and find a private tour. A friend organised just that for us with johnandashley.org. John walked us down the cobbled streets of “Centro Storico” – the Historic Centre of Rome – through unassuming doors hiding jaw-dropping secrets, and telling stories that melted the goliath marble statues into something much more human. Lifting the veil, only slightly, on Rome’s past gave the rest of our experiences in the city a deeper layer of meaning.
3. Shop at the Campo de’ Fiori Market
A pizza toss from the iconic Piazza Navona is Campo de’Fiori – a smallish square stuffed with mushroom-like tents that shelter stalls of jewel-bright lettuces, handpicked oranges, apples the size of a baby’s head, truffle preserves, tricoloured pasta, and more varieties of olive oil than you can count. This is where real Romans do their shopping; I strongly recommend you do to.
4. Hang Out In Trastevere
I was tipped to book our hotel in the Trastevere district of Rome and I’m very glad I did. This is one of the oldest residential neighbourhoods in Rome: a maze of cobbled alleys, lined with scooters parked outside shuttered windows half covered with ivy. You’ll feel like you’re lost in a movie. By day, you’ll find art shops and cafes on every corner; by night, bars and restaurants spill onto the narrow and streets bustling with musicians, meal-seekers and merrymakers . Trastevere’s joyous, carefree vibe is infectious and, while the area rightly attracts lots of tourists, we met a plenty of locals. You may even end up dancing around a piazza with some of them.
5. Drink a Coffee from Sant Eustachio
You probably WILL read about this in the guide books as this tiny little coffee shop is rumored to be the best in the world (the entire street was recently closed for a day because Michelle Obama insisted on going there with her girls). But it’s on my list too. Literally around the corner from the Pantheon, and named after the patron saint of coffee, Sant Eutachio’s brew IS heavenly. Have fun trying out the multitude of ratios of milk to espresso, although you may want to pace this experiment over several visits as Italian coffee is as strong as it is delicious. Be sure to buy some of their ground coffee to take home too… Even if it’s just to enjoy the intoxicating aroma of your hand luggage thereafter.
Rome may not have been built in a day, but it’ll certainly slay you in three. Be sure to add it to your BUCKiTLIST.