5 Things to Love About Rome

Mar 5, 2017

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Most Americans don’t need much convincing when it comes to visiting the Italian capital, but in case you’re considering a trip and aren’t quite sold yet, there are several reasons to go besides Vatican City and the Colosseum. Rome is so much more than just these famous monuments. Here’s why we love the Eternal City.

1. You Can Hang With the Locals in Trastevere

This special neighborhood is the heart of Rome, with small, winding streets lined with ivy-covered apartments and lush restaurant patios making it one of the best spots in in the city to go for a stroll. While the area is slowly growing in popularity with tourists, it still retains an air of being undiscovered and feels worlds apart from the zoo-like tourist attractions nearby in the city center. Trastevere is also the best neighborhood for quality restaurants, boutique shopping or simply popping into a pastry shop for a quick cannoli. You won’t find many five-star lodgings in this area, though, so Airbnb is your best bet.

Trastevere is one of Rome's most picturesque neighborhoods. 
Trastevere is one of Rome’s most picturesque neighborhoods.

2. The Tiber Runs Through It

The Tiber River weaves through the city and its tree-lined banks provide plenty of shade, a wonderful respite from the heat of Rome’s crowded streets. Walking up the river from Testaccio to Vatican City is a peaceful and relaxing hour long stroll, and you’ll have a nice view of tiny, boat-shaped Tiber Island in the middle of the river. Crossing over the many bridges can provide great vantage points for photos, with the most famous bridge being Ponte Sant’Angelo, which dates back to the year 134 — an angel is said to have appeared on the bridge announcing the end of the plague, and many an executed body was tossed over the side back in medieval times.

A view of the castle and Sant'Angelo Bridge.
A view of the castle and Sant’Angelo Bridge.

3. There’s Free Renaissance Art Everywhere

While St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is the main reason many visit Rome, there are so many other beautiful churches that you can visit as well — for free! My personal favorite is the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, which has a painted ceiling many say is even more striking than that of the Sistine Chapel. The Basilica di Santa Maria di Trastevere features beautiful mosaics from the 13th century created by artist Pietro Cavallini, while the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo is home to stunning Renaissance art from well-known Italian artists like Caravaggio and Raphael. Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva is one of the few examples of Roman Gothic architecture that sports a number of frescoes and a statue by Michelangelo. It’s always a good idea to stop and take a peek in any church you pass — you never know what may be hiding inside.

The ceiling of Sant'Ignazio church.
The ceiling of Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola.

4. It’s Like Stepping Back in Time

As you can see, thanks to historic sites like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, Rome is literally built upon an ancient city — in fact, the reason why it’s so poorly connected by metro is because every time underground construction begins, more ancient ruins are discovered and everything comes to a halt. There are so many historic sites and ancient ruins all around you, it’s easy to visualize the ancient Romans themselves passing among the crumbling walls and broken columns. The Teatro di Marcello is a theater with surrounding ruins that’s worth a visit; the space was cleared by Julius Caesar, although he died before construction could officially begin — today, the space is used for concerts. A short day trip to Ostia Antica, a nearby suburb of Rome, houses the ruins of what may have been the city’s first colony and are some of the best-preserved ruins in all of Italy.

The Teatro di Marcello and surrounding rooms. No lines in sight!
The Teatro di Marcello and its surrounding ruins.

5. You Can Use Points to Stay Here For Free

If you’ve got points to burn, Rome is a great city to use them. IHG’s Hotel Indigo St. George is located right in the city center with a swanky rooftop terrace you can visit during the summer (rates start around $220 or 45,000 IHG Rewards points per night in March). Starwood’s St. Regis Rome is all about luxury, and offers what may be Rome’s most gorgeous hotel room, the three-bedroom, three-bath Bottega Veneta suite, impeccably decorated and complete with St. Regis butler service (rates start at about $480 or 25,000 Starpoints per night in March). For something a little less opulent and more modern, Club Carlson’s Radisson Blu is a hip spot that boasts a rooftop swimming pool (rates start at about $190 per night or 50,000 award points in March).

What are your favorite things to do in Rome? Tell us about them, below.

All images courtesy of the author.

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