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10 Under-the-Radar Things to Do in Rome

Go beyond the Vatican and the Colosseum.

Checked the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain off your bucket list? When you’re ready to dig deeper, Rome contains a wealth of things to do. And it’s no wonder—with over 2,000 years of history, the city is bound to hold some secrets. From exploring off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods full of street art to walking the same streets that the gladiators once trod, these 10 under-the-radar things to do will inspire you to rediscover Rome.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Scooteroma Tours
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See Street Art in Ostiense

South of the centro storico, the gritty neighborhood of Ostiense may not be at the top of your Rome bucket list, but it’s a must-see for fans of street art. Entire buildings are covered top-to-bottom in murals and well-known street artists have left their mark. Hop on a Vespa with one of Scooteroma’s guides and you can see it all on a three-hour Street Art Tour that’ll take you to Ostiense and beyond.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Keats Shelley House
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Visit the Keats-Shelley Memorial House

You don’t have to be a fan of the English Romantic poets to visit this house museum at the foot of the Spanish Steps, but it certainly helps. The home at 26 Piazza di Spagna was the final resting place of the poet John Keats, who died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 25. His bedroom has been preserved and the house contains a library with 8,000 volumes of Romantic literature, making it the perfect place to learn about him and his fellow poets.

PHOTO: Stefano_Valeri/Shutterstock
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Experience the Cultural Programming at the Villa Medici

You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but this gorgeous Renaissance palace on the Pincio Hill houses the Academy of France in Rome, which hosts visiting artists and scholars and puts on cultural events. It was originally built for Cardinal Fernando I de’ Medici, who made sure there was a beautifully manicured garden where he could display his sculpture collection. To see this magical place, you can do a one-hour guided tour or check the schedule of events. The Villa often hosts concerts, exhibits, and film screenings.

PHOTO: Dnalor 01 [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons
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Get Spooked at the Capuchin Crypt

As if preserving saintly relics wasn’t creepy enough, the Capuchin order of monks used the bones of some 4,000 friars to decorate the crypt under the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione. This site isn’t for the faint of heart. A sign that reads “What you are, we once were. What we are, you will someday be” serves as a poignant reminder of our mortality.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Oratorio del Gonfalone
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Attend a Concert at the Oratorio del Gonfalone

Hidden behind a nondescript door in Rome’s historic center lies a room decorated wall-to-wall with incredibly well-preserved frescoes depicting scenes of the passion of the Christ. Painted in the 16th century by a team of Mannerist painters, the site has been called “the Sistine Chapel of Mannerism.” The Oratorio del Gonfalone hosts concerts every Thursday, which is a great way to experience this incredible place. If you can’t attend one, Imago Artis Travel can get you inside when the place is empty.

PHOTO: Alessandro Vasari, Soledad Twombly
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Shop on Via di Monserrato

Via del Corso and Via dei Condotti may be Rome’s most famous shopping streets, but for truly unique finds, you need to get off-the-beaten-path and head to Via di Monserrato. This charming cobblestoned street is home to a collection of high-end boutiques, including the concept shop Chez Dédé, Maison Halaby (where Lebanese designer Gilbert Halaby sells his one-of-a-kind leather handbags), and Argentine designer (and daughter-in-law of Cy Twombly) Soledad Twombly’s atelier L’Archivio di Monserrato.

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Explore the Parco degli Acquedotti

On the city’s southeastern outskirts, near the famed Cinecittà Studios, this massive green park is a peaceful oasis where locals come to jog, walk their dogs, and just hang out. The aqueducts are relics of the Ancient Roman Empire and you can walk along the remains of an ancient cobblestone road that once formed part of the Appia Antica. The park is also an important cinematic site (and one of the places you can visit on Scooteroma’s Cinema Tour). Famed director Federico Fellini filmed the opening scene of La Dolce Vita here and contemporary director Paolo Sorrentino used it as a backdrop in his film La Grande Bellezza.

PHOTO: Corinto Marianelli/Shutterstock
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Time-Travel to Ancient Rome on the Appia Antica

The saying “All roads lead to Rome” may seem cliché now, but when this road was built it wasn’t much of an exaggeration. The first 56 miles were laid by consul Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 BC and the Appia was extended in 190 BC to reach all the way to Brindisi in the modern-day region of Puglia on the Adriatic coast, more than 300 miles away. Join the locals and bike or walk along the ancient cobblestone road. The grassy knolls on either side make the perfect spot for a picnic.

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Smell the Roses on the Aventine Hill

If you happen to be in Rome in the spring, when the Roseto Comunale on the Aventine Hill is in bloom, it’s worth a stop. Once a Jewish cemetery, the garden’s paths are fittingly shaped like a menorah. It became a public garden in 1931, when American countess Mary Gayley Senni secured the site from the city authorities. With more than 1,000 different varieties of roses, it’s one of the most romantic spots in Rome.

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Watch a Play at the Replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

Shakespeare in Rome? Certo! Hidden in plain sight in the bucolic Villa Medici park, a replica of London’s Globe Theater puts on performances of the Bard’s plays in Italian. Like the original, the theater is built entirely out of wood and has seats arranged in a circle around the stage as well as standing room. The season runs from June through October.

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