If you’ve got a drop of Western blood in you, something in Roman history has deeply affected your life. Even if it’s just the fact that all of our languages have their roots in Latin, Rome pulls at our common heartstrings. Rome doesn’t disappoint, either. All the Major Attractions are Major for a reason. But what if you’re in denial about being a tourist in Rome? What if you just want to get away from the crowds, if only in your head, and go for a stroll? Here’s a list of 5 things to see and do in Rome that aren’t too touristy – or at least you can do them in an un-touristy way!
1. Go to the Spanish Steps
Yes, the Spanish Steps in Rome are a tourist trap and you don’t particularly want to visit a tourist trap. They’re often thronged with tourists (though your best bet is a super-hot sunny afternoon or a cold, rainy day). But whatever the weather, you really do want to walk up this magnificent staircase created in the 18th Century by Francesco Di Sanctis at the behest of Pope Innocent XII. At the foot of the steps on your right is the Keats/Shelley House, so that can be your un-touristy excuse for going there. Proceed to Number Two:
2. Visit the Place Where Keats Died
John Keats was the most romantic of the Romantic Poets, along with Percy Blythe Shelley, also after whom the Keats/Shelley House is named. Keats died in this house at the age of 25. Like James Dean, he died young. While you’re there, grab a copy of Keats’ poetry to stick in your hip pocket and pull out when you’re sipping a cappuccino at the cafe we’ll be visiting shortly. When you exit the Keats/Shelley Memorial House, you’ll be at the Spanish Steps, so you may as well climb them. Sit down somewhere about the halfway mark and spare a thought for Keats. Unlike James Dean, he didn’t die a spectacular death behind the wheel of a Porsche. He died of Consumption – a slow and painful death. Towards the end, he was unable to take in the sites you’re seeing now.
3. Trinita dei Monti
As you ascend the steps, you might as well take some pictures of the Trinita dei Monti, even though rumor has it that there are more postcards of this beautiful chapel than of any other site in Rome. Originally built in the early 1500s, it is partly the reason why the Steps were built in the first place. The other part of the reason was to celebrate the peace between France and Italy. France funded the Steps (completed around 1725), which lead to the historically French area surrounding the church. After you’ve had a look around inside, retrace your steps back down the Steps and try to figure out why they call them the Spanish Steps.
4. Antico Caffe Greco
Now that you’ve got your copy of Keats’ poetry, you won’t be a typical tourist when you enter the Antico Caffe Greco – you’ll be a literati, visiting the cafe where literary giants like Keats, Byron, Goethe and Stendahl hung out, to name just a few. Ignore the callous tourists, take a seat at the bar and soak up the palpable atmosphere of this marvelously decorated cafe. Built in 1760, it is said to be the third oldest cafe in the world. Everything is pricey here, but the coffee is superb and the pastries are delicious. Now is the time to pull your book of poetry out of your pocket and start reading.
5. Window Shop Like the Wealthy
Because you’re at the Caffe Greco, you’re also on Via dei Condotti, one of the most upmarket streets in Rome. You may as well stroll down this street while you’re in the area, and rub elbows with the fashionistas as you check out the latest from Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Bvlgari. There, now you’ve just managed to spend a very enjoyable afternoon in one of Rome’s most touristy areas without having to feel like a common tourist. Congratulations! When you’re in Rome, of course you want to visit all the major sites – who could miss the Coliseum or St. Peter’s Basilica? It’s worth your while to experience some of the lesser-known sights, too. Give yourself a bit more time in an area, so you can absorb the essence of one little corner of Rome.