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Alternative Things to See in Rome

Rome is a gorgeous Mediterranean city which is steeped in history, bursting with character and (usually) bathed in sunlight! With so much culture round every corner, it’s no wonder tourism in Rome is booming. But if you want to escape the hordes of prying tourists, there is a wealth of hidden gems to discover.

Villa Villa D 'Ested'Este, Tivoli

If you want to escape the chaos of Rome, Villa d'Este in Tivoli provides beauty, serenity and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. It is a sprawling Italian Renaissance garden and a UNESCO world heritage site with reflecting pools, waterfalls and marble statues, giving the area a palatial, enchanting feel. The villa itself features stone columns, huge archways and intricate painted frescos. There are also luscious lawns, perfectly-shaped hedges and plenty of quiet corners for a moment’s thought. Villa d’Este is home to a famous statue of Romulus and Remus with their she-wolf adoptive mother.

However, Villa d'Este is most famous for its incredible fountains. While some are few in number but great in size, others are small but great in number such as those at Le Cento Fontane (The Hundred Fountains). Villa d'Este is an area of timeless beauty and is well worth the trip if you can spare the time.

Museum of the Souls of Purgatory

This small, eerie museum contains artefacts which are thought to show traces of souls in Purgatory, who have briefly come back to earth. The museum is contained within one room of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Prati (one of very few neo-Gothic Churches in Rome) which is a walk from the Vatican. The museum contains fiery handprints and fingerprints on a number of items such as a shirt and a prayer book. The museum is around one hundred years old and was put together by a French priest, Victor Jouet, who died in the very museum he created. The fate of the museum was discussed fairly recently, yet it remains as a curious attraction.

Aside from containing artefacts which purport to prove miracles, the museum gives a fascinating insight into the historical superstitions of the Catholic Church. This is only a very small museum and can be difficult to find. However, its opening hours are the same as the church’s – 9am – 12.30pm and 5pm to 7pm. There may or may not be someone to guide you round but entry is free although donations are accepted. The museum may be small and a little unnerving but it may come as an interesting departure from audio guides and hordes of tourists.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is a plaza around which the ruins of many ancient government buildings stand. The plaza itself was originally a marketplace. For centuries this was the Geographical core of Roman life and was used for speeches, trials, gladiatorial matches and is considered to be the most important meeting place in all of history. The earliest shrines and temples of the Roman kingdom were located here including the the Temple of Vesta, a soaring ancient edifice dating back to the 7th Century BC, and the Regia, the former royal residence dating back to the 8th Century BC.
Unlike squares modelled on the ancient Greek public Plaza, the Forum developed organically and consequently became densely clustered with huge buildings of ever-increasing grandeur. By this time, the open area of the square had been reduced to an area of 130 by 50 metres. Due to the Forum’s location, erosion of the nearby hills and sediment from the flooding of the Tiber River, the level of the Forum began to rise. However, archaeological digs have shown that the enterprising Romans simply paved over much of the debris. Today, many of the original buildings still stand in some capacity. The sprawling complex of ancient ruins and colossal columns draws 4.5 million visitors every year.

Once the centre of an Empire, Rome really is the Eternal City. For Alternative Things to Do in Rome, check out our article. Even with one spare day it’s worth straying from the crowds to glimpse some of the wondrous sights which lie a little further afield. Of course, you may also want to see some of the more well-known attractions, in which case you should definitely read our guide to the Big 6 tourist attractions in Rome.