The Weird & Wonderful Rome

By Go City Expert

Aside from the obvious ancient history that is part and parcel of visiting Rome, there’s a whole other side that many don’t get to experience. From the downright weird to the amazingly wonderful, Rome is blessed with its fair share of quirks. From skeletal décor, to keyhole views, here are some of our favourite weird and wonderful things. Skeletal Decorations Interestingly there is more than one place in Rome where you will see the religious remains on display. If you’re not freaked out by the prospect, visit the Crypt of Capuchin Friars, Santa Maria della Concezione, to be really spooked. With the bones of over 4000 friars decorating the walls and ceilings you can’t escape the message: death can come at any time. San Silvestro Church is another one to visit as it claims to own the head of St John the Baptist. But depending on where you’re from, a church in Germany, France and Syria also claim to be the owners of the same head... Another dubious skull can be found in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, which if you’re a born romantic, might strike a stronger cord, as this Roman church claims to own the head of St Valentine – the patron saint of lovers. Criminology Museum Another disturbing establishment – not for the fainthearted – is the Criminology Museum, near to Piazza Navona. After a visit you’ll certainly appreciate how far Italy has come from the days of executions and brutal methods of torture. On show are real objects of restraint and torture that were once used for incarceration during the late 19th century and into the 20th century. One of the most shocking artefacts on show is the infamous body-shaped Milazzo Cage which would be hung outside the castle or prison displaying the mutilated criminal. Fantastical architecture As well as the awe-inspiring historic architecture of the Coliseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon, for instance, you will also come across some fantastical architecture when you least expect it. One of our favourite places is the Quartiere Coppedé in the Northern part of the city. Home to a real blend of architectural styles, you’ll find Art Nouveau, Ancient Greek, Roman Baroque and even some Medieval all mixed in, designed by architect Coppedé between 1910s and 1927. Admire Florentine towers, Venetian palazzi, mosaics and frescoes... You won’t want to forget your camera, trust us! Aventine Keyhole A keyhole with a view, this really is a hidden gem and many miss it – literally. On the corner of via di S. Sabina and via di Porta Lavernale you’ll find a very nondescript looking door on the Aventine Hill, leading into the Priory of the Knights of Malta. But the trick is not to go in, but to look through the keyhole instead. Whether it was a stroke of brilliant design or pure fluke, you’ll be hard pushed to find another keyhole like it. Through the opening you’ll see your gaze lines up perfectly with the gardens inside the courtyard which frames the dome of the St Peter’s Basilica in the distance perfectly. Optical illusion Around the corner from the Pantheon make sure you visit the Jesuit church of Saint Ignazio, on Via del Caravita. Decorated by Andrea Pozzo between 1685 and 1694, the church was originally meant to have a dome but when the money ran out in 1642, Pozzo had to get creative. The painted dome on the ceiling is a real work of perspectives and many visitors don’t even realise that the shadowed dome is in fact a flat ceiling. You can also notice that the huge fresco on the barrel-vaulted ceiling also employs this trick of the eye and is a great example of the quadratura technique, juxtaposing geometrically accurate architecture and dreamlike cherubs and floating saints. All things Egyptian Pyramids might be a legacy from ancient Egypt but you’ll also find a rather famous one in the city of Rome. The Pyramid of Cestius was built in the wake of the conquest of Egypt in 30 BC when Rome was gripped by Egyptomania. The Pyramid is believed to have been built as a tomb for a wealthy Roman between 18 and 12 BC, however, it’s since been ransacked and any evidence or remains of who he was have disappeared. There was a second pyramid at one point, near Castel Sant’angelo, but it didn’t survive – instead its marble was used for the steps of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Another Egyptian landmark is the obelisk which you’ll find in Piazza del Popolo, which is actually one of thirteen dotted around the city. image credit:

Continue reading

rome safe

Is Rome Safe?

Safety can be one of the biggest concerns when planning a vacation. 'A stranger in a strange land', as the saying goes. That's why it's always important to know what to expect when visiting a new city and country. Take Rome, for instance. It's one of the most popular tourist spots in Europe, but how safe is it? Read on, and find out as we explore how to stay safe in Rome, what to look out for, and neighborhoods to avoid. Including: How safe is Rome? Common threats to safety in Rome Neighborhoods to avoid Is public transport safe in Rome? and more! How safe is Rome? Rome is one of the most historic cities in Europe, so it's no wonder countless people flock there every year. In fact, Rome plays host to around 10 million tourists every year, making it one of Europe's most popular destinations. Some come for the ancient architecture and history-soaked streets. Others visit for the nightlife, food, and shopping. But how safe is Rome? Rome is considered a relatively safe city, ranking 29th in The Economist's Safe City Index 2021. Many factors make up this ranking, including personal safety, environmental safety, and even digital security. Those factors don't make a huge difference here, as Rome's 'personal security' ranking has it at 29th too! So, what should you look out for on your trip to Rome? Common threats to safety in Rome Rome's most frequent crimes are petty theft. And, like many travel hotspots around the world, tourists are usually targeted. So let's talk about the types of theft you should be aware of on your vacation. Pickpockets During peak tourist season in the summer, you should be aware that many pickpockets operate in Rome. Focusing on the most popular spots as well as trains, they target tourists because of the large amount of vacation cash they may have on them. This is relatively common in any big city that welcomes a lot of tourist traffic, so you may already be aware of the dos and don'ts. If not, or you just need a refresher, here are our tips to keep your belongings belonging to you! Keep your bag, purse, or clutch close to you at all times. Try and avoid carrying large amounts of cash - most places will accept card, even if it's from a different country. Don't leave coats, jackets, wallets, or phones unattended when you're having a drink, getting a bite to eat, or going up to the counter to collect your order. Be aware of distraction techniques. Thieves often work in pairs, so while one may strike up a conversation, ask directions, or 'accidentally' fall into, the other may well be attempting to swipe your cash or camera. Avoid using paper maps when out and about. If you know where you want to go, use your phone's GPS and then stick an earbud in and listen for directions. You'll blend right in. Muggings Though chances of a violent mugging are much lower than being pickpocketed, it's still worth being mindful when walking around Rome. Public transport, especially at night, can make you an easy target. If you want to avoid a mugging, do the following. Avoid public transport at night when possible - book a taxi from a reputable company instead. Check online to find one, though you may pay more than a local. Alternatively, go through a taxi app, if you're comfortable. At night, try and travel in groups of two or more. Plan your route around your daily plans and know when and where you're going to avoid unnecessary loitering - you may draw the attention of ruffians. Scams Scams have become one of the most popular forms of crime in many cities. Rome is no different, with a number of scams operating throughout the city. Unfortunately, taxis are one of those. As we mentioned above, taxi drivers may be tempted to charge tourists higher rates than locals. Always make sure your driver is on the meter, and if they offer you a flat fee or 'forget' to put the meter on, they're likely trying to scam more money out of you. Politely ask them to put the meter on or request to leave the vehicle. You may also be approached in the street and offered a free charm or trinket. Ensure you do not accept this, and be firm if necessary. If you take it, they will loudly and aggressively demand payment. Another common scam is fake charity petitions. While not every one is fake, it may be difficult to discern which is not. We'd advise you to avoid these where possible, and give through a charity's website instead. Even signing a petition might lead to an aggressive demand for a donation, and that donation is going straight into the scammer's pocket. Make sure you check ATMs for tampering, as scammers target those too. Most places in Rome will allow card payments, so if you're lucky, you won't need to use one at all. Neighborhoods to avoid Rome's most crime-riddled neighborhoods include Tor Bella Monaca, Romanina, San Basilio, and Corviale. As these are predominantly residential areas, you may have no reason to ever visit them. However, if you do, try to avoid them at night. If that's not possible, make sure you travel in a group to avoid being targeted as much as possible. Is public transport safe in Rome? As we mentioned, there are some things worth bearing in mind regarding public transport. We've talked about taxis at length, so be vigilant of those. Regarding other forms, they are generally safe, especially during the day. Do bear in mind that some train stations such as Termini are pickpocket hotspots, especially in the evening. As a general rule, try and avoid using public transport at night if possible. That way, you lower your risk of potential muggings or pickpocketing. And that's our guide to staying safe in Rome! Want to make the most of your vacation? Check out Go City. With us, you can see all of Rome's best bits when and how you want.
Dom Bewley

Can't-Miss Cultural Attractions in Rome

Bask in the glory of Roman creativity with the best cultural attractions in Rome below. With thousands of years of history, including being the centre of the Roman Empire, it's no surprise that Rome is full of incredible architectural structures, each with their own story to tell. We've scoured the city to find some of the capital's best landmarks you won't want to miss, from mausoleums and historical museums to ancient Roman sites and more, National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo Castel Sant'Angelo has had many lives as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, a papal fortress, prison, and now finally as a historical museum open to the Roman public. This stark structure owes its name to a vision that Pope Gregory the Great had, in which the Archangel Michael appeared to him on top of Hadrian's tomb, sheathing his sword to signal the end of a plague. A sculpture of the Archangel now sits atop the museum. With an impressive permanent collection of medieval relics, paintings and sculptures, it's a great way to experience and learn about Rome's long tradition of culture and military excellence. Capitoline Museums Seen in films such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, these archeological museums are testament to the enduring power of ancient Roman art. Spread across three buildings and a piazza designed by Michelangelo, it has persisted as a significant site of Roman creativity since 1471. It features many beautiful works such as a symbolic bronze statue of The She-Wolf, who plays an important role in Rome's origin myth in which she raised the city's founders Romulus and Remus. The Coliseum This gigantic circular structure has captured the imaginations of people worldwide, with complex theatrical performances alongside violent gladiator battles taking place on its stage. At 2000 years old, the landmark continues to stand and remains a must-visit for visitors to Rome who can learn about its history and dive into its network of underground tunnels for more exhibits. MAXXI While Rome might be best known for its historical architecture and Renaissance works, the contemporary art museum MAXXI shines a light on the best in Italian contemporary art. Designed by famed architect Zaha Hadid, its exhibits showcase the best in modern art and architecture and is a refreshing break from centuries-old works. Sistine Chapel Venture into the Vatican City and make your way to one of Michelangelo's greatest artistic accomplishments - the Sistine Chapel. With breathtaking hand-painted ceiling frescoes depicting The Last Judgment and works by Botticelli lining its walls, it's not only a significant religious site but a cultural one worth seeing. Roman Forum See the legacy of ancient architecture at the Roman Forum, which was formerly a collection of buildings including a marketplace, the House of Augustus (home to Julius Caesar's heir) and the Temple of Romulus. While it's mainly in ruins, the remains of its frescoes, pillars and architecture still remains incredible to witness. Borghese Gallery See the works of artistic virtuosos Caravaggio, Botticelli and Raphael at the Borghese Gallery, a converted villa which now serves as one of Rome's most beautiful museums. Comprised mainly of the Borghese family's personal collection which includes hundreds of sculptures and paintings, it's an oasis of calm away from the hustle of Rome and its grounds boast stunning gardens. Vatican Museums Located just a stone's throw from the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums are a site of great importance for the Catholic tradition as well as the art world. With exhibits dedicated to the history of the Vatican City as well as a 9 mile long collection of artwork dating all the way back to ancient Egypt, its most noted for its sublime Raphael rooms by the entrance with frescoes by Raphael and Michelangelo. Museum of Rome Discover the artistic history of Italy's capital at the Museum of Rome, located in the halls of the Palazzo Braschi. Not only is the structure a stunning example of Roman Baroque architecture, its exhibits chart the course of Rome's continually evolving creative scene from the Middle Ages to 20th Century. Keats-Shelley House Take a break from art history and dive into the world of literature. Rome was beloved by the famous Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, the latter of whom made Rome his final resting place at the age of 25. Keats' modest dwellings have since been transformed into a museum with the most extensive collection of works, letters, paintings and memorabilia relating to the two literary greats in the world.
Megan Hills

A Movie Lover's Guide to Rome

Have your own cinematic adventure with our movie lover's guide to Rome. From adrenaline pumping chase sequences to delicate romance scenes, the Italian capital is a city that seems almost built for film with gorgeous architecture and charismatic streets on every corner. The likes of Audrey Hepburn, Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks have frequented its landmarks in memorable scenes, find out where some of them are and check them out for yourself with our movie lover's guide to Rome! Castel Sant'Angelo The Castel Sant'angelo with all its dramatic architecture and stunning religious iconography plays a backdrop to the heart pounding finale of Angels and Demons. Originally a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his descendants, it has since lived other lives as a castle, a fortress and is now a popular tourist attraction. Villa Borghese Elizabeth Gilbert's famous novel Eat, Pray, Love and its famous adaptation starring Julia Roberts is an autobiography about a woman who leaves everything she knows behind after a crippling divorce, setting off to see the best of the world. It's no surprise she stops at Rome and in a mellow scene, orders gelato and wanders the meticulous greenery of Villa Borghese. Capitoline Museums/Roman Forum After an incredibly tense and violent arc in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley, a young Matt Damon takes in a hillside view of what remains of the Roman Forum from Capitoline Hills. He also ventures inside the Capitoline Museums, where the broken pieces of once great statues on display heightens the melancholy tone. Wanting to be here right now. #spanishsteps A photo posted by Ruben Torres Jr (@rubent334) on Feb 7, 2017 at 1:21pm PST The Spanish Steps It's hard to forget the sight of Audrey Hepburn, dressed in an iconic crisp white shirt and full skirt, wandering the Spanish Steps with a gelato in hand in Roman Holiday. It's no surprise these beautiful steps play the backdrop to an offbeat romance, with a reporter played by Gregory Peck chasing after Hepburn's Princess Ann to charm her into a news story that will make him rich. Classic Rome (and photobomb by @styleconceptblog) #ThePantheon A photo posted by David Brown (@davidbrown30) on Feb 4, 2017 at 8:49am PST The Pantheon The location scouts behind Ocean's Twelve went into overdrive finding the perfect places for the heist movie, with scenes filmed everywhere from Berlin to Illinois. With a number of scenes played out in Rome, a particularly early one includes a café in the Pantheon's Piazza della Rotonda where Brad Pitt makes a narrow escape while kickstarting a romance with Catherine Zeta-Jones. Trevi Fountain It's no surprise that the Trevi Fountain is a popular location choice for filmmakers, as it practically begs to be filmed with its Baroque details and flowing water. Starring in films such as the epic La Dolce Vita where Anita Ekberg seduces Marcello Mastroianni as well as lower brow movies such as The Lizzie McGuire Movie, where the titular character makes a wish in the fountain, it never fails to capture an audience's imagination. Coliseum It's only fitting that a place built for the purpose of spectacle plays a part in many films, including previously mentioned titles like Roman Holiday, Eat Pray Love and Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr's romance Only You. It only takes a quick exterior shot of this massive structure in a film to symbolise Rome and its grand history.
Megan Hills

Dreaming of that Rome city break?

Sign up to receive top travel tips

  • Thick check Icon