Rome Hidden Gems - Al Fresco Holidays
You can barely move around Rome without bumping into an historic building and if you’re planning a visit, you’ve probably already got a long list of “must sees” such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Alfresco Holidays has put together some suggestions for some lesser known sites both within the city of Rome and just outside which are also all well worth a visit.
You’re bound to visit the Trevi Fountain while you’re in Rome, but it’s worth also seeking out I Nasoni, Rome’s public drinking fountain where children can have fun trying to work out how to get a drink from the cast-iron fountain with nose-shaped spouts without getting wet.
Said Vintage Chocolate Factory
The chocolate factory was founded in 1923 and then extensively bombed during World War Two. Today it is a museum featuring antique chocolate-making machinery and a fabulous gift shop. http://said.it/
Campo Dei Fiori
An outdoor food market which as well as making a more interesting shopping trip than a trip to the supermarket is a fun morning out in itself. Best visited in the morning.
Explora—il Museuo dei Bambini di Roma
An excellent children’s museum with its ground floor built to child-scale where they can carry out transactions in exhibits including a post office, bank and TV studio. Other highlights include a pizza lab (workshops must be booked in advance), a chance to put on a fireman’s helmet and drive a fire engine, a large pool for experiments with water and a special section for under-threes. https://www.mdbr.it/en/
Rent bikes at Borghese Gardens
A pretty park where you can rent “bikes” which seat small groups to explore the grounds.
La Bocca della Verità
Translating as “the mouth of truth” you will find this huge marble face at Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The story goes that anyone who tells a lie and then puts their hand in the face’s mouth will get their hand bitten off. Will your children pass the test?
Crypt of the Capuchin Monks
Just off the Via Veneto, this crypt is decorated with the bones and skulls of 4,000 of its former inhabitants, arranged in patterns such as crucifixes and starbursts. Spooky. http://www.cappucciniviaveneto.it/
Museum of Purgatory
In the little church of Sacra Cuore Suffragio near Castel Sant’Angelo, this tiny museum records instances of souls trapped in purgatory – between heaven and hell – of handprints burned onto books. One for lovers of the paranormal, but not for those easily spooked. http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/museum-holy-souls-purgatory
Porta Portese flea market
One for bargain lovers. Rome has a lot of flea markets but this one, open every Sunday, is one of the best selling everything from small items such as jewellery and books to large items which won’t fit in your suitcase to take home including bikes and antique typewriters.
The Roman Cat Sanctuary
Roman cats have always found shelter among the ruins and at the cat sanctuary on Largo di Torre Argentina, they have made it official. The ruins dating back to around 400 BC are now home to 400 cats cared for seven days a week by volunteers. http://www.romancats.com/index_eng.php
A UNESCO-listed heritage site 20 miles from Rome in Tivoli but well worth the trip, the villa has stunning frescoes and over ten hectares of fountains in its beautifully-landscaped gardens. http://www.villadestetivoli.info/storiae.htm
Eat ice cream at Il Gelato de San Crispino
You can’t come to Rome without sampling the gelato and this shop is considered to sell the best in Rome – some even say in the world due to the makers’ excessive control over the manufacturing process. Flavours change according to what is in season and the gelato is only served in tubs – not cones which would interfere with the purity of the product, apparently. http://www.ilgelatodisancrispino.it/
Just half an hour outside Rome by train Ostia Antica is the well-preserved ancient harbour city of Rome which buzzed with maritime activity for over 600 years. The Med is now two miles away, but the day’s menus are still frescoed on the walls in an ancient restaurant and there are trade guilds’ emblems on floor mosaics. During the summer the Roman theatre is still used for plays and show. http://www.ostiaantica.beniculturali.it/en/
Alfresco Holidays offers mobile homes on two campsites within easy reach of Rome. Camping Village Fabulous is within easy reach of the city centre 11 miles away by public transport as well as being just six miles from the stunning Ostia coast. I Pini is a smaller campsite, 25 miles from Rome in the Tiber Valley with pools, restaurants and entertainment for children and adults all on site.