Like a Local: When in Rome

Ditch the guidebooks and let a local lead the way.

By Germaine Stafford

I first came to Rome on a whim. Twenty years ago I’d decided to leave my home in Scotland and go work in Spain, but at the last minute I shocked myself by taking a flight to Rome instead. I’ve lived here (or hereabouts) ever since.

Having studied classics for years, I was totally enchanted by having to step over chunks of history to get to the grocer’s or go buy a newspaper. The city’s ruins, marble columns, and towering monuments were suddenly part of my every day landscape. Rome had caught me in her untidy web and the longer I stay, the more firmly I become entwined.

Tourist Tips

It would take a lifetime to visit all of Rome’s significant historical attractions, but even a couple of days here will set your soul soaring. No amount of crowds can detract from the unspeakable beauty of the Sistine Chapel and the Corridor of Maps at the Vatican, or the impact of the Colosseum’s mighty silhouette set against the Roman sky. So don’t miss out on these exceptional monuments. Instead, understand you’re never going to see everything. Choose a couple of major sights and give yourself permission to enjoy some lesser-known monuments as well (Case Romane del Celio, for example, is just a couple of minutes walk from the Colosseum).

Off the Beaten Path

Once known as the Protestant Cemetery, Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery in the Testaccio district is a remarkably pleasant space that provides leafy respite from the jostling crowds. Graves include those of English poets Shelley and Keats as well as Americans Gregory Corso and Thomas Jefferson Page.

If It’s Free It’s For Me

Some of Caravaggio’s most beautiful works are on display free in Rome’s churches. Create a Caravaggio trail by visiting the churches of Sant’Agostino and San Luigi Dei Francesi, both just a short walk from Piazza Navona, and Santa Maria del Popolo, right in Piazza Del Popolo. Look out for frescoes by Domenichino and works by Raphael as well. Check church opening times, as many close between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m.…


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