A city built on over two millennia of history and culture, Rome is one of the world’s top tourism destinations. But aside from seeing the standard attractions and bingeing on gelato, why should you visit Rome? There’s no one better to ask than the people who live there – here’s why you should go to Rome, from the Romans themselves.
Roman-born Emiliano Vonzin manages several B&B and guesthouse properties around the city centre, so he’s well-accustomed to sharing the best of his city with visitors. For him, the main draw of the Eternal City is “the incredible variety of artworks that you can find not only in museums and art galleries but also for free in churches, squares and streets in the city centre and its surroundings”. Rome is quite literally an open-air museum, with over 900 churches hiding incredible artworks – head to Santa Maria Maggiore to see some incredible Byzantine works, or Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo to see pieces from Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael.
“Rome is rich with history,” Vonzin points out, and says that the thousands-year old architectural heritage of the city is yet another reason why Rome should be top of your city break wish list. The ruins of the city aren’t limited to the Colosseum; the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are mandatory for visitors wishing to explore this unique city. As Vonzin says, touring the architectural ruins of Rome is essential to gain insight into “the long traditions and old culture of a population that is first Roman, and then Italian.”
Religious or not, the Vatican is on many people’s must-visit list when exploring Rome. The Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica are just some of the highlights that can be visited in this unique place. Alfredo Noya, founder of Eden Walks, a boutique tour company specialising in private and small group experiences, is a great lover of the Vatican Museums. He recommends a visit to “discover an impressive collection of frescoes, paintings, sculptures, relics of Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli and some of the most famous and influential artists during the Renaissance period – all under one roof.”
Mario Farulla had to leave his hometown of Rome to pursue his passion for bartending abroad, due to the lack of cocktail culture in the city. Now, four out of the five Italian bars included on the World’s Best list are in Rome, with new watering-holes springing up all over the city to join beloved neighbourhood favourites. In an interview on Michele Mariotti’s Unjiggered Podcast Farulla explained that there’s a recent trend of Italian bartenders coming back to their respective hometowns after some time and experience abroad, and it’s easy to see how this is revolutionising the bar scene in Rome. Now the bar manager of Rome’s Baccano, Farulla’s tip for those visiting Rome is to – what else – “explore the growing bar and cocktail scene in Rome, and visit some of our amazing bars!” From innovative new concept bars to the more traditional establishments, there is a huge array to choose from.
Artist Cristina Sozio who, alongside her husband, runs Il Doppio Creative, a non-profit organisation, gallery and art school, gives one simple reason for coming to the city: “Come to Rome to get inspired”. Rome has always drawn in talented artists; in the Renaissance, painters like Michelangelo flocked to the city to create great works of beauty for popes, and later directors like Fellini took inspiration from Rome’s post-war landscape for films that have stood the test of time. Today, just walking around the streets of this ancient city is inspiration in itself.
There’s no shortage of amazing sights in Rome, all of which are eagerly immortalised by keen photographers. Former model and fashion photographer, Alfredo Noya of Eden Walks gives this as another reason to visit Rome. “From the major sites like the Colosseum and Pantheon to the tiny, hidden corners and the alleys in between – there are so many incredible photo opportunities everywhere you turn.” He recommends his clients take some time to walk around and get lost a bit after their tours. “This is the best way to explore and get to know Rome. Even after living here for over 20 years, I still find myself taking pictures of some beautiful new detail I stumble across when walking around aimlessly. Rome has a way of stopping you right in your tracks and you will always experience the initial awe and excitement of a tourist visiting for the first time, even years after calling the city your home.”
Italian food is perhaps one of the most popular cuisines in the world, and every region has its own specialty. “Rome’s cuisine, like the city itself, consists of many layers,” says Alessandro Di Biasio, restaurant general manager of That’s Amore. You’ll probably see the same three dishes at the top of every menu: cacio e Pepe, carbonara, and L’amatriciana – which are all delicious in their own right. But real Roman food goes deeper than the trinity of pasta. Rome is the offal capital with cuisine based upon the quinto quarto (fifth quarter). This was the left-over parts of the animals discarded by butchers, which were transformed by the working-class locals into some amazingly creative recipes. Previously referred to as cucina povera (poor kitchen), these dishes are now regarded as delicacies. The cuisine is still meat-heavy (pork in the form of guanciale is in almost every Roman pasta dish), but there are some incredible options for vegetarians, such as the fried artichokes found in the Jewish quarter.
Rome’s music scene is so much more than opera; the city’s nightlife is filled with exceptional DJs and live music acts. One musician changing Rome’s audio landscape is Marco Severa. Alongside childhood friend Giuseppe Scarano he created BikeStage Roma, a revolutionary project whose formula is a simple one: bicycle + music = traveling concerts. Scarano, also owner of Arts on Bike (a small bike logistics company) actually built a cargo-bike for stage use, driving Severa and other musicians around the city, connecting the arts with the urban canvas of Rome.
Severa sums up Romans’ complex but beautiful relationship with their city as such: “Rome is visited mainly for its ancient history and the incredible traces it has left, it is one of the most magnetic and aesthetically stunning cities in the world.” Though some may leave, he says, they always return. “The result is an underground scene of music, art, cuisine that is often underestimated, but it contains all the avant garde [scenes] that its inhabitants gather around the world and then pour onto the canvas of their city. Rome must be visited for this reason, because it is the perfect synthesis between the most distant things: modernity and antiquity, paganism and Christianity.”