10 Offbeat Things to do in Rome

Guest article by Julia Marshall

(Image: Stefan Bauer, cc-sa-3.0)

Rome is a fantastic place to visit, but if classical buildings, spectacular art and eclectic architecture do not float your boat, perhaps offbeat Rome will. The city is full of unusual sights and things to do, as well as see. Here we take a quick look at a few of them.

We begin in the city’s Crypts, Catacombs and underground places, but do emerge into the light and sample some of the Rome’s other quirky places to see.

The Purgatory Museum

(Images: Anthony, Majanlahti, cc-3.0; Walters Art Museum Illustrated Manuscripts (website), cc-nc-sa-3.0; art_traveller, cc-sa-2.0 UK )

Rome is, as you would expect, a very religious place. It’s home to the Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory at Chiesa del Sacro Cuore in Prati, Lungotevere Prati, which is a small church. The museum is home to artifacts that are said to prove the existence of purgatory. People stuck between heaven and hell are said to have left their mark on the items on display. The books with fingerprints and handprints burned into them are amongst the strangest and most striking of these.

The Capuchin Crypt

(Images: Johnny Soderberg (website); Darren and Brad; cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Following the religious theme, a visit to the Capuchin Crypt is a must. The bones of over 4,000 Capuchin friars are laid to rest here, but not in a way you would expect. Their bones have been broken down and assembled into huge sculptures, or incorporated into the fabric of the building. There are five rooms containing different bones built up into a different tableau. The Skull Crypt and the Crypt of the Three Skeletons send shivers down the spine. The Marquis de Sade said, in 1775, that a trip to the Crypt was ‘worth the effort’. It is not for everyone, but many people are intrigued by it. (Explore more ossuaries on Urban Ghosts.)

The Catacombs of Rome

(Images: boris doesborg, cc-nc-sa-3.0; Malleson, Hope & Tuker, roko_baroko, cc-3.0; public domain; unknown author, public domain)

Sticking with the death theme Rome is home to over 40 underground burial chambers known collectively as the Rome Catacombs. The biggest and the best preserved are the The Domitilla Catacombs. It is also home to an interesting fresco and the only catacomb that actually contains bones. The majority of the older catacombs were used for pagan burials, and later for Christian burials. However, there are also six Jewish catacombs. The Vigna Randanini and Villa Torlonia are the only two that are open to the public.

The Ghosts of Rome

(Images: Joris van Rooden, cc-sa-3.0; Guido Reni (inset), public domain)

Ghost tours are very popular in Rome. Some ghosts only appear at certain times of the year, so you have to time your visit if you actually want to see them! The most famous ghost, Beatrice Cenci, a noble woman who appears with her head under her arm, wanders the castle walls only on the 10th or 11th of November. Other ghosts are not so shy. Two 19th century revolutionaries wander the Muro Torto regularly with their heads under their arms. They are said to give out winning lottery numbers to those who show no fear.

The Criminal Museum

(Image: Google Street View)

Next, above ground, but still on the dark side is The Crime Museum at Via del Gonfalone, 29. It gives a comprehensive overview of crime in the city over the centuries. It’s interesting, and once again the macabre attracts the most visitors. Wax models are displayed to demonstrate how various instruments of torture were used. There are murder weapons and crime scene photos too.

The Pasta Museum

(Image: Fugzu, cc-3.0)

Fortunately there’s a lighter side to offbeat Rome and a visit to the Pasta Museum is one of them. The museum covers everything from the history of pasta to production methods. It’s a quirky place that provides distraction for an hour or two.

The Roman House Under Santa Cecilia

(Image: Giuseppe Moscato (website: giuseppemoscato.com), cc-nc-sa-3.0)

The Santa Cecilia in Trastavere is a beautiful church with a lot to see. Chances are you will have seen something similar elsewhere in Rome. But you will not have seen anything like the Roman house that was excavated under the church.

A Segway Tour of Rome

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If you can handle a Segway you can tour the streets of Rome on one. There is a 30-minute training session for complete beginners, and there are several different tours to take. Most start from Via Ostilia 29.

Train To Be a Gladiator

(Images: Jean-Léon Gérôme, public domain; Notafly, cc-sa-3.0)

If you fancy training as a gladiator, Rome is the obvious place to do so. Members of the Historic Group of Rome offer a two-hour lesson and there is even a free drink included. Afterwards those who still have the energy can tour the Gladiator School of Rome Museum, for free.

The Pyramid of Cestius

(Image: Francesco Gasparetti, cc-3.0)

Who knew, a pyramid in Rome! It is a real pyramid, but on a much smaller scale than those of Egypt. Well worth a visit, it is located near the Porta San Paolo and the Protestant Cemetery.

Also Worth Doing

There are lots of other slightly quirky things to do and see in Rome including a visit to the Piazza Vittorio ethnic produce market or a walk along the actual walls of the city. Looking at the false dome of Rome’s Church of St. Ignazio will also amaze and confuse. If you can, spend a night in the Franklin Feel The Sound hotel. It is designed primarily for music lovers with rooms kitted out with the latest audiovisual technology and a huge selection of music to listen to.

City breaks in Rome are always great fun regardless of what you decide to do and see. It is a warm and welcoming city filled with energetic and interesting people. The food is good and the standard of accommodation is high.

Author Bio – Julia Marshall is a freelance writer who writes about many subjects including travel, technology and marketing.

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Around the web

  • http://twitter.com/PennySadler Penny Sadler

    I went to the Capucin Crypt on my very first visit to Rome. I didn’t think it was creepy at all, just very curious. The people were so small!

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