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Rome recs' for 2nd tier gems over NY??

Hi, I've browsed the Forum & Roman websites pretty widely looking for 2nd tier gems in Rome and would love to hear your favorite ideas! We will be there 6 nights between Christmas & NY. We prefer smaller sites, antiquities over Renaissance or Middle Ages, small trattorias over famous or Michelin star restaurants & quirky shopping areas over swank. Here's the main RS thread I've used -

We're fortunate to have been to Rome a week over NY in 2019, and I've been multiple times. We've booked Hotel Smeraldo, (thank you to all who've recommended it), close to Largo di Torre Argentina. We'd like to do one small museum each day, have a list of nearby restaurants to try or return to, & are likely to take the new Jewish Ghetto Eating Europe Walking tour.

Which of these are your fav smaller museums? Palazzo Altemps (nearby), Palazzo Massimo (mosaics look stunning), Palazzo Giulia (is this worthwhile beyond the amazing Etruscan sarcophagus?), and Centrale Monte Martini if we go back to Testaccio for lunch! Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini looks AMAZING with it's multimedia show, thanks to Forum thread above. We've been to Castel Sant'Angelo, might have to go back, it's our ideal type of monument, ancient with amazing views & fewer people early in the day. Has anyone walked through Teatro Marcello?

And we've been to Galleria Borghese, or it would be top of the list!

The one 'biggie' my hubby hasn't seen is the Forum, suggested not too long tours or walks there? BUT my feet can only take so much walking, 15K steps a day. I see a one-day 3 hour ticket, lots of sights of course inside but could use some more details on what everyone liked? Would probably just download RS walking guide?

We hope to do just one day-trip out of Rome to Tivoli - We'd get a taxi across Rome to Ponte Mammolo, catch the train from there. OR take a taxi one way or RT to Tivoli, but that's looking quite expensive? (No need to speak English, my Italian is adequate) And thank you to all you Rome aficionados!

Posted by
895 posts

I loved San Clemente church near the Colosseum, aside from beautiful mosaics there is the intriguing journey through time as you descend beneath the church to walk through the streets of Ancient Rome. Also really like Ostia Antica, the port city of Ancient Rome. Think of Pompeii without the overburden of volcanic ash and the tragedy of the eruption. The river silted up and the city was slowly abandoned. Easily reached by metro and train from Rome…se the RS Guidebook .

Posted by
2048 posts

Within walking dustance of the Smelda: Galleria Doria Pamphij, Villa Farnesee, Church of St.Louis the French

Posted by
701 posts

Think of Pompeii without the overburden of volcanic ash and the tragedy of the eruption. 

And minus the crowds!

@Leslie - We've added San Clemente & Ostia Antica to our list, thanks! I think we'd take a tour to Ostia Antica, this one looks great.

@Becky - Great to have walkable ideas, thanks! Have added Villa Farnesina & Church of St. Louis the French, forgot to mention we’ve been to a NYE concert at Doria Pamphili. (We visited Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere & Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola on our last trip.)

Posted by
3877 posts

How about a third tier gem? I took Latin in high school and college, so I have a bit of an affinity for the ancient world. One of the coolest things in Rome to me is the Aqueduct Park (Parco degli Acquedotti), a large park which has the remains of a couple of ancient aqueducts running through it. It will check the antiquity box, but perhaps not the "small" box. It is located southeast of the city center in a less touristy area, so gives a bit of the flavor of the city away from tourists. It's a bit of a walk from the nearest Metro Station -- can get a little closer by bus. The park is HUGE and has other cool ancient and medieval things to see, so do a little research to know the best entrance for what you want to see. I looked for tours and found a company that does private tours:

I haven't done the tour, but I'm traveling to Rome with a friend in March. I'm going to try to talk him into doing it! It's worth going to the park, though, just to walk around and see the aqueducts without a tour (which is what I did in 2015).

Posted by
1400 posts

Check out this thread if you haven't already:

The view of the Forum from the balcony of the Capitoline museum made more sense to me than actually walking through the Forum --- it's harder to understand all the jumble on the ground.

Highly recommend the Montemartini museum and Ostia Antica and the Etruscan museum.

Posted by
701 posts

@Dave, You're absolutely right, I had completely forgotten about Aqueduct Park (Parco degli Acquedotti). I've seen it driving in from a working class suburb but not stopped to walk around. I think a bike tour there might be nice, but probably not in late December. Just in case you decide to pedal instead of taking a walking tour, this looked great.

@NancyS8, Oh thank you for that thread, it's incredible & I had not seen it, YIKES we would need a month to see everything recommended there! You helped us prioritize the Etruscan Museum in Palazzo Giulia & Centrale Monte Martini.

Balcony of the Capitoline museum made more sense to me than actually walking through the Forum

Thank you for confirming what I had suspected! We will take a tour to Ostia Antica & save our feet by 'just' visiting the Capitoline museum & then going to look into the Forum from there. Is this the balcony you meant? "The roof of The Capitoline museum, right by the Roman Forum and Piazza Venezia, houses the “Coffee Capitol” opened every day from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm. Walk up the stairs to Campidoglio, take an immediate right at the top, walk under the arch and to your left you will see the entrance."

Posted by
49 posts

My mom and I did the Forum on our own using the Rick Steves app (free audiotour). It was terrific and took about an hour. She's 80 and could not walk a lot; I was a history teacher, yet it was still sufficient. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
106 posts

The new museum at Largo di Torre Argentina looks great, so that might make sense based on your preferences. I know, I'll be visiting it in two weeks when I'm staying at Hotel Smeraldo (my third stay there).

I agree with previous comments that staying in Sorrento is sufficient and a day does not need to be dedicated to this charming home base to explore it.

Posted by
701 posts

Thanks all! OK, will try to make it to the forum as well, a few hours....

@Toddw, Since you've stayed at Hotel Smeraldo a few times, any suggested places to eat nearby? We mostly used RomeWise on our last trip to find small trattorias, but also asked at front desk & literally stumbled into an amazing pizzeria while wandering. And thanks for heads up about the new Teatro Argentina museum, wonder if it's going to smell dreadfully of cats?! HA

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701 posts

@Nancys8, I had a look through the earlier thread & noticed this idea from you about seeing the swallows in winter - The swarming of the starlings in the evening as seen through the open ceilings of the Baths of Diocletian —- seriously, don’t miss that. I've found a few Youtube videos of the Roman Starling swarms, AMAZING! And we haven't been to that museum either...

Posted by
754 posts

Re Tivoli - Trenitalia offers a combined rail/bus ticket from Tiburtina to either of the two sites there.

If taking a train directly to Tivoli, Villa d'Este is closer to the train station but still a walk [there is a bridge that serves as a shortcut across the river]. Villa Adriana is a trek from the town center - there is a local bus.

So additional research is warranted if you plan to use public transportation, especially if your walking is limited.

Posted by
701 posts

Hey @markcw, thank you! This would be high on our list for a day-trip from Rome. At your suggestion I've looked closer at transport. Thinking we could take a take a taxi across Rome to Roma Tiburtina in the early morning to catch the train.

Sorry, I have one more question - Where to eat lunch in Tivoli?!

Just found these directions on the Forum - Getting to Tivoli by train - Trains depart approximately every hour (make sure you also look for trains headed to Avezzano: they’ll stop at Tivoli, too!) from the train hub at Roma Tiburtina, one short subway ride away from Roma Termini. Roma Termini itself offers a service to Tivoli, however this is limited to the early mornings, to accommodate a large number of commuters. Therefore, it is not recommended!