In this post, we’re going on a fun romp through some of Rome’s more obscure tourist sights.
If you’ve been to Rome before or if you’re simply the sort that enjoys the uncommon, these ideas could be the foundation for a unique day of touring in The Eternal City. If you’re more of an armchair tourist, you’re still in for a good time as we take a tour through “Unusual Rome”.
During Italy’s fascist era, Mussolini came up with the idea of creating a whole new quarter in Rome to host the 1942 World’s Fair (EUR stands for “Esposizione Universale Roma”). His vision, however, was derailed by World War II; the expo never took place, Mussolini had other problems to deal with, and the EUR master plan was abandoned.
In the 1950s and 60s, the city of Rome revived the ambitious urban project. Mussolin's vision of recreating the magnificence of Ancient Rome dressed in Fascist Ideology and Italian Rationalism was finally given shape. The architecture you see today in the EUR district is completely distinct from the classical edifices the historical centre of Rome.
A central feature in EUR is the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul with its giant hemispheral dome. The structure was originally planned as a mausoleum for Mussolini but repurposed as a church in the aftermath of the war. The basilica was dedicated to saints Peter and Paul shortly after it opened for worship in 1955.
The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
The site where Paul of Tarsus was buried after his execution marks the spot of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The church is one of the four Papal basilicas of Rome. Its story goes back to the 4th Century CE, when Constantine the Great commissioned the first basilica to commemorate the apostle.
The church as been expanded and remodeled numerous times over the centuries. Today, the basilica is known for its lovely 13th Century cloister where the unique marble columns line the courtyard in a variety of styles. The golden mosaics in the nave and the intricately decorated ceiling complete the picture.
The Aurelian Walls
Rome's Aurelian Walls are another mind-boggling example of Roman engineering and construction. The fortifications stretch for twelve miles around The Eternal City. Built in a mere four years between 271 and 275 CE, the walls were originally 26 feet high, only to be double in the 4th Century. By 500 CE, the wall was more of a massive defensive complex than a wall, boasting 383 towers, 7,020 crenellations, 18 main gates, 5 postern gates, 116 latrines, and 2,066 large external windows!
The Aurelian Walls were, amazing, in use until the late 19th Century. For this reason, they are amazingly well-preserved. The Museo delle Mura gives visitors an opportunity to learn about how they were constructed and how the defenses operated.
The Appian Way and the Catacombs
“Europe’s first superhighway and the wonder of its day” is how Rick Steve's describes the Appian Way. This Ancient Roman road, known for its dead-straight thoroughfares, traveled 400 miles to the port of Brindisi on the Adriatic. Walking on the same cobblestones that Romans marched on two thousand years ago is a pretty cool experience.
The first ten miles of the Appian Way now form part of a regional park in Rome. The catacombs of St. Callixtus and San Sebastiano are located here as well. You can tour the expansive underground labyrinth of tunnels and rooms where early Christians gathered in secret to practice their faith and bury their departed brethren during the period of persecution in the early days of Christianity.
As if those things weren't enough, further down the Appian Way is the Circus of Maxentius, an ancient race track similar to Circus Maximus, where the chariot races took place. This race track was part of a complex of structures built by Emperor Maxentius between 306 and 312 CE. The Tomb of Cecilia Metella, an impressive landmark and important funerary monument from Ancient Rome, sits in this area as well. The mausoleum was built for the Roman noblewoman whose name it bears, and dates back to the beginning of Imperial Rome.
Park of the Aqueducts
A park of aqueducts might seem like an odd combination, but Rome's Parco degli Acquedotti is a remarkable place. Aqueducts from both Roman and Papal ages decorate the landscape, which is a tranquil greenspace where Romans come to stretch their legs and hang out on the lawns. The most famous of the aqueducts in this public park is the Aqua Claudia. This marvel of Roman engineering is almost 2,000 years old but still cuts a very fine figure.
In ancient times, the Claudian Aqueduct ran 43 miles and brought 6,700,000 cubic feet of water into The Eternal City every day. When you walk in the shadow of the handsome arches, which are about 100 feet high at their tallest point, you'll understand why it the Aqua Claudia is regarded as one of the four great aqueducts of Rome.
The park, not far from the centre of Rome but far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, is a great place to stroll, go for a jog, or sit on the grass to have a picnic in a truly special setting.
Whether your touring plans are unusual or ordinary, DriverInRome would be pleased to accompany you! We can also help you with customized itineraries in Rome or anywhere else in Italy. Check out our airport transfer + 3 hours touring "Unusual Rome".