We all know the Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum and Vatican city, so let’s explore the lesser-known sites of Rome…
Human Bones at Capuchin Crypt
Don’t be scared, step inside Capuchin Crypt and into the world of the dead. It’s believed by many that life continues after death in one form or another and the Capuchin Friars who lived in Rome were no exception. These friars belonged to a Roman Catholic religious order of brothers and priests, inspired by the ideals of St. Francis. Such ideals place emphasis on living as simply as possible whilst possessing a passion for peace, honesty and charity. This all seems normal enough, so that’s why the existence of Capuchin Crypt – aka the Bone Cemetery – appears even more surprising and bizarre. What you can find beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini is a small space of six chamber like chapels containing nearly 4000 bodies and thousands upon thousands of bones belonging to the Capuchin Friars.
Address: Via Vittorio Veneto, 27. Opens: Friday – Wednesday 09:00 – 14:00 and 15:00 – 18:00
Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
Did you know that Rome is home to more than 300,000 cats, most of whom live outdoors? Over the last twenty years many of these strays have taken refuge in the Torre Argentina excavation site, being fed by local residents in the area. A cat shelter opened there in the early 1990s housing more than 400 cats, pampered daily by volunteers. If you love cats in all shapes and sizes, this is not to be missed. You can read more about my trip here.
Address: Largo di Torre Argentina. Opens: Daily, noon – 18:00.
Stumbling Stones in the The Jewish Ghetto (Stolpersteine)
During WWII, more than 2000 Jews were deported from Rome and sent to Auschwitz (more than 7000 Jews from all over Italy were deported to deaths camps in the Reich.) Only 102 of the Jews deported from Rome survived. Today, Rome’s Jewish community is thriving and due respect is now being paid to those who perished under the Nazi regime.
Beginning in Cologne in the mid 1990’s, German artist Gunter Demnig had the idea to commemorate victims of the Holocaust by placing stolpersteine (stumbling blocks or stepping stones) in front of the last place the victims lived. Each stone is a way of symbolically returning that person to their home. The project continues and today there are over 40,000 commemorative stepping stones across Europe.
Rent a Rickshaw in Villa Borghese
Looking for a fun activity to do with your friends, family or lover? Head up to the beautiful region of Villa Borghese where you can explore the grounds of this epically grandiose landscape on a rather less elegant rickshaw. It’s not very expensive to rent a rickshaw for an hour and offers a great way to burn some calories and have oodles of fun just trying to cycle the darn thing! Whilst you’re there, don’t forget to visit Galleria Borghese, one of the finest collections of classical art in Europe. You can’t by tickets on the day and must book in advance which you can do here.
Address for museum: Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5. Opens: Tuesday – Sunday 8:30 – 19:30.
See Artistic Juxtaposition at Centrale Montemartini
This interesting museum is a striking example of how contrasts can work together to make something rather quite exciting. Housed in one of Rome’s first power stations, the museum displays some of Rome’s huge collection of Greek and Roman statues, tombs, two large mosaic floors and artefacts set amongst the now defunct turbines and boilers and the halls that still smell of oil.
Address: Via Ostiense 106. Opens: Tuesday – Sunday 9:00 – 19:00.
Monster doorway, Palazzo Zuccari
Located near the Spanish Steps, make a brief trip to see this fabulous building noted for its door and window frames shaped into screaming mouths of Grotesque ogres. The owners, a pair of Renaissance painters and brothers, Taddeo and Frederico Zuccari, were inspired by the monster park in Bomarzo, not far from Rome. It is now the Biblioteca Hertziana Max Plank Institute for Art History, and although not open to the public is worth a detour just for its beautifully devilish facade.
Address: Via Gregoriana, 28.
Keats-Shelley Memorial House
Nestled by a corner at the foot of the Spanish Steps, the Keats-Shelley Memorial House is a place of tranquility just a minutes walk from the busy crowds typically gathered at Barcaccia fountain. The museum commemorates the Romantic poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and houses a plethora of beautiful first edition books and handwritten letters by Keats, Borges (who adored Keats), Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Oscar Wilde and more. This small museum is a beautiful homage to two of literature’s most treasured writers and is also the place where Keats sadly passed away and here you can find locks of hair, portraits and Keats’s death mask.
Address: Piazza di Spagna, 26 Opens: Monday – Saturday 10:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 18:00.
Roman Protestant Cemetery
To carry on the literary theme, I end this list with the Roman Protestant Cemetery, where Keats and Shelley are buried. It’s a haven of peace away from the commotion of the Roman streets. In case you go to look for Keats’ tomb, it’s important to note it doesn’t refer to him by name, instead look for the epitaph ‘Young English Poet’. And Shelley? Well he died at sea and upon his tomb lies a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest,
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change,
Into something rich and strange.
Address: Located halfway down Caio Cestio. Opens: Daily 9:00 – 17:00, Sundays 9:00 – 13:00.
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Source: The Culture Map