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Five Things to do in Rome the Tourist Book Left Out
Ok, everybody knows about the Colliseum, the Forum and St. Peter's Basilica. But if you really want to experience what Rome is all about, try these five things on your next vacation:
1. Bike the via Appia
The world's first highway, the Appian Way, or via Appia, was built during the Roman Empire to connect Rome with the Brundisium, in the south of Italy. When the rebellion of Spartacus was put down by the consul Crassus, he lined this famous road for miles with crucified slaves who were defeated, warning anybody who came to Rome what happens when you dissent. It became common for wealthy families to make their mark on the Appian Way by constructing alters and graves along the sides. The road finishes with the Gate of St. Sebastian, a massive entrance to the city build in the Aurelian Walls. Today, it is possible to bike along the via Appia (although you probably don't want to go all the way to Naples). Bike rentals are cheap, and with this you can enter the city as the Romans did 2,000 years ago (stopping for a delicious pannino along the way of course).
2. Get a coffee at Sant'Eustachio.
Located in the heart of the city, Sant'Eustachio is recognized by Americans and Italians alike as the best coffee in Italy. You can choose from (among other things) the basic cafè, an espresso, or the gran cafè speciale, which is a bit bigger and includes whipped cream and cocoa (as they say, when in Rome).
3. Climb the Janiculum
The Janiculum, or Gianicolo, is one of the seven hills that Rome was founded on. Just a step outside the historic center, climbing the Janiculum provides undoubtedly the best view of Rome. Featuring a giant monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi and a very tranquil, scenic path on the top, the hill is a great place to go after a long day of sightseeing, relax and watch the sun set over the city. You can reach the top easily by bus, or you can hike it yourselves (very doable, it is not giant). Right next to the lively Trastevere neighborhood, a cold birra is always in reach.
If you must...
4. Eat Pasta alla Griccia
Italian food is not just spaghetti and meatballs. In fact, that stereotype is completely false, as the only restaurants in which you will find meatballs in Rome (if it is even possible) are those built for tourists. But there is no myth to the excellence of Italian food, and Rome specifically has several specialties. The best of these, in my humble opinion, is pasta alla griccia. It is usually served with fettucini or rigatoni and has a cheesy sauce made with pecorino romano cheese, which is specific to the Lazio region of Italy, where Rome is located. It is a tad spicy for Italian cooking, but nothing overpowering, and also has pancetta, the italian version of bacon (don't be scared, they cook it completely differently than in America), which is common in Roman pasta dishes. Other Roman dishes to try are pasta alla carbonara (the most famous Roman pasta dish) and pasta all'amatriciana (delicious as well). You can find these dishes is most restaurants, although I might suggest going to the Trastevere or San Giovanni neighborhoods, as they are a bit more authentic, yet always beautiful.
5. Get an Aperitivo
In Italy, it is common to go out for an aperitivo, which is basically a buffet-style dinner that comes with a drink. These are found in certain pubs and restaurants, usually between certain hours (6 to 9 pm, for example). The beauty of it all is that it costs the same as a normal drink costs at a pub, so you basically get the buffet for free. All you do is ask for the aperitivo when you order, order a drink, and then have free range on the food. Depending on where you go, the food array and quality can be high or low, but it usually features some combination of pizza, sandwich bites, pasta, rice, etc. I personally recommend Friends, which has a location in the center (close to Sant'Eustachio) and also in Trastevere. If you want to get adventurous and go outside the center, there is Doppio Zero, which is by the Piramide metro stop, which is also great.
I hope everybody has a chance to experience Rome at least one time in their lives, it is truly an incredible place. Hopefully this has been informative for those who are either already here or are planning on making the trip!