Someone said that to explore Rome a lifetime is not enough, and the more I explore the more I realize that probably nowhere in the world this thought can be more suitable than here. I always find it very fascinating to picture ancient times, people, customs right where I find myself walking in that particular moment, and when I took the tour to the ancient Appian Way and other Rome’s hidden gems and ancient wonders with Take Walks I was excited because the itinerary included places I hadn’t visited before.
Explore Rome Like a Local Tour: Full Review + Details
Places like the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps might be the unmissable stars of the show in Rome, but there are so many hidden spots that make the city even more fascinating and that in-the-know travelers don’t want to miss to have a broader view beyond the obvious. From the old Appian Way to ancient aqueducts, this Rome tour will take you to lesser-known areas as well as central neighborhoods like Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto.
What is this Rome tour called and who runs it?
The tour is called “Rome As a Local: Hidden Gems & Ancient Wonders” and is organized by Take Walks, a large tour company that runs different types of tours in many cities in Europe and also in the US. In Rome, they run also food tours, cooking classes, and several types of cultural experiences.
How long does this Rome tour last?
This Rome tour partially involves walking and partially driving with a private vehicle. It takes about 3.5 hours, even though much depends on the traffic and since the neighborhoods covered are not always close to each other, it can take longer. If you are only staying one day in Rome, you might want to join this tour in the morning, while if you are staying two or three days, I suggest you don’t take it on the last day.
What are the stops of this tour to Rome’s hidden gems?
Celebrating true Roman grandeur, the tour couldn’t have a better start than the Circus Maximus, the real deal when it came to leisure activities, merrymaking, and social events in imperial times. Today probably less eye-catching than the mighty Colosseum, Circus Maximus, 600 mt long and 140 mt wide, and with a capacity of 250,000 spectators, was the best place for shows and games. Today is a large field where people go jogging, walk their dog and relax, and where the main free concerts are held.
Our tour brought us then to the Aventine Hill, where we stopped at the headquarter of the Knights of Malta, the last remnants of the Knights Templars, those persecuted and pretty much eliminated by Philip the Fair who, apart from being suspicious of their increasing power, was also very much in debt with the influential and rich monks.
On this hill, there is also the lovely Garden of the Oranges, with a beautiful view of the Tiber river, and Santa Sabina basilica, an early Christian church definitely worth a visit. From outside the Templars’ mansion, a little gem awaits the curious tourist. Peeking through the keyhole, a gorgeous surprise will appear before your eyes, the Cupola of Saint Peter’s Basilica straight ahead.
After this pleasant surprise, we were off to the Queen of all Roads, the famous Appian Way, where we got to step right where our ancestors used to walk and drive their carts. Walking along the Appian Way, even though for 50 meters, is an experience everyone in Rome should have, to feel the atmosphere and the life of one of the most studied empires in history. Here you can also visit Cecilia Metella’s mausoleum, the burial chamber of a Roman noblewoman built with the majesty that an influential family was always supposed to brandish.
The next stop was the Park of Aqueducts, a huge archaeological site in Rome of paramount importance for the city and of which we can still see a good part. While the Colosseum has been listed among the wonders of the ancient world, and many other monuments and places in Rome attract a significant number of tourists daily, Claudius’ Aqueduct is actually to be considered more important than most sites in the Eternal City due to its very raison d’etre, which involved serving the people in their daily life, providing possibly the most essential goods of all, water. As Mike told us, even Roman poet Svetonio considered this construction more important than any other with more entertaining goals.
After a quick overlook of the gorgeous Caracalla Baths, only a short walk from the Circus Maximus and in my opinion not popular enough among foreign tourists, we headed to our last stop, the Janiculum Hill, right for noon, when Italian soldiers everyday fire a blank cannon shot from the top (do cover your ears!) in remembrance of a massacre carried out in 1848 by the Vatican (that was ruling Rome at that time) against a group of students, carbonari, who started an uprising, echoing what was going on in all of Europe and laying the foundations for the imminent Italian unification (and end of the Vatican kingdom).
What were my favorite stops in this tour?
Being passionate about all things history, I knew I was going to enjoy the tour, and to my pleasure, not only did I visit places I hadn’t been before, but I also gathered new ideas for further research, which is mainly the reason why I take most tours.
One of my favorite things about digging deep into a country’s past is, in fact, the chance to challenge common beliefs often stemmed from biased accounts. This, one of the bits I learned during the tour, is the case of the infamous Roman emperor Nero. Mike mentioned briefly that Nero certainly was a bizarre character, but often the victim of unjust attacks, and the good he had done to the people has never been reported by his peers. This happened especially because writers at that time usually worked for and were funded by the Senate, which was against Nero for his policies aimed at giving more rights to the people compromising patricians’ privileges.
While this was a passing mention, it was more than enough to spark my curiosity, so I went to delve into the emperor’s life, deeds, and achievements to find that, believe it or not, he was loved by the citizens more than by the noble class, that clearly had the means to leave to posterity their version of facts.
My tips to enjoy this Rome tour
- Wear comfortable shoes. This is an absolute must since you are going to walk quite a lot also in the Park of Aqueducts and along the Appian Way, where you can also find non-asphalted parts.
- Take a bottle of water. While Rome has plenty of fountains pouring water for everyone, in some of the areas covered in this tour you might not find one. Have your bottle that eventually you can even refill when finished.
- Ask questions. Don’t hesitate to ask questions as probably you won’t be back here on your own. It’s a very fascinating area with a long history so just ask away whatever comes to your mind.