In this offbeat Rome Italy travel guide, we’re going to go full weirdo with some unusual Rome attractions.
I bet we can all agree that Rome is one of the coolest cities in all of Europe. I mean, Ferris Bueler level awesome since this iconic city is home to such top Rome attractions as the Coliseum, the Vatican, Palatine Hill, the Forum (we call these anti-unusual Rome attractions)…
But here’s the kicker, as amazing as these best Rome sites are, we’ve heard about them all before. Yawn, snooze, is the latest episode of Real Housewives on tonight?
I get it. Sure, we’ve all heard about the beauty of the Trevi Fountain and have marveled at how many people you can actually squish onto ancient Rome attractions like the Spanish Steps. But these sites are old news and not exactly romantic hidden gems in Rome.
So you might be wondering: Is there more?
YES, a thousand times yes! I promise, there are a ton of unusual things to do in Rome that you can check out if you are looking for a more offbeat Rome Italy travel guide. These cultural treasures are just hard to find amidst a sea of first timer guides to Rome.
So what does that mean to you?
Well, you will be tickled pink to know that there will be no mention of the Trevi Fountain in this post, okay besides that one. Instead, I am going to introduce you to some pretty weird and possibly macabre Rome attractions that you haven’t heard of (Unless you’re like a jeopardy champion).
Yes, my friends, there is more than one way to skin a cat (You can even try cycling outside of Rome. A unique and fun activity for anyone more physically inclined who is raring to go after spending one day in Milan).
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Unusual Rome Attractions
Now, you might be wondering, what is the big deal about a cat cafe and is that really one of the unusual things to do in Rome? I mean, people eat at home with their cats every day.
Well, I am not one of those people. Sadly (sob), I do not have a kitty to call my own. So to get the kitty lovin’ that I needed, I headed straight for the Vegan Cat Cafe in Rome.
Because seriously, cats + food = Girl with the Passport heaven (during my twenty-four hours in Milan, I also had some great cafes but I didn’t see any cafes of the kitty persuasion).
But wait: Is it any good? Let me put it to you this way. I felt like I died and went to heaven.
Almost like my wannabe hipster and giddy school girl self-fused together and exploded in a rainbow filled with giant giggles of delight. In case you missed it, that means I really liked the Romeow Cat Bistrot.
Okay, What’s the downside? While I did get to pet six divinely cute little kitties and yes, the food was delicious, I did feel that the plates were a bit small and pricey at about €13 a piece.
I just rolled with it though since you are paying for the novelty of a cat cafe.
That’s why I kind of expected the high prices. But you can’t go that wrong with soba noodles, a bean burger, and specialty cappuccinos to top it all off (if this is all a bit too rich for your blood then check out this free walking of Rome for foodies). Hold me and never let me go.
***If you’re on a budget, just order a drink while you’re there and then go eat somewhere else. But when you sit down, you do have to order something for each person.
But no worries because I devour food, so I can totally eat yours and mine. Just Remember That:
Romeow Cat Bistrot doesn’t start serving food until after 8:00 pm (eating dinner too early is a classic Italy travel mistake). Plus, not surprisingly, I’m not the only one who loves cats and food, so this place is pretty popular. Therefore, I would make a reservation at least a week in advance.
But here’s the kicker (womp, womp, womp), it’s also kind of far from the center of Rome, so I suggest you just take a taxi there and call it a day. Because let’s be real, when it comes to eating and petting kitties, money is no object to me. Okay well, sort of since I’m not rollin’ like a big shot yet.
Hours: Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 am to 11:30 pm (again, kitchen opens after 8:00 pm)
Address: Via Francesco Negri, 15, Rome, Italy, 00154
Bring forth the grumpy!
Haven’t had enough kitty cuteness yet? If you answered yes then be sure to check out the Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary, where hundreds of cats now reside in the ruins where Ceasar was, ya know, flown to never-never land, becoming extinct, at the end of his rope, etc.
But since Caesar hasn’t been on the Portico of Pompeii since 44 BCE, the feral cats made themselves at home. Today, volunteers come to take care of the cats while tourists come to “Eww” and “Ahh” at the insane cuteness of these fine felines.
***The entrance is located at Largo di Torre Argentina or at the corner of Via Florida and Via di Torre Argentina. And added bonus, it’s one of the many free Rome attractions).
2. The Owl House
I love Rome but man is it packed with tourists like me. Can’t they just all leave while I’m there?
Well, the good news is you can escape tourist mania by heading to the Owl House, a uniquely exquisite piece of architecture that is largely devoid of people (the heavens open up and angels sing) and set within the Villa Torlonia’s park, a gift to Mussolini from the Torlonia family.
This is crazy though. To find this magical wonderland of Architecture, all you have to do is walk along via XX Settembre, past the British Embassy, through the Porta Pia, and along via Nomentana.
You’ll know you’re there when you see a huge brick wall on your right that surrounds a park, with Villa Torlonia at the center of the main entrance. Things just got real at Hogwarts.
Now this small museum is totally worth a visit, but the real highlight here is the Owl House. However, to purchase your tickets to the Owl House, you’ll need to buy them at the ticket office in Villa Torlonia.
The Worst Part? There are no signs and it’s totally counterintuitive but no one wants to walk all the way to the owl house (go left of the villa and continue towards the back of the park. You won’t miss it with its distinctive architecture) just to go back to the main entrance to purchase tickets.
Actually, the more walking you do the more gelato you can justify eating but that’s all up to you. The best part is no way will you miss the owl house because it is one of the oddest buildings I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Think Gaudi only with the weirdness volume turned down a bit. Sorry, but Gaudi is the king of weird ass architecture that we all love.
Watch out for the rather stern looking man at the door will validate your ticket and the rest is up to you. Just make sure you have your camera ready because the unique design elements and vibrant, stained glass windows are the stuff that Instagram dreams are made of.
Sadly though that’s where I’m gonna leave it. This was one of my favorite sites in Rome because it was so damn innovative, and I’ve seen my fair share of awesome edifices.
So rather than bore you with the nitty-gritty details, or ruin the surprise, I’m just gonna stop here and encourage you to visit this architectural treasure for yourself.
***If you have time, the gardens themselves are also worth a visit with charming walking paths, scenic ponds to admire with exotic delicately hanging over the edge of the water, and other distinctive buildings that include granite obelisks, statues, temples., and so much more.
My only complaint is that I was strapped for time and couldn’t appreciate it all.
3. Roman Catacombs (One of the Great Outside Rome Attractions)
⭐️ Rating: 4.6/5 (2,582 Reviews) Price: $64.72 per person Duration: 3.5 hour 📍Meeting Point: Meet your guide in the centre of Piazza Barberini Details: Read more on Get Your Guide Now!
I was sharing the details of my trip to Rome with my dad and I must have said something like, “Dad, I even saw the catacombs in Rome. I didn’t even know they had any. I only knew about the Catacombs in Paris, France.” To which he replied, “Oh really? Doesn’t everyone know about the catacombs in Rome?”
Now this clearly means that I live under a social media rock that shields me from anything and everything mildly intellectual (Bring forth the Family Guy memes). I had no idea Rome had Catacombs, but clearly, they do because I saw them and they were and are insanely impressive.
“Vanessa is a superb guide – she’s an excellent story-teller, connects amazingly well with her group and has the most positive attitude ever! She gave the backstory to the Roman crypts and catacombs in an enjoyable, engaging manner while taking the time to answer individual questions along the way. Couldn’t recommend a better tour guide than Vanessa!”Mark (read more reviews now!)
It gets better. They don’t really have the ick factor of the ones in Paris since all the bones have been taken from the graves, but these relics of Roman history are probably the coolest historic artifacts that I have ever seen in my life; and that’s saying a lot since I have a degree in history and frequent museums like it’s my job.
Oh wait! It sort of is. Hopefully, you guys will love me lots so I can turn this into my full-time job (woot).
There’s more, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus are the catacombs that I visited and they are located just outside the city walls. Originally founded in the second century, these underground tunnels served as a burial ground for Christians living in a mostly pagan Rome (can you say persecution much).
But wait, this labyrinth doesn’t just house dust that is garnished with a flourish of musty air. Hidden amongst these tunnels are various statues, tombs of saints, and mosaics that allude to the rich cultural history of this beautiful city, minus all the executions over varying religious beliefs.
Trying not to hate on the catacombs of France because they are super creepy with those skulls laying around, but I found this site to be an enlightening journey into Rome’s history. That’s why I give this site two enthusiastic thumbs up and enjoyed it as one of the best ghost tours in Rome.
Address: Via Appia Antica, 110/126, 00179 Roma RM, Italy
Hours: Open every day, except Wednesday, from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
Tickets: Full price admission is € 8 and reduced admission is € 5.
This is crazy, if you’re looking for more “secret things Rome” then be sure to stop by The Basilica of St Clement. This iconic church allows you to wind down a spiral staircase and back in time as you find some of the earliest traces of Roman art in the basement.
Once you’re done exploring these relics of Roman history, you can ascend to the ground level of the church and find prayer rooms and altars that date from more modern times.
***If the macabre history of Rome fascinates you, then I highly recommend the Rome Crypts and Catacombs Tickets and Tours. A fun, easy and incredibly informative way to see this amazing sight.
4. Rome Ghost Tours (Who ya Gonna Call? Ghost Busters!)
⭐️ Rating: 4.4/5 (114 Reviews) Price: $27.42 per person Duration: 1.5 hours 📍Meeting Point: Meet on the steps of the San Andrea della Valle Church Details: Read more on Get Your Guide Now!
Look, I know it may seem like I have an unhealthy obsession with the dead (one of the reasons why I loved Pompeii so much), but I swear I don’t. I haven’t even seen an episode of the Walking Dead.
I was just one of those kids that loved to be creeped out by Goosebumps books, Are You Afraid of the Dark and my personal favorite, Unsolved Mysteries (only the Robert Stack episodes will do). That’s why when I saw a ghost tour in Rome, I went for it.
Now the one I booked was through Dark Rome Tours and it seemed like one of the fun things to do In Rome at night. Plus, tickets cost a mere thirty dollars; yes, this is super cheap for an Italy tour since most cost upwards of $70 (yikes).
The tour lasted about an hour and a half and as you meandered through the quaint streets of Rome and listened to ghastly tales about the darker side of Rome that no one at the Vatican will talk about. Sounds like something I would do.
On the down side, the tour meets at S. Andrea della Valle Church and they give you directions that totally confused me. Actually, come to think of it my taxi driver didn’t even know where this church was. Therefore, give yourself plenty of time to get there and get lost.
“Elisabetta was an absolute joy and overall lovely guide. Her English was great and she spoke clearly and loud for all of us to hear. She was patient with the pace of everyone and knew tons of stories about the city. The walk was a nice small winding trail through beautiful streets, alleys, and squares. Would 100% recommend to anyone looking for a fun little unique tour through Rome.”Morgan (read more reviews now!)
Also arrive fifteen minutes before the tour starts (either 8:00 pm or 9:15 pm every day) because yes, they will leave you behind and no, you probably won’t get your money back.
My verdict was this the best ghost tour I’ve ever been on? No. Was I scared poopless? No. Did I have a good time? Yes. So I would definitely recommend this tour.
Not only is it a fun way to learn about a side of Roman history that is not often found in textbooks, but the guides are super helpful, super informative, and super enthusiastic.
My guide was a loud New Yorker like me so we bonded and I may be a tad biased in his favor. But I do think this is one of the best Rome night tours around.
Bonus: The tour guides are also locals that are insanely knowledgeable about Rome and where to go. Therefore, be sure to ask them where to eat and what to see so that you can avoid some of the most common Italy travel mistakes.
I mean, my guide told me to eat at Pizzarella (Near Castel Santangelo and the Tiber River) and this pizza nearly changed my life. So go now and stuff your face with carbs, glorious carbs; and that’s high praise coming from a New York, pizza snob like me.
***I didn’t have a problem booking my tour the week before but be aware that tours may sell out during the summer when tourists descend on Rome like a plague of locusts.
5. Capuchin Crypt Rome (One of the Epic Creepy Things in Rome)
⭐️ Rating: 4.7/5 (860 Reviews) Price: $41.96 per person Duration: 45min – 1hr 📍Meeting Point: Meet in front of the church. Details: Read more on Get Your Guide Now!
You’ve seen one crypt you’ve seen them all right? Wrong! I guarantee that this Crypt in Rome is unlike anything that you have ever seen in your life! Unless you are into some pretty dark voodoo magic.
But this place is crazy. Each chapel is located under the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini and is adorned with the bones and mummified remains of brothers from the Capuchin order of monks, hence the name of the place (these bones are literally everywhere you look.)
But it gets better! Rooms are actually named for the bone that is most predominantly found in that chapel. Therefore, you’ll find a femur room, a cranium room, a pelvis room and other bone-related rooms but I’m terrible with anatomy.
One chapel is entirely devoid of bones (bone free, the way to be) but the rest are absolutely choker box full of them.
Totally disgusting? On the surface, these decorations may appear to be rather macabre and disturbing to visitors, but the message conveyed by these decorations is rather uplifting.
See, many of these men were considered saints. Therefore, their bones were considered relics and were decorated in this manner to show people how short life is and to inspire them to make the most of the time they have (totally inspiring and one of the many fun activities in Rome).
FYI, you’re not supposed to take pics in the Capuchin Crypts and I followed the rules because I want to be a mildly good example to you.
But wait, there’s more. The bones of nearly 4,000 individuals were also used to remind citizens that there was a beautiful, eternal life in heaven that was awaiting them after there time on earth.
So while the idea of used people’s skeletons to create inspirational art is indeed a bit strange and kinda awkward (Break a leg. Haha. Sorry I had to get a bad pun in there), the message behind the art is beautiful and inspires us to live in the now and make the most of the time we have (by traveling of course).
Now to get there, take metro line A to the Berberini (Trevi di Fountain) station and walk along via Veneto until you see the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.
Once inside, you will see that the church has a created a museum that explains not only who the Capuchins were (no they weren’t monkeys) and how the order developed. The gist of the story is that the other monks got corrupt so they created a new, more devout order.
Once through the Museum, you will then walk along a long corridor and peer into the crypts which will be on your right. Where’s a selfie stick when you need one?
“Our guide, Eva, was amazing so knowledgeable, I could not imagine doing that tour without a guide. The friars that put these beautiful crypts together were truly artists and commemorated their deceased brothers in a beautiful way. Would highly recommend this tour”Susan (read more reviews now!)
You might be wondering should I book a Catacombs and Crypts tour? Yes, a thousand times yes! A site like this needs explanation. Otherwise, you’re just going to be sitting there, thinking that these monks had some weird fetish for the grotesque (English tours are about €80.
They’ll get you into the museum and crypts, as well as transport you to several other historical sites. (Expensive but worth it). Okay, there are signs and you read this post so obviously, you won’t think that but you know I mean.
Wanna go? If you are even mildly intrigued by this info then I would go. Tickets are only €8.50 for adults and €5 for kids under eighteen or adults over 65.
And no, this museum is not included in the Rome Roma Pass, because of course now every city has some kind of pass.
***WARNING: Do not dress like a trollop. This is a church so if you wear revealing/skimpy clothing then you will not be allowed in.
6. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
Innocent X, a member of the family, served as pope in the 1600s, when the large private family residence Palazzo Doria Pamphilj was built.
The beautiful rooms’ ceilings are frescoed, and they are covered with murals just how they were then.
The collection has a Bernini statue of Pope Innocent as well as works by famous painters including Caravaggio, Caracci, and Velaquez. Comparable to the grandiose Gallery of Mirrors at Versailles.
The museum isn’t frequently crowded, and the admission includes a great audio guide.
In spaces like the ballroom, where the Pamphilj family’s guests would have danced to comparable music hundreds of years ago, it was thrilling to witness an outstanding soprano and Baroque guitarist perform.
Address, time and Price? The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is located at 305 Via del Corso. The price of admission with audio guide is €14. It is open Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 7 pm and Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm (last entrance is 90 minutes before closing).
Currently, reservations made in advance for particular periods are necessary. Another option is a private tour. Tour here today and let me know if you like it too.
⭐️ Rating: 4.5/5 (48 Reviews) Price: $32.91 per person Duration: 2 hours 📍Meeting Point: The Touristation Office is next to Piazza Venezia Details: Read more on Get Your Guide Now!
Yeah. I get it. The name is super long when you try to say it aloud and it is also so hard to pronounce. I thought the same and had to keep checking my notes to see if I got it right. Trust me! This happened to me a lot because there are so many places and historical buildings.
What makes Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini different is the fact that it uses technology to make the visit immersive. The way that you visit the ruins is by walking on top of a glass floor. This is set above the ruins. This way you can see the ruins up close without wandering through them. It helps protect the structure.
“The best virtual tour we’ve taken. Far exceeded our expectations. The ruins come to life with the expert presentation overlaid on the walls around you.”Linda (read more reviews now!)
Now the tour will also use music, lights, audio and visuals that bring the ruins to life. You get to see what the structures looked like. In this way, you get to see the then and now simultaneously which is pretty cool.
Now the experience is even better thanks to the virtual experience that you get while using one of the VR headsets. This is done at the ancient Roman Domus.
My recommendation is to book your tickets in advance so that you have a spot booked out for you! This is because during the peak season it
Address: Foro Traiano, 85, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Hours: Wed – Mon: 10am – 7pm
⭐️ Rating: 4/5 (539 Reviews) Price: $23.58 per person Duration: Valid for 1 day 📍Meeting Point: Bath of Caracalla ticket office Details: Read more on Get Your Guide Now!
The Baths of Caracalla were built during the reign of Emperor Caracalla, known for his love of lavish architecture. These baths were not just a place for bathing but also offered libraries, gardens, and even gymnasiums for exercise.
The sheer scale and architectural brilliance of the Baths of Caracalla were a testament to the power and opulence of ancient Rome. An interesting point to note is that these were the second largest baths in the city.
Today, the Baths of Caracalla are not just a historical site but also a cultural hub. They host a variety of events, including concerts, ballet performances, and exhibitions. Imagine enjoying a magical opera performance under the starlit Roman sky, surrounded by the echoes of ancient history. Sounds pretty amazing right?
One of the other attractions here is the VR experience that is set up. This obviously costs extra but it is so worth it because you will feel as if you are walking through the Baths of Caracalla in real time. It is a pretty mind boggling experience if I do say so myself.
Pro Tip: Entrance is free on the first Sunday of every month!
Address: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy
Hours: The hours depend on the season you are visiting.
Unusual Rome Attractions FAQ
What to do in Rome if you don’t like history?
Rome is known for its rich history, but if historical sites aren’t your cup of tea, don’t worry! The Eternal City has plenty of unique attractions that will pique your interest. Here are some offbeat places to visit:
The Monster Park (Garden of Bomarzo): This extraordinary garden is filled with bizarre and whimsical sculptures, including giant monsters, mythical creatures, and surreal architecture. It’s a perfect blend of art, nature, and fantasy. It is perfect if you are in Rome with kids and they are super bored with all the numerous historical sights
Coppedè District: Coppedè is an enchanting neighborhood known for its unique architecture. The buildings feature intricate designs, whimsical details, and a mix of artistic styles, creating a magical atmosphere. It’s like stepping into a book.
Centrale Montemartini: This museum is an unexpected fusion of ancient art and industrial machinery. Classical sculptures are displayed alongside colossal engines, creating a unique juxtaposition of old and new.
The reason why it is so interesting is because you will find that the old and the new merges together. So if you’ve found yourself with fatigue after visiting ruin after ruin, this will be a total refresher.
What are the prettiest parts of Rome?
Ah, the Eternal City! Rome is brimming with picturesque spots that will make your heart skip a beat. Answering this question is tough because everywhere I turned, I saw some amazing places. Like almost every turn had a view that was Instagram gold!
Some of the prettiest areas include the charming Trastevere neighborhood with its narrow cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, the vibrant Piazza Navona with its stunning fountains, and the breathtaking views from the top of the Spanish Steps.
But some of the best wineries near Rome are pretty lovely too. Also, don’t forget to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain for good luck.
Can you walk around Rome at night?
Absolutely! Rome is enchanting at night. You will find that the city has beautifully lit landmarks and lively atmosphere. While it’s generally safe to walk around popular areas like Trastevere, the historic center, and the Spanish Steps, it’s always a good idea to use common sense and stick to well-lit and populated areas.
You have to realize that Rome is one of the pickpocket capitals in the world so make sure to keep your bags close by. To be honest, this is something you should do in the day too!
As with any city, it’s wise to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
This is the Post That Finally Ends
Tap dancing because this post is FINALLY over? Well, you’ll have to wait for about ten more sentences because I have to add one place to all the secret things Rome that I have told you about Rome.
Now this is a bonus round of awesome for all my peeps who kept reading to the bitter end. Why? I promise you’ll be rewarded handsomely for sticking around.
It’s simple. All you have to do is head to the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta on the Aventine Hill. Once there, you will find a large door. Look through the keyhole and you will get a beautiful shot.
And if you don’t know where to go, just look for growing line of people because this place isn’t THAT secret. Oh, and you’re welcome in advance because this is one of my fave Rome secret places, or not so secret as the case may be.