You could lose a week in the Eternal City, doing nothing but staring at architecture and falling in love. But let’s say you’re somehow tired of wandering among gorgeous 2,000-year-old buildings and religious mega-structures, and fancy doing something a little different. If you don’t mind a bit of Roman roaming, here’s a list of quirky ways to spend your time.
1. Visit House of the Owls
Having celebrated its centenary only last year, House of the Owls is something of a baby in Rome. Nonetheless, it is perhaps one of the city’s most striking buildings – a strange, Swiss anomaly that looks as though it might have been transplanted from a cartoon. Named after the owl motifs that decorate it inside and out, it forms part of the wider Villa Torlonia complex.
2. Learn to make gelato
If you’re struggling to keep your little ones’ attention and energy levels up in ancient Rome, switch to a language they can understand: dessert. With classes aimed at kids and adults, Walks Inside Rome offers daily courses and the chance to finally discover the difference between gelato and ice cream.
SEE ALSO: 6 restaurants in Rome with superb views
3. Marvel at the Mosque of Rome
The fact that there is any kind of mosque in Rome may be a surprise to some visitors, but this isn’t just any place of worship – the Mosque of Rome is also one of the largest in the world, capable of welcoming more than 12,000 worshipers at a time. Completed in the mid-1990s, it’s the biggest mosque in the West and a clear illustration that Rome isn’t stuck in the past.
4. Meet furry friends at a cat cafe
Apparently intent on combining as many fads under one roof as possible, Romeow Cat Bistrot also boasts an entirely vegan menu. The resident felines at Rome’s first cat cafe are friendly enough that even non-cat-lovers will feel welcome, but the menu is not to be hissed at either: Vegan and raw versions of classic Italian dishes dominate.
5. Dine in the sky
If somehow you’re tired of the hundreds of excellent dining options on terra firma, you can always head skywards for a bite. Dinner in the Sky may not be unique to Rome (there are franchises in more than 40 countries), but few other cities offer such a dramatic, not to mention historic, skyline to admire while suspended from a crane.
SEE ALSO: How to avoid Rome’s tourist crowds
6. Contemplate life at the Purgatory Museum
There’s a lot of talk about divinity in Rome, but there’s also an entire museum dedicated to The Other Place. It may have an air of hocus-pocus about it, but the tiny Museo delle Anime del Purgatorio (Lungotevere Prati 12) at the back of Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio has a collection of items – bibles, prayer books and clothing – said to be singed by the hands of souls trapped in purgatory.
7. Admire the Pyramid of Cestius
As any amateur historian will be able to tell you, there was plenty of crossover between the ancient empires of Rome and Egypt. Perhaps the most striking representation of it in the Italian capital is Piramide Cestia (Pyramid of Cestius), which was built in 12BC at a time when the Romans took great pleasure in replicating the architectural oddities of their southern neighbours.
8. Seek out Roman street art
If you ever thought Rome’s architecture was too sacred to be modified, head to the neighbourhoods of Quadraro, Pigneto or Ostiense to see buildings awash with colourful street art. These incredible murals aren’t ugly graffiti, but genuine works of art, some stretching several stories from the ground.
– TEXT BY JAMIE LAFFERTY
PHOTOS: 123RF.COM, ROMEOW CAT BISTROT’S FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.