Offbeat Rome: Alternative activities in Italy’s capital

by Ellen Curham

RomaRome is one of those cities that has so many historical places of note that it draws tourists to almost every single corner. Most interesting places in the city will have at least a few visitors but it is possible to avoid the majority of them at offbeat attractions and activities. After all, Rome is Italy’s capital city, and with a population of 2.9 million, those locals have to go somewhere!

Check out some of HostelBooker’s favourite Roman haunts that are a little unusual and off the beaten track.

Gladiator training

Some new GladiatorsOf course you will have to see the Coliseum when you go to Rome, to see where the gladiators used to fight. However, did you also know that you could also become a gladiator? One of the more fun and novel things that you can do in Rome is attend Gladiator School.

At Gladiator School you will receive a lesson that incorporates traditional gladiator fighting techniques and costumes. There are a number of different institutions that offer these classes that will last around half a day and cost around €50 to €70. It’s a memorable splurge and history buffs will find this an amusing way to feel immersed in the era. It’s also an entertaining afternoon for kids.

Alternative art

MACROWhen you think of the art that’s on display in Rome, it’s mainly the Michelangelos, the Raphaels and the Boticellis that spring to mind. This is a city where history is one of its most important elements. Yet that’s not to say that there isn’t an impressive collection of more recent artworks here.

There are a number of contemporary art museums in Rome that are as equally impressive as their older counterparts. For example, the Roman Museum of Contemporary Art has works by famed collagist Mario Schifano while the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art features works by Klimt and Monet. If you’re looking for something cultural to do without the history lesson then a trip to either of these is a few hours well spent.

Cook up a storm

CannoliOf course, one of the most exciting things about going to Italy is the food. The pasta, pizza and more are some of the things that the country is most famous for. Aside from checking out as many restaurants as possible, an enjoyable and a little offbeat activity to partake in is a cooking class.

There are different levels of cooking classes you can take once you head to Rome, from enrolling in a school for a semester with professional chefs to a one-off morning learning how to make pasta from scratch. Doing this with a group of friends can be particularly fun and highly recommended classes include Cooking with Nonna where you will cook with a local grandma or Les Chefs Blancs, which is a little more high-end.

Neighbourhood watch

San LorenzoSometimes you don’t have to be going anywhere in particular. Exploring different neighbourhoods in a new city can be extremely satisfying and can give you a real feel for the diversity of a region and they type of people that live there. In Rome, neighbourhoods are known as Quartiers and while some are mostly hotel hotspots and tourist traps, there are others that offer unique and tranquil vibes.

San Lorenzo, for example, is a young and vibrant neighbourhood that has an alternative atmosphere compared to many of its more bourgeois counterparts. Traditionally a working class area, it is now populated by hip artist and trendy students, making it one of Rome’s ‘up and coming’ Quartier. Here you’ll find dive bars, graffiti and vintage stores. It’s got that shabby chic charm, lively and refreshing and just the tonic after a day at a crowded tourist attraction.

Where to stay?

Generator RomeWith free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and cute kitsch décor, Dreaming Rome Hostel is a super charming and sociable place to stay. Near Termini Station is one of Rome’s most popular hostels, The Yellow—home to lively parties, live bands, themed parties and a 24hr restaurant and bar. Nearby you’ll also fine Generator Rome, a swanky new addition to the city, with Generator’s usual high standard of style, security, good food and comfort. They have both dorms and ensuite private rooms.


Thanks to megan.chromik,, Luigi Guarino and Metro Centric for use of their great images under the Creative Commons license.

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