Did you know there is an entire city below the modern city of
After two millennia of accumulated dust and dirt, building and rebuilding, filling in old buildings with sand and dirt and rocks and building something new on top, the current city sits as much as 25 meters above the various old cities.
If you stand at street level and look down into the Roman Forum you will see what I mean. It seems as though every time they go to build something new or dig up the basement of a property to do routine repairs they find some new site dating back to antiquity. In fact, 90% of the old city hasn’t been excavated and probably never will be.
In my new book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome (available worldwide on Amazon.com) I have an entire chapter on Underground Rome, with 10 really cool places to go below ground and experience the ancient, ancient city.
It is honestly one of my favorite things to do. Walk around the city below the city, seeing 2000+ year old mosaic floors and inlaid marble floors.
First century frescoes and frescoes that date back to the Republic. Plaques and columns and sarcophagi – they’re all down there!
I take my Glam Italia Tour groups to a variety of these places. One of them is a 4th century chapel below a current day working church. It still has frescoes dating back to the 300’s on the walls.
Normally we are the only people down there. This nice old man who has been working there for as long as I can remember has to unlock the door and turn on the lights to let us in.
Meanwhile right up the street there are thousands of tourists waiting in line to get a postcard photo of a famous site (albeit with a bunch of other people’s heads in the frame), completely unaware of what is quite literally beneath their feet!
If you are making a trip to Rome, be it for a day or for a month, I highly recommend picking up this book and using it to find all manner of totally fascinating places, most of which will be a short walk down the street from where you will be going anyway.
Read the chapter on Underground Rome and do your best to get
to at least one of the places to experience the subterranean city. I can pretty
much guarantee there will be almost no one down there, so not only will you get
to experience something really sensational but you will also get to escape the
See you in Rome!
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Did you know that Rome is the 3rd most visited city in Europe and the 12th most touristed city in the world? Every year millions of people come to Rome. The problem is, most of them just hit the same handful of major tourist sites – The Colosseum, The Forum, The Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, plus a few others. So everywhere they go they have to deal with huge crowds, long lines to get in, too many selfie stick selling vendors, and pickpockets. They eat at tourist restaurants close by the big sites and overpay for underwhelming food that no self respecting Roman would ever eat. And at the end of it all they are happy to leave the city in the rear-view mirror.
I on the other hand LOVE Rome. I just absolutely love this amazing city. I spend a lot of time in Rome every year and along the way have discovered incredible places to visit and things to do that the tour buses don’t know about.
You will not even believe how many staggeringly brilliant sites there are in Rome, hiding in plain sight, right under your nose, just around the corner from the big tourist spots! Even better, hardly anyone knows about them. You can look up the street and see (literally) thousands of people waiting to get into a well known attraction like the Colosseum, then walk inside one of these mind blowing places and have it all to yourself, or maybe share it with a handful of others in the know.
What’s In This Book?
In Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things to Do in Rome I don’t tell you about the big sites – you already know about them! Instead every page is devoted to telling you about places you probably haven’t heard of before. (You may know of a few of them but chances are you won’t know them all). Rather than just tell you the name of a building, set of ruins or place to visit, I tell you the story behind it. The stories are at time hilarious, frequently intriguing and other times just plain crazy!
Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To do In Rome is broken up into 18 categories:
* 13 Places To Discover Ancient Rome * 12 Places To Find Underground Rome * 5 Special Places To Look for At The Forum and Palatine Hill *10 Fascinating Churches and the Intriguing Stories That Go With Them * 11 Really Unusual Things To See In Rome * All About Piazza Navona * The Battle of Bernini and Borromini * The Caravaggios in Rome and Where To Find Them * 12 Magnificent Museums In Rome * The Ghosts of Rome * 8 Fantastic Markets In Rome * What To eat In Rome * Where To Go Wine tasting In Rome * The Best Instagram Spots In Rome * The 7 best Places To watch The Sunset in Rome * Rome After Dark * 10 day Trips From Rome * Tips For Travelers To Rome
There is something here for everyone. If you’re not into ancient history, art and churches you can enjoy learning about the best markets, the ghosts of Rome and the best Instagram spots in the city.
How To Use This Book:
The last thing I want you to do is to try and see everything in the book! Instead read it all and then pick and choose items to add to your itinerary. You may not be interested in Caravaggio, but after reading some of the crazy stories in the chapter may decide to pop around the corner and go see one of them.
You may not have any interest in visiting churches, but find yourself intrigued with the story behind one of them and decide to go inside for a quick look.
You may want to add to your itinerary a market or two, a couple of underground Rome sites, and a museum before snacking on Rome’s best street food, taking in the sunset, going wine tasting and then seeking out the city’s famous ghosts. It’s all easy, close by and walkable!
If you are coming to Rome on a cruise and have only a few hours in town, chances are you will choose to spend that time visiting several of these places instead of spending 3 hours doing the Vatican or the Colosseum. If you are here for a few days you will find lots of places to add to your existing plans, or maybe replace some of them!
Each place in the book has a What’s Nearby section at the end so you can see just how many cool things are all grouped very close together. In fact almost everything in this book is within a mile radius of the Largo Argentina, a fantastic ancient site in the very heart of the historic center of Rome. You won’t need a taxi – just walk from one to the next!
Are you heading to Rome anytime soon and want something new and cool to see? I just found out about a new ancient site that has recently re-opened that I absolutely have to visit, and maybe you will want to too!
Let’s Talk Nero…
I didn’t know too much about Nero until somewhat recently. I knew he was a madman and an emperor, but not much more. During a visit to his golden palace in Rome (you can read about it in the Underground Rome section of my new book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome, available on Amazon.com) I was asking my guide, an archaeologist from the site, some questions about him. She pulled me to the side and very emphatically told me Everything you know about Nero is wrong! I am down here with him every day. I know him! They have lied about him and I know the truth.
Which is why I say I didn’t know too much about him until then. It would appear the senate changed the stories of more than one emperor once he died, so maybe we will never know the full truth, but her urgency got me interested in Nero and I plan on tracking her down when I get back to Rome to get the next part of the story.
Nero was the last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was born December 15 in 37 A.D and died June 9th in 68 A.D at the age of 30. He ruled the empire for 13 years and 8 months.
A Guy With Mommy Issues…
Nero’s mother, Agrippina the Younger was an interesting character. He was adopted by his great uncle Claudius and became the her and successor upon Claudius’ death. Agrippina is thought to have had a hand in the death of Claudius and in Nero’s nomination to be emperor. Apparently she dominated his early life and weighed heavily on all of his decisions a.k.a. controlling mother/stage mom. Five years into his reign he had her murdered.
… And A Guy With Many Wives
The story of Nero’s marriages is intriguing by itself. First he married his step sister Claudia Octavia, daughter of Emperor Claudius.
It was a very unhappy marriage (because he was nuts) and he tried to strangle her on more than one occasion. While married to her he had many affairs including one with Poppaea Sabina, the wife of his friend Ortho.
Poppaea divorced Ortho and became pregnant with Nero’s child,
which in turn prompted Nero to divorce Claudia and banish her to Campania. The
baby died at 4 months old.
Claudia complained about her banishment, so Nero had her maids
tortured. The people of Rome like Claudia and marched in the streets to have
her returned to them, which scared Nero so he not only had her brutally
murdered but also had her head chopped off and sent to Poppaea.
Nero and Poppaea had a tumultuous relationship but it would
seem that she was his favorite wife, even though he ended up killing her too.
In the summer of 65 A.D Nero kicked a pregnant Poppaea in the belly, killing
both her and the child. After her death he went into deep mourning.
While married to Poppaea Sabina Nero had been having an affair
with another married woman, Statilia Messalina. When Poppaea died in 65 A.D
Statilia’s husband was forced to commit suicide so that Nero could marry her.
And then things got even crazier.
In sometime around 66 A.D-67 A.D Nero also married a young boy
called Sporus, who bore a remarkable resemblance to Poppaea. Nero had Sporus
castrated and paraded him around dressed in the clothing of a Roman Empress,
and called him Lady, Empress, Mistress, and Poppaea. It is thought that he used
his marriage to Sporus as a way to assuage his guilt for killing Poppaea.
After Nero’s death Sporus was then taken on by Praetorian
Guard Prefect Nymphilius Sabinus who treated him as a wife and also called him
Poppaea. Nymphilius wound up getting killed by his guardsmen, and the story got
even crazier when in 69 A.D Poppaea’s ex husband Ortho, who now became emperor
albeit for only 3 months, then took up with Sporus!
Sporus ended up committing suicide to avoid being used as a
victim in a gladiator show. He was probably not even 20 years old at the time.
But back to the wives of Nero, there was actually one more. Back in 64 A.D after a series of banquets during the Saturnalia Nero married one of his former slaves, a freedman named Pythagorus. Except this time Nero was the bride and Pythagorus the groom. Nero even wore a bridal veil! After the ceremony the witnesses had to watch the consummation of the marriage too.
Nero’s time as emperor is generally associated with tyranny,
compulsive behavior and extravagance. (As well as lunacy). Many historians
believe he started the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D to clear the way for him to
build his gigantic pleasure palace, the Domus Aurea. Apparently he blamed
Christians for the fire and had them burned alive.
There are modern historians however who believe the ancient sources who wrote about Nero were unreliable. The archaeologist I went through Domus Aurea with is convinced that the history we know of Nero is in fact based on lies and hatred, not the truth.
The Domus Transitoria
Nero’s first palace, the Domus Tansitoria is now open to the
public after a 10 year renovation.
Transitoria was a lavish palace decorated with marble, inlaid
marble, porphyry, mother of pearl, frescoes and mosaics, dating back to 54 A.D.
It connected the Palatine Hill with the Esquiline Hill, which is how it got its
name. It was built partially underground to help Nero beat the Roman heat.
Most of the Domus Transitoria was burned to the ground during the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. The ruins were discovered, robbed and looted during the 18th century.
What remained has been restored, so you can see the floors, frescoes and structure. One of the best preserved areas of the complex contains the 50 communal toilets thought to have been used by the slaves and workers, almost 2000 years ago.
You can take a guided tour of Domus Transitoria, but the tours
are for small groups only, around 12 total. There is new lighting down there,
so you are not wandering in twilight. There is also a virtual reality component
to the tour. This is something that Rome is doing so brilliantly, the
multimedia and V.R. components to the newer tours are just sensational.
Domus Transitoria is open Friday – Monday and is part of the new SUPER Foro-Palatino ticket. Check the website for more details and ticket options.
Would you like to enjoy a cold prosecco with a mesmerizing view while in Rome? I have created a downloadable PDF of the Best Rooftop Bars In Rome. Each of these fabulous spots is right in the heart of the city and easy to get to, especially after a long day of sightseeing! Download your PDF here