Five Fabulous Places In Rome The Tourist Crowds Don’t Know About

This year Rome is already packed with tourists, and it looks like this summer will be busier than ever.

The most famous tourist attractions, all of which were overcrowded in the past, are going to be even worse now, so it’s really important to plan lots of things that take you away from the crowds. Before you worry about getting lost or spending loads of time getting to the uncrowded places, just know this normally means only walking a block or two – sometimes even less!

My best selling book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome tells you about all kinds of wonderful things to do in the Eternal City. Today I want to tell you about 5 fantastic things to do in Rome, things that take you away from the tour bus crowds and show you things that will blow your mind.

The Baths Of Caracalla

If you want to visit a truly spectacular site in Rome with almost no other travelers, this is the place for you! The Baths of Caracalla are easily one of my favorite places to visit, and even when Rome is so packed you want to scream, the tourist masses don’t know about this absolute gem.

Baths of Caracalla

Caracalla was co-emperor with his father Septimius Severus from 198 A.D until his father’s death in 211 A.D. He became emperor in 212, and rather than allow his younger brother Geta to become co-emperor, Caracalla murdered him. Then had all of Geta’s friends murdered. Then went on a killing spree so savage he became known as one of the most bloodthirsty tyrants in the entire history of Rome. This wasn’t good in terms of public opinion, so he had to find a way to win over the population of Rome. He did so by creating what was at that time the largest public baths in Rome.

This spectacular complex had a huge swimming pool, plus a hot pool and a cold pool, meeting rooms, and a gym. It was so massive it could hold up to 1600 people at any given time, and is thought to have had between 6000 and 8000 bathers per day.

The towering structure was marble clad and had incredible mosaic floors, many of which you can still see today. Walking through here (with no crowds and barely any other visitors) you get a sense of how enormous and opulent these baths were, and just how small you really are.

Recently a VR component was added to the visit. Be sure to get the VR headset.

VR view Baths of Caracalla

As you stop at each numbered section the VR mask shows you how it would have looked in the 3rd century. Italy does a brilliant job of using VR and multimedia to enhance ancient sites, and this one is no exception. I go to Caracalla several time per year with my Glam Italia Tours, and still always get the headset!

Getting there: Baths of Caracalla are a 10 minute walk from the back of the Colosseum and a 5 minute walk from the top end of the Circus Maximus.

RELATED POST: The 10 Best Day Trips From Rome By Train

The Virus Capricus

crowds at Trevi fountain

This one never ceases to amaze me. The Trevi Fountain is always packed with thousands of tourists, and Rome’s most enterprising pickpockets. Visiting the beautiful baroque fountain can be a nightmare, especially if you don’t enjoy being squashed like a sardine amongst multiple bus loads of tourists.

virus caprarius rome

However very few people seem to know that less than 100 yards away you can visit an incredible site, 9 meters below ground. The Vicus Caprarius is an archaeological site that stretches 350 square meters under modern Rome. La Città dell’Acqua (City of Water) introduces you to the Virgin Aqueduct, which still feeds the water to the Trevi fountain. You can also see parts of a 1st century Roman apartment building that was converted into a private home in the 4th century, as well as a mini museum of artifacts discovered during the excavation.

Speaking of which, this was only discovered in 1999 when the Archaeological Authority of Rome was doing surveys for the renovation of the Cinema Trevi building. So in a way it’s a very new, very old site!

Although tickets do sell out, there are very few people allowed in at any given time, so you have tons of space to breathe in. They also have very clean, modern bathrooms.

Getting there: approximately 30 seconds from the Trevi Fountain.

E-Bike Tour of the Appian Way

This is a fantastic way to escape the crowds and see some amazing sites. I recommend doing a small group bike tour like this one offered by Liv Tours.

Liv Tours E-Bike Tour

The tour meets at Circus Maximus where you get your bike and helmet, then takes off up the Appian Way – one of the oldest existing roads in the world. Built between 312 B.C and 264 B.C, the Appian Way stretches all the way to the coast of Brindisi in Puglia.

As you ride this ancient road you will stop to visit a variety of fantastic churches and mausoleums and ancient Roman ruins. E-Bikes are the perfect way to explore the Via Antica Appia and are much easier and more comfortable than traditional bikes, making the 4 miles stretch covered in this tour very enjoyable.

Getting there: you meet the Liv Tours team at the top of the Circus Maximus near the Baths of Caracalla. More information here.

RELATED POST: How To Get Into Rome From The Airport

Palazzo Altemps

In my book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome I tell you Palazzo Attempts is the best museum you’ve never heard of. And it is.

This sensationally beautiful palazzo was built in the 14th century by the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, the bought in 1568 by Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps, nephew of Pope Pius IV. The cardinal made the palace his home, filling it with his incredible collection of antiquities and his library of extremely rare books.

Palazzo Altemps

Since 2006 Palazzo Altemps has been open to the public, to show case masterpieces of ancient sculpture owned by the Italian government. The collection of marble sculptures takes place over two floors of the palazzo as you work your way through a labyrinth of stairways and decorated rooms. Did I mention it is sensational?

My favorite piece in the collection is the Ludovisi Gaul, a complex and achingly beautiful statue that is an ancient Roman copy of any even more Ancient Greek statue.

Ludovisi gaul Palazzo Altemps

Palazzo Altemps is now part of the Museo Nazionale Romano and can be bought as its own ticket, or as part of a multi-museum ticket. The other three museums are Crypta Bali, Palazzo Massimo, and the Baths of Diocletian, each of which are in the book and should be on your must see list. All of these are spectacular, all are in walking distance from major attractions and all of these get very few visitors, even when Rome is packed with tourists.

Getting there: 1 minute walk from the top end of Piazza Navona.

The Galleria Colonna

Palazzo Colonna Rome

One of the best kept secrets in Rome, this stunning private palace was originally built as a fortress for the wealthy Colonna family. Over time it became a private residence with a staggering private art collection including pieces by Tintoretto, Guercino, and Carraci.

The enormous Great Hall with its mirrors, statues, priceless art and magnificent chandeliers has a Versailles level of opulence. Princess Isabella still lives at the palace and you are able to visit some of her private rooms as well as her secret garden.

private apartments palazzo colonna

Galleria Colonna is open to the public on Saturdays. Be sure to book tickets online ahead of time.

Getting there: 5 minutes walk from Piazza Venezia and the Wedding Cake building (Il Vittoriano)

More Cool Things To Do In Rome

Best travel guide for Rome and the Vatican

If you are planning a trip to Rome, or will be spending time in Rome on your Italy trip, be sure to read my international best selling book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To do In Rome. This travel guide not only tells you about places to visit, but also gives you background on why, who built it and why they built it. You also learn about must try Roman foods, the best markets, amazing underground sites to visit and even the best places to go for a sunset aperitivo!

Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome is available worldwide on Amazon.

Want more fabulous content on cool and fascinating things to do in Italy, including secret towns and villages you’ve never heard of? Join the thousands of members worldwide who belong to my monthly newsletter. You can join the newsletter here.

Five Amazing ways To Avoid The Crowds In Venice

Grand Canal Venice

Venice is easily the most unique city on earth. Beautiful beyond belief, it is dreamy, romantic, and unfortunately often full of tourists. The bad news is when the cruise ships are in port they literally dump thousands of tourists into the city center. The good news is few of them venture beyond the stretch from the Rialto Bridge to the bridge of Sighs.

That means 95% of the city is wide open for you to explore, experience and fall in love with.

Supposedly the bigger ships will no longer be allowed in the lagoon, but the cruise industry has been able to snake their way around this for years, so I’ll believe it when I see it. In the meantime let’s look at 5 things that ensure you get an amazing Venetian experience, while avoiding the fanny-packed crowd.

1. Wander In Castello

Castello is the largest of the 6 neighborhoods or sestieri and delightfully, one the cruise ship crowd don’t seem to know about.

Castello, Venice

Technically the neighborhood begins when you cross the bridge at the Doge’s Palace. (Ponte della Paglia) The first couple of blocks still get the big tourist crowds, but from then until the uppermost edge of the lagoon you can see a much lesser traveled part of the city.

Castello is absolutely beautiful, and gives you a chance to experience a more low key, casual side of Venice. The neighborhood or sestiere is full of wonderful bars and restaurants, calli with houses that are hundreds of years old, and waterways with gondolas gliding by. You can find the Arsenale at its upper tip, and the beautiful city hospital building along the fundament nove. Between them there are loads of lesser visited sites, museums, churches filled with sensational art and picturesque little campi or city squares. 


From the fondamente nove at the upper edge you can take the vaporetto across to Murano and Burano. 

It is easy to spend an entire day wandering and exploring this neighborhood, and it will make you fall in love with Venice.

RELATED POST: 10 Fabulous Books Set In Venice

2. Pop Over To Isola San Giorgio

image of Isola San Giorgio via

Just 3 minutes by vaporetto from the Doges Palace, the little island of San Giorgio affords you the very best views of the Doge’s Palace and Venice. The view from the campanile (bell tower) is without equal. Better still, not that many people come over here. There is loads to see on San Giorgio and it makes a wonderful pitstop on the way to the next place on the list:

3. Lunch On Giudecca

On Giudecca looking across to Dorsoduro

Giudecca feels like a world away from the crowds in Venice, but is only 3 minutes by vaporetto from Isola San Giorgio. Exit the vaporetto at the first stop then wander the length of the fondamenta, stopping at one of the fabulous eateries along the Giudecca Canal. Giudecca island is directly opposite Dorsoduro, so you look across the canal to another gorgeous part of Venice. This is the perfect view to enjoy with a chilled out vibe, some incredible seafood and a glass of frulane. Or a caffe macchiato with a view!

Coffee on Giudecca with a view

Giudecca is a really artsy island, so at a leisurely pace you can enjoy a photo exhibition, and artists’ retreat with showrooms inside a medieval cloister (to die for) as well as one of the few remaining gondola workshops in Venice. Giudecca is best enjoyed with no set agenda, just wander and take loads of photos.

Two of Venice’s most spectacular bars are here on the island, the Skyline Bar with its incredible views over Venice, and the Cipriani, the place to be for a madly chic early evening drink.

RELATED POST: Venice By The Numbers (How It All Works)

4. Have An Aperitivo Along The Zattere

Directly opposite Giudecca, across the Giudecca Canal is the waterside promenade called the Zattere. Lined with bars and restaurants, the Zattere is a gorgeous place for a late afternoon aperitivo. (Or to eat at any time of day or night.)

Select spritz at Nico’s on the Zattere, looking across to Giudecca

Wherever I am in Italy I always make sure I am somewhere beautiful for aperitivo hour, that fabulous time at the end of the afternoon when Italians meet for a pre dinner drink. I make sure I have an aperitivo on the Zattere every time I’m in Venice. Again you are away from the crowds, it’s mellow and beautiful, and you have a wonderful view across the canal to the Redentore church and the length of Giudecca.

Want more tips about Venice? Get my free Venice Bonus Info PDF and join my monthly newsletter for the inside scoop on my favorite secret towns in Italy

5. Eat Cicchetti Away From The Crowds

Cicchetti at Vino Vero in Cannaregio

Pronounced chi-kett-ee, these Venetian finger foods are paired with un Ombra, a shadow of wine, and are enjoyed normally standing at a bacaro, or little wine bar. Perfect for aperitivo hour they are also available all day, and make a tremendous snack, or even a light lunch.

Most bacari change out their Cicchetti menu throughout the day, so there is an endless assortment of food options, all of them are just fantastic. Drop by the same bacaro a couple of hours later and you’ll often find all new options behind the glass case.

No trip to Venice is complete without eating Cicchetti. Avoid the highly touristed areas, and find little neighborhood bars full of Venetians and authentic, delicious finger foods. You will find authentic, non-touristy bacari all over Venice. Just look where the crowds are and head a block or two away in any direction. If completely lost (which happens in Venice all the time) just ask any Venetian on the street, in a shop, or even a gondolier walking by, where you can get some great cicchetti without the tourists and they’ll point you in the right direction!

6 Important Things To Consider When Planning Travel To Europe This Year

Are you planning a trip to Europe this year? Or maybe thinking about traveling to Europe (or anywhere)?

2022 looks like it’s going to be a huge year for international travel, and I awill be traveling a lot myself. There have been many uncertainties regarding international travel during the coronavirus pandemic, and plenty of intrepid travelers have lost money or run into problems with their international travel plans, so today I want to go over six things you need to prepare yourself for international travel in 2022.

1. What Is The Cancellation Policy?

There are a couple of things you need to do before you commit to putting down any deposits or buying any tickets. The first is to find out what this hotel/vacation rental/airline/event location’s cancellation policy is. Don’t commit to anything that doesn’t offer a full refund if there is a covid related cancellation.

Do Not accept a credit or a voucher. Only take a full refund. So many people were issued worthless vouchers or credits for travel that was cancelled in 2020, and are now finding that those credits or vouchers are worthless or have expired.

2. Choose Your Credit Card Wisely

image via

The second thing to do before putting down any deposits or booking any flights is to find out what your credit card’s cancellation and refund policy is. If the tickets you booked for an event or the deposit you put down on an apartment were purchased with a credit card you might be able to have that card reverse the charges, especially if it is a travel card. There are several great credit cards for travel that don’t charge international transaction fees and that are more likely to help you get charges reversed. You can check out a list of the best credit cards for international travel, and their specific perks and fees here

Be careful using the credit card from the airline you are flying without checking the refund policy first. Their first loyalty will be to the airline, not to you. Weigh out the pros vs the cons on this one. The benefits of buying your flights with this card such as priority boarding, free checked bags and the miles you earn, may outweigh the risk of not getting a financial refund if the trip gets cancelled. (Also this may be offset by travel insurance)

Do you belong to the Glam Italia Newsletter? Twice each month I tell you about secret places to visit in Italy, foods you might not know about, and festivals you won’t want to miss. You can join the newsletter here

3. Pack A Mini Medical Kit

I learned this one the hard way, albeit thankfully not with covid.

Pack over the counter medical supplies to take should you contract covid while you are away. Yes, everywhere has pharmacies, but you may not be able to access them when you need. There may not be 24 hour pharmacies close to where you are staying (or in that city at all) and even when you do find open pharmacies you won’t necessarily find the medicines that work for you at home.

For example, I know that if I come down with a cold/flu/upper respiratory infection or any of those types of ailments at home I can treat them with DayQuil, NyQuil, Mucinex, Advil Cold and Sinus or any of a multitude of over the counter medicines available everywhere here in the U.S.

Travel Medical Kit, see here on Amazon

I have never seen any of those medications in Italy, France and Spain (the main places I travel to in Europe.) That doesn’t mean they don’t exist there or that there isn’t a local equivalent, but it pays to have what works for you with you. It can be really tricky trying to explain to a pharmacist in a foreign language what it is you are looking for, and more tricky trying to read the back of the box in a foreign language when you are sick.

I travel with the following items, linked here on Amazon: liquid capsules of DayQuil and NyQuil, Mucinex in capsule/tablet form, Motrin or Advil, normally in liquigel form, along with Zinc and also Liposomal Vitamin C. I take Zinc and Lipsomal Vitamin C every day when I’m traveling anyway, regardless of whether I’m feeling sick or healthy. And of course, the one time I did get sick while traveling was the one time I didn’t bother bringing any of my normal supplies with me. I was so annoyed with myself and have never made that mistake since! (I also have never fallen sick while traveling since.)

Your best bet is to consider what you would take if you were sick at home, and take those items with you, albeit in capsule form, not bottles. You can almost guarantee that if you bring a ziplock bag with your medical supplies you will never need them, and end up annoyed that you dragged them around with you, which in all honesty is the ideal outcome!

Last year I also brought a travel thermometer (that is still in its original packaging – I never needed to open it) and one of my travelers packed a little oxygen meter/pulse oximeter, that also never was unpackaged. It might feel like overkill now, but should you get sick while you’re away, or heaven forbid get covid, you’ll be glad to have both, even if just to show yourself you’re doing ok.

All of these items can pack down into a ziplock bag, and take up no space in your suitcase.


4. KN95 Masks

On the Italo train to Salerno, October 2021

Masks are probably going to be a thing for a while yet. Where I live in the U.S no one wears a mask, but in Italy while I was there in 2021 they were required indoors, everywhere. Be it on a train, in a shop, in a museum – anytime you went indoors you were required to wear a mask.

International flights required masks to be worn at all times too, and many airlines only accepted surgical masks and N95/KN95 masks. When I was in Italy in June of 2021 masks were required at all times both indoors and outdoors.

Venice, June 2021

I advise my Glam Italia Tour travelers not to plan on wearing fabric masks in case they are not accepted. Also with the (current) Omicron variant doctors are saying fabric masks don’t provide sufficient protection. As surges spike masks go out of stock or have long wait times for delivery, so I order mine well ahead of time. While traveling in 2021 for three months total, I wore these masks and these masks. What I found most helpful with the KN95s was the nose clip stopped my glasses from fogging up, and the extra pouch in front of the mouth and nose stopped me from breathing the mask in, which tend to be the two things that drive me crazy with masks.

5. Buy Travel Insurance With Covid Cover

This is the most important thing on the list.

You should be buying travel insurance for all international trips anyway, to cover you for lost baggage, interrupted flights and most importantly major medical. Should you have something massive go wrong, such as a heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, break your leg, get in a bad car crash – any of the multitude of things that could potentially go wrong, you need a good comprehensive medical insurance cover. In regular times the big thing to look for with the medical portion of travel insurance is how much cover they provide to repatriate you if you are unable to fly home alone. For example if you had a bad stroke and were incapable of navigating an international airport alone, the insurance would provide a nurse to travel home with you.

Don’t buy the insurance the airline offers – that protects the airline first, not you.

Not all travel insurance policies have covid cover. Here is Forbes Magazine’s Top 10 Travel Insurance Policies With Covid Cover.

The things to look for with covid cover are as follows:

  • Does it cover you if the country closes to international travel?
  • Does it cover you if you test positive and are unable to fly?
  • Does it cover you for hospital treatment should you contract covid while overseas?
  • Does it provide quarantine coverage should you test positive while away and not be allowed to fly home?

At this time you are required to provide proof of a negative test before being allowed to board a flight to the U.S, as well as most other home countries. Should you test positive you will be required to stay in the country you have traveled to until you test negative. This can mean at best days, at worst weeks, of paying for accommodation or guarded quarantine (depending on which country you are in) until you test negative. This can run into thousands of dollars. You will also need food and drink during this time, and chances are you may not have budgeted for it.

RELATED POST: 15 Fabulous Books Set In Italy

6. What Is Your Vaccination Status?

Most countries will no longer allow entry to unvaccinated travelers. Before traveling make sure you know what your destination country considers fully vaccinated.

  • Do they mean 2 shots of an approved vaccine? (Different countries acknowledge different vaccines)
  • Do they require you to have had a booster shot?
  • Is there a time frame for when you have to have your most recent shot? One of my tour guides in Rome had a group turned away from the Vatican because although fully vaccinated (2 shots) their 2nd shot was more than 9 months prior. They were able to get a rapid test at a nearby pharmacy and come back an hour later, but it would have been good to know ahead of time.

In all likelihood covid will be around for a while. At the time of writing this Omicron is the variant du jour, but you can guarantee there will be more variants coming down the line. No doubt some will be mild and others will be bad. As such each country’s regulations and requirements regarding covid, testing, and vaccinations will keep changing and evolving. Personally I think this will just be part of travel from here on out. I wouldn’t cancel travel plans, or stop traveling until you think there might be a time of no masks or no covid. Instead, be prepared, get good insurance, and explore small group travel options instead of mass tourism travel.

New Untold Italy Podcast Episode!

I was super excited to be the guest for the December 31st episode of the Untold Italy Podcast. (Episode #104)

In this episode I talk about how I craft experiences for my travelers on my Glam Italia Tours and also for myself when I am traveling. By making a few tiny adjustments you can turn a good experience into a once in a lifetime, absolutely amazing experience, and in this episode I tell you exactly how I do it. It’s fabulous! I hope you will give it a listen!