Unusual Things To Do In Rome ~ The Cemetery For Non Catholic Foreigners

It’s day four of this week’s series about unusual things to do in Rome.

Everybody visits the Colosseum, The Vatican, The Pantheon, The Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps when they go to Rome. While these sights are sensational they are just the very tip of the iceberg – there is so much more to see and do in Rome!

That’s why this week I’m looking at other things to do while you’re in the eternal city, things that are a little more unusual.

So far this week we looked at the Teatro Marcello, the

Jewish Ghetto and the Pyramid of Cestius. Today we are visiting the Cemetery For Non Catholic Foreigners, which just happens to be at the base of the pyramid.

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The entrance to the cemetery

The Cemetery For Non Catholic Foreigners

I love going to French cemeteries. Resplendent in statues of wailing women and aching angels they are spectacular to visit. Italian cemeteries tend to be more streamlined, more about the business of the dead. This one however is beautiful. Statues, gardens, flowered walkways – it is gorgeous. And it has some fantastic statues, wailing.

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This cemetery was the final resting place for all kinds of fascinating folk including, Keats, Shelley and Goethe.

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Located in the Testaccio neighborhood, which borders Ostiense,
the Cemetery For Non Catholic Foreigners also has a park-like area from which you can look at the Pyramid of Cestius.

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one of my travelers fraternizing with the felines

In the ruins at the base of the pyramid there is a cat sanctuary!

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Romans love cats and provide sensational sanctuaries for strays, in this case, the fattest stray cats you will ever see.
These fat cats roam the cemetery, stretch out their full bellies on the walls in the sunshine, and generally enjoy life.
They are medically treated, spayed and kept very healthy.

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one of the cat ladies lining up giant bowls of tuna for the fat cat strays

An added bonus are the crazy cat ladies who work the sanctuary and walk through the cemetery with giant bowls of food for the felines. Like caricatures of themselves they speak to my deepest fears of one day becoming a crazy cat lady myself. Although if you are going to be a crazy cat lady, you might as well be one in Rome!

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To find the Cemetery For Non Catholic Foreigners take Via Marmorata from the bottom of the Aventine Hill in the direction of the Aurelian Wall. Look for the giant pyramid gleaming in the sunshine and you will find the cemetery sitting right beside it.

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Unusual Things To Do In Rome ~ The Pyramid of Cestius

It’s day three of more fascinating things to do in Rome!

Yesterday we looked at the Jewish Ghetto, Monday was the Teatro Marcello. Today we head over to the Testaccio district and visit a pyramid built in to the city wall. It’s fantastic.

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The Pyramid Of Cestius

Did you know that Rome has a pyramid?? It’s actually one of the very best preserved buildings in all of Rome.
Built for Gaius Cestius in 12 BC when things Egyptian were super fashionable, the pyramid was looted centuries ago but the frescoes in the burial chamber still remain.
The pyramid is about a 30 minute walk from the Jewish Ghetto through the Testaccio, a tourist-free neighborhood bordering the Aventine Hill.
Any place that is tourist free has great local restaurants at local prices, caffes with inexpensive drinks, and gives you insight into the lives of the locals.

Strolling along the Via della Marmorata you will have the sidewalk mostly to yourself and can actually breathe, right up to the moment you see the top of the pyramid above the trees, which literally takes your breath away!

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note the there are no tourists anywhere in sight, and then note the top of the pyramid above the trees!!

The road intersects the wall with a watch tower on one side, and a pyramid on the other. It’s actually quite surreal! And completely and utterly brilliant.

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watch tower on the left…
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… pyramid on the right…

The Romans appreciated art and architecture, and rather than destroy great buildings they built their cities around them. As such they didn’t tear down the Pyramid when building the Aurelian Wall in 271 A.D, they just incorporated it into the wall. At the time of it’s construction the pyramid would have been in the countryside, but as Rome experienced massive growth during the first 3 centuries A.D. the city found it’s way to the pyramid and far beyond.

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Thr Pyramid Of Cestius is well worth visiting. You can walk all around it and also get a perfect view of it from the neighboring Cemetery For Non Catholic Foreigners, the final resting place for Keats, Shelley and Goethe among others.

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Inside the cemetery there is a grassy area with benches and trees and a birds eye view of the pyramid.

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Unusual Things To Do In Rome ~ The Jewish Ghetto

This week I’m looking at unusual things to do in Rome. Or maybe just things you didn’t know about or possibly forgot about.

Rome has so many layers and textures (literally!) and most tourists to the city completely miss them.

After visiting the Teatro Marcello in yesterday’s post, today we are going to walk to the other side of it and into one of the coolest, chicest neighborhoods in town, the Jewish Ghetto.

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The Jewish Ghetto

On the other side of the Teatro Marcello is the Jewish Ghetto. The Jewish community has a fascinating history in Rome. They lived in Rome pre Christianity, and by most accounts were well respected. The Jewish people lived separated from the heart of Rome in my neighborhood, the Trastevere. (meaning across the Tiber river).

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In 1555 Pope Paul IV sent down a Papal Bull requiring the Jews of Rome to be moved into a walled and gated area now known as the ghetto. They were locked in at night and released to work in the mornings. Between 2000 and 3500 were initially sequestered there in deplorable conditions.

Now the area is super vibey and cool. Although still a tiny landmass it is a fantastic area to explore and to dine.

 

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5 minutes before the lunch crowd hi Ba’Ghetto

 

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Jewish Carciofi

World famous for it’s carciofi (artichokes) served at every restaurant, the Jewish Ghetto is the perfect place to stop for lunch, an early evening aperitif or for dinner.

 

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lunchtime view from Ba’ Ghetto

I love lunching at Ba’ Ghetto and at Nonna Betta. Try the Jewish Carciofi (deep fried) and the Roman Carciofi (boiled and served with a sauce on top.)

 

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spritz, artichoke and deep fried fish

Although once impoverished this area is now super expensive, with apartment prices so expensive that very few can afford to live here.

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Saturday afternoon in the Jewish Ghetto

The photo above was taken late afternoon on a Saturday. Not even 5 minutes walk from thousands of tourists, it was low key and chill, and there were open tables to sit and enjoy a late afternoon spritz and have a snack.

Another thing I love about the Jewish Ghetto in Rome is that it has guards at the Teatro Marcello end, who by default keep all the immigrant street vendors from coming in and badgering you to buy selfie sticks and cheap sunglasses. Here you are basically just hanging with the super-chic, cool locals.

It’s fabulous.