Even with all the things to do in Rome, it’s hard not to think about that big, round monument to the greatest warriors in the ancient world—the Colosseum. We can’t help but get caught up in all the history when we’re at center of the greatest empire this side of Babylon, and there’s really no reason to fight it. Go admire the 2,000-year-old monuments around every corner, the homes and haunts of some of western civilization’s biggest names, and the roads that all led to Rome.
- Bike ride on the Appian Way: When kings, generals, and the everyday plebs had to get across the country, that’s what the Appian Way was for. Italy’s oldest highway is still open to traffic, and Rome for You leads a bicycle ride along some well-worn pavement for a look. Watch for the ancient Roman baths, the spot where Saint Peter had his vision of Jesus, and the memorials left by whichever Romans could spare the coin for a few millennia’s worth of immortality.
- Gladiator fighting class: While you’re out on the Appian Way, maybe you want to try out the tunics, weapons, and techniques that made the greatest fighters of their day. Teachers from the Historic Group of Rome can show you how to fight like a gladiator, so step out onto a training ground straight out of the Pax Romana and try one of the most historically accurate things to do in Rome.
- Ancient archaeological sites: Even in the middle of the modern city, the stone arches and Corinthian columns from the days of Caesar still tower over the streets, which also date back to Caesar. You can walk right through the plazas that marked the center of public life from the days of the old Roman Kingdom. If you want some clues as to which façade belonged to which ancient temple, guides from Walks of Italy have put together a whole multimedia show that (literally!) highlights the ancient grandeur around you.
- The Colosseum There are so many ways to see the Colosseum. The place isn’t more famous than five of the actual Seven Wonders of the Ancient World for nothing, and tour operators like City Wonders and Carrani Tours have spent a lot of time thinking of ways to show you what the fuss is all about. You can get the view right from the arena floor, or see what the place looks like at night and check out the underground spaces where the gladiators had their Classical Era locker rooms. And hey, if you want to roll up riding the latest in self-balancing scooters, then Rome by Segway has you covered.
- Roman architecture: It’s worth reminding ourselves that the reason we have all these ancient buildings to admire is because the Romans had some of the best architects in the world. Even if they borrowed a lot of their style from the Greeks, the techniques they used to build the greatest works of their day were clever and impressive. Context Walks can pair you up with a scholar who can give you some helpful tips if you want to make your own 2,000-year monument. (Or just appreciate the ones we’ve already got.)
- Ruins of Ostia: It’s been so long since the ruins of Ostia served as the prime Roman seaport that the sea isn’t there anymore. But a lot of the city still is, and you get a unique chance to walk through the streets and live the life in some of ancient Rome’s best-preserved buildings. Nowadays the archaeological site is just a quick train ride away, and a guide from City Wonders can tag along to show off the warehouses and the grand amphitheater—still with its original seating from 12 BC—and you can see why scholars in the know call this “the better Pompeii.”
- Pompeii: Okay, but speaking of Pompeii: there’s still something there you can’t find anyplace else. The tragedy of a whole city buried in volcanic ash, combined with the snapshot of a whole first-century community frozen in history, is well worth a look if you’ve got the time and don’t mind a little trip across the Italian countryside. There’s plenty of guides who’ll take you out for a look at some of Italy’s most famous ruins, and tour providers like Welcome Italy can help you make a day of it with a visit to Naples and some views of the mountain that caused all this trouble.
Where will you go to follow in the footsteps of ancient Rome’s gladiators?