Monday, April 7, 2014

My Rome Bucket List -- 21 Things to Do in Rome in a Lifetime

I've been noticing a trend. In case you're interested, I'm not a very trendy person. I usually pick up on things around 2-10 years after they become popular. Case in point, I just discovered Downton Abbey and Madonna's album Ray of Light. (Have you heard it? It's amazing.) However, every so often--and I'm talking very rarely--I actually get into something before it starts trending. I still claim to have started the Capri pants craze back in the late '90s.

You're welcome.

Upon further consideration, it may just have been that I was about four decades late in picking up on a trend that Audrey Hepburn had started back in the 50s.

But be that as it may, another trend that I somehow jumped the gun on was the Bucket List phenomenon. Before "bucket list" became a common household term, before there was even a film of that name, I had written one.

Of course I didn't call it a bucket list. It was probably called Things I Will Do Before I Die, or similar. And believe me, there were a lot of things on that list. But now that making these ambitious and adventurous lists has become so very trendy, particularly with bloggers, I guess I'd better make a new one. But this time, its a themed bucket list. Below you will find 21 things that I vow one day to do in Rome.

And as anyone who's ever written a to-do list knows, you've got to add some items that you've already accomplished, so you can feel good about yourself, like you're getting things done. And I may throw in one or two things that seem well nigh impossible, just to make sure I never stop dreaming.

1. Climb the internal spiral staircase to the top of the Column of Marcus Aurelius.


Ok, so I'm starting with an impractical one. No one gets to do this. And by no one, I mean, probably Obama could do this if he were weird like me and knew to want to do such a thing. This is going to be a very hard one. No plan as yet.

2. Stand in the Sistine Chapel when it's empty (or at least, empty of all but one or two guards).

I could actually probably do this one pretty easily, since my Maritino is one of said guards. I'll have to bug him.

3. See every Caravaggio work in Rome (and eventually the world!).


Considering I have traveled to Naples, Malta, Siracusa, Messina, Cremona, Milan, Paris, Vienna, London, and beyond, just to see works by my favorite painter, it kind of surprises me that I haven't seen all of the ones right here in my city. The only one I haven't seen is the so-called mural of Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto that adorns the casino of the Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, a noble residence, still in private hands. They do allow visitors, but very rarely and by advance appointment only.

4. For the above, and other reasons, visit the Casino of Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi.

And try not to cry when thinking about the vast and sublime hillside gardens that once existed here, but were heartlessly bulldozed to create Via Veneto. Viva la dolce vita.

5. Visit every single museum in Rome, at least once. 

I'm not sure exactly how many museums there are in the city, but if I had to make a random guess, I'd say between 60 and 80. Luckily I've got a big head start on this one.

6. Write a blogpost on every single museum in Rome, after visiting.

This is probably going to get very tedious, but you know what? You're worth it.

7. Chat with Maestro Riccardo Muti in the green room of Teatro Costanzi just after he's conducted a Verdi opera.

Personal photo
I did this one.

8. Stand in the office of the mayor of Rome (and on his balcony).

Prime Minister Andreotti, Roma Mayor Argan, and French President Giscard, 1977 [Source]
While yes, I have done this one too, the mayor (then Gianni Alemanno) was not there at the time. The best part about his office is its private balcony that juts right out into the Roman Forum from above the Tabularium.

9. Meet Pope Francis.

The Maritino has already done this. So jealous.

10. See Antoniazzo Romano's frescoes in the Tor de' Specchi convent (also known as the House of Santa Francesca Romana).

So this one I have actually done three times. Anyone can do it, you just have to get the timing right. It's only open one day per year, 9 March. It's always a good idea to call ahead to check the opening times, as they vary year to year. Also, go as early as you possibly can, or risk having to stand in a long line. Either way, it's absolutely worth it.

11. See Annibale Carracci's glorious frescoes in Palazzo Farnese.

Another one I can check off right away. This has luckily become not such a difficult thing to do. Just takes a little planning. When I first moved to Rome back in 2004 (hereafter known as "back in the day"), if you wanted to visit Palazzo Farnese (the seat of the French Embassy), you had to wait until La Notte Bianca and line up for about 2-3 hours. Well, not anymore! Now you can book a visit online through Inventer Rome Cultural Association. Heads up though, the Carracci Gallery (the main reason to visit the palace) is presently being restored. Don't bother visiting until 2015, perhaps later.

12. Visit the Quirinal Gardens.

Again, planning is everything. These lush gardens are open to the public every year on 2 June for the Festa della Repubblica. This is one of those things that I always plan to do, but never quite get around to.

13. Have the Trevi Fountain entire to myself.

If you get up early enough, or stay up late enough, anyone can do this. For me it happened some time during the summer of 2007, during a very late night out with some friends, cycling around Rome at about four in the morning. When we stumbled upon the fountain, it was deserted. There was literally no one there but us. But you don't need to be awake at quite so ungodly an hour, providing it's the off-season. My friend Katy, who's living here for the year, was out and about early one morning, and found the Trevi deserted around 8am.

14. Visit the Casino di Bel Respiro in Villa Pamphilj

Photo by author
Back in 2010, the last time the late Colonel Gaddafi visited Rome, I burned with indignation that this international bully (to use a mild term), was allowed to traipse around the jewel of Villa Pamphilj. How dare he be allowed inside the Casino di Bel Respiro (also known as Villa Algardi), a sublime Baroque treasure that is closed to the general public, when regular Italians are not permitted to set foot inside? Or so I thought until I was informed otherwise. We non-heads of state actually can visit this exquisite palace, but only on Saturday mornings by appointment. It's even free. I haven't yet done it myself, but here's the number in case you are interested: (+39) 0667794555 (or email

15. Visit the Vatican Necropolis.

As in, where St. Peter is supposedly buried. Can't believe I haven't done this yet. No excuses, really.

16. Visit all seven pilgrim churches on foot, preferably in a jubilee year. And walk through the Holy Doors of St. Peter's.

I'll have to wait till 2025 (and invest in a very good pair of walking shoes) before I get a chance to attempt this.

17. Visit the interior of the Pyramid of Cestius.

Photo by author
I believe that this was relatively possible until a few years ago. Now that the pyramid is being restored (its white Carrara marble is scrubbing up quite nicely, by the way), who knows if visiting the interior will ever be possible again? Since I walk past it every day on my way to and from work, it has dug its way into my imagination, and now I'm dying to explore inside.

18. Visit the Tower of the Winds.


Although not completely off limits anymore, as it was "back in the day" when I got to go (an exceptionally rare visit that I was allowed to be part of thanks to a friend of a friend of my now Maritino), the Tower of Winds (or Torre dei Venti) in the Vatican has nevertheless been seen by very few people. It's a fascinating and beautiful place and you can read more about its function and history here.

19. Visit the Basilica Neopitagorica.


This is probably one of Rome's most mysterious sites. Almost nothing is known about this 2000-year-old esoteric basilica buried near Porta Maggiore and discovered by chance in 1917. The vast three-nave basilica is entirely underground and it is decorated with stucco reliefs of mystical images. Because the basilica is directly underneath major railway lines near Termini Station, it is extremely fragile. That, and the fact that a mysterious "parasite" or "bacteria" lives down there (according to the above-linked video), means it is very very closed. Another daunting challenge.

20. Get married in Rome.

© Luca Cappellaro, Fine Art Wedding
Done and done.

21. And last but not least, have my own rooftop terrace with a view of the city.

A girl can dream, right?

Can you think of anything to add? Have you done any of these things?
StumbleUpon Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...