Off the beaten path walking tour of Rome

We always like to find a few off the beaten path places in every city we visit.  So, after hitting the highlights, we planned out an off the beaten path self-guided walking tour of Rome (along with a few highlights we had missed the previous day).

We started our day in Quartiere Coppede, a small neighborhood fairly far from the main tourist sites and often called the fairy tale neighborhood.  We didn’t walk here — we took the number  3 tram to Piazzo Buenos Aires, which is right outside the neighborhood.  You enter Quartiere Coppede through an arch.  Hanging from the arch is a chandelier, so immediately you know you are in for something special.  The neighborhood was designed by architect Gino Coppedè back in the early 1900’s and is a mishmash of architectural styles.  One of the highlights is the Fontana delle Rane (Fountain of Frogs), although it was unfortunately being worked on while we visited so we didn’t get to see it.


One of fairy tale homes in Quartiere Coppede.

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Self walking tour of the Rome highlights

Rome is a great city for walking.  Not too many hills (only 7!) and something to see around nearly every corner.  Plus, gelato and slices of Roman-style pizza all along the way if you need a sugar or fat buzz.  So, on our first day of sightseeing in Rome, we decided to hit the highlights.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It is impossible to see all of the highlights of Rome in one day.  And, our highlights may not be your highlights.  For example, neither of us had even the slightest interest in seeing the Vatican again.  (Don’t get me started because I can go on for hours about the absurdity of the church being that wealthy and the absurdity of the fig leaves added to many of the statues in the Vatican museum and the horrible crowds and so on and so forth).  And, we probably didn’t walk the most ideal route, as we hit the sights that were most important to us first because the sun sets early in Rome in November and we weren’t sure we could hit everything.  But, if you like to walk, here is a suggested route that will hit many of the highlights of Rome.


A random statue in front of ancient ruins somewhere near the Coliseum.  There are so many ruins in Rome.  It seems like they are everywhere.

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Day trip to Lucca and Pisa

A day trip to Lucca is a piece of cake from Florence, and well worth it.  Just hop on the train and go.


Old walls around Lucca.

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Off the beaten path in Florence at the Stibbert Museum

If you want to get slightly off the beaten path while in Florence, you could do far worse than visiting the Stibbert Museum.


European armor and art.

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Florence in pictures

Even in November, when the rains come and the sun rarely shines, Florence is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever visited.  The old quarter is a UNESCO world heritage site and there is just one thing after another to see.

One of the most beautiful sights in Florence is the Cathedral.  Yep, you read that correctly.  The cathedral.  Although it is being repaired (I guess anything built between the 13th and 15th centuries is likely almost always in need of repair), so good luck getting a photo without scaffolding in it somewhere….And, we can’t tell you what it looks like inside because, at this point, we are pretty much churched out….


Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

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A day trip to Siena

If you are spending any time in Florence, a day trip to Siena is easy-peasy.  Both buses and trains make the trip — we recommend taking the bus there because if you take the train you will have to walk up a very big hill to get to the things you are going to want to see.

The historic center of Siena is a UNESCO world heritage site.  The first thing you will want to see is the Piazza del Campo.  This large square is the location for the running of the Palio horse race — one of the most insane (and corrupt) horse races ever — twice each summer.  Ten horse/rider teams compete (representing the wards of the city).  The riders wear colorful outfits and ride bareback.  From the videos I have seen, there do not appear to be much in the way of rules other than the first horse to cross the finish line wins (regardless of whether or not that horse has a rider).  As I understand it, using your whip to hit other riders is allowed, if not encouraged.  And, paying off other jockeys is the rule, not the exception.  Sadly, we weren’t there when the Palio was running.


Piazza del Campo in Siena.

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The best statues in Florence

If you visit Florence and you like sculpture at all (hell, even if you don’t like sculpture), you must must must see Michelangelo’s David.  It is one of the most impressive pieces of art we have ever seen.


A full view of David.

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Day trip to Alberobello

If you are anywhere in the Puglia region of Italy, a day trip to the UNESCO world heritage site of Alberobello should be on your “must do” list.  Alberobello is known for its trulli — over 1500 white-washed conical-roofed houses that look vaguely like hobbit houses.


A view of Alberobello from above.

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A day trip to Polignano a Mare

If you are looking for a day trip from Monopoli, you can’t go wrong with Polignano a Mare.  Located on the Adriatic Sea, and only one train stop away from Monopoli, the town is stunningly beautiful.


Polignano a Mare.

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Five days in Monopoli

Monopoli in November?  Most people wouldn’t even consider it.  Good thing we aren’t most people, because Monopoli in November is lovely (even if many of the restaurants are closed and even if you have to avoid the rain showers).

Monopoli is a small little seaside town (population under 50K) in the region of Apulia (or Puglia in Italian) in the heel of the boot of Italy.  Although tourism has increased in recent years, the town still holds quite a bit of traditional charm.  In fact, it still pretty much shuts down in the middle of the afternoon for “riposo” so everyone can have a leisurely lunch — even the groceries close.

The city of Monopoli is probably most known for its old city, with its white buildings and narrow passageways.


One of the narrow streets in Monopoli.  Try getting this shot in the heart of tourist season….

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