Cultural things to do in Rome for an eco-friendly trip

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Rome, nicknamed the Eternal City, is one of the oldest cities in Europe. There’s so much to see in Rome, so why not take the sustainable route to discover the best cultural things to do in Rome?

Due to its historical importance, ancient monuments, architectural wonders, and of course, delicious Italian cuisine, Rome has quickly become overcrowded with tourists. This overtourism has led to environmental issues, a rise of international hotels and chain restaurants, and negative impact on locals, such as a surge in prices. 

There are ways to explore Rome that limit our impact on the city and its residents:

Local tip: it is safe to drink water from the public fountains. Bring a re-usuable water bottle and reduce your plastic use.

Cultural things to do in Rome for a sustainable trip

Visit the historical landmarks 

Definitely do not miss out on the major attractions: the Colosseum, the Temple of Venus, Foro Romano, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and others (more below).

But don’t do it just for photos or to check off a bucket list item. Explore mindfully while learning about these iconic landmarks. You can easily access these places by public transport, which is a great eco-friendly option aside from walking, using electric scooters, or cycling.

Local tip: A lot of the popular sites have free admission on the first Sunday of the month.

The Colosseum

best things to do in rome
The Colosseum

The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world, and is famous for its structure and architecture, but also for the violent battles that occurred there for the entertainment of the population, including gladiator battles. The Colosseum could hold more than 50 000 spectators, and entrance tickets were free.

The Colosseum is almost 2000 years old, and was heavily neglected after the fall of the Roman Empire, which is why it looks the way it does today. 

Fun fact: the real name of the Colosseum is Flavian Amphitheatre. The “Colosseum” was the name that caught on because there was a huge statue of emperor Nero nearby, referred to a “colossus” because of its size.

The Temple of Venus

Opposite the Colosseum is the Temple of Venus, one of the largest temples of Ancient Rome. It was built for two goddesses: Venus Felix (goddess of love) and Roma Aeterna (goddess of Rome). Venus’ chamber faces the Colosseum, while Roma’s faces Foro Romano. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the 9th century.

Foro Romano

foro romano cultural things to do in rome
Foro Romano

Foro Romano is a forum surrounded by historical ruins which were government buildings in Ancient Rome. It was the centre of everything for over a millennium: it was the place for meetings, law courts, and markets. 

Palatino Hill

palatino hill

Palatino Hill was one of the oldest parts of Rome, and is believed to have been the home of high society, such as aristocrats and emperors, and hence was a sought-after neighbourhood. It is also at the centre of the famous mythical legend of Romulus and Remus, twin brothers whose story led to the creation of Rome. 

Note: the three landmarks mentioned above all require tickets, but you can buy one ticket that gives you access to all. 

Circus Maximus

Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman stadium which held chariot-racing shows and other types of entertainment. Today it is just a large field and perhaps not worth the detour, however it is right next to Palatino Hill and free to enter. It’s a good spot to rest before continuing on to the Rose Garden next door.

The Pantheon 

One of the most preserved buildings from Ancient Rome, the Pantheon has been used as a source of inspiration for many buildings throughout Europe. It’s impressive due to its architecture and the hole in the middle of the ceiling, which allows for light to come in. When it rains, water enters the Pantheon but quickly drains away thanks to the hidden holes and tilting floor. It is the largest dome in the world that was built without any reinforcement.  The Renaissance artist Raphael is buried there.

The Pantheon is free to enter.

Trevi Fountain or Fontana di Trevi

Perhaps one of the most famous fountains in the world, Trevi Fountain is impressive because of its Baroque artwork and for being one of the oldest sources of water for Rome. You will find people throwing coins in the fountain because of the myths: one coin means you will return to Rome. Two coins means you will fall in love with a beautiful Italian. Three means you will marry them. What happens to those coins? They are collected and used to support charitable organisations. 

Local tip: go as early as you can. There’s no fee or any admin to enter, so there are no “opening hours”. The earlier you go, the less crowded it will be. 

The Vatican

the vatican, cultural things to do in rome
The Vatican

The Vatican is located inside of Rome, but is its own entity: it’s not considered a part of Italy and is a city state (and the smallest country in the world) that just happens to be surrounded by Rome.

The official residence of the Pope, the Vatican is also home to various artwork and impressive architecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has great archeological importance. Most people visit for reasons other than religion. 

Note: Pictures are not allowed in the Sistine Chapel room, one of the most renowned rooms in the Vatican, due to the Renaissance art on the ceiling by the world’s most famous artists.

Local tip: It is free every first Sunday of the month, but expect to wait in line for a long time. Also, getting to the Sistine Chapel requires a lot of walking even when you’re already in the Vatican. Wear comfortable walking shoes. 

Parks and gardens

One of the best local and cultural local things to do in Rome for a low environmental impact is to explore its green spaces. There are many parks and gardens that offer a much needed rest from all the city walking and exploration. 

Villa Doria Pamphili park

This is a beautiful large green space that used to be a 17th century villa for Roman nobles. It is now a public park accessible to all. 

Parco della Caffarella / Parco dell’Appia Antica

This is the same park, but has two names. There are a variety of activities to do at this park, such as cycling, yoga, nature walks, horseback riding. It is a huge park where you can spend all day.

Villa Borghese Gardens

One of the most popular parks in Rome is within walking distance from the Trevi Fountain. It is the location of the Borghese Gallery and Museum, as well as other things to explore such as statues, fountains, small temples, etc. 

Rose Garden

The Rose Garden in Rome is close to Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill, and is home to over 1000 roses from all over the world. During springtime look for Rosa Chinensis Viridiflora (roses with green petals) and Rosa Foetida, a smelly rose. It is wheelchair accessible, and is free to enter. 

Botanical Gardens

The Orto Botanico di Roma is a botanical garden looked after by Sapienza University of Rome. There’s an entrance fee, but if you’re into plants and flora, it might be worth it. There are over 7000 plant species from around the world and a Japanese tea garden.

Walking and cycling tours

Eden Walks

Eden Walks focus on walking tours through Rome and also the Vatican. They also do food tours, and their premise is to limit their carbon footprint as much as possible, while empowering local communities. 

Eden Walks can be a bit pricey, so you can also opt for a free walking tour where you just tip the tour guide. These are available all over Europe, particularly in big cities.

Local cooking classes

cultural things to do in rome

One of the best memories you can take with you from Rome is to take cooking classes. InRomeCooking offers cooking classes with a sustainable focus, sourcing only local, organic ingredients that are seasonally available, while reducing their single-use plastic and food waste.

Shopping: from second hand shops to farmers markets

Shopping is an inevitable aspect of life, but we can still make conscious choices when buying things we need. 

For fresh produce and food, head to Campagna Amica. It’s a farmers market that brings produce directly from farmers around Rome. They also offer other ingredients such as pasta, cheese, sauces, cured meat, wine, and olive oil at fair prices.

For clothes and other personal items, Re(f)use at Carmina Campus is a fashion and design shop that sells things made from recycled and discarded materials. 

If you’re looking for furniture, Sekki Design makes unique furniture from cardboard, which reduces costs for the manufacturer and the consumer. Their furniture is easily recyclable at the end of life, plus Sekki Design donates some of their profits to non profit organisations that work with children welfare. 

Final thoughts on cultural things to do in Rome for an eco-friendly trip

Visiting renowned busy cities such as Rome does not mean it has to be chaotic or be negative for the environment. With the right mindset and by following our eco-friendly tips, you will find yourself enjoying the best things about Rome with a minimum carbon footprint.

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