Rome Vespa Tour: Off the Beaten Path

August 8, 2013 by

City Tours & Sightseeing, Europe, Places to Go, Things to Do

From its ancient ruins to grandiose cathedrals and architecture there are many things to do in Rome. The UNESCO-designated historical centre of Rome always leaves me in awe but this time I wanted to get off the tourist track. I wanted to experience the Eternal City from a local’s perspective and explore what tourists rarely see. Like the Romans, what better way to do that than a private tour on a traditional Italian Vespa?

After meeting our local guide Giorgio for a cup of cappuccino in Piazza della Repubblica we plopped on our helmets and I hopped on the back of his blue “azzurro” Vespa.

Riding on the Vespa

Riding on the Vespa

We zoomed past the famous Colosseum, the Ancient Roman Ruins, and the numerous tourists that filled the piazzas. Our first stop would be the most important church in Rome in Piazza San Giovanni. While most people head to the eye-catching St. Peter’s Basilica, it is the Archbasilica of San Giovanni that is considered the “mother church” by Catholics. As the first church ever built in Rome, it houses the official seat of the Pope and is situated next to the Palace of the Holy Steps.

Archbasilica of San Giovanni

Archbasilica of San Giovanni

Inside the Archbasilica of San Giovanni

Inside the Archbasilica of San Giovanni

To the far south of the city, we climbed to the top of Aventine, one of Rome’s Seven Hills with a panoramic lookout. Nestled between orange trees and a fragrant rose garden, locals come to escape the hustle of city life down below but the highlight of the hilltop was the secret door Giorgio led us to. Here, an intriguing peephole from a large, medieval iron door reveals the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica like a fresco framed within an enchanting garden in a way that I had never seen the Basilica before.

View from Aventine Hill

View from Aventine Hill

Our Vespa ride took us through the less visited district of Testaccio and the city’s most Roman neighborhood. In the early afternoon, the area is lined with local merchants selling fresh fruits and vegetables to passersby while other locals opt to people-watch from the many street-side trattorias and osterias found here. On the other side of the river, I fell in love with Trastevere. Crossing Isola Tiberina, we zipped up to the less visited Gianicolo Hill and where the best views of Rome can seen. The hill may also be the quietest part in all of Rome. Visitors wait in silence to hear and see a single cannon ball fire out into the skyline at twelve o’clock noon each day. Giorgio tells me it is Rome’s most important tradition which celebrates the city’s unification.

At the base of the hill, we crossed over Ponte Quattro Capi, the oldest bridge in Rome where the likes of notable celebrities have also crossed including Ghandi, Lady Gaga, and the Pope but what gives the Trastevere neighborhood it’s unique character from the rest of Rome is the well-preserved medieval houses and small mom-and-pop shops that line centuries-old cobble stone streets.

Riding through Rome

Riding through Rome

Zooming around on the back of a traditional Italian Vespa made me feel like I was one of the locals and gave me the chance to experience the less visited side of Rome. This private guided Vespa tour in Rome is the perfect way to explore the ancient city off the tourist map and from the perspective of a local who lives there.

Book the Rome Vespa Tour.

-Cristina Cantarelli

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