Rome: Far From the Madding Crowd: Explore the Best of Rome Without Tourists

by | Sep 9, 2016 | Europe, Italy, Rome Without Tourists | 0 comments

Far From the Madding Crowd in Rome


You’re pumped to see Rome ….. all the top sites in 3 days. So are the other 10 million tourists who visit Rome every year.

Can you see the sites as if you are the only tourist in Rome?

There are ways!

Read on…..

Can you think of a fountain that is more famous than Trevi?


Everyone wants a selfie while throwing a coin in the fountain. Turn your back to the fountain while you throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. If the coin lands in the fountain, you are sure to return to Rome.

The movie Three Coins in the Fountain popularized coin throwing for Americans. Frank Sinatra sang the title song, Three Coins in the Fountain. The song won the Academy Award.


Three coins in the fountain

Each one seeking happiness

Thrown by three hopeful lovers

Which one will the fountain bless?


Three hearts in the fountain

Each heart longing for its home

There they lie in the fountain

Somewhere in the heart of Rome

The composers wrote the song in an hour. In a rush to add the song to the soundtrack for the movie, 20th Century Fox forgot to have the composers sign over their rights, leaving the composers with complete rights to all royalties for the billboard chart topper.

The composers do not have rights over the 3,000 euros thrown into the Trevi Fountain every day.

Who gets the money? It is swept out of the fountain every night and is used to subsidize a supermarket for the needy.

It is illegal to take the money from the fountain…..or is it?

A court in Rome has cleared a woman of stealing coins tossed for luck into one of the city’s most famous tourist spots, the Trevi Fountain.


The 52-year-old former dancer used an improvised fishing pole to recover the coins.

The judge ruled that the money had been discarded and had no rightful owner.

Authorities arrested a man nicknamed D’Artagnan, who was reported to have taken up to 1,000 euros a day from the fountain.

D’Artagnan raided the fountain for 34 years before he was discovered.

After this decision, Rome passed a new law  making it illegal to take money from the fountain.


Water is the Source of Life in the Trevi Fountain


Trevi Fountain sits at the terminal point of a major aqueduct that supplied water to ancient Rome. The source of the water is 13 km away. Oceanus, god of the sea, is in the centre of the fountain, pointing to the source of the water.

The fantasy theme of the fountain is taming the waters.

Oceanus triumphantly rides a shell chariot pulled by two sea horses that are bursting from the waters. A young triton struggles to control the restless sea horse, symbolizing the violent strength of the sea that can create life and destroy life. The older triton has an easier time with the calm horse, representing the tranquility of the sea.


Trevi Fountain is a must-see site in Rome


Trevi Fountain should be in a large plaza, with breathing space for people to circulate and enjoy this iconic image of Rome. Instead it is crammed into a space that leaves little room for tourists to get the perfect selfie.

My first visit to the Trevi Fountain was on a walking tour. It was very crowded but people were polite to make space for everyone to get a selfie while throwing a coin. I just had to wait a few minutes to get to the front of the fountain for the photo above.


Is it possible to see Trevi far from the madding crowds?

I found two ways…


Go to the Trevi Fountain in the morning


I went for a pre-breakfast walk when few tourists were visiting the Trevi.

The morning is a better time to get photos but not as much fun as in the afternoon when you are surrounded by the buzz of a lot of excited tourists.

I actually wanted to get a few tourists in this photo so that you can see the size of the fountain.

Have a drink at the Hotel Fontana


Trevi Fountain is surrounded by buildings. Surely one of them offered a view!

I did a Google search and discovered that the Hotel Fontana has a perfect view from a second-story balcony.

It has a steep cover of 15 euros but that includes a glass of wine…..and he poured me a goblet-sized glass. I went in the late afternoon and enjoyed a perfect view, paired with a perfect wine.

I was the only one in the bar!

Later on, an American couple arrived. They were celebrating their one-week anniversary. We had a great chat about this hidden gem in Rome. I’m so glad that I paid 15 euros to see Trevi Fountains without the madding crowds.


I planned to return again in the evening to see the new lights in the fountain.


Fendi, an upscale Italian fashion house, best known for its handbags, paid 2.2 million euros for a 20-month makeover of the fountain, including the installation of LED lights.

Fendi’s contribution is in response to a recent tax initiative, the art bonus, designed to encourage private companies to get involved in restoring Rome’s cultural landmarks.

The manager at the Hotel Fontana promised that I could return again in the evening to see the fountain, without paying the cover. However, our evenings were busy and I did not make it back.


On my next trip to Rome, I will see Trevi Fountain at night! Anyone Want to Join Me?


The best way to see the Colosseum without the madding crowds is ……. to go in a driving rainstorm!


Our tour package included a set time to visit the Colosseum. We had no flexibility to change the time when the heavens opened.

We had a fabulous guide for the Colosseum. She described the Colosseum as psychological architecture. Everything was designed to keep the populous of Rome under control: Feed them; Entertain them; Frighten them; Subdue them. A day at the Colosseum started with food and fun. This sent out the message that if you obey, you will eat. Public executions were next on the agenda. This sent out the message that if you revolt, you will die. The finale for the day was elaborately staged spectacles, with gladiators and exotic animals, transported from distant lands. This demonstrated the imperial power of the rulers to conquer and control.

The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built. It had a capacity of 80,000 people, To fill and evacuate quickly, the architects created 80 entrances, each with a separate number. Spectators were given pottery shards with their entrance number. This method is still used today to fill and empty large venues, but not with pottery shards.

The Colosseum is built on an imperial scale.


I would show you pictures of the Forum, but the driving rain was too much… trip.


The Best Way to See the Pantheon Without Tourists is to LOOK UP!

The Dome of the Pantheon is magnificent. It is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The concrete at the top of the dome is mixed with pumice, a porous and light stone.

Romans invented concrete more than 2,000 years ago, liberating architects to design spaces with arches, vaults and domes. This period is known as the Concrete Revolution. Even today, Roman concrete is the most durable.

There is a resurgence of interest in Roman concrete. It has a smaller environmental footprint than modern concrete. It lasts longer, costs less to make and withstands harsh environments.

The centre of the dome is open to the heavens. The oculus looks small in this photo but it is 27′ wide. It is the major source of light for the Pantheon.

Once a year, at noon on Pentecost Sunday, Roman firefighters scale the outside of the dome and sprinkle million of red rose petals through the oculus. You can find fabulous photos on Google images of this magical sight.

I wish I had a photo to share with you. I was in Rome on Pentecost Sunday…… but my flight back home was at  3:00 PM.  I desperately wanted to see the rose-petal-rain in the Pantheon but risked missing my flight.

What would you do? I went to the airport, but as I am writing this, I wish I had taken the risk or rebooked my flight!


Would you miss a flight for a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

The Best Time to see the Sistine Chapel without the madding crowds is …… I DON’T KNOW!


The Sistine Chapel is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It is always crowded. But the Sistine Chapel is part of a vast museum. The  Vatican Museum is one of the largest museums in the world. It holds some of the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art.

Don’t rush through one of the best museums in the world, just to get to the Sistine Chapel. You will miss masterpieces that people would line up to see in any other city.

We spent some time in the Matisse room. We were the only people there!

I wrote about Matisse in one of my first blogs because he was inspired by the Moorish art in the Alhambra Palace. Last year, MOMA hosted an exhibition of Matisse cut-outs. In the final weekend of a 4-month show, MOMA stayed open around the clock to accommodate the flood of visitors. Here we were, all by ourselves in the Matisse room in the Vatican Museum!

The Gallery of Maps is a stunning room in the Vatican Museum


This room is the length of a football field. It is covered with meticulously detailed maps of Italy painted almost 500 years ago.

A 4-year restoration project has just been completed.

Don’t miss the Gallery of Maps in your rush to the Sistine Chapel.


I have no photos of the Sistine Chapel to share with you. Photos are not allowed. This rule is not to preserve or protect Michelangelo’s stunning masterpieces on the ceiling. The no-photos rule was imposed by Nippon Television Network of Japan as a condition of its $4 million fund to carry out a 20 year restoration of the Chapel. They reserved exclusive rights to photograph the art for 3 years after the restoration. That time period has expired but the Museum kept the ban in place.

The Exit from the Vatican Museum is down a magnificent double helix staircase


The double helix design for the spiral staircase creates two staircases: one for going down and one for going up. People who are descending do not meet those who are ascending. (Escher fans could have a lot of fun designing an impossible staircase with a double helix design.)

The double helix design has been adopted by science as the symbol of DNA and human life. It is fitting that everyone who visits the Vatican Museum exits through the symbol of life.


This is also a fitting end for our magnificent trip to Venice, Florence and Rome.


Please return next week……surprise location!


Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray

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