Rome is among the world’s most beautiful and history-filled cities, and of course, serves as one of the truly must-visit cities for romancers and family holidaymakers alike. The tourist-friendly sights and sounds of Rome is a road well-travelled. Sure, you sample some pizza, hit up the Colosseum and take a look at the Trevi fountain, but why not take the high road of luxury and sample Rome as a wealthy Ancient Roman would? After all, as the saying goes – when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
A whopping 403 million nights were spent in Rome by tourists last year alone, a number that is increasing all the time. Sculpting out an Ancient Rome experience might be easier than you think, and with the nasties of famines, plagues and military disasters now happily consigned to history, there’s absolutely no reason not to drink in something a little more authentic alongside the tourist cliches.
Eat as the Romans did
Italian food isn’t rare nowadays, with a number of quality restaurants along any high street offering sumptuous Italian cuisine. Surprisingly, the wealthiest Romans rarely ate out, with meals cooked for them by slaves in the comfort of their own home – a fact at odds with that of the modern-day, where Italian restaurants are seeing a surge in popularity. Their diet was built around different meal times to modern-day diners, with a light breakfast, a midday snack and a late-afternoon dinner made of a starter, a meat course and a dessert of fruit or nuts.
Day-to-day, these courses came in the form of minuscule portions by today’s standards, but at events such as the lavish dinner parties, guests were encouraged to eat large amounts, often making themselves ill in the process. Thankfully, there’s a happy medium among the very many Michelin Star restaurants in Rome nowadays.
Now, modern visitors to Rome shouldn’t be expected to go that far when it comes to giving their trip an air of authenticity, but they might be interested in taking a trip to the highly-rated Historia Antica restaurant for a menu made up of dishes that were commonplace in Ancient Rome. We’ve reviewed a number of classic Italian restaurants around the world and know that wine is all part of the experience, too, of course, with Ancient Romans having enjoyed a tipple as much as we do today. In fact, around a quarter of the wine in Europe is made in the vineyards of Italy. To this end, Antiqua Tours welcome guests with a taste for vino to join them on any of their bespoke tours around Rome and Lazio, combining the finest wines with sumptuous food and knowledgeable sightseeing experiences.
Relax as the Romans did
Living in Ancient Rome wasn’t always easy, and they took their downtime as preciously as anyone in the modern-day. Romans would kick back in a variety of ways, and wealthy ones especially would enjoy the fledgeling world of theatre, be it street theatre, acrobatics or the oddly entertaining naked dancing shows.
The first evidence of theatre in Ancient Rome came as early as the 4th Century BC when Etruscan actors came to entertain dignitaries. Two of the most lauded playwrights of Roman times were Plautus and Seneca, both iconic in their individual styles, who were hugely popular. Both would regularly have their work played out in open air theatres, and one of the premier open theatres, the Ostica Antica, is still in place today. Recent statistics put the number of theatre-goers in modern-day Rome at 1.5m and the Ostica is an unsurprisingly popular day out for tourists and locals alike. From time to time plays are put on there for visitors to enjoy, often adaptations of Plautus and Seneca titles.
One pastime that certainly wasn’t exclusive to only wealthy Romans was gambling, where the genesis of today’s $423bn gambling industry was set in motion. Some credit Ancient Rome with the invention of blackjack game, as evidence exists that they played a rather similar gambling game where wooden blocks held different numerical values. Modern visitors to Rome can reimagine the gambling experience by taking a trip to one of its five casinos, of course, and the Puegnago del Garda is the biggest. Another popular pastime we share with Ancient Rome, and perhaps the most relaxing of the list, is heading to the spa. Four genuine thermal baths exist in the city, all either directly or certainly very close to their original sites, and they are a stunning addition to any visit.
Enjoy sport as the Romans did
Modern day tourists might be tempted by the idea of visiting the AS Roma or SS Lazio soccer grounds for a taste of Rome, but for a more authentic experience of sport in Ancient Rome, that time would be better spent taking in some wrestling, chariot racing or – you guessed it – gladiator fighting.
Visiting the Colosseum is one of the first things people do when they go to Rome and if the gladiator spirit has taken hold, modern-day folk can take a day enjoying life as one of the time’s premium entertainers. The Gladiator School of Rome offers two-hour lesson time, traditional clothing, weaponry, meals and living quarters similar to that of a genuine gladiator. It stops short of a death match of course, but with much of it held in the shadow of the Colosseum itself, it will feel close to the real thing.
The Circus Maximus, now a vast oblong field baring only a passing resemblance to its former glories, was a chariot racing venue that at its peak held up to 250,000 spectators. The stadium is now a popular area for walks and picnics, and those keen to sample just a feel for what the chariot-racing atmosphere was like should take a seat on the existing grass banks, sip on fine wine and let the imagination run riot.
These are mere inspirations to weave into your Roman experience, but enjoying a genuine taste of Ancient Rome is easier than you might think. The city is awash with important historical sites, authentic experiences and breathtaking culinary options guaranteed to bring the spirit of Caesar directly to you.