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Here’s Why You Should Skip Rome And Visit This North African City Instead

By Kelsey Marie

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Rome is a city everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. From the Colosseum, history, and art to the food, this city has a lot to offer. On the flip side, Rome can be very expensive and overcrowded with tourists. 

However, only an 80-minute flight away from Rome is a spectacular alternative — Tunis. Located in North Africa, Tunis is the capital city of Tunisia and will blow you away with its likeness to Rome. 

The country has gone through an episode of turmoil, with two terror attacks occurring in 2015, but is now safe for tourists. 

This magnificent amphitheater is the second largest built under the Roman Empire, after Rome’s Colosseum. Its decline is mainly due to their use as building materials store free for centuries for the local population.

According to the BBC, Tunisia is “currently the only Arab nation with freedom of expression.” Tunis is full of film festivals, art shows, and concerts and is really progressive for young creatives.

When visiting Tunis, you’ll be able to explore ancient Roman and Punic ruins, beaches and shop for beautiful crafts. The Medina in Tunis is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site and you can find shoemakers, woodworkers, weavers, and perfumers while walking around this area. 

The Tunis Medina (Old Town) is a fascinating place to learn more about this North African city. The 9th century Medina was originally surrounded by walls. Today the walls are gone, but the area is filled with narrow streets, souks, mosques, and historic structures. The Tunis Medina became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Before Tunis existed, there was Carthage, an ancient Phoenician port city. Carthage was Rome’s arch-rival for hundreds of years — thus the reason for Punic and Roman ruins. To see the runs, head to Byrsa Hill. Also a Unesco World Heritage Site, Byrsa Hill is filled with mansions and villas but don’t get it twisted, there are ancient Roman remains to be found here as well.

Punic and Roman streets on Byrsa hill in Carthage, 2nd century BC. (Photo by CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images)

The Antonine Baths are the remains of one of the largest public baths ever made during the Roman era. 

Antonine Baths, Carthage, Tunisia. A perennial foe of Rome, the North African city-state of Carthage was absorbed into the Roman Empire after its defeat in the Third Punic War in 146 BC. The Roman city that was established on the ruins of Carthage grew to become the second-largest city in the western half of the empire and the capital of the province of Africa. These baths, built between 145 and 165 AD during the reign of Antoninus Pius, were once the very largest in the Roman Empire. The main pool was as big as a modern Olympic pool. (Photo by Vivienne Sharp/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Just a two-hour drive from Tunis is Dougga, known as the best-preserved Roman city in North Africa. Explore the streets, temples, and hills overlooking the plains and be transported back to the Roman era.

DOUGGA, TUNISIA – NOVEMBER 20: General view of Dougga Archaeological Site In Tunisia on November 20, 2018 in Dougga, Tunisia. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)
DOUGGA, TUNISIA – NOVEMBER 20: People during the visits of Dougga Archaeological Site In Tunisia on November 20, 2018 in Dougga, Tunisia. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

The history, art, and architecture of Rome can be found in Tunis with its own twist and is just as important city to visit as the popular Italian city. 

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Kelsey Marie

Kelsey-Marie is an NYC girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @kelseydashmarie

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