A history rich jaunt to Northwest Georgia
Located a little over an hour north of Atlanta, the town of Rome is named after the Italian capital and even has its own Capitoline Wolf statue. But unlike Helen, which also draws inspiration from abroad, the kitschy comparisons to a European counterpart mostly end there.
Set in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Rome was once the home of the Cherokee people until their removal on the Trail of Tears. It was officially founded in 1834 around the cotton mills that dotted the converging Etowah, Coosa and Oostanaula rivers. These mills brought wealth to the family of Martha Berry, who founded Berry College for the impoverished children in her community.
Start your trip at the college, which spreads across 27,000 acres and has been featured in the films Sweet Home Alabama and Remember the Titans. Oak Hill is Berry’s Greek Revival home and its surrounding 170 acres. The adjacent Martha Berry Museum features artifacts from early Rome and Berry history.
The Ford Buildings are the most iconic on campus, with Gothic stonework commissioned by Henry Ford in the 1920s. The Old Mill is another favorite landmark, dating back to 1930. The waterwheel and gristmill are still operated throughout the year.
Outside of the campus gates and near the banks of the Oostanaula, the Chieftains Museum and Major Ridge Home honor the Cherokee people who were the original residents of Rome. The log cabin that sat here belonged to Major Ridge, a Cherokee leader who signed the Treaty of New Echota that led to the Trail of Tears.
After learning about this history, enjoy a fun night out by going to see the minor league Rome Braves, an affiliate of Atlanta’s hometown team that plays seasonally at a stadium inspired by Rome, Italy’s architecture. You never know when you might see tomorrow’s major league players.
Grab an iced coffee at Swift & Finch, a popular coffee shop in a former gas station, before checking out the shops and restaurants that line Broad Street. For lunch, head to Harvest Moon Cafe, a popular eatery known for its homemade sandwiches and funky decor. Indulge your sweet tooth at neighboring Honeymoon Bakery that has homemade cakes and pastries as well as gelato.
Now satiated, climb the hill to the Between the Rivers Historic District, the oldest part of Rome. Built in 1872, the historic Clocktower offers incredible views. The interior has murals and exhibits on local history. If time and weather allow, go on a leisurely float down the river by renting a paddleboard from River Dog Outpost, a laid-back beer garden and outfitter.
When it’s time to rest, check into the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Rome, set in an 1890s brick warehouse with original wood floors and a light-filled atrium. The large guest rooms overlook downtown, and guests can enjoy free breakfast, a bike share and Wi-Fi.
After freshening up, walk the few blocks downtown or hop in the Rome Chariot, a city-wide free shuttle. If you’re craving a taste of the Mediterranean, head to Bella Roma, known for dishes such as spanakopita and lasagna. Bistro 208 is another option for classic dishes such as pork schnitzel and garlic roasted chicken. Before calling it a night, stop by Rome City Brewing for live music and craft beer.
As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” And in this Rome, that means enjoying the “bella vita.”
IF YOU GO
Chieftains Museum and Major Ridge Home
Harvest Moon Cafe
Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Rome
River Dog Outpost
Rome City Brewing
Swift & Finch
STORY: Caroline Eubanks
Photos: Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism, Caroline Eubanks, GA Dept of Economic Development
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