Seven Hills of
By David Wilkening
In Rome, GA, residents used to proudly cite Berry College and the city's Class A baseball team as signature attractions for visitors.
But the small city of about 35,000 residents (its skyline and scenic river area are shown above*) more recently has been star-struck.
It's up-and-coming film festival is gaining international kudos and drawing big Hollywood names and tourists alike. The festival is building a reputation as one of the best in the country, according to MovieMaker magazine.
So you might consider planning a trip to this northwestern Georgia city for the next Rome International Film Festival (706-295-2787 or www.riff.tv) set for Sept. 4-8, 2008. For those arriving by air, Rome is only 70 miles northwest of Atlanta, GA.
The most recent festival featured 125 films that represented 35 countries. Venues for the various films, including a documentary called “Mississippi Son” about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, included the Desoto Theatre (the first talkie movie theater in the south, built in 1929).
As a result, the 2007 festival drew 8,200 people, the same attendance as the previous "record" year and thus "a good turn-out," according to Allen Bell, the festival's director.
“About two thirds of our participants come from northwest Georgia and another 20 percent from metro Atlanta,” Bell notes. Other travelers arrive from outside the state.
The Seven Hills of Rome
What will you discover -- beyond movieola -- in Rome? Not surprisingly, the city was so-named because it has seven hills just like its larger Italian counterpart.
It also has a spectacular clock tower (shown at right*)
But before setting off in search of Rome's eclectic attractions, stop at the Rome Visitor Center and the Last Stop Gift Shop (800-444-1834 or 706-295-5576 or www.romegeorgia.org), 404 Civic Center Dr.
Both are housed in a 1901 train depot with an attached caboose.
Pick up a free walking tour map at the Visitor's Center. It describes the city's many historical buildings. Visitors often enjoy perusing volumes at one of the 30 original libraries built by Andrew Carnegie in Georgia.
Another option is Myrtle Hill Cemetery, which has scenic views of the city. It's the resting place of many Civil War soldiers. Also available from the visitor center is a virtual driving tour and video tapes about the area.
In 2003, the Rome Braves (706-368-9388 or www.romebraves.com), 755 Braves Blvd., became a member of the Class A South Atlantic Baseball League.
If visiting in late spring and summer, you might take in some old-fashioned baseball action.
Fans enjoy cheering on the Braves (or your visiting team) at the 5,105-seat State Mutual Stadium (shown at left*)
The stadium towers over the historic low-rise buildings in downtown Rome.
Games follow a regular schedule from April to the end of August.
Another major sporting event -- "The Tour de Georgia," one of America's top speed cycling events -- often winds through Rome.
A recent stage start in Rome is shown at right.*
The next race is slated for April 14-20, 2008 with stages throughout the state.
So check the race's www.tourdegeorgia.com site for additional race details as they're announced, including the specific day the race will be under way within Rome.
Visitors have other eclectic activity options around Rome. The Martha Berry Museum (http://oakhill.berry.edu or 706-291-1883) is located at the intersection of Martha Berry Highway (US 27) and Veterans Memorial Highway (Georgia Loop 1).
This museum features exhibits and memorabilia that detail how this remarkable and genteel southern woman founded the Berry Schools.
A friend of both President Teddy Roosevelt and auto magnate Henry Ford, Martha Berry (shown in the photo at left*) left her comfortable childhood home at Oak Hill to found a log-cabin school in 1902.
The school became a haven for women’s education and today it's a highly respected small college -- Berry College.
You'll find many eclectic visitor attractions on the college's campus. For example, Henry Ford gave Martha Berry several cars, which are on display.
Also on the campus is Oak Hill, a magnificent example of Colonial Revival architecture that was the Berry family home.
The magnificent antebellum Oak Hill mansion is shown at right.*
Built in 1847, Oak Hill has been restored to its "original look" -- much as the family would have known it in previous decades -- between 1860 and 1942.
About a half hour's drive from Rome is Cartersville, home to the Booth Western Art Museum (770-387-1300 or www.boothmuseum.org), 501 N. Museum Dr.
Opened in 2003, this world-class museum features more than 200 paintings and sculptures and not just western art.
Visitors will appreciate the letters and memorabilia from each of the 42 U.S. Presidents. Children might play at the museum's interactive gallery.
A highlight for all ages is watching Jim Dunham, a museum employee who is not only a pistol whiz but also a walking encyclopedia of western trivia.
Chowing Down in Rome
If you go to the Rome area, you'll find many savory dining choices. The Partridge Café (706-291-4048), 330 Broad St, offers home cooking and specializes in southern style vegetables. It has been a local favorite for 60 years.
Paul’s Oyster Bar (706-234-8313), 2901 Shorter Ave., offers fresh raw oysters, catfish and other southern-fried dishes.
A great spot for martini-lovers that also offers fine food is T. Martooni’s and the 239 Bistro (706-295-7070), 239 Broad St. Try the popular fried lobster tails.
Finding a good, reasonably priced Mexican restaurant may not be expected in Rome. But look for Los Portales (706) 238-9988), 2439 Shorter Ave. SW. It's generally packed but worth the wait for its Texas Fajitas.
Time To Get Some ZZzzs
After a full day seeing the sites, attending film showings, or venturing further afoot to places like Cartersville, you'll be ready to hit the sack. Among the options are these:
The five-room Claremont House Bed & Breakfast (706-232-9854 or www.theclaremonthouse.net), 906 E. Second Ave., is an elegant Victorian Gothic building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This B&B boasts 11 fireplaces. The boutique inn property is well-known for its gourmet breakfasts that include banana pecan waffles and blueberry stuffed French toast.
Nightly rates range from $140-$170 for two people sharing a room.
A more modern option is the Days Inn (706-232-9865 or www.daysinn.com), 840 Turner McCall Blvd. It has 105 newly renovated rooms. And, it's conveniently located a block from the historic downtown area.
Days Inn guests are offered complimentary visits to a local health spa. Rates at presstime were about $62 for a double room.
Check with both properties for the latest rates and details. Contact the tourism groups below for more lodging options.
For More Information
Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau
402 Civic Center Dr.
706-295-5576 or www.romegeorgia.org
Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce
1 Riverside Parkway
800-234-3154, 706-291-7663 or www.romegeorgia.org
David Wilkening is a former newspaperman who worked in Chicago, Detroit, Washington and Orlando. He is now a freelance writer who lives in Orlando. He primarily writes about travel and business real estate subjects
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of the Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau, Berry College and the Claremont House B&B. All rights reserved. Do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.