5 Hidden Gems of Rome That Most Tourists Never See

In Europe, Italy, Travel inspiration by JurgaThis post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. More info: Disclosure.

Even people who have never been to Rome can tell you what the main highlights of the city are. Who hasn’t heard of the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, or St. Peter’s Basilica? But if you travel to Rome and spend all your time checking off the list of the must-see places only, you are missing a great deal.

I know it because I made this mistake the first time I traveled to Rome. I loved this beautiful city, but I was just ticking off the list of the main landmarks and missing more local experiences… So this time I decided to set it right and tried to get off the beaten path for a taste of different, secret Rome even if just for a little bit.

If you are looking to get to know a bit different side of the Eternal City and visit a few hidden gems of Rome, read on!

Hidden gems and unusual things to do in Rome Italy

 

5 different things to do in Rome that are not on your list

Planning a trip to Rome? Of course, you will want to see the most popular landmarks and monuments of Rome and I’m not going to tell you to skip them. They are popular for a good reason!

However, don’t forget that Rome is more than the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps or the Trevi Fountain!

Here you can find some experience-based tips of how to get the most out of your visit to Rome. Just do yourself a favor – book ‘skip the line’ tickets for the most popular attractions and don’t waste your precious time in Rome queuing.

In this article, I want to share with you some of the less known, amazing places you can find in Rome that most tourists never see. Why are they ignored? Because the competition is fierce. That’s the one and only reason I can think of. These are one by one top places and they would have no difficulty in attracting big crowds were it not for the bad luck of being located in the shadow of the ‘must see’ places in Rome.

While some of these gems of Rome are somewhat known and some tourists seem to find their way to them, some others seem to be really hidden… For example, we saw a total of 3 other tourists in Coppedè and 2 at Santo Stefano Rotondo…

The hidden gems of Rome on the map

I created a map with all the hidden gems of Rome mentioned in this article. It should help you to better plan your visit – take a look below.

Without further ado, here are my favorite lesser known, secret places in Rome that you can easily visit. Read on!

1. Quartiere Coppedè – the hidden gem of Rome

This was one of my absolute favorite experiences in Rome – walking down the regular busy street, turn around the corner, and… WOW! There it was – Rome’s smallest district – Quartiere Coppedè.

Quartiere Coppedè is a fairy-tale-like neighborhood in Rome and is different from anything else I have ever seen. The best place to start exploring is by entering Quartiere Coppedè at the corner of Via Dora and Via Tagliamento.

Coppede district is one of the hidden gems of Rome

Coppede district is one of the hidden gems of Rome

Quartiere Coppede is one of the hidden gems of Rome

Quartiere Coppede

 

2. Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio

There are more than 900 churches in Rome, one more impressive than another and it would be impossible and somewhat pretentious to just pick one favorite. Santo Stefano Rotondo made it to my list of the hidden gems of Rome because it’s so very different from the other churches we visited in Rome.

Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo is the oldest example of a centrally planned church in Rome. The church was built in the 5th century and is famous for its 16-century graphic frescoes, portraying many scenes of martyrdom. This church has impressed me by the unusual circular architecture, somber interior, and its truly authentic feel.

There is plenty of history and very old buildings in Rome, but only a few places make you feel like you traveled back in time. Santo Stefano Rotondo is one of them!

Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome

Santo Stefano Rotondo

 

Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo is located on Via di Santo Stefano Rotondo 7 (side street of Via Claudia), just 10-15 minute walk from the Colosseum.

This small church is a real secret gem of Rome, literally hidden. If you don’t know it’s there, it is quite easy to miss.

Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo is open to the public from 10 AM to 1 PM and from 2 PM to 5 PM (October to March) and from 3 PM to 6 PM during the summer months.

Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio in Rome

Santo Stefano Rotondo is literally hidden

 

3. Trastevere – pleasant atmosphere and some of the best food in Rome

Trastevere, just across the Tiber river from the city center, is probably the most charming district in Rome. Out of all the places on this list, Trastevere is probably the most popular one with the tourists. However, most travelers seem to limit their visit to Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere and a few streets around it.

The moment you leave the busy square next to the church, the number of tourists decreases dramatically. Just two-three blocks further and you are left to explore the charming old neighborhood all on your own. There is also an outdoor food market on Piazza di San Cosimato and, together with a couple of restaurants and a playground, it’s a part of the city that gives you a truly local feel.

TIP: Book a Trastevere tour with a local and don’t miss any of the hidden gems of this authentic piece of Rome.

Charming old streets of Trastevere in Rome

Charming district of Trastevere

 

TIP: If you can, plan to have lunch or dinner in Trastevere as there are so many good local restaurants in the area. Try to avoid places with pictures on the menu and look for the ones where locals eat.

For an even more authentic experience, join this highly-rated Trastevere food tour with a local.

Local pastry shop in Trastevere Rome

Traditional pastry for sale at Pasticceria Valzani in Trastevere

 

If you are interested, you can find some authentic food stores like Antica Caciara selling some of the best cheeses in Rome or Pasticceria Valzani selling traditional pastries.

There are more of these really old shops in Trastevere and while they may look charming to one, somebody else may find that they bear lots of resemblance to the old food stores in the communist countries three-four decades back in time… I find that small neighborhood stores are well worth paying a visit in order to get a more authentic feel for the place. It’s better than the souvenir stands anyway.

Another great way to discover the local side of Rome and the food of Trastevere is by doing a self-guided food tour of Trastevere. It brings you to some secret places you wouldn’t easily find on your own, while at the same time allowing you to explore it all at your own pace.

Italian cheese shop in Trastevere Rome

Traditional Italian cheese for sale at Antica Caciara in Trastevere

 

4. Gianicolo – Janiculum Hill – great views over the city of Rome

Gianicolo or the Janiculum Hill, also called the 8th Hill of Rome, is another beautiful area that is overlooked by most travel guides.

View of Rome from Gianicolo Hill

View of Rome from Gianicolo Hill

 

Gianicolo is located South of Vatican City, just above Trastevere, and can be easily reached on foot. It’s a bit of a climb though, but the views over the city of Rome are certainly worth it. The main attraction is the cannon at Piazzale Garibaldi that fires each day at noon. Make sure not to miss the 17th-century Aqua Paola fountain (Fontana dell’Acqua Paola) as well. Gianicolo is an amazingly quiet area and a good way to escape the city and get off the beaten path.

TIP: One of the best ways to explore Gianicolo and some of the other further located areas is by taking a bike. You can rent a bike, join a highly-rated electric bike small-group tour, or even spend the whole day exploring Rome by bike (lunch, wine, and even gelato included!).

Aqua Paola Fountain at Gianicolo Rome

Aqua Paola Fountain

 

5. Villa Borghese – the largest public park of Rome

Villa Borghese is the largest park in Rome and it’s a great refuge from the hectic noisy streets of the city. The park is huge and you would probably need a day to see most of what it has to offer, but it’s a nice place to escape the city, even if just for a few hours.

Villa Borghese Park in Rome

Villa Borghese Park

 

The park is known as the ‘park of museums’, the most famous one being the Galleria Borghese which is located in the Villa Borghese after which the park is named. But there is more to the park: the lake and many fountains, the old fashioned puppet theatre, a small zoo, the beautiful gardens,…

TIP: If you want to visit the Borghese Gallery, you have to book the tickets in advance.

Villa Boghese Rome - Galleria Borghese

Galleria Borghese

 

Villa Borghese park is located to the North of the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo and is a bit outside of the regular tourists’ routes and even outside some of the city maps, but it’s not really that far. You can easily walk there from the city center.

The best way to explore the park seems to be by bike and there are several places where you can rent one. There is also a small tourist train driving around the park. If you are visiting Rome with a family, you could rent one of the 4-6 seater bikes to explore the park.

I really enjoyed this oasis of green and quiet in the middle of the noisy city. It is the perfect place to escape the heat in summer, to have a picnic, let your kids play, or just relax.

TIP: If you find the walk too long, join an organized Villa Borghese segway tour.

Villa Borghese gardens

Villa Borghese gardens

 

So, these are a few hidden gems of Rome that I think are really worth your time. If you are looking for more hidden gems of Rome or want to explore the more local side of the city, but aren’t sure where to start, I recommend you look into booking one or several tours that bring you to the lesser known places of Rome.

Here are some highly-rated local tours that I selected especially for our readers. These are one by one tours that will show you a different side of Rome, far away from the beaten tourist paths. Take a look:

***Read also our guide on planning a trip to Rome***

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Rome secret places and lesser known hidden gems of Italy's capital city
 

5 hidden gems of Rome that most tourists never see

Comments

  1. Hi Jurga !
    I’m going to Rome soon and was wondering if you have done a vineyard tour there? Nothing too far from Rome
    Thank you

  2. Hello Jurga,

    I’m planning a trip to Rome what’s the best time of the year to visit to avoid crowds and difficult weather.
    Thank you for these tips in your blog very helpful!

    1. Author

      Hi Bilerka, it’s really hard to say. You can have nice weather in November, or it can be dreadful. Same with any other month in the shoulder season. I think that October is usually quite good and also March.
      On the other hand, rainy weather doesn’t even matter that much in the city such as Rome. If it’s really bad, you just go and visit museums that day. It’s worse when it’s too hot, like in the summer, when it can get too hot to do anything…
      If you want to have fewer crowds, avoid the months between mid-May to mid-September, the rest of the year will be quieter.

  3. Hi Jurga,
    I am going to Rome for 2 days and then to Montepulciano and assisi, have you been to either? Would you have any recommendations/tips?

    Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi, I can’t really help you with either of those. But I’m sure it will be amazing – there are no bad places in Italy 🙂
      Enjoy your trip!

    2. Montepulciano is wonderfully quaint. Make sure you do a wine tasting at the family winery underground (name starts with R-any local can tell you. They have oldest winepress and it is cool). Also visit the church down the hill(you can see from the village).

  4. Hiya. Loving your blog!! Very helpful – we fly to Rome in 2 weeks – first time,, We are from Tassie, Aus.
    I would like to know what’s the best way to get to Traveste from Rome (staying central) I’m thinking taxi or uber….? Are they easy to catch? Payment for taxis easy? Should we pay card or euros for taxi? Thank you for help 😊

    1. Author

      Hi Kimbra, I assume you mean Trastevere? It’s just a part of the city and is quite central – see the area indicated on the map here.
      You can walk there – quite easy from the Vatican and from other parts of central Rome, but indeed it can be quite a walk (everything is in Rome). You can rent a bike (a great way to see a lot of Rome in little time and if you rent an e-bike, it’s quite easy too), get a taxi, I guess Uber as well, but I never used one.
      As for payment, Italians don’t really like credit cards, so I’d recommend having cash with you. Not just for a taxi, but for restaurants, souvenirs, etc. Often you may even get a discount when buying souvenirs if you pay cash.
      For more tips for Rome, please check this article: practical tips for visiting Rome. Enjoy your trip!

  5. I’m going to Rome on Saturday for a week. We plan to visit the usual places and also a day trip to Pompeii. Can you tell me where is the best place to buy tickets from?

    1. Author

      Hi Chris, we always book our tours via GetYourGuide – they have the best cancelation policy and customer service. I see that there are quite some Pompeii tours from Rome. Prices depend a bit on what they visit (+Naples + Amalfi Coast) and also on how big the group is. Plenty of choice in any case and you can read customer reviews. Definitely book online upfront – so much easier to compare and know what exactly you’re booking.
      Enjoy your trip!

  6. Hi Jurga,
    we are going to Rome in the middle of February. We know that the weather can be so so, but we are still excited. Do you have any restaurant suggestions? We are staying by the Vatican. Can we access the central Rome attractions by feet? We’re there for 5 days> Do u think that going to either Pompeii or the Amalfi is feasible? Thanks for your help!!!!

    1. Author

      Hi Lakisha, please check this post for some recommendations where to eat in Rome.
      Yes, you can explore central Rome on foot, but be prepared to walk a lot. Please also check this post for some practical tips for visiting Rome.
      As for day trips, it’s certainly feasible to visit Amalfi or Pompeii from Rome, but I think I’d go with an organized tour, so you don’t have to worry about all the practical side of it all. Please check this highly-rated Pompeii and Naples tour from Rome. Here’s a small-group alternative. Here is a day trip to Amalfi Coast and Positano and here is a day trip to Pompeii and Sorento. So the possibilities are endless. If you aren’t sure which places you don’t want to miss on the Amalfi Coast, please check our post with Amalfi Coast itinerary suggestions, it might give you a better idea.
      Hope this helps.

  7. So excited to see some of these not so known parts! We are visiting Rome in February ( I know it’s not the best time, but what can you do?) Anyway, thank you for the post! I am happy to try these places!

    1. Author

      Hi Shawna, I think you’ll love Rome in February. The weather might be less good, but that you never know anyway. However, you’ll have much less people everywhere and that can only enhance your experience. Believe me, Rome can get so busy in the high season that it’s not fun anymore… I think that off-season travel is the best way to enjoy it.
      I was just recently in Milan and Bellgio, Lake Como (both veery popular places that are otherwise crowded). I was there end of November and it was so quiet, perfect for sightseeing.
      Have a great trip!

  8. Hey! I’m going to Rome from 15 to 19 of January! I would like to know if it worth going to Florence? I’ve been searching and it is just 1hour by train.
    By the away, congratulations for this blog is really helpful!

    1. Author

      Hi Carolina, it’s really up to you. Florence is beautiful, but you don’t have that much time in Rome either (it’s not very clear to me if your dates include arrival and departure).
      I’d say if you can spend 3 full days in Rome and still have a day over, then go ahead and add a day trip to Florence. Otherwise, I think you’ll find plenty to see and do in Rome.

  9. This is just what I am looking for. We have a three week trip to Rome coming up and I don’t just want to see the “regular” touristy things. Thank you so much for this post!

    1. Author

      Glad to hear that, Tammy. And three weeks, really?! Lucky you! There is so much more to see in this great city if you have so much time. I’m sure you’ll find many more great places that are not overrun by tourists. Have a great time in Rome!
      PS If you are traveling around Italy and are looking for more suggestions on what to see, we have quite some other travel tips for various destinations here: Italy travel guide.

  10. My 76 yr old mom, my cousin, and my 81 yr old aunt just returned from 2 weeks in Italy, and we intend to go back, as there is never enough time. This list gives me a great starting point to tell our tour driver(s) where we want to go. BTW – with 2 senior citizens, the private driver was a MUST, but they were troopers and once we reached each of our daily destinations, they were able to keep right up! Thank you for the tips and all the detail!

    1. Author

      Wow, your mom and aunt seem to be doing great. Exploring Italy in summer is not so easy even for young people, so well done. I’m sure a second trip will be even better as you often take more time to travel slower, go off the beaten path, and often find some true hidden gems. Enjoy it!

  11. I appreciate your posting these favorites. However, it would be helpful to identify each of the coordinates with each spot as I could not figure where each one was located since it does not identify each site. Thanks kindly.

    1. Author

      Hi Blondie, can you see the map on top of the post? If you just click on each of the orange dots, it will show you the description of what it is. It’s as accurate as I can give it to you. Hope this helps.

      1. Thank you. Now I understand as I did not click on each of the orange dots.

  12. This was great! My daughter lived in Italy (Nepi, about 45 km from Rome, but almost inaccessible both in terms of public transit and local attitudes) for 10 years and some of these places made it to her take-the-visitors-there list — as her first choice church, she substituted Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano because of its layers of history (from 1100 AD, the current church, to the 4th century frescoed church in the basement, to the mithraeum below that!) but should we ever return, San Stefano Rotondo is definitely on my list. Thank you!

    1. Author

      It seems like you spent quite some time there, so it’s nice to know that you would also recommend these places to people looking to explore less known parts of Rome. And good to hear that you found one more hidden gem in Rome that you didn’t know about. It’s a really special church and given the fact that it’s so close to Colosseum, it’s strange that it’s so little known. Thanks for sharing your tip for Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano, Catherine. It’s a very beautiful church indeed!

  13. We are looking forward to visiting Rome. I know we will use your suggestions as they sound like our type of places.

    1. Author

      Glad you found this useful, Jim. Try to escape the crowds a bit. You’ll enjoy Rome more that way.

  14. This post is amazing, thank you ! 🙂

  15. Excellent list, Jurga. We visited the top of Janiculum Hill on a morning run while in Rome because going for a run in an unfamiliar city isn’t enough of a challenge. It was actually the perfect way to see it.

    1. Author

      Oh wow – you must be good runners! It’s quite steep to walk up that hill. It must have been a great experience, I am sure!

  16. We lived in Nettuno, about an hour outside of Rome for several years and made many trips into Rome. I have seen most of these places and the others are on my short list for upcoming trips ( we spend 3/4months in Europe each year). Great post, good advice!

    1. Author

      Good to hear that you found these recommendations useful, Jean. Coming from someone who lived in the area for so long, I really appreciate your feedback.

  17. Thanks Jurga! During our 4 days stay we visited all. Without your tips, we would never have found some of these places.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for taking the time to return to my blog and leave this feedback, Helma. Appreciate it.

  18. Thanks for sharing, these look lovely 😀

    1. Author

      Thank you Kyrsten. Hope you will find the time to see these less visited parts of Rome!

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