5 Hidden Gems of Rome That Most Tourists Never See

In Europe, Italy, Travel inspiration by JurgaTHIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

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 travelled to Rome. I loved this beautiful city, but I was a tourist and not a traveller. So this time I decided to set it right and tried to get off the beaten path for a taste of real Rome even if just for a little bit.

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. But don’t forget that Rome is more than the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps or the Trevi Fountain. You can find some experience-based tips of how to get the most out of your visit to Rome here. And do yourself a favour – 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 places 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…

I created a map with all the places mentioned here. It should help you to better plan your visit.

1. Quartiere Coppedè – the hidden gem of Rome

This was one of my absolute favourite experiences in Rome – walking down the regular busy street, turn around the corner, and… WOW! There it was – Rome’s smallest district – Quartiere Coppedè – a fairy-tale-like neighbourhood that 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 favourite. 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 few places make you feel like you travelled back in time. Santo Stefano Rotondo is one of them!

Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome

Santo Stefano Rotondo


The church is really hidden and is easy to miss. It is located on Via di Santo Stefano Rotondo 7 (side street of Via Claudia), just 10-15 minute walk from the Colosseum. The church is open 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 centre, 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 travellers 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 neighbourhood 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. Just do yourself a favour 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 neighbourhood 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.

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


The 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, so you can easily walk there from the city centre. 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 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 organised Villa Borghese segway tour.

Villa Borghese gardens

Villa Borghese gardens


If you are looking for more hidden gems in Rome, I made a small selection of some of the best organised tours that bring you to the less-known places of Rome. See below.

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5 hidden gems of Rome that most tourists never see

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  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. This post is amazing, thank you ! 🙂

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. Author

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

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