Skip to Content

21 Hidden Gems of Rome That Most Tourists Never See (+ Map & Tips)

This 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.

 
21 Hidden Gems of Rome That Most Tourists Never See (+ Map & Tips)

Are you visiting Rome and want to get a bit off the beaten path and discover some of the secret or lesser known, hidden gems of Rome? This article might be just what you need. Take a look!

Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy and a real bucket-list destination! 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 on the subsequent trips, 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 also looking to get to know a bit different side of the Eternal City and visit a few of the hidden gems of Rome, this article will give you a few ideas.

I also included a map indicating all the hidden gems mentioned in this article. At the bottom of this article, you can also find some quirky and different local tours in Rome. Take a look!

Quartiere Coppede is one of the hidden gems of Rome
Quartiere Coppedè – one of my personal favorite hidden gems in Rome
 

In this article, we are sharing 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 more and more tourists seem to find their way to them, some others are still really undiscovered…

Update: This guide to some off the beaten path places in Rome was originally published with just a few of my personal favorites. However, our readers wanted more ideas and more unique places to see. So we asked our fellow travel writers to share some of their favorite hidden gems of Rome and included them in this updated edition.

This list will give you more ideas for unique places to visit in Rome than you’ll be able to do in one trip. Find out!

 

The hidden gems of Rome on the map

To make your trip planning easier, 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.

 

How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.

Rome hidden gems and unique places to visit
 

Without further ado, here are some lesser-known and secret places, the hidden gems of Rome:

1. Quartiere Coppedè

Visiting Quartiere Coppedè was one of my absolute favorite experiences in Rome. We were walking down the regular busy street, then turned 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.

The Coppedè neighborhood isn’t big and there are just a couple of really special buildings. However, it’s so unique that it makes the visit here really worth it. It’s one of those secret places in Rome that are completely off the beaten path and there are hardly any tourists around…

You can easily visit this neighborhood on your own, but if you prefer to go with a local guide and discover more hidden gems of Rome, there are a few tours that also visit here.

Quartiere Coppede in Rome
Via Dora leads you to the heart of Quartiere Coppedé
Fountain of the Frogs in Quartiere Coppede in Rome
Fountain of the Frogs in Quartiere Coppedé
 

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!

It’s hard to believe that this church is located within such a short walking distance from the Colosseum. It’s a truly hidden little secret that is well worth visiting if you have at least half an hour to spare.

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.

Practical information: Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo is located on Via di Santo Stefano Rotondo 7 (side street of Via Claudia), just a 10-15 minute walk from the Colosseum. It’s 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 of Santo Stefano Rotondo - secret places in Rome
Interior of Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo
Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio in Rome Italy
Santo Stefano Rotondo is literally hidden
 

3. Trastevere

Trastevere is a somewhat lesser-visited district in central Rome. It’s one of the places where you can find a very pleasant local atmosphere and some of the best food in Rome.

Located 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 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.

Trastevere is not a secret place by any means, but as it often goes, most people never take the time to explore it deeper.

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.

Charming Trastevere district in Rome
The charming Trastevere district is a place that you should explore deeper
 

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.

TIP: For an even more local experience, check this highly-rated Rome food tour in an even lesser-known district, the Jewish Quarter. It includes samples of typical Roman dishes, wine and beer tastings, and of course, the Italian Gelato!

Local places in Rome - Pasticceria Valzani in Trastevere
Traditional pastry for sale at Pasticceria Valzani in Trastevere
Traditional Italian cheese for sale at Antica Caciara in Trastevere
Traditional Italian cheese for sale at Antica Caciara in Trastevere
 

4. Aventine Hill and Knights of Malta Keyhole

Recommended by Lori of TravlinMad

A visit to Rome’s Aventine Hill, the southernmost of the Seven Hills of Rome, offers a peaceful respite from the bustling city and crowds. Here, you can find not one, but several bucket list-worthy hidden gems of Rome. 

Steeped in ancient Roman history, the Aventine was home to plebeians during the days of the Republic. Today, the area is comprised of upscale residences, sumptuous gardens, and elegant churches and monasteries with a wealth of architectural interest.

Don’t miss the Basilica of Santa Sabina (Basilica di Santa Sabina all’Aventino), one of Rome’s oldest basilicas. Its interior is especially worth seeing!

One of the defining sites on Aventine Hill is the Orange Trees Garden (Giardino degli Aranci), one of the city’s most beautiful parks. It’s also one of the largest parks in Rome at nearly 8,000 square meters. Not only is the park worth a visit for its secluded location and feel. It also contains one of Rome’s most interesting hidden gems — Knights of Malta Keyhole in Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta.

Near the parking lot and behind the big green door is where you can steal a peek through the keyhole and be treated to one of the most unique views of Saint Peter’s Basilica through the hedges. The view technically spans three countries — across the autonomous property of the Knights of Malta, through a patch of Italy, and over to the Vatican.

Practical information: A visit here is free of charge, but keep in mind that the garden is only open until sunset. The Priory Keyhole is no longer a secret place in Rome. Recently, it has become a very popular site. However, it’s usually quieter early in the morning or in the evening at around sunset.

Knights of Malta Keyhole in Giardino degli Aranci in Rome
Knights of Malta Keyhole – Photo ©  red-feniks/DepositPhotos.com
 

5. Via Margutta

Recommended by Helga of ShegoWandering

Via Margutta is a beautiful street hidden between Piazza di Spagna’s Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. As it’s off the main road, it’s never busy, and it’s an absolutely magical place, with beautiful Italian palazzos covered with ivys all along the street. Originally, Via Margutta was home of various stables and workshops, but that has changed in the last century.

The street became famous after the premiere of the movie ‘Roman Holiday‘ with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Pack in 1953. Roman Holiday is one of the most iconic movies ever made in the Italian capital. Since the main male character, Joe Bradley, lived on Via Margutta in the movie, the street became famous straight away.

Thanks to the success of this film, many famous people moved to Via Margutta in the 60s -70s. The neighborhood of Via Margutta became an exclusive, super expensive place to live in Rome. Also today, it’s still the residence of wealthier Romans.

In addition to its beautiful buildings, this quiet, cozy, and colorful street also has some unique places to visit. On Via Margutta, you can find numerous amazing art galleries, luxury shops, and high-end restaurants.

TIP: If you’re a fan of the Roman Holiday, you can also visit the palazzo where Joe Bradley was living in the movie. It’s located on Via Margutta 51.

Via Margutta in Rome
Via Margutta is one of the most beautiful streets in Rome – Photo ©  shegowandering.com
Luxury boutique on Via Margutta in Rome
Luxury boutique on Via Margutta – Photo © shegowandering.com
 

6. Doria Pamphili Gallery

Recommended by Dymphe of Dym Abroad

The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is a beautiful and interesting palace in the center of Rome. It’s absolutely stunning, easy to visit, but is not very well-known. You can easily walk here from other famous sights in Rome, such as the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, or the Victor Emmanuel II Monument.

The interior of the palazzo is lavishly decorated. Inside the palace, everywhere you look, you can see amazing art and impressive architectural details. Furthermore, the courtyard of the palace is also very nice to visit.

But there’s more to this palace than its looks! Inside, you’ll find the Doria Pamphilj Gallery. This is one of the best museums in Rome! All the artwork was collected by the Doria Pamphilj family, a princely Roman family, and contains works from various periods in time. Most of the paintings were made by famous painters, such as Velázquez, Raphael, and Titian.

The combination of the beautiful palace and its rich art collection makes a visit to Palazzo Doria Pamphilj one of the best activities for those looking to get off the beaten path and experience a truly unique place in Rome.

Practical information: The entrance fee for the gallery is 14 EUR and it includes an audio guide. It’s open on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and public holidays from 9.30 AM till 7 PM and on Friday from 11:30 AM til 11 PM. For more information, check their website (in Italian).

Doria Pamphili Gallery in Rome
The interior of Doria Pamphili Gallery – Photo © isogood/Depositphotos.com
Doria Pamphili Gallery inner court
Doria Pamphili Gallery inner court – Photo © Anton Aleksenko/Depositphotos.com
 

7. Capuchin Crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione

Recommended by Roxanne of Faraway Worlds

If you are looking for something unique to do in Rome, don’t miss the Capuchin Crypt at Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins (Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini). Underneath the church lie the bones of almost 4,000 monks. What’s unusual about this crypt is that the bones aren’t buried. Instead, they adorn the six tiny chapels below the church.

In 1631, the Capuchin monks left their home at the friary of St. Bonaventure near the Trevi Fountain and moved to the Santa Maria della Concezione. The cardinal ordered them to bring the remains of their deceased brothers with them, so all the Capuchin friars could rest in one place. This they did. However, instead of burying the bones, they decorated the walls of the crypts with them.

The bones of all the monks who died between 1528 and 1870 decorate the crypt walls, the effect both disquieting and strangely beautiful. The ornaments vary in nature – there are separate crypts for the different bones (skulls, legs, and pelvises), light-fittings made from finger bones, and a skeleton holding a scythe and scales (both, of course, made of bones).

This was meant as a reminder for the monks that death is inevitable. A plaque in one of the chapels reads “What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you shall be”. Wandering through the chapels is a melancholy experience, somehow intertwining death, art and religion. 

Practical information: Santa Maria della Concezione is located on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini, a short walk from the Trevi Fountain. The crypts are open from 9 AM to 7 PM daily and the entrance fee is 8.50 EUR. Keep in mind that modest clothing is required and photography is not allowed these days anymore.

TIP: If you like crypts and catacombs, you may want to join one of the popular tours that visit these unique places in Rome.

Secret places in Rome - Capuchin Crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione
Capuchin Crypt – Photo © Dnalor 01, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
 

8. Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary

Recommended by Cindy of Travel Bliss Now

Largo di Torre Argentina is a town square in the heart of Rome, just a few blocks from the Pantheon. Chances are that you’ll notice the ruins just below street level at Largo di Torre Argentina.  What you might not know is that this is the very spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Nowadays, it’s a cat sanctuary.

The ruins of four temples and the remains of Pompey’s Theatre date back as far as the 4th century B.C. Julius Caesar was killed on the steps of the theatre on the Ides of March 44 B.C.

When the site was excavated in 1929, feral cats moved in. The cat ladies of Rome started looking after them and eventually established a shelter in one corner of the site. Now, 130 cats live in the ruins. And that’s what also makes this place more special to visit – not just the history, but also the cats.

Good to know: You can’t access the ruins, but can see the site and the cats, at no cost, from street level. You can also visit the shelter itself, where about 20 elderly or disabled cats live. To get there, take the stairs down to the site at the corner of Via Florida and Via di Torre Argentina. 

Practical information: The cat sanctuary is open from noon to 6 PM on weekdays, and 11 AM to 6 PM on weekends. There is no charge to visit, but donations are welcome. You can find more information on their website.

Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome
Largo di Torre Argentina – Photo © travelblissnow.com
Cat at Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome
A cat at Largo di Torre Argentina – Photo © travelblissnow.com
 

9. Vatican Necropolis & St Peter’s Tomb

Recommended by Nicholas of Rambling Feet

St Peter’s Basilica is one of the most well-known and visited sites within Rome, but few people visit the ancient Roman necropolis that lies buried under the church.

It is partly because you cannot simply rock up and buy a ticket or wait in line to enter. The process starts with writing to the Vatican Scavi office ahead of time, hoping you get a reply confirming your spot on a guided tour and paying 13 EUR for it. If successful, you would be one of only 250 visitors who would be permitted to enter that day. 

As the tour descends the stairs to the underground necropolis (there are no lifts), you will be taken two millennia back in time. Vatican Hill was once outside the city walls of Rome. It covered in the 1st and 2nd-century mausoleums that lie under the present-day St Peter’s Basilica. Incredibly, they were discovered only 80 years ago and the paintings on some mausoleums are very well-preserved.

Inside, there are also old piers and structures that date to Emperor Constantine’s Old St Peter’s Basilica. That church was torn down and replaced in the 1500s by the Bramante/Michelangelo masterpiece that we see today.

For pilgrims, the Vatican Necropolis is especially significant because it is also the site of the tomb of the Apostle St Peter. To paraphrase the Bible, the tour takes you to see the “rock” on which the Church was built.

Good to know: Vatican necropolis is very humid and stuffy, so I would not recommend visiting it in the middle of a Roman summer. No photography is permitted during the tour, hence the publicly-sourced photo for this write-up. Lastly, the tour ends in the Vatican grottoes where the popes are buried, which means that taking this tour is one of the ways you can skip the queue to enter St Peter’s Basilica

Vatican Necropolis is one of the secret places in Rome
Vatican Necropolis is one of the most unique places to visit in Rome – Photo © Blue 439, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
 

10. Appian Way

Recommended by Jyoti of Story at Every Corner

Dating from 312-264 BC, Appian Way was the first and the most strategic road in Rome. Used for military transportation, this road also led to many conquests for the Roman Empire. These days, visiting the Appian Road is one of the most special, unique things to do in Rome! After all, how many things stand the test of time for thousands of years?!

The Appian Way is the longest straight road in Europe (62 km). It went from Rome to the coastal town of Brindisi, on the other end of the peninsula. Many of the sections of this iconic 2,300 years old road survive to this day. Much of it is renovated and used by cars and other vehicles. So you can drive on the oldest road in Europe! 

There are many ways to explore this historic route. Most locals come for a stroll and peaceful walk on the quiet tree-lined sections of the road. For a quick visit, the easiest way is to come with an e-bike tour. We opted for a horseback ride. The section we visited is well preserved with its original stone road and remains of many buildings, temples, and mausoleums next to it.

TIP: On hot summer days, it’s best to visit in the morning or evening. 

Practical info: There is no entry fee or even an entrance gate for the road. You can visit any time. As already said, the easiest way to visit is with a tour. Alternatively, you can get here by bus. You’ll have to check the bus route and schedule on Rome’s transit site.

TIP: This catacombs & crypts tour also visits Appian Way and also Roman Aqueducts mentioned a bit further below. It’s a great way to see several of the lesser-visited places in Rome in a short time.

Unique things to do in Rome - Appian Way
Exploring Appian Way – Photo © Jyoti from storyateverycorner.com
 

11. Chiesa Santa Maria Addolorata

In the city of 900 churches, one more impressive than the other, Chiesa Santa Maria Addolorata (Church of Our Lady of Sorrows) is well worth including in your list of the hidden gems to visit. Not only because it’s located close to the earlier-mentioned Coppedé district, but also because it’s truly beautiful!

Commissioned by Argentine priests and sponsored by Argentine bishops, this was the first South American national church in Rome. It took 20 years to build and the church was inaugurated in 1930.

Chiesa Santa Maria Addolorata on Piazza Buenos Aires is quite different from most of the other churches in Rome. On the outside, you’ll find beautiful mosaics that change color depending on the light. Inside, the church has two levels and Neo-Byzantine interior with even more impressive mosaics.

Good to know: There are two churches in Rome with the same name. See our map for the exact location.

Practical information: The church is open daily and is free to visit.

Chiesa Santa Maria Addolorata on Piazza Buenos Aires in Rome
Chiesa Santa Maria Addolorata on Piazza Buenos Aires
Interior of Chiesa Santa Maria Addolorata on Piazza Buenos Aires in Rome Italy
Interior of Chiesa Santa Maria Addolorata on Piazza Buenos Aires
 

12. Gianicolo – Janiculum Hill

Gianicolo or the Janiculum Hill, also called the 8th Hill of Rome, is another beautiful area that is overlooked by most travel guides. It offers some of the best views of the city of Rome!

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 Piazzale Garibaldi with Giuseppe Garibaldi Monument and a cannon that fires each day at noon. In addition, 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 a bit off the beaten path.

TIP: One of the best ways to explore Gianicolo and some of the other further located areas in Rome is by taking a bike. You can rent a bike or join a highly-rated electric bike small-group tour.

City view from Gianicolo Hill in Rome
View of Rome from Gianicolo Hill
Aqua Paola Fountain in Rome
Aqua Paola Fountain on Janiculum Hill
 

13. Park of the Aqueducts

Recommended by Anda of Travel for a while

One of the most interesting places in Rome – and a hidden gem at the same time – is the Aqueducts Park (Parco degli Acquedotti). This protected area in the southeast of the city hosts two major aqueducts – Aqua Felix and Aqua Claudia – and the remains of a few others.

These aqueducts were used to bring water from the Alban Hills to the busy city of Rome. Aqua Felix was built by Pope Sixtus V in the 16th century. Aqua Claudia is a much older aqueduct, finished during the reign of Emperor Claudius, in 52 AD. Aqua Claudia is still very impressive with its huge arches dominating the fields.

The Romans used only gravity to bring clean water from the higher ground of the hills to the city. The water filled Rome’s many fountains and was used for drinking and bathing.

The best time to visit the Aqueducts Park is just before sunset. The aqueducts and the umbrella pine trees create a picture-perfect setting at that time. A small part of the Ancient Via Latina is also visible in the Aqueducts Park. The locals come here with their bikes or their dogs, or just for a run. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon with friends or family.

Practical info: You can easily reach the Park of the Aqueducts from Rome’s center by metro line A to either Lucio Sestio or Giulio Agricola stations. The park is a short walk away from the metro station and it is free to visit.

TIP: This highly-rated small-group tour visits the Park of the Aqueducts, as well as several other hidden gems of Rome mentioned in this article.

The Aqueducts Park in Rome
Aqua Claudia, Parco degli Acquedotti – Photo © travelforawhile.com
 

14. Galleria Sciarra

Recommended by Kate of Our Escape Clause

Located a mere two-minute walk away from the famous Trevi Fountain, visiting the Galleria Sciarra is both easy and well worth the small effort. This beautiful courtyard, which today stands in the center of an office building, was commissioned by Prince Maffeo Barberini-Colonna di Sciarra in the late 19th century to connect several pieces of his property together.

Repeating a fairly common story in modern Italy, what was once the private realm of wealthy citizens has morphed into a public space. Today, Romans use the Galleria Sciarra as a shortcut when walking across the city.

The courtyard is decorated in an intricate Art Nouveau style, with an iron-and-glass ceiling that brings beautiful light to the space and, most strikingly, intricate frescoes showing off the “Glorification of Women”. The frescoes are painted to show off what the artist, Giuseppe Cellini, believed to be female virtues, including strength, justice, and faithfulness, among others.

Soaring high above a visitor’s line of sight, it’s easy to spend several minutes craning your neck upward to make out various details of the frescoes when visiting this hidden gem in Rome.

Practical information: The Galleria Sciarra is located at Via Marco Minghetti, 10, 00187 Roma RM. While it is a very short walk from the Trevi Fountain, you’re very unlikely to stumble across it accidentally–the courtyard lurks just out of sight, tucked into an unassuming yellow building. As the Galleria Sciarra is located in an office building, it is open to visitors during business hours.

Galleria Sciarra - secret places in Rome
Galleria Sciarra – Photo © ourescapeclause.com
 

15. Domus Aurea – Nero’s Golden House

Recommended by Steph of The Mediterranean Traveller

Hidden in plain sight is one of Rome’s most intriguing archaeological sites – Domus Aurea, or Nero’s Golden House. It’s located in a leafy park just over the road from the Colosseum, but not many people know about it. Don’t go expecting a literal palace of gold though. This one is underground, although confusingly also at ground level, and was stripped of its splendour a long time ago.

So what’s the story? You may have heard of Nero, the fifth emperor of Ancient Rome whose cruelty and madness is legendary. He famously fiddled as Rome burned in the Great Fire of AD 64. There were even rumors that he started the fire himself. Whether or not these stories are true, Nero did use the opportunity to seize a lot of the damaged land for his new palace project.

The site then became a vast country estate in the heart of the city, possibly as large as 300 acres. At its core was an extravagant villa complex designed for entertaining –  lined with frescos, gold leaf, gleaming marble, and mosaics made with ivory and semi-precious stones.

There was a golden dome with an oculus, endless pools and fountains, and reputedly even a banquet hall that rotated as guests were showered with rose petals. Domus Aurea represented the best of Roman art and engineering and the worst of its excesses.

Frescos at Domus Aurea in Rome
Frescos at Domus Aurea – Photo © themediterraneantraveller.com
 

After Nero’s death, the complex was destroyed by subsequent emperors and the land was returned to public use. The main building was filled with rubble and built over – the Baths of Trajan are directly above. 

And so Domus Aurea was lost until the 15th century when a local fell through a hole in the ground and found himself in a cave filled with intricate paintings. The gems and gold had been looted after Nero’s death, but the rubble protected the frescos from light and moisture. The discovery of these caves (grottos) had a big influence on the early Renaissance artists of the time.

Excavations at the Domus Aurea are ongoing. Nowadays, you can take a guided tour led by one of the archaeologists. There’s a fantastic virtual reality experience in one room that gives you a sense of what the grounds and building would have looked like in Nero’s time.

Practical information: Domus Aurea is open every day except Sunday. Tickets must be purchased in advance! You can find more practical info and reserve your tickets online on the official website. There are also some guided tours that visit here. Also, don’t trust Google Maps to find it. Instead, walk along the Via della Domus Aurea from the Colosseum, turn left at Viale Serapide, and look for the gate.

Domus Aurea Oculus
Domus Aurea Oculus – Photo © themediterraneantraveller.com
 

16. Baths of Caracalla

Recommended by Katy of Untold Italy

Rome is full of ancient sites, but if you are looking for a really special place, don’t miss the Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla or Termae Anthoninianae). These are some of the most impressive Roman Empire ruins still standing in the Eternal City.

Built around 212 AD, the baths were in use for 300 years before falling into ruin. At their peak, the Baths of Caracalla (named after the son of the Roman Emperor who commissioned them) was the second-largest bathhouse in the city. In fact, it is best to think of this site as more like a modern day leisure center. Along with bathing houses, there were also gardens and libraries for the Roman citizens to enjoy. The baths themselves were heated by a system of underground furnaces.

When you visit the baths, you can appreciate the grandeur and scale of this complex. Now a working archaeological site, you can watch stunning mosaics being painstakingly uncovered and restored.

TIP: Make sure you choose the interactive guide! It shows you virtual reconstructions of the baths based on the archeologic research. This digital project shows how the baths were constructed and then filled with art and sculpture that covered the walls and ceilings that soared 44 meters overhead. 

Practical information: The Baths of Caracalla are located on Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 52, close to the Circus Maximus and Metro Line B Circo Massimo. You can find more information on the official website. Alternatively, you can also visit with a private tour that includes several other ancient landmarks as well.

Hidden gems of Rome - Baths of Caracalla
Baths of Caracalla – Photo © untolditaly.com
 

17. Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese is the largest public 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.

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,…

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 is by bike and there are several places where you can rent one. There is also a small tourist train driving around the park in high season. 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 want to visit the Borghese Gallery, you have to book the tickets in advance!

The gardens of Villa Borghese
The gardens of Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese Park in Rome
Villa Borghese Park
Galleria Borghese in Rome Italy
Galleria Borghese
 

18. St. Clement Basilica

Recommended by Annalisa by Travel Connect Experience

The Basilica San Clemente, located just a short walk from the Colosseum, is one of the most overlooked Rome monuments. From the outside, it might look like any other church in Rome, but this Basilica has so much more to offer than it looks at first sight!

Basilica di San Clemente has three underground layers. They were built in a different time period and each is unique. Visiting here allows you to take a journey through the history and ancient ‘layers’ of Rome all the way back to the 1st century.

As you enter, the 17th-century facade introduces you to a medieval church. The church that you see dates back to the 12th century. It has three naves with a gold inlaid mosaic in the apse and can be visited for free.

With a 10 euro ticket, on the other hand, you have access to the underground levels that preserve 2000 years of history. The Dominican friars who manage the Basilica and the adjoining convent discovered the underground levels at the end of the 19th century, during renovation work.

Immediately below street level is an early Christian basilica from the 4th century. Its altar holds a relic of St. Cyril and impressive frescoes on the walls.

Basilica San Clemente in Rome
Basilica San Clemente – Photo © travelconnectexperience.net
 

On the floor below, are the remains of two Roman buildings from the 1st century. Inside one ‘building’ that appears like the foundations of a Roman villa, you’ll find a temple dedicated to the god Mithras with a statue of Mithras subduing the bull.

The other ‘building’ is protected by huge megalithic stones – this is probably a place where they used to create coins.

The floor further down dates back to the time of the burning of Rome by Nero, 64 AD.

Practical information: Basilica di San Clemente is open daily. For opening hours and more information, please check their website. Alternatively, this tour visits Basilica San Clemente and a few other hidden gems.

Mithras temple in Basilica San Clemente in Rome
The 1st-century Mithras Temple – Photo © travelconnectexperience.net
 

19. Isola Tiberina

Recommended by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

Did you know that there’s an island in the middle of Rome’s city center? And not just an island. Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina) is one of the smallest inhabited islands in the world and a real hidden gem in the city. Furthermore, it’s only a 20-minute walk from the Colosseum and is the perfect place to stop by during a stroll on the Lungotevere (Tiber Waterfront).

Floating on the River Tiber, Isola Tiberina is about the size of three football fields. The island is home to Basilica di San Bartolomeo, which dates back to the 10th century and was built on top of an ancient temple. Inside the basilica, you can see relics from Catholic martyrs that have been chewed up by lions in the Colosseum.

There’s also a restaurant and a 400-year-old hospital on the island, which is still in operation today.

The true magic of Isola Tiberina is its transformation into an annual film festival hub in the summer. A pop-up amphitheater is set up there, with hundreds of guests attending different screenings every day.

On summer evenings, Isola Tiberina also comes alive with rows and rows of pop-up bars and restaurants on the island’s riverbanks. The nighttime atmosphere there is truly breathtaking, with tons of locals packing the bars and expats meeting up for drinks while live music plays nearby.

But no matter the season, Isola Tiberina is always worth a few minutes of your time. If you’re strolling around the city center of Rome, definitely check out this tiny hidden gem on the River Tiber!

Isola Tiberina in Rome on a summer evening
Isola Tiberina on a summer evening – Photo © thediaryofanomad.com
Isola Tiberina in Rome
Isola Tiberina – Photo © eugenesergeev/Depositphotos.com
 

20. Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

Recommended by Stella Jane of Around the World in 24 Hours

The Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, home to one of the branches of the National Roman Museum, is a real gem! It houses one of the most fascinating collections of Roman artifacts and architecture in the city, but doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as the most popular landmarks!

In just a couple of hours here, you can explore the beautiful creations of ancient Rome without the crowds that you find at the Colosseum or the Roman Forum.

Fans of ancient art will love the Roman sculptures and jewelry here. But the most impressive part of the museum is its remarkably intact ancient mosaics. The museum even has some mosaics that come from the Villa of Livia, Emperor Augustus’s wife.

There are also fragments of a temple dating back to the reign of Emperor Claudius. It’s easy to see why some call this museum one of the finest archaeological museums in the world.

Even if you normally don’t like museums, you will enjoy exploring the more unusual parts of the Massimo alle Terme. The museum itself is located in a 19th-century palace, so the building itself is very beautiful. Enjoy the shade and admire the sculptures and greenery in the palazzo’s outdoor courtyard.

TIP: Your admission ticket will also allow you to explore the nearby Baths of Diocletian, also part of the National Roman Museum. These were the largest Imperial baths in all ancient Rome and remain a spectacular place to explore today.

Practical information: Palazzo Massimo is open from 9 AM to 7:45 PM every day but Monday. Admission is 10 Euros. You can find more information on their website.

Courtyard of Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome
Courtyard of Palazzo Massimo – Photo © aroundtheworldin24hours.com
 

21. Park Caffarella

Recommended by Gabi of Under Flowery Sky

Park Caffarella is a large park in central Rome, only 15 minutes walk from the Colosseum. But it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the popular tourist areas. This is a place that is mostly visited by locals. You’ll have difficulties believing it’s in Rome!

So if you want to know the local way of life and get to know a very different side of Rome, I truly suggest visiting Caffarella. Here, you can discover Roman ruins, visit a cheese-farm factory (Casale Della Vaccareccia), see the Tomb of Annia Regilla and the Old Mill Farmstead, or simply take a walk through this simple park.

Historical treasures within the park include the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metela, the Temple of Ceres and Faustina, an artificial cave called Nymphaeum of Egeria with its water source, and also a Great Cistern.

The Almone River that flows into the Tiber adds to the charm of the park. In ancient times, botanical life was much richer here, but also nowadays you can still see a big variety of flora and fauna.

It’s a great place to discover the rural side of Rome, to watch over 70 species of birds, and animals like goats, sheep, and foxes. You’ll also find maple trees, oaks, walnuts, fig-trees, wild roses, wild apples, and so much more.

The park continues to the ancient Appian Way (see higher above) where the Roman Aurelian’s Wall proudly stays. These Walls encircled all the seven hills around the Eternal City.

Practical information: Park Caffarella is located very centrally. You can walk here from Colosseum or take a metro to Furio Camillo station. The best way to enter the park is through Via Macedonia.

Tomb of Annia Regilla and the Old Mill Farmstead in Park Caffarella in Rome
Tomb of Annia Regilla and the Old Mill Farmstead in Park Caffarella – © Ragemax/Depositphotos.com
 

So, here are some of the hidden gems of Rome, the city that has thousands of incredible gems, secret finds, and unique places. Most of these places are really worth your time, but of course, there’s no way to visit them all if you are only in Rome for a few days…

But even if you choose just a few places from this list, you’ll discover a very different side of Rome. A truly unique city that has more secrets than any other place in the world.

The good news is that most of these places are quite easy to visit in combination with the highlights of Rome. Getting just a bit off the beaten tourist track will make your trip to Rome so much more special and memorable!

Best tours to get off the beaten path in Rome

If you are looking for more hidden gems of Rome or want to explore the more local side of this beautiful city, but aren’t sure where to start, I recommend booking one or several organized tours with a local.

These great tours bring you to the lesser-known places of Rome and show you a different side of the city that you wouldn’t see otherwise.

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

READ ALSO: Tips for Planning a Trip to Rome

 

More travel inspiration and tips for Italy:

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin these images!

Hidden gems and unique places to see in Rome Italy
Rome secret places and lesser known hidden gems of Italy's capital city
 
Secret places in Rome Italy

How to Visit Keukenhof Gardens & Lisse Tulip Fields in The Netherlands
← Previous
Planning a Trip to Rome - 9 Tips for a Better Experience
Next →

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.