Want to get off the beaten path and explore some of the hidden gems in Rome? If you’ve had enough time to explore Rome’s main attractions and want to discover some lesser-known destinations, then you’re in luck. The Eternal City is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities and definitely worth exploring to the fullest.
Some of Rome’s lesser-known attractions include Vicus Caprarius, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Galleria Sciarra, Orto Botanico, Villa Torlonia, Isola Tiberina, Villa Farnesina, Angels Unawares, Baths of Caracalla, Ostia Antica, Pyramid of Caius Cestius and Orange Garden. You can also explore the Palazzo Braschi, Aventine Keyhole, and the Street Art in Ostiense District, among other destinations.
In this article, we take a closer look at the lesser-known destinations in Rome worth exploring. Ready? Let’s dive right in!
Must-See Hidden Gems in Rome: Off the Beaten Path
Here are some of the lesser-known destinations worth exploring when in Rome.
Lesser known than the world-renowned Trevi Fountain is the Vicus Caprarius or the City of Water. It’s a historic underground museum beneath the Trevi district that dates back to the first century AD. Besides the large water tank, you’ll also get to view some ancient discoveries, like the face of Alessandro Helios, among other excavations. It’s worth noting that the Vicus Caprarius is closed on Mondays, and reservations are required on weekends and public holidays.
2. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
If you’re an art connoisseur and you find yourself with an hour or two to spare in Rome, then you might want to check out the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. The majestic palace is adorned with world-class artwork. The ceilings are elaborately painted, while the art collection will leave you in awe of Rome’s artistic wealth. There’s also an audio guide in each room, which adds to the attraction’s overall appeal.
3. Galleria Sciarra
Located in the vibrant Trevi district, the Sciarra Gallery is an architectural masterpiece that deserves more credit than it gets. The Galleria Sciara features a private courtyard (open to the public) with entrances in Piazza dell’Oratorio and Via Marco Minghetti. Some of the standout features include a vaulted roof, cast iron columns, and classical wall decorations. It’s one of the most scenic and picturesque buildings in Rome and definitely a good stop if you’re big on architecture and art.
4. Orto Botanico
Orto Botanico is a 12-hectare mixed garden boasting an impressive collection of assorted plants and trees. It’s a great detour when touring busy Roman attractions, especially if you’re a fan of nature. The Orto Botanico is highly recommended as a quick stop when in the middle of your Roman tours, but you’ll need to part with 4 euros to enjoy the experience.
Designed by Guiseppe Valadier in 1806, the Villa Torlonia is among the hidden gems in Rome that you should spare some time to explore. The Villa contains a museum and scenic gardens that make for great detours when exploring other Roman attractions. Some of the works exhibited in the Villa Torlonia include a woman’s head (style of Michelangelo), and antique pieces of furniture. Although initially a private property, the Villa Torlonia was bought by the Roman municipality in 1977.
6. Isola Tiberina
The Isola Tiberina, or Tiberina Island, is one of the lesser talked about spots in Rome. The island’s standout feature is its boat-like shape, which is best viewed from the Ponte Palatino and Ponte Garibaldi. When on the island, be sure to check out the Colonna Infame (Infamous Column) and the Church of San Bartolomeo Apostolo
7. Villa Farnesina
Located in the Trastevere district in Rome, the Villa Farnesina is a Renaissance villa built for Agostino Chigi between 1506 and 1510. The Villa is open Mondays to Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm and every second Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. Be warned that you can find some lengthy queues on Saturdays, which you can skip by purchasing tickets online.
If you’re into sculpting, then you’ll appreciate the six-meter-long bronze sculpture by Timothy Schmalz. Although new compared to Rome’s ancient sculptures, the Angels Unawares bears a rich historical meaning as it depicts migrants and refugees on a boat appearing to flee from their respective disasters. You can get a good glimpse of the Angels Unawares in St. Peter’s Square.
Read more: Piazza del Popolo – 15 Things to See and Do
9. Baths of Caracalla
Widely viewed as one of the greatest thermal complexes of all time, the Baths of Caracalla is a site to behold. It’s an architectural wonder that has stood the test of time. Despite their colossal size, the baths also stand out due to their splendor. You can view the baths from Tuesday to Sunday between 9 am and 6.30 pm.
10. Ostia Antica
Located on the River Tiber just 19 miles west of Rome, Ostia Antica is a massive archeological site that was once one of Rome’s top cities. Despite losing its status after the collapse of the Roman empire, the harbor city is among the hidden gems in Rome worth exploring. When touring the site, you’ll get to explore some of the ancient city’s abandoned buildings.
11. Pyramid of Caius Cestius
The Pyramid of Caius Cestius is Rome’s only surviving Egyptian-style pyramid and is located on the edge of the Testaccio district. It’s a 36-meter-high monument that was built as a tomb for the then-powerful Roman magistrate Caius Cestius. The pyramid was restored in 2013 and can be visited on the third and fourth weekends of each month from 11 am.
12. Orange Garden
Designed by Raffaele De Vico in 1932, the Orange Garden was constructed to provide an additional viewpoint of the city. In addition to the stunning view over St Peter’s dome and Rome, the garden houses hundreds of orange and pine trees and is arguably one of Rome’s most romantic spots.
Located between Piazza Navona and Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II, the Palazzo Braschi is a Baroque-Neoclassical style building boasting a unique trapezoidal shape. The building houses the Museum of Rome and is well known for its monumental staircase. Construction of the Palazzo Braschi began way back in 1792 and is a popular destination due to the Museo di Roma.
14. Aventine Keyhole: A Unique Perspective
Tucked away in Aventine Hill is the little known keyhole that gives you a unique perspective of Rome. A peek through the keyhole gives you an intimate spectacle of what Rome has to offer. You’ll be greeted with the view of well-manicured hedges leading the way to a majestic view of St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome.
15. Street Art in Ostiense District
Ostiense Distrisct’s street art is a treat for art lovers in search of independent forms of art. The murals run along the main Via Ostiense road, going all the way to Testaccio. Some of the popular murals you can view include the ‘Opera Onirica,’ Wall of Fame,’ and ‘Behind and in Front of the Wall.’ The street art in the Ostiense district is a must-explore if you’re a lover of the arts and have some time to spare.
16. Quartiere Coppedè: Architectural Wonderland
Named after the design architect Florentine Gino Coppede, the Quartiere Coppede is an architectural masterpiece that’s among the many hidden gems in Rome. The whimsical neighborhood is characterized by its unique mix of architectural styles from Art Nouveau to Gothic, Medieval, and Baroque. The ornate faces and enchanting streets create a fairytale-like realm that’s definitely worth exploring.
17. Mercato Monti: Vintage Market Treasures
If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind treasures for souvenirs, then the Mercato Monti is your best bet. The trendy design market offers a unique shopping experience as young designers and collectors showcase their products. It’s nice that the market is conveniently located near top tourist attractions in Rome.
18. Underground Rome: The Basilica of San Clemente
Explore the ancient Basilica of San Clemente right below the modern one. The underground church was built in the 4th century and is truly an archeological wonder. With several rooms to explore, you’ll enjoy the inscriptions and mosaics on the wall, which add to the Basilica’s overall appeal.
19. Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta
One of the few hidden gems in Rome, the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta is surrounded by a high wall adorned with military trophies and neoclassical obelisks. It was designed in 1965 by Giovanni Batista and houses a big wooden door with a keyhole that gives you a great view of St.Peter’s dome.
20. Sunset at Pincian Hill: A Local’s Panoramic Spot
After a hard day’s work exploring the Eternal City, take a much-needed breather and enjoy the magical Roman sunset at Pincian Hill. Redesigned into a public park with wide walkways, viewpoints, and promenades, the Pincian Hill gives visitors a welcome break from all the human traffic in central Rome. You’ll get a relaxed view of St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome, the Pantheon’s dome, the Egyptian Obelisk, and the Villa Borghese Gardens.
Off the Beaten Path in Rome
Other hidden gems in Rome worth checking out include:
21. Trastevere’s Secret Courtyards
Rome is home to several hidden courtyards that don’t attract as much attention as other destinations. Some of the popular hidden courtyards that you might want to explore when in Rome include Campo De’ Fiori, Garbatella, Testaccio, and Trullo. Spare some time to enjoy the hidden courtyards and create lasting memories with your loved ones without the pressure of lengthy queues or reservations.
22. Crypts and Catacombs Exploration
Rome is also home to crypts and catacombs worth exploring. One popular attraction to explore is the Basilica di San Clemente, which is known for its unique architecture, as several churches have been built on top of each other to form foundational layers.
Want to explore a Christian cemetery? Why not visit the Catacombs of Domitilla, which are situated 16 meters underground with thousands of tombs? The Capuchin Crypt is also another hidden gem comprising tiny chapels beneath the Santa Maria della Conceizone. It’s definitely worth visiting if you’re into ancient Roman culture.
If you’re looking to explore some lesser-known churches with artistic riches, you might want to check out the Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo, Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi and the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola. Although not as popular as other basilicas, you can still experience world-class artistry at its finest without the annoyingly lengthy queues, of course.
24. Secret Gardens of Rome
Among the hidden gems in Rome are world-class gardens that often get overlooked due to the city’s wealth of artistic heritage. One particular garden that’s a site to behold is the Villa Doria Pamphili, Rome’s largest landscaped public park. It’s perfect for relaxation in between explorations.
Another secret garden worth touring when in Rome is the Botanical Garden, which covers 12 hectares and boasts over 130 collections of monumental secular trees. You can also check out the Palazzo Barberini’s Historic Garden, which is well hidden from an outsider’s view.
FAQs About Hidden Gems in Rome
Let’s take a look at some of the frequently asked questions about Rome’s lesser-known destinations.
What Are the Non-Tourist Things to Do in Rome?
Some of the non-tourist things to do in Rome include exploring the Aventine Hill and seeing through the keyhole, touring the baths of Caracalla, and exploring the secret courtyards and gardens. You can also explore Quattire Coppede if architecture brilliance excites you or learn a thing or two about Roman culture by visiting the crypts and catacombs.
The prettiest part of Rome depends on your likes or preferences. Nature lovers find gardens like the Orange Garden, the Botanical Garden, and Villa Doria Pamphili to be breathtaking, while art connoisseurs will appreciate exploring museums and hidden gems like the Street Art in Ostiense district.
What is the Coolest Thing in Rome?
The coolest thing in Rome comes down to personal preferences. If you love art, then you’ll appreciate touring the Museums and Basilicas to experience Roman art. Nature lovers will fancy exploring the scenic gardens spread across the city center. Shopping enthusiasts will appreciate finding hidden treasures in the Mercato Monti market while also visiting some designer shops in town.
Some unusual things to do in Rome include visiting the secret courtyards and gardens. These attractions are usually hard to find and aren’t at the top of tourists’ plans when touring the Eternal City.
Hidden Gems in Rome: Wrapping Up
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of Rome’s best-kept secrets, you should have more than enough options when looking to explore the magical city.
The trick to making the most of your Roman experience is to try out activities that best appeal to your interests. If you’re big on scenic views, then the Sunset at Pincian Hill, the Aventine Keyhole, and Orange Garden are ideal attractions. Art lovers will appreciate the street art in the Ostiense District or even marvel at the Pyramid of Caius Cestius.