Rome’s Hidden Gems: The Definitive Guide to Rome’s secret spots
You’re planning to visit Rome on your next trip and you want to discover the lesser-known attractions?
Great idea, you’re in for a real treat!
While the Eternal City is famous for its iconic landmarks like the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain (I talk about them all in my article “The 25 best Things to do in Rome“) there’s so much more to explore beyond the usual tourist trail.
In this guide, I’ll take you on a journey to discover the hidden gems of Rome, the lesser-known attractions that will make your trip even more memorable.
Get ready to explore the secret corners and hidden treasures of Rome that most visitors never get to see.
So, are you ready to uncover the secrets of Rome?
Let’s dive in!
- Rome’s Hidden Gems: The Definitive Guide to Rome’s secret spots
- 1. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
- 2. Galleria Sciarra
- 3. The Capuchin Crypt
- 4. Vicus Caprarius (The Water City)
- 5. Centrale Montemartini
- 6. The Aventine Keyhole
- 7. Quartiere Coppedè
- 8. The Protestant Cemetery
- 9. San Pietro in Vincoli
- 10. The Church of San Luigi dei Francesi
- 11. The Appian Way (Via Appia Antica)
- 12. Villa Doria Pamphilj
- 13. The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità)
- 14. The Quartiere Garbatella
- 15. The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
- 16. The Quartiere EUR
- 17. Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio
- Where to stay in Rome
- 5 Off-The-Beaten-Path Restaurants in Rome: Savor Authentic Roman Cuisine
- You’re traveling in Italy? These articles will help you!
1. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is an opulent palace and art gallery (the Doria Pamphilj gallery) tucked away in the heart of Rome.
This lavish residence, still owned by the Doria Pamphilj family, houses an impressive private art collection, featuring works by renowned artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian.
As you explore the rooms adorned with frescoes, gilded stuccos, and antique furnishings, you’ll be transported back in time to the splendor of the Roman aristocracy.
Adding the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj to your Rome itinerary will provide you with a fascinating insight into the city’s aristocratic history, as well as the opportunity to admire beautiful artworks.
Don’t miss the chance to experience the elegance and grandeur of this lesser-known Roman treasure.
2. Galleria Sciarra
Galleria Sciarra is a hidden architectural gem in the heart of Rome, just a stone’s throw from the famous Trevi Fountain.
This beautiful Art Nouveau gallery features stunning frescoes, intricate ironwork, and colorful stained glass.
Although it’s now a private office building, the courtyard is open to the public, offering a quiet and enchanting retreat from the bustling city streets.
Galleria Sciarra is located on Via Marco Minghetti, just off Via del Corso.
To avoid disturbing the building’s occupants, please be respectful and keep noise levels low when visiting. Take some time to admire the stunning details and snap a few photos of this hidden treasure.
3. The Capuchin Crypt
For a truly unique and slightly macabre experience, visit the Capuchin Crypt, located beneath the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.
This underground crypt contains the remains of over 4,000 Capuchin friars, artistically arranged in intricate patterns and designs.
The crypt is a fascinating attraction that offers a different perspective on Rome’s history.
The Capuchin Crypt is open daily, except for Sundays, and has an entrance fee. Photography is not allowed inside the crypt.
Additionally, due to the nature of the attraction, it may not be suitable for young children or those who are sensitive to such displays.
4. Vicus Caprarius (The Water City)
The Vicus Caprarius, also known as “The Water City,” is an impressive archaeological site located beneath the bustling streets of Rome.
It’s an off the beaten path visit you shouldn’t miss!
Discovered during the construction of a cinema complex, this ancient Roman neighborhood features well-preserved ruins, including a water distribution system, residential buildings, and a section of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct.
The site offers a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life of ancient Rome and its sophisticated infrastructure.
5. Centrale Montemartini
Looking for off the beaten path things to do in Rome?
Then you should visit the Centrale Montemartini.
Located in an old power plant, the Centrale Montemartini is a unique museum that combines industrial architecture with ancient Roman art.
Housing over 400 sculptures, mosaics, and artifacts, the contrast between the classical masterpieces and the industrial setting creates a truly unforgettable experience.
To avoid crowds and make the most of your visit, try to go on a weekday morning. The museum is closed on Mondays, so plan your visit accordingly.
To visit the Centrale Montemartini, you need to buy a combined ticket “Capitoline museums + Centrale Montemartini”:
6. The Aventine Keyhole
One of Rome’s best-kept secrets, the Aventine Keyhole offers a unique view of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Found in the door of the Knights of Malta headquarters, this small keyhole perfectly frames the basilica’s dome, creating a stunning perspective.
It’s a must-visit spot for anyone who loves discovering hidden gems in a city!
The Aventine Keyhole can be found at Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta.
Be prepared for a bit of a wait, as there is often a line of people eager to take a peek through the keyhole. However, it’s definitely worth the wait!
7. Quartiere Coppedè
The Quartiere Coppedè is a hidden architectural wonder tucked away in the heart of Rome.
Designed by architect Gino Coppedè, this whimsical neighborhood features a mix of Art Nouveau, Baroque, and medieval styles.
The fairytale-like atmosphere, complete with intricate details and stunning sculptures, makes it a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts.
The Quartiere Coppedè is located between Via Tagliamento and Piazza Buenos Aires.
To get there, take the Metro Line B to Policlinico station, and then it’s just a short walk to this enchanting area. You will for sure love the beautiful buildings and details!
8. The Protestant Cemetery
Although it may seem unusual to visit a cemetery while on vacation, the Protestant Cemetery in Rome is a serene oasis and a true hidden gem.
This tranquil spot is the final resting place of many famous non-Catholic artists, writers, and poets, including John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Wander through the peaceful grounds and admire the beautiful sculptures and monuments.
9. San Pietro in Vincoli
While St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel are must-sees, don’t miss out on the lesser-known but equally stunning San Pietro in Vincoli.
This historic church is home to Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Moses, as well as the chains believed to have once bound St. Peter.
The church’s impressive architecture and rich history make it a must-visit for any art and history lover.
San Pietro in Vincoli is located on the Esquiline Hill, just a short walk from the Colosseum.
The church is open daily, with a break in the afternoon, so plan your visit accordingly.
Entry is free, but donations are appreciated.
10. The Church of San Luigi dei Francesi
The Church of San Luigi dei Francesi is another hidden treasure in Rome that you don’t want to miss.
This beautiful church is dedicated to the French community in Rome and features impressive Baroque architecture.
The real highlight, however, is the stunning Caravaggio paintings housed within the Contarelli Chapel, including “The Calling of St. Matthew,” “The Inspiration of St. Matthew,” and “The Martyrdom of St. Matthew.”
To get there, you can take a short walk from the Pantheon or Piazza Navona. It’s located on Via Santa Giovanna d’Arco.
The church is open daily, with shorter hours on Sundays. Photography is allowed, but make sure to turn off your flash to preserve the works of art.
Additionally, be prepared for a possible line to enter the Contarelli Chapel, as it is a popular attraction for art enthusiasts.
11. The Appian Way (Via Appia Antica)
Step back in time and explore the ancient Appian Way, one of the oldest and most important Roman roads.
The well-preserved cobblestone path, lined with ancient tombs, remains of villas, and monuments, offers a glimpse into Rome’s fascinating past.
Rent a bike or take a leisurely walk to fully appreciate this historic site and the beautiful surrounding countryside.
To make the most of your visit, I recommend you to book an e-bike guided tour!
The best one also includes an authentic Italian-style picnic lunch, with local products and wine.
To book your 4h e-bike guide tour to the Appian Way, simply click on the button below:
And if you want to enjoy a longer experience (6h), which also includes a guided visit to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, you should book that one:
12. Villa Doria Pamphilj
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city by visiting Villa Doria Pamphilj, Rome’s largest public park.
This sprawling estate features beautiful gardens, fountains, and sculptures, as well as the stunning Villa Doria Pamphilj, a 17th-century palace.
It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing stroll, picnic, or even a morning jog.
Villa Doria Pamphilj can be reached via Tram 8 from Piazza Venezia or by bus from various locations in the city.
The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset and is free to enter.
Don’t miss the picturesque view of Rome from the Belvedere del Gianicolo, located within the park. Also, be sure to visit the beautiful Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, a majestic fountain just a short walk from the park.
13. The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità)
Located in the portico of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the Mouth of Truth is an ancient marble mask that has become a popular, quirky attraction.
Legend has it that if you put your hand in the mouth and tell a lie, the mask will bite your hand off.
While you can be sure your hand will remain intact, it’s a fun and unique experience to try while in Rome.
14. The Quartiere Garbatella
For a truly off-the-beaten-path experience, explore the charming neighborhood of Garbatella.
With its winding streets, colorful houses, and picturesque gardens, Garbatella offers a glimpse into authentic Roman life.
Originally built as a working-class neighborhood, Garbatella is now a trendy area filled with local cafes, bars, and street art, making it an ideal destination for an afternoon stroll or an evening out.
15. The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
Located among the ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina, this unique cat sanctuary is home to over 100 stray cats who are cared for by dedicated volunteers.
The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary not only provides a safe haven for Rome’s feline friends but also offers a chance to explore the ancient ruins where Julius Caesar was believed to have been assassinated.
To get there, it’s just a short walk from Piazza Venezia or the Pantheon.
16. The Quartiere EUR
The EUR district is a fascinating example of Fascist-era architecture and urban planning.
Built during the reign of Mussolini, the area features wide streets, imposing buildings, and grand public spaces, all designed to showcase the power and ambition of the Fascist regime.
The area is now a thriving business district and is home to several museums, including the Museum of Roman Civilization and the National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography.
To get to the EUR district, you need to take Metro Line B (EUR Palasport or EUR Fermi stations).
Be sure to visit the iconic Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, also known as the “Square Colosseum,” which has become a symbol of the district.
You should explore the district on foot or by bicycle to fully appreciate the architectural details and historical context.
17. Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio
The Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio is a lesser-known but remarkable church, located on Caelian Hill.
This ancient church, dating back to the 5th century, is known for its unique circular design and its frescoes depicting the martyrdom of various saints.
It’s a really special church that you should visit, especially if you’re interested in Rome’s religious heritage.
With these lesser-known attractions, your visit to Rome will for sure be filled with unique experiences and unforgettable memories.
So, pack your bags and get ready to uncover the hidden gems of the Eternal City!
Where to stay in Rome
You’re wondering where to stay in Rome?
In Rome, finding accommodation at a good price isn’t that easy. In order to help you out, I have selected for you the best hotels depending on your budget.
One last advice: Book now if you can, there is a lot of demand in Rome, so the best hotels rooms are sold out very quickly!
- Biancaluna: B&B located near Termini Station, 1.5 km from the Colosseum. Modern, comfortable and very clean room from 70€. Strong points: the warm welcome and the advice to visit Rome, the location. An excellent choice for a cheap stay in Rome!
- Hotel Balilla: Located 1.6 km from the Colosseum and close to a metro station. Well-equipped and quiet double room, impeccably clean, from 99€, breakfast at 5€. Strong points: the friendly staff, the comfort of the beds, the location at 10 min walk from the Colosseum. This is our favorite for its excellent value for money!
- Alice Vatican House: Located 450 meters from St. Peter’s Square. Contemporary room with neat decoration from 95 € per night, breakfast included. Strong points: ideal location, terrace overlooking the Vatican, warm welcome. This is the best choice for your stay in Rome under 120 euros!
- MZ Hotel: Located near the Campo di Fiori and not far from the Pantheon. Modern double room from 150€, breakfast at 12€. Strong points: the location near the historical center, the warm welcome, good bedding, new hotel.
- Roma Luxus Hôtel: High end hotel located at only 400 meters from Piazza Venezia. Beautiful double room starting at 200€ per night, breakfast at 20€. Strong points: The room design, the 5 stars service, the superb breakfast, the spa, the amazing staff. It’s the best hotel for a high end stay in Rome!
- NH Collection Roma Fori Imperiali: This 5* hotel located right next to the Roman Forum offers sublime rooms from 580€, breakfast included. Strong points: the exceptional location, the attentive staff, the view, the comfort. This is my recommendation for a luxury stay in Rome!
if you want to save a bit of money, you can find an accommodation around Rome. I recommend you the bungalows of Camping Village Rome, located at only 15 minutes by car from the Vatican city.
The price starts at only 30€ per night! It’s the best “budget” solution if you don’t mind not being in the city center. It’s also a great choice for families, with the swimming pool!
5 Off-The-Beaten-Path Restaurants in Rome: Savor Authentic Roman Cuisine
While exploring the lesser known attractions of Rome, why not take some time to discover some of Rome’s culinary hidden gems?
If you’re a food enthusiast in search of authentic Roman cuisine and local dining experiences, you’re in luck.
Here are five off-the-beaten-path restaurants in Rome where you can enjoy delicious Italian dishes away from the tourist crowds.
1. Osteria Bonelli
Located in Torpignattara neighborhood, Osteria Bonelli is a family-run trattoria known for its traditional Roman dishes and warm atmosphere.
The menu changes daily and features classic Roman favorites such as pasta alla carbonara, cacio e pepe, and saltimbocca alla romana.
How to get there: Osteria Bonelli is a short walk from the Torpignattara train station, making it easily accessible by public transportation.
Address: Viale dell’Acquedotto Alessandrino, 172/174, 00177 Roma
2. Trattoria Da Cesare al Casaletto
Hidden away in the residential neighborhood of Gianicolense, Trattoria Da Cesare al Casale is an off-the-beaten-path gem serving authentic Roman cuisine.
The trattoria is famous for its homemade pasta, slow-cooked meat dishes, and an extensive wine list. Don’t miss their signature dish, the tonnarelli cacio e pepe, which is prepared tableside.
How to get there: Trattoria Da Cesare al Casale can be reached by taking the tram or bus from Rome’s city center to the Gianicolense area.
Address: Via del Casaletto, 45, 00151 Roma
3. Osteria der Belli
Situated in the charming Trastevere district, Osteria der Belli offers a relaxed dining experience away from the tourist crowds.
Known for its seafood and traditional Roman dishes, this cozy osteria is a favorite among locals. Try their fettuccine with fresh seafood or the spaghetti with clams for a taste of authentic Italian cuisine.
How to get there: Osteria der Belli is easily accessible on foot or by public transportation from Rome’s city center. You can for example take the tram and stop at Belli station.
Address: Piazza di Sant’Apollonia, 11, 00153 Roma
4. Antico Forno Roscioli
Located near Campo de’ Fiori, Antico Forno Roscioli is a historic bakery that serves some of the best pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) in Rome.
This family-owned bakery has been delighting locals with its crispy, flavorful pizza and other freshly baked goods since 1972.
The bakery also offers a variety of other Roman specialties, including breads, pastries, and sandwiches.
How to get there: Antico Forno Roscioli is within walking distance from many of Rome’s major attractions and can be easily reached on foot or by public transportation. If you take the tram, stop at Arenula/Cairoli and walk a few minutes.
Address: Via dei Chiavari, 34, 00186 Roma
5. La Tavernaccia da Bruno
Tucked away in the Trastevere neighborhood, La Tavernaccia da Bruno is a family-owned restaurant that has been serving delicious Roman cuisine since 1968.
The restaurant’s warm atmosphere and traditional menu make it a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Be sure to try their wood-fired pizzas, homemade pasta dishes, and slow-roasted meats.
How to get there: La Tavernaccia da Bruno is located close to Roma Trastevere train station, so you can stop there with the tram. The restaurant is then only a few minutes walk away.
Address: Via Giovanni da Castel Bolognese, 63, 00153 Roma
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Italy travel Guides
- Buy the Lonely Planet Italy guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk
- Buy the Rick Steves Italy guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk
You’re traveling in Italy? These articles will help you!
- 25 Best Things to do in Rome – The Definitive guide
- 2 Days in Rome – How to visit Rome in 48h
- 3 Days in Rome – The best itinerary to visit Rome in 72h
- 4 Days in Rome – The best places to visit in 4 days
- 5 Days in Rome – How to spend 5 days in Rome
- One week in Rome – The perfect 7-day itinerary!
Where to stay in Rome? – The definitive guide of the best areas!