10 secret spots in Rome
Looking for a way to make your itinerary unique out of the world-famous landmarks? Then take note of this list of secret places that the city hides best. Mostly known only by locals!
Beyond the Colosseum, the Vatican, the squares of impressive fountains, and the streets of rich opulence, there's a secret Rome of hidden corners that the eye of the ordinary tourist cannot perceive.
But you are not a tourist, you are a traveler and that is why you are reading these lines: to get out of the herd and find the lost jewels of the Eternal City. In no particular order, here are 10 hidden places in Rome that you will find only if you know what you're looking for.
1. Quartiere Coppedè
Visiting the Coppedè neighborhood of Rome is like entering a fairy tale squeezed between four streets, at the corner of Via Dora and Via Tagliamento. However, there is not much to see besides a couple of lovely buildings and a square with a charming fountain, which may seem like not a lot but it's the atmosphere of this neighborhood that makes a visit completely worthwhile.
What I love the most about this area is that since it is not so well known it is a getaway from the tourists that crowd the streets of Rome, where you can sit and rest and take beautiful pictures at golden hour.
2. Piccola Londra
Before going to Piccola Londra you must know that you will fall in love with its Notting Hill-style cottages with a Mediterranean twist. The name of this neighborhood literally means Little London, and it was built in the early 20th century in an attempt to modernize Rome and adapt it to the style of other European cities, and the contrast this neighborhood offers with the rest of the city is a testament to that.
Piccola Londra is composed of just a few streets, as architect Quadrio Pirani's project was never extended. You can stroll through this unusual recreation of London on Via Bernardo Celentano, just off Via Flaminia.
3. Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio
I could choose any of the hundreds of churches in Rome to recommend, after all, you will probably visit between ten and twenty on your trip, but the Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio is a place I can't resist mentioning.
Frankly, there is no rival for St. Peter's Basilica. But this is not about finding a rival the Holy See: it's about finding a place that, mistakenly, other eyes will overlook.
Because of its proximity to the Colosseum, the Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio is a perfect choice for an easy two-for-one visit. Its circular architecture, its somber interior decorated with frescoes of martyrdoms, and its sepulchral ambiance create an atmosphere that you will find in few places in Rome.
To reach the Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio, the best way is to walk from the Colosseum after your visit. It will take you about 10 to 15 minutes to reach Via di Santo Stefano Rotondo 7. The basilica is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 5 p.m. from October to March, and between April and September, the afternoon hours change to 3 to 6 p.m.
4. The lock of the Knights of Malta
Aventine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome, the southernmost of the city. In the times of the Roman Republic, it was a place of residence for many of the city's commoners, but today it is an area of elegant mansions and gardens.
Of these gardens, there is one that is probably the favorite of many of Rome's locals, the Giardino degli Aranci, or Garden of Oranges. Formerly an orchard of Dominican monks, this park (free admission) contains a not-so-well-kept secret of Rome, a keyhole through which the dome of St. Peter's Basilica can be seen in the distance.
You read right, a lock on a door through which you can see a unique panoramic view of the Vatican temple, a wholly unique experience. To get there, you will enjoy a very pleasant walk in which to feel the scent of orange trees and rest from the hustle and bustle of the city.
You can visit the Orange Garden from 7 a.m. to sunset throughout the year, which means that the opening hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from October to February, to 8 p.m from March to September, and to 9 p.m. from April to August.
Both for the views and the walk, the best time to visit the Garden of Oranges is one hour before sunset, although at this time you will find the bigger crowds of tourists.
5. Palazzo Doria Pamphilij
This palace is one of the most neglected places in Rome. It is in the center of the city, near the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the monument to Victor Emmanuel II, and on the outside it is beautiful, but inside it is a baroque fantasy housing a museum that you can visit, the Gallery Doria Pamphilij.
The museum's collection belongs to the family that gives its name to the palace, with works of art by Raphael, Titian, and Velazquez among other painters, displayed in a gallery decorated with opulence and luxury.
A place to rest from the hustle and bustle of the Roman streets, especially inside the museum where you will find a courtyard with columns where the sun shines in its own unique way.
The entrance to the Doria Pamphili museum costs € 14, but comes with an audio guide. It is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, and holidays, and from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays. Needless to say, an evening visit to this palace would delight any Romantic era buff.
6. Aqueduct Park
If you have seen Sorrentino's 'La Grande Bellezza', this park will ring a bell from one of its scenes, and if not, you will discover for the first time a place with the air of an ancient world ruin, a park whose vegetation has grown among the remains of a lost civilization.
The Park of the Aqueducts is undoubtedly one of the most interesting places in Rome, especially at sunset, which you can see framed by one of the arches of the aqueducts of Aqua Felix or Aqua Claudia, still standing in this park.
Visiting the park is completely free and you can easily reach it from the city center on metro line A, going to the Lucio Sestio or Giulio Agricola stations, which are just a few minutes' walk from the Aqueduct Park.
7. Tiber Island
The Tiber River divides the historic center of Rome and the district of Trastevere, one of the most interesting neighborhoods of the Eternal City. Over the river hangs the Ponte Cestio that connects to the small Tiber Island, charming and picturesque, like a tiny medieval town, with its old bridges and its church.
It once housed a temple dedicated to Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, which was built to celebrate that the end of the plague that once ravaged Rome, and this temple is today one of the most important hospitals in Rome.
Strolling around Tiber Island was one of my favorite pastimes during my last visit to Rome, so much so that I went there one last time before catching my flight back. Plus it's one of the perfect places from which to take a tour of Rome's Jewish Quarter.
During the summer, the island hosts the Isola del Cinema film festival. There are also bars, restaurants, and food stalls along the banks of the river, giving it a festive and certainly memorable atmosphere.
8. Michelangelo's Moses
During your visit to Rome, you will get to know in-depth the art and genius of Michelangelo Buonarroti: the Pietà, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel...but you will not fully appreciate his art without admiring with your own eyes the Moses.
Located in the Tomb of Pope Julius II in the basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli (in the square of the same name), it is a sculptural ensemble with a history full of, well, disappointments: during the creation of this work of art, the pope interrupted his donations to Michelangelo and what was to be a colossal work of 40 sculptures remained a scene in which the figure of Moses stands out.
Something curious about this image of Moses is that it has horns, following a tradition that historians say derives from a mistranslation of the Bible, which makes the light falling on Moses' face somewhat disconcerting.
9. Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi, at the Gianicolo
Another of the locations of Sorrentino's film, 'La Grande Belleza', the Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi has a monument to the military and political figure of the same name, and a wonderful 17th-century fountain, the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola.
It is located on top of Gianicolo Hill, also known as the eighth hill of Rome, and will offer you beautiful views of the city especially at sunrise or sunset.
10. Borromini's Perspective
And for the big finale, we come to our tenth hidden gem of Rome: the Borromini Perspective. This is one of the most fascinating places in all of Rome, located in a courtyard full of orange trees in the Palazzo Spada. It is an optical illusion commissioned by Cardinal Spada, an 8-meter long gallery with a sculpture dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of war, which in reality appears to be much, much longer.
This effect, the work of the brilliant mind of the architect Giovanni Borromini, was created using an ascending floor and a descending ceiling, with side columns that become smaller and smaller to simulate the effect of remoteness. A theatrical spectacle, quite typical of the aesthetics of the Baroque period.
Palazzo Spada is located in Plaza Capo di Ferro, 13, very close to the Tiber, and you can visit it from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with an entrance fee of € 5.