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10 secret spots in Rome

If you feel like going off the beaten track in Rome, take note of the best-hidden secret places in the city and get to know the city as if you were a Roman!

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

9 min read

10 secret spots in Rome

Discovering the nooks and crannies of the city | ©Cristina Gottardi

Beyond the guided tours of the Colosseum, the entrances to the Vatican, the best squares of Rome, its impressive fountains and the streets of rich opulence, lies a secret Rome, of corners that the eye of the average 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 add to your list of things to see and do in Rome the lost gems of the Eternal City. Below and in no particular order, 10 hidden places in Rome that you will reach only if you know how to find them:

1. Quartiere Coppedè

One of the beautiful corners of this neighborhood.| ©Flavia Curcuraci /
One of the beautiful corners of this neighborhood.| ©Flavia Curcuraci /

The Coppedè neighborhood of Rome is like entering a fairy tale squeezed between four streets, on the corner of Via Dora and Via Tagliamento. There are a couple of very nice buildings and a square with a fountain, which although they will taste little will make the visit totally worthwhile.

One advantage of this area is that since it is not so well known, it is a refuge from the tourists that crowd the streets of Rome, where you can rest and take some very nice pictures in the evening light. This, among other things, is one of the things I recommend you do on your visit to Rome.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... when you visit the Villa Borghese Gallery as it is about a 15 minute walk away.

Book a private tour of hidden Rome

2. Piccola Londra

Colorful houses in Piccola Londra| ©Tripadvisor
Colorful houses in Piccola Londra| ©Tripadvisor

Go to Piccola Londra knowing that you will fall in love with its Notting Hill-style cottages, only with the Mediterranean magic of Rome. 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 just a few streets as architect Quadrio Pirani's project was never extended, but you can stroll through this unusual part of London on Via Bernardo Celentano, just off Via Flaminia.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... if during your visit to Rome you take a tour of the Galleria Borguese and the gardens. In just over half an hour you can walk there and keep in mind that Rome is the perfect city for walking.

Book a guided visit to the Borghese Gallery

3. Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio

I could choose any of the thousand or so 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 to you.

Honestly, there is no match for St. Peter's Basilica. But this is not about finding a basilica to rival that of the Holy See: it's about finding the place that other eyes will not, mistakenly, deem worth perching on.

Because of its proximity to the Colosseum, the Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio is the one that perfectly meets what we are looking for. Its circular architecture, its somber interior decorated with frescoes of martyrdoms, and its sepulchral ambience create an atmosphere that you will find in few other places in Rome.

To reach the Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio, it is best to walk from the Colosseum during 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 am to 1 pm and from 2 to 5 pm from October to March, and between April and September the afternoon hours change to 3 to 6 pm.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... when you make your (obligatory) visit to the Colosseum because it is quite close.

4. The lock of the Knights of Malta

The view from the
The view from the "hole" of Rome| ©Wikimedia

The 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 that right, a lock of a door through which you can observe a unique panoramic view of the Vatican temple, which in addition to giving you a unique experience will take you to a very pleasant walk in which to breathe the scent of orange trees and rest from the bustle of the city.

You can visit the Orange Garden from 7 am to sunset throughout the year, which means that depending on the time of year the opening hours are from 7 am to 6 pm from October to February, from 7 am to 8 pm from March to September and from 7 am to 9 pm from April to August.

Both for the views and the walk, the best time to visit the Orange Garden is an hour before sunset, although you will find more tourists.

5. Palazzo Doria Pamphilij

The interior of the Palazzo| ©Wikimedia
The interior of the Palazzo| ©Wikimedia

This palace is one of the most unnoticed 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 and contains a museum that you can visit, the Doria Pamphilij Gallery.

The museum 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 colonnaded courtyard where the sun shines in a special way.

The entrance to the Doria Pamphili museum costs 14 €, but comes with audio guide. It is open to the public from 9:30 am to 7 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and holidays, and from 11:30 am to 11 pm on Fridays. Needless to say, an evening visit to this palace would delight any romantic.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... when you're in the center of Rome, whether you're tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain or visiting the Pantheon in the evening.

6. Park of the Aqueducts

The Aqua Claudia aqueduct| ©Wikimedia
The Aqua Claudia aqueduct| ©Wikimedia

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 a ruin of the ancient world, 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, which are 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 Lucio Sestio or Giulio Agricola stations, which are just a few minutes walk from the Park of the Aqueducts.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... if you have a free day, because it is quite far from the center of Rome.

7. Tiber Island

Tiber Island| ©Massimo Virgilio
Tiber Island| ©Massimo Virgilio

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, overhangs the Ponte Cestio that connects to the small Tiber Island, charming and picturesque, like a medieval town in tiny, 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 plague had stopped ravaging 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, and I went back one last time before catching my flight back, plus it is 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.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... if you book a cruise on the Tiber with a stop as they will probably take you there.

8. Michelangelo's Moses

Michelangelo's Moses| ©Wikimedia
Michelangelo's Moses| ©Wikimedia

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 full of disappointments: during the course of the creation of the work, 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 his image is that he appears gored, following a tradition that according to historians derives from a mistranslation of the Bible, which makes the light falling on the face of Moses somewhat disconcerting.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... when you are near the Colosseum because it is only a seven-minute walk away!

9. Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi, on the Gianicolo

The fountain at the top of the Gianicolo| ©Wikimedia
The fountain at the top of the Gianicolo| ©Wikimedia

Another of the locations of Sorrentino's film, 'The Great Beauty', 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 the Gianicolo hill, also known as the eighth hill of Rome, and will offer you beautiful views of the city especially at sunrise or sunset.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... whenever you feel like taking in spectacular views of the city from the Gianicolo hill.

10. Borromini's perspective

Perspective of Borromini| ©Wikimedia
Perspective of Borromini| ©Wikimedia

Finally, we come to our tenth hidden gem of Rome: the Borromini Perspective. One of the most fascinating sights 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 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. All a small theatrical spectacle very typical of the aesthetics of the Baroque that is worth seeing.

The Palazzo Spada is located in Piazza Capo di Ferro, 13, near the Tiber, and you can visit it from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 to 19:30 with an entrance fee of 5 €.

  • Take the opportunity to see it... before crossing the river to visit the famous basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.