Could one spend a lifetime exploring Rome without getting bored? Yes, but while we’re daydreaming of moving to Italy with charming men and endless gelato, it’s good to make some choices and narrow down the sights a bit. We’ve set up some of the top hidden gems in Rome that most tourists visiting don’t get to see.
Rome is a popular tourist destination in Europe and receives thousands of tourists annually. This Italian capital has many popular destinations that are easily recognizable – who doesn’t know of the Colosseum or the Trevi fountains? But what about those destinations that are underrated and are less crowded, but just as beautiful and full of history and culture?
With these hidden gems in Rome, you’re set for a trip that’s unique and diverse – whether you’re a first time explorer or a repeat visitor to Italy’s ancient capital.
Our 25 Hidden Gems in Rome
1. Catacombs of Priscilla
Showing stories from early Christianity, the Catacombs of Priscilla is an important place for history and religion. A maze of thombs and chambers, early popes and many martyrs were buried here. The catacombs are lined with 3rd century murals – one is even questioned to be the first image of the Virgin Mary. Many fresco’s in the Greek Chapel seem to feature women, perhaps even seen leading in Mass, making it a popular place for scholars. The horde of tourists, however, hasn’t found its way yet.
With a remarkable history, the catacombs make for one of Rome’s hidden gems and a great visit either way. It’s a bit further from Rome’s most touristic area, so combine it with a stop at the next two items on our list.
Address: Via Salaria, 430, 00199 Roma RM
2. Orologio ad Acqua del Pincio (The Magical Water Clock of the Pincio)
This engineering masterpiece was designed by Giovanni Battista Embriaco in 1867. The hands of the clock resemble trees fitting perfectly with the backdrop of Villa Borghese. It works when water gets into two leaf-shaped basins on the pivot. When the two basins filled with water oscillate, the mechanism is activated and in turn, turns the hands telling the time. The water clock is on a wooden tower in Pincio Park at Villa Borghese.
Address: Viale dell’Obelisco, a39, 00187 Roma RM
3. Galleria Borghese
Art lovers get to gather in this beautiful space and experience art. Scipione Borghese commissioned the architect Flaminio Ponzio to build a villa to put his art collection. Home to the Borghese art collection, there are many centuries worth of art in this gallery, with pieces from Bernini, Caravaggio, Canova, and from lesser known artists like Paolo Veronese and Lorenzo Lotto. There are temporary exhibits like fashion as sculpture by fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa.
Address: Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5, 00197 Roma RM
4. L’antico Ghetto Ebraico
This ghetto town with narrow streets and alleyways dates back to the 16th century. It is believed to be home to the Jews until 1569 and then from 1586-1593. One can see the three guarded entryways the Jews were allowed to use in the morning and at dusk when they left. It is a charming area with workshops surrounded by palaces believed to belong to the rich Jews in trade and banking. Get out at the tram stop Arenula/Cairoli and it’s the little area East of it.
5. Capuchin Crypt
It is The Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars in which the Capuchin Order is held in high regard as a reminder of the cycle of life and the reality of our inevitable mortality. There are multiple chapels below the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini holding approximately 4000 mummified skeletons.
Address: Via Vittorio Veneto, 27, 00187 Roma RM
6. Quartiere Coppedè
It was designed and built by Gino Coppedè from 1913-1927. It is a secret neighborhood located behind Quartiere Trieste between Piazza Buenos Aires and Via Tagliamento. He used old styles like Baroque, Art Nouveau, and medieval and ancient Greek in the construction. This district isn’t huge, but great for a few hours strolling around.
A highlight is the House of Fairies (Villino delle Fate), with asymmetrical architecture unlike you can find anywhere else. Don’t skip the Piazza Mincio with its Fontana delle Rana, or ‘Fountain of the Frogs’. The surrounding buildings are magical by itself, plus it’s said that the Beatles took a late night dip in the fountain after finishing a show.
7. Colosseum Arena Floor
Rome is famous for its epic battles in amphitheaters 2000 years ago, and here, guests get to walk the path of famous gladiators as they walk into battle. Although the Colosseum floor is just a wooden reconstruction, one can get a good 360-degree view and imagine what it was like in its glory days. Here, there are many guided tours of the Arch of Constantine, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum. Access to the arena floor is not included in the general ticket – be sure to book in advance.
8. Antica Farmacia della Scala
Back in the 17th-Century this hidden gems in Rome was a pharmacy for the Papal Court. Located in Trastevere, it’s still run by Carmelite monks. The order started this pharmacy to serve their own, but their products gradually rose to fame. Eventually, it offered low prices to serve even the poorest in Rome.
Filled with more details than your eyes can handle, this is the spot for architecture and history lovers. Even the modern pharmacy downstairs looks old, but head up and step into a time machine. Glance over the marble walls, dark decor and mysterious glass vials. Guided tours in English are hard to find, but it’s worth the trip regardless.
Address: Piazza della Scala, 23, 00153 Roma RM
9. Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio (Basilica of St. Stephen in the Round on the Celian Hill)
Rome is known for its numerous churches, but the church of St. Stephen is unique with its circular plan dating as far back as the mid-5th century. Its walls showcase images of well-known martyrs in the 16th century. The details on each painting are extensive with explanations of each scene, who ordered the execution, and quotes from the Bible.
Address: Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 7, 00184 Roma RM
10. Giardino degli Aranci (The Orange Garden AKA Parco Savello)
This romantic garden located a short distance from Circo Massimo is full of orange trees. From the garden, visitors can see the whole of Rome. From the terrace, one can see the Tiber River and the famous St. Peter’s Dome. Visit around sunset when the warm light gives an entirely new meaning to ‘orange garden’.
Address: Piazza Pietro D’Illiria, 00153 Roma RM
11. Torre Argentina (Cat Sanctuary)
Not far from the Patheon is the location where Caesar was murdered. While new for most people, this isn’t the most ‘hidden’ sight on our list, but Torre Argentina is unusual enough not to be missed. It’s now an excavation site to admire the old Rome – though visitors are not (yet!) allowed to enter the grounds, there are numerous signs with info for the history buffs. However, our favorite part is the area used as a cat sanctuary for strays. There are 140+ cats roaming between the ruins and nearly all are adoptable. Visit the sanctuary for cuddles and buy little souvenirs to help with funding. The ruins are scheduled to open in 2021.
Address: Largo di Torre Argentina, 00186 Roma RM
12. Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta (Square of the Knights of Malta)
Located in the orange garden at the top of Aventine Hill, there is a door to the Villa of the Knights of Malta. Only one guest at a time can look through the keyhole (Buco della Serratura – The Hole on The Lock) to see St. Peter’s Basilica framed by two rows of green cypress trees. It is unclear if Giovanni Piranesi designed it that way or if it is just a pleasant coincidence. As one waits their turn, one can relax in the gardens near Santa Sabina and take in the beautiful view of Rome.
Address: Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, 3, 00153 Roma RM
13. Palazzo Colonna
The Colonna family is believed to have started building the palace in the 14th century. It is a private palace with some of the family members still residing there eight centuries later. The construction was done over five centuries ago; therefore, there are multiple architectural styles both inside and outside the palace. Martin V lived in the palace from 1420-1431. The palace has opened its doors to many people over the centuries, and its historical significance to the Roman people is great. The Galleria Colonna was also constructed in the 1600s where art collections owned by the Colonna family have been displayed ever since.
Address: Via della Pilotta, 16, 00187 Roma RM
14. Centrale Montemartini
A few decades ago this was a functioning power plant. Today, Centrale Montemartini is one of the strangest museums to be found. Briefly used as storage, the building was thought to be an ideal place to showcase art works that were collecting dust in a basement. The contrast of classical Roman statues in front of modern machinery is remarkable – don’t forget your camera for this stop.
Address: Via Ostiense, 106, 00154 Roma RM
15. Villa Farnesina
Easily located in Trastevere, Villa Farnesina dates back from the 16th century. The mansion is lovely on the outside, but indescribable on the inside. Its walls are covered from top to bottom with brightly colored art, including that of Raphaël, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Note that it is closed on (most) Sundays.
Address: Via della Lungara, 230, 00165 Roma RM
16. Oratoria del Gonfalone
One of the most stunning rooms you can find in all of Rome, this 16th century prayer room is still in use today as a concert hall. Its walls are covered from top to bottom in colorful murals of Christ. Don’t mistake it with the Gonfalone church nearby. An entry ticket requires booking ahead of time, or visit one of their concerts.
Address: Via del Gonfalone, 32, 00186 Roma RM
17. Casina delle Civette (House of Owls)
Prince Alessandro Torlonia commissioned Giuseppe Jappelli to design the residence in 1840. The residence is an architectural marvel with rich designs from numerous architects such as Enrico Gennari. It is referred to as the House of Owls because of the two owls between ivy shoots displayed in the stained glass designed by Duilio Cambellotti in 1914. Prince Giovanni Torlonia lived here until 1938.
Address: Via Nomentana, 70, 00161 Roma RM
18. Janiculum Hill, Gianicolo
This site is perfect for nature lovers and hikers because it is calm and peaceful and offers a great view of the city. It was an important defense location for Rome during wars. It was also the battlefield between Giuseppe Garibaldi and the French Troops. On its path are the statues of Rome’s heroes including Garibaldi’s.
There is plenty to see on Janiculum Hill including Manfredi Lighthouse. While in the area, don’t forget to stop at the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola or Il Fontanone. “The big fountain“ is just as good as the famous Trevi fountain, but without the crowds. Combine your visit with the next item on our list of hidden gems in Rome.
Address: Piazzale Giuseppe Garibaldi, 00165 Roma RM
19. Villa Doria Pamphili
Conveniently behind Gianicolo is the city’s largest park, yet oddly enough still one of the hidden gems in Rome. Besides a few locals, you’ll probably be the only tourist around. It feels you’ve left the chaos of Rome, though it’s not far from the Forum and the Via del Corso near Piazza Venezia. The park is large enough to spend a day strolling around and makes for an ideal picnic spot. Get here by taking bus No. 870 or walk from Trastevere.
Villa Dora Pamphili originates from one of the papal families. Visit its stately white building named Casino del Bel Respiro to further observe the immense wealth and influence this family once had. Every inch is covered with art from the likes of Brueghel and Caravaggio. From its Northern entrance you can spot a view of Rome, including St. Peter’s Dome.
Address: Via di S. Pancrazio, 00152 Roma RM
20. Le Terme di Caracalla – Baths of Caracalla
The baths of Caracalla were built by order of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (Emperor Caracalla) in 212-216 AD. They were thermal complexes built with marble and the walls covered with art. A large complex, you can still explore some remaining mosaics. When visiting during Summer, it’s possible to catch an open-air opera from here.
Address: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Roma RM
21. Caravaggio’s Paintings
Apart from major museums and galleries, tourists can see Caravaggio’s artwork in three locations. One is San Luigi dei Francesi where three paintings are on display depicting the life of St Matthew. The second is Basilica di Sant’Agostino where one can see the Madonna di Loreto. Third is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo where his more famous pieces reside – The Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter.[easy-image-collage id=4599]
22. Via Appia Antica – Appian Way
Built in 312 BC, it is one of the oldest and longest roads in Rome. It is 563 km or 350 miles. The road is lined with tombs, among them Christian catacombs such as San Domitilla, San Sebastian, and the famous tomb of Cecilia Metella. The road has important historical significance like the failed slave revolution of 73 BC led by Spartacus where approximately 6000 slaves were crucified on 130 miles of the Appian Way. We recommend exploring by bicycle for a 20 km (12,5 miles) ride to pass countless sights that’ll surprise you and see a completely new side of Rome.
23. Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas
Since it was forbidden to bury the dead within Rome’s city walls, many monuments were built along the main roads leading into the city. As was the case for the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas, located near the Via Appia (next on our list). Dating back to the 1st Century, this tomb for urns was only discovered in 1830 (as you see, we take the term ‘hidden gems in Rome’ quite serious). A steep stairs takes you down to this ancient space, filled with colorful art works. It’s so rare to visit, you can only go down on a guided tour, available at nearby Museo dello Mura.
Address: Via di Porta Latina, 14, 00179 Roma RM
A new item on your bucket list: having dinner in a tram. Tramjazz is essentially a moving restaurant that passes stunning sights around Rome while you enjoy food and live jazz. This cozy place is only open a few nights per week from 9PM till midnight – book in advance.
Address: Starts and ends at Piazza di Porta Maggiore
25. Ristorante Museo Canova Tadolini
A travel list isn’t complete without food. This restaurant quite literally doubles as a museum and is one of our hidden gems in Rome for being particularly strange. Visit here to dine between Roman statues – you’ll step out dizzy from either wine or the sheer amount of museum pieces that surround you. Try some of their homemade pasta with truffles.
Address: Via del Babuino, 150/a, 00187 Roma RM
Has this opened up a new side of Rome for you? We hope these 25 hidden gems in Rome will keep you entertained for ages, regardless if you’re a first-time explorer, or if you already thought you knew the city well. Italy’s capital will never get boring – because hey, they’ve been building it for the past 3000 years.