Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, always striking its visitors with its historical landmarks, incredible food, and beautiful art. Millions of tourists flock to Rome every year to see the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations across the globe. Rome's landmarks are indeed marvellous, and one cannot simply come to the Eternal City without visiting the places that make it famous all over the world. However, experiencing them can often be frustrating, having to deal with huge crowds, loud noise and tourist traps (wanna take a picture with a gladiator?). During the high season, these inconveniences can lead to the point where they can completely ruin your vacation.
Fortunately, despite the city's immense popularity, there are still many hidden gems and lesser-known places to visit in Rome in peace. These are the places that often get overlooked by tourists but are definitely worth a visit, especially if you want to escape the crowds. Here are some of the best off-the-beaten-track places to visit in Rome.
1. The Appian Way
The Appian Way, or Via Appia Antica, was one of the oldest and most important roads in ancient Italy. It was built in 312 BC and connected Rome to the southern part of Italy. Today, the Appian Way is a beautiful and peaceful park, perfect for a bike ride or a walk. The park is surrounded by beautiful countryside and is home to several ancient ruins, like the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, the mausoleum of a Roman noble woman who lived in the 1st century BC. It is a great place to escape the crowds of the city and enjoy some fresh air while still enjoying history and art.
2. The Catacomb of Priscilla The Catacomb of Priscilla is a series of underground tombs that date back to the 2nd century AD up until the 4th century. They are located just in front of Villa Ada park, in the Parioli neighborhood, and are one of the few catacombs that are open to the public. These catacombs were as a burial site by Christians when Christianity was still outlawed in the Roman empire, therefore hosting the remains of many martyrs. They are a unique and fascinating way to learn about the early Christian era in Rome and are home to some beautiful frescoes and sculptures.
3. The Protestant Cemetery Let's start with a place that is quiet by definition. The Protestant Cemetery, also known as the Non-Catholic Cemetery, is a calm and peaceful oasis in the middle of the busy city. Located in the Testaccio neighborhood, close to the city centre, this cemetery is the final resting place of many notable figures, including John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Antonio Gramsci. It is a beautiful and serene place to take a stroll and admire the beautiful sculptures and gravestones. The cemetery is open every day except for Christmas and New Year's Day, and admission is free.
4. The Capuchin Crypt
The Capuchin Crypt is a macabre and unusual attraction that is not for the faint of heart. Located in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in the Barberini neighborhood, this crypt is made up of several chapels that are decorated with the bones of over 4,000 Capuchin monks gathered between the 16th and the 19th centuries from a no longer existing Capuchin cemetery. The bones have been arranged in intricate patterns and designs, and the effect is both eerie and beautiful. Some complete skeletons are even draped with Franciscan cloaks!
While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, the Capuchin Crypt is certainly a unique and unforgettable experience.
5. The Pyramid of Cestius What is an Egyptian-looking pyramid doing in the centre of Rome? The Pyramid of Cestius is a mysterious and unexpected landmark that is located in the Ostiense neighborhood. It was built in between 18 and 12 BC, when Egypt had only recently become a Roman province, as a tomb for the Roman magistrate Gaius Cestius, and it is the only ancient Egyptian-style pyramid in Rome. The pyramid is made of concrete, brick, and marble, and is around 120 feet tall. It is a fascinating example of the fusion of Roman and Egyptian cultures, and it is definitely worth a visit.
6. The Baths of Caracalla The Baths of Caracalla are one of the largest and most impressive public bath complexes in Rome. They were built in the 3rd century AD and could accommodate up to 1,600 bathers at a time. Today, the baths are in ruins, but they are still an impressive sight and are used for concerts, mainly for the Summer season of the Rome Opera. The complex includes several large rooms and outdoor spaces, as well as a beautiful garden. It is a great place to explore and learn about the history of public bathing in Rome.
7. The Aventine Hill The Aventine Hill is a peaceful and picturesque neighborhood that, albeit being in the heart of Rome, is often overlooked by tourists. Located on the southern side of the city centre, the Aventine Hill is home to several beautiful churches and parks. One of the highlights of the neighborhood is the Giardino degli Aranci, or Orange Garden, which offers a stunning view of the city. The Aventine Hill is also home to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, one of the oldest churches in Rome and of Christianity in general. It is a beautiful and tranquil area, perfect for a leisurely stroll. Make sure you look through the hole in the door of the Magistral Villa of the Military Order of Malta for a stunning view of Saint Peter's Basilica!
8. The Janiculum Hill The Janiculum Hill, or Gianicolo in Italian, is another quiet and scenic area of Rome that is isn't too popular among tourists. Located on the western side of the city centre, the Janiculum Hill offers a some of the best panoramic views of Rome and is a great place to watch the sunset. It is also home to the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, a beautiful fountain that was built in the 17th century by Pope Paul V. The Janiculum Hill is a beautiful and peaceful place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
9. The Quartiere Coppedè
The Quartiere Coppedè is a small neighborhood in the Trieste district that is famous for its eclectic architecture. The neighborhood was built in the 1910s and 1920s and features a mix of Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau styles. The highlight of the neighborhood are the Palazzo del Ragno, or Spider Palace, and the Palazzo dell'Ambasciatore, or Palace of the Ambassador. The Quartiere Coppedè is a beautiful and unusual neighborhood that is definitely worth a visit.
10. The EUR District The EUR, or Esposizione Universale di Roma, district was built in the 1930s for the World Expo that was planned for 1942. While the expo was never held due to the outbreak of World War II, the district remains an impressive example of Fascist monumental architecture. The district is home to several impressive buildings, including the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, also known as the Square Colosseum due to its cubic shape and similarity to the famous ancient Roman landmark.
In conclusion, while Rome is famous for its well-known landmarks, there are many hidden gems and lesser-known places to visit in the city that will help you escape the crowds of this very popular tourist destination. From the peaceful Appian Way to the macabre Capuchin Crypt, there are many unique and fascinating sights to see. Whether you're interested in history, art, or just want to find a quiet spot, these hidden or just less famous places in Rome are definitely worth a visit. So the next time you're in the Eternal City, be sure to explore these places and discover a different side of Rome.
Do you know other hidden gems in Rome? Let us know in the comments!