Rome hidden gems: is there such a thing, in a city as popular with visitors as Rome? Find out 5 secret places in Rome you probably didn’t think of visiting (but should!).
I love helping people organise their trip to Rome. I love to hear the plans, the expectations, the questions and I always encourage first time visitors to spend time in what are perceived as ‘must see places’, especially if they only have limited time in city.
If you are in Rome for the first time, I feel you should visit the Colosseum and not just because it is ‘what people do in Rome’ but because it is beautiful and unique, as also are the Roman Forum, San Peter’s square and many of Rome’s top sites.
However, I am always quick to add that if you have more than two or three days in Rome, there are some hidden corners you should make time for.
They are not necessarily Rome secrets, but they are those amazing places in Rome that make the city a lot more than just the sum of its parts.
This is my short list of Rome hidden gems you should visit on your next trip to Rome.
5 amazing Rome hidden gems you should seek out on your next trip
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Basilica di San Clemente
This is one of the most interesting places in Rome if you are a culture and history lover.
Located less than 10 minutes on foot from the Colosseum, at the footsteps of the San Giovanni hill, San Clemente is now a church but it hides a secret: the current building sits on two more ancient ones and if you enter, you can see them all!
The most ancient remains, the ones that are the lowest from street level, date back to the I century AD, before the fire that ravaged Rome under emperor Nero. They seem to have been a private home until the following century and it still possible to see the main walls and ceilings.
The second layer is made of a Mithraeum, a temple to the God Mithra (or Mithras, as it is also spelled). Mithra is an ancient God of middle- Eastern origins who has many followers in Roman times.
God of light, his cult was especially popular among Roman soldiers. Historians consider him one of the main ‘rivals’ to Christianity at the time of its development, which makes the location of this specific temple exceptionally interesting.
The third and most recent building is a Christian church dating back to the VI century. This church is significant in the history of architecture as it is the most ancient 3 naves Christian church in existence.
The site is remarkable to visit and beautiful. You can find information on how to reach it here.
Quartiere Coppede’ is a special area of Rome built in the art deco style. It is unique in the way it looks, a pleasure to discover on foot and the only place in the whole of the city built in this style.
Its location, outside the city centre and off the beaten track, makes it a true Rome hidden gem and one of those secret places in Rome you are not likely to stumble upon unless you know a local (like me, I grew up 2 minutes down the road from here!) or put some research into discovering ‘different’ places in Rome.
The architect behind this area was called Gino Coppede’: he was commissioned this area by wealthy families and he took inspiration from the Rococo art movement but also ancient Roman architecture, which he mixed with influences for the Assyrian and Babylonian world.
The area now hosts private apartments and embassies and has a peculiar, whimsical look somewhat reminiscent of some of Gaudi’s creation in Barcelona.
Santa Costanza and Santa Agnese
Not far from Quartiere Coppede’ lies a a place usually overlooked by tourists: the complex of Santa Costanza and Santa Agnese, two stunning Christian churches now in the parish grounds of ‘Santa Agnese fuori le mura’.
Santa Agnese dates back to the VII century AD and is beautiful but the real gem here is Santa Costanza. Named after Emperor Costantino’s daughter Constantina (or Costanza) the church dates back to the IV century AD, it has gorgeous ancient frescoes on its walls and an almost unique round shape.
The church is evocative, with a suffused light filling its round shape, and the altar in the centre makes it exceptionally welcoming.
This is probably my favourite religious site in the whole of the city and this is why it makes my list of Rome’s hidden gems.
You can find more info about this complex and Santa Costanza in particular here.
Ostiense Street Art and Centrale Montemartini
Another interesting area in Rome most tourists never see is Ostiense.
Located just outside of the city centre in the direction of the airport, Ostiense is a residential area famous for its alternative feel and vibrant nightclubs but it has some surprises for the culturally curious traveller.
If you like street art, this is one of the best areas in Rome to enjoy it and if you want to visit a truly unique museum, head not further than Centrale Montermartini.
An old electricity plant, Centrale Montermartini is now part of the network of the city museum and has an impressive number of ancient statues and mosaics hosted in its vast industrial space.
It is a special place, worth the extra metro stop to get there and a true hidden gem!
La Garbatella neighbourhood
La Garbatella is a local area of Rome just off the beaten track but close enough to Rome city centre to be accessible even during a relatively short visit.
Romans love la Garbatella and often refer to it with the same words they used for Trastevere before Trastevere became touristy: ‘local’, ‘the old Rome’, ’the real Rome’.
La Garbatella is a residential area with a precise birthday: the 18 February 1920. On this day, King Vittorio Emanuele II laid the first brick and officially set into motion the creation of an area up until that time occupied by pastoral land and sheep.
Not wealthy in its origins and with fierce anti-fascist roots, la Garbatella has changed over time and now has beautiful house and gardens with a high price tag, but still retains that local, non posh feeling Rome does so well. Its paint may be peeling, its gardens may be overgrown, but the charm is immense.
For the best experience, go late in the afternoon and stay for a meal in one of the local pizzeria or enoteche (wine bars).
I hope you enjoyed this round up of Romes’ hidden gems!
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