Rome off the beaten path: hidden gems of Rome most visitors never see (but should!)

Rome off the beaten path: Ostia Antica

A local’s guide to discover Rome off the beaten path. Real hidden gems in Rome and stunning corners most visitors never see, but definitely should!

And so you have done it! You have visited the Colosseum, the Vatican and have pictures of Rome’s must see sites. You have eyes full of Rome’s most iconic views but now you are wondering: what is there to do in Rome off the beaten path? Any Rome hidden gems worth seeing?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Venturing off the beaten path in Rome is definitely worth it and can easily be included in your Rome itinerary even if you only have a short time available.

I was born and raised in Rome and bringing visitors to hidden places they may not otherwise see is one of my greatest pleasures.

In this post, I share some of my favorite off the beaten path corners of Rome. 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 shortlist of Rome hidden gems you should visit on your next trip to Rome.

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What is there to do in Rome off the beaten path?

This is my selection of the best Rome off the beaten path attractions and hidden gems, places locals know well but usually fall off the radar of short term visitors.

Basilica di San Clemente 

The Basilica of San Clemente is one of the most interesting places in Rome if you are a culture and history lover.

It is also the proof that to see off the beaten path Rome places sometimes you just need to step a few meters away from the main city sights!

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. 

Rome hidden gems: San Clemente basilica
Basilica San Clemente Rome

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. 

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.

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.

San Clemente is a wonderful and lesser visited church in Rome but a great place to see how layers of history, literally, shaped this building and can teach us about a city and its hidden life.

Quartiere Coppede’, the art deco’s hidden gem of Rome

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.

You can find a Quartiere Coppede’ itinerary and detailed information here

You can discover Quartiere Coppede’ on your own or learn its secret with a private tour. Check prices and book safely online here 

Rome off the beaten path: Quartere Coppede' and its whimsical architecture
The Coppede district is one of the most peculiar in Rome with unique architecture and distinctive houses

Santa Costanza and Santa Agnese church complex

Rome off the beaten path doesn’t get much better than this if you love calm and unusual religious sites.

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 favorite 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

Another interesting off the beaten track 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 traveler.

Rome house with shops at ground level and colourful art on it facade of a man swimming
Ostiense is an interesting part of Rome that has witnessed a flourishing of street art especially in the last few years

If you like street art, this is one of the best areas in Rome to enjoy it: the are has more than thirty large public works and since the city legalized them a few years ago, now they are easy to spot and enjoy.

Other areas worth exploring, if you area fan of street art are Testaccio, Tor Marancia and the unique area of Il Quadraro. 

Centrale Montemartini

Ostiense is also home to a truly unique museum: 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!

You can visit this area on your own of joining a tour by electric bike such as this one.


Ancient statues hosted with the backdrop of a large industrial machine
Centrale Montemartini’s main characteristic is the clash between its uber industrial space and the ancient art hosted in it

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 18the 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).

You can visit this area on your own of joining a tour by electric bike. Have a look at cost and itinerary here.

The Romantic protestant cemetery of Rome

Hidden behind a busy traffic junction, in a location hard to find even to those who know where to look, lies the protestant cemetery of Rome, a tranquil oasis of peace graced by blossomed trees and guarded by a pyramid, the only one in Rome.

The cemetery is a pleasure to explore: rich with beautiful burial sculpture and luscious vegetation, you can easily spend an hour here just wondering.

The non-catholic cemetery of Rome with its luscious vegetation and historical tombstones
Rome off the beaten track: The protestant cemetery

If you have a romantic soul, you may even join the locals and claim of the benches as your reading corner, one of the most pleasant and tucked away places in the whole of the city.

Tra le Righe bookshop

A different type of gem yet a gem nonetheless is the small independent bookshop called ‘Tra le Righe’ (lit: in between the lines).

A small shop in a residential area of Rome, this bookshop is a delight of colorful walls, books (in Italian and English) and coffee, the perfect escape for a book filled afternoon away from the maddening crowds.

8. Rome botanical gardens

At the end of a cobbled street in Trastevere sit Rome botanical gardens, an on overlooked green oasis in the centre of historical Rome.

The gardens are open to the public year-round and offer a welcome break from the busy city centre streets of the city.

Less well kept and grand than others in Europe, they are nonetheless interesting for nature and plant lovers and not only: they host several gardens with species from around the world, have an impressive collection of palm trees and some architectural features that make them pleasant to explore even if plants are not your thing. 

The best way to visit them is as part of a walk in Trastevere: they are a short distance from Piazza Trilussa and even impressive Santa Maria in Trastevere is nearby. As easy ‘hidden gem’ to add yo your Rome itinerary. 

Rome off the beaten path: Rome botanical gardens
The impressive palm collection in Rome botanical gardens

Santa Prassede: hidden gem in plain sight

True locals will urge you to go see the mosaics in Santa Prassede, in Rione Monte.

You can visit this church on your own or dig deeper into its history joining a tour of this and more sacred sites in the area such as this one. 

Either way, the mosaics are worth a visit and considering how close they are to the main Termini station and important basilica like Santa Maria Maggiore, they are remarkably off the beaten path

Piazza Margana

Charming Piazza Margana and its medieval buildings are a rarity in Rome. The square is secluded and a delight at all hours of the day, a perfect addition to your city centre itinerary (it is just beside the Campidoglio hill).

A great way to visit this square is joining this walking tour covering Rome’s ghetto and surrounding area

11. La Casina delle civette

La casina delle civette is a a fairy-tale looking building in the heart of Villa Torlonia now converted in an exhibition space.

The park itself is worth a visit if you happen to be in this part of town (it is close to the Coppede’ district mentioned above) and the casina is only the most eye catching of several buildings here, now hosting museums, theater and restaurants.

This park and house are in a lovely residential area, just beside the city center but with such a calm pace you will feel a million miles away from the maddening crowd: this is Rome off the beaten path at its best.

Rome off the beaten path and secret places - Casina delle civette
The peculiar looking casina delle civette in Villa Torlonia, Rome

Santa Maria del Suffragio

The only example of Neo-Gothic style in Rome, the church of Santa Maria del Suffragio, on the Tiber, is unique and  looks like a miniature of the Milan duomo.

This church is usually overlooked by tourists but it is striking and if you see it from the other side of the river without knowing it is there, you will find yourself having to look twice, it is so different from anything around it! 

Parco degli aquedotti

To discover Rome off the beaten path sometimes you need to be ready for a bit of a trek but if you have the time, you may be rewarded by amazing sights such as the majestic ancient aqueducts along Via Appia.

The aqueducts are a wonderful historical site to explore if you want to be away from the crowds and get a sense of what the ancient Roman knack for infrastructures was all about.

You may get a glimpse of them as you drive into the city from Ciampino airport but the best way to visit them is to make a day out of it and either stroll or cycle along them

14.  Ostia Antica

My all time favorite off the beaten path Rome attraction and one I recommend absolutely everyone to take the time to visit is Ostia antica.

The ancient port of Rome sits just outside Rome city centre and comprises two parts: the archaeological site and the true Rome hidden gem, the little ‘Borgo’ surrounding the Ostia castle.

A visit here takes an afternoon: come after lunch and make a point of staying for dinner in one of the local restaurants for a truly authentic Rome experience.

The Roman theater of Ostia antica

I hope you enjoyed this round up of Romes’ hidden gems and they inspired you to explore Rome off the beaten path!

Safe travels!

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