The numerous treasures that Rome has to offer extend far beyond its most famous monuments and landmarks.
For those curious enough to go in search of these hidden gems, there are countless little known but nonetheless spectacular sites to be seen.
Thanks to the help of Segway Roma team, local experts in guided tours by segway (an eco-friendly vehicle very easy to ride), I discovered the best spots that traditional guided tours don’t visit, which I decided to include in the following guide.
One of Rome’s best-kept secrets is the Casino Ludovisi. This is one of the city’s secret spots that only the locals know about. With its ceiling oil painted by Caravaggio and paintings from famous artists including Guercino and Viola this recently renovated villa is sure to take your breath away.
The villa houses many precious objects thanks to the Ludovisi ancestry, such as the red velvet throne of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi who was the nephew of Pope Gregory XV. Although the Villa Aurora is all that is left of the splendid Villa Ludovisi, since the property was subdivided in the 1880s, it is definitely worth a visit to view genuine portraits of past popes and step into a spectacular souvenir of Italian heritage.
Must-sees Churches in Rome
Without a doubt, you will have heard of St Peter’s Basilica, which is flooded by tourists on a daily basis. However, there are several other lesser known basilicas in Rome that are equally astounding and well worth a visit.
Despite being the third largest church in Christendom, San Paolo Fuori le Mura is often empty. With medieval Cosmati mosaics and a 5th-century triumphal arch it can definitely be counted among Rome’s hidden treasures. Surprisingly, the average tourist also overlooks one of Rome’s loveliest churches, San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura.
Other spectacular churches that are often ignored by tour groups include the baroque Church of St. Ignatius Loyola and Santa Maria della Pace, which is just around the corner from Piazza Navona. The former contains frescoes and paintings by Andrea Pozzo and ceilings, which appear to be vaulted, but in reality are not. The latter has limited opening hours depending on whether the custodian is present, but if you manage to get there when it is open you will not regret waiting.
It features Raphael’s fresco and amazing architectural structures, which inspired artists throughout the Renaissance, such as Michelangelo.
To know more about the masterpieces throughout Rome, I suggest contacting Maya Tours, an agency specialized in guided tours, especially in Vatican City and historic center.
Romantic glimpses in the Eternal City
If you would rather escape from the hassle and crowds that seem omnipresent in Rome, I recommend a visit to the Giardino degli Aranci (otherwise known as Parco Savello). This park has magnificent views of the city and is only a few steps away from a beautiful monastery belonging to the Knights of Malta.
Here, you can peer through the keyhole and gaze simultaneously at three countries. I won’t say anymore in order to let you experience the surprises of this hidden gem for yourselves, but will simply underline that it’s an experience you will never forget.
Where to taste typical delis in Rome
When it comes to food and drink, it is very easy to stumble across a “tourist trap” restaurant where prices are high and quality is mediocre. On the other hand, if you listen to the locals you will also discover an abundance of delicious products at affordable prices. If you have a sweet tooth, a visit to the Bar Pompi is a must in order to try Rome’s finest tiramisu.
The Gelateria del Teatro, just beyond Piazza Navona, offers refreshing gelato using the finest ingredients and although it might be a trek to find it, this also means that you don’t have to worry about a wait once you’re there.
Trastevere is genuinely seen as the best place for an aperitif, but unfortunately its popularity often leads to large crowds and queues. To avoid this, take a short walk up the Gianicolo to Il Baretto where you can enjoy a pleasant evening drink.
Where to shopping around the center
Finally, if you are in search of some unique souvenirs to take home I have discovered some of Rome’s most unique shops and markets that rarely feature in typical touristic guides. The Roman flea market, Porta Portese Market on Via Portuense, is open every Sunday morning and offers a wide range of exceptional discoveries and treasures. There are also several artisanal workshops in the historic centre, where you can purchase handmade bags.
My favourite is Armando Rioda at via del Cancello 66, specialised in custom bags and leather goods.
Rome’s most famous sights and museums are of course also worth visiting, but as you can see the city also hides many hidden spots that too many miss either because of particular opening hours or the fact that it requires a bit of extra effort to reach them. However, if you have the time and foresight to plan ahead then it is well worth winding the streets a little while longer to take in the city’s full splendour.