15 Unmissable Hidden Gems In Rome You Shouldn’t Miss Otesanya David March 25, 2022

15 Unmissable Hidden Gems In Rome You Shouldn’t Miss

15 Unmissable Hidden Gems In Rome You Shouldn’t Miss


Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and for good reason. The city is home to some of the most iconic sights on earth, from the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain and the Vatican. However, as with any major city, Rome can be crowded and expensive. If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path experience in Rome, here are a few hidden gems worth checking out.

Hidden Gems in Rome

Whether you prefer lesser known Rome museums, panoramic viewpoints or restaurants popular with the locals, put these top secret Rome places on your bucket list.

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1. Villa Medici

Home of the French Academy in Rome, the villa has a fantastic location near the Spanish Steps, overlooking the whole city. Built in 1540, it was bought by Ferdinando dei Medici in 1576 and then by Napoleon in 1801.

Although it’s an unknown Rome attraction to most overseas visitors, it has been frequented by many creative Europeans over the years. The best French artists, composers and sculptors came here to study, including Boucher, Fragonard, Berlioz, Debussy and the architect of the French opera house, Charles Garnier.

These days there are up to 19 French-speaking artists and musicians in residence, and the villa hosts regular exhibitions and performances.

Villa Medici Rome visit
Villa Medici

There are 18 acres of gardens to explore on the guided tour, and you’ll also see the cardinal’s painted apartments. There’s an elegant café selling panini and other snacks.

Villa Medici Garden Rome
Villa Medici gardens

And now for that view, one of the best Rome secret spots. From this angle you can spot the huge white Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele I to the left but there’s a panoramic, unencumbered view from all sides.

Panoramic Rome view
Panoramic Rome view

Address: Villa Medici, Viale della Trinità dei Monti, 1, 00187 Comune di Roma RM, Italy

Nearby, take lunch at Ginger Sapori e Salute, Via Borgognona 43, for healthy salads and people watching. Walk down the Spanish Steps and check out the luxury hotels on via Condotti on your way. This light and airy restaurant focuses on Mediterranean food and 70& of the menu is organic.

If you’re also visiting Villa Borghese, we can highly recommend the fine dining at Pauline Borghese, Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel & Spa’s beautiful restaurant.

Ginger Rome restaurant
Ginger restaurant

2. Borromini’s Perspective

Something of an oddity, Borromini’s Perspective is one of the most fascinating secret Rome places. The gallery has been designed to make you believe that it carries on far longer than it really does.

Giving the illusion of a length of around 37 meters, it’s actually only 8 meters long. The effect is created by a rising floor, descending ceiling and lateral columns gradually becoming smaller, and the Roman warrior at the end is 60 centimeters high.

Housed in a shady courtyard filled with orange trees in the Palazzo Spada, this optical illusion was commissioned by Cardinal Spada. He asked Baroque architect Francesco Borromini to create it with the help of a mathematician.

Address: Borromini’s Perspective, Piazza Capo di Ferro, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Borromini's Perspective Rome
Borromini’s Perspective

The Palazzo Spada itself is one of the best Rome hidden gems. This interesting place is filled with paintings, sculptures and furniture from Cardinal Spada’s private collection. There are works by Rubens, Titian, Caravaggio and Brueghel the Elder to admire, hung in the 17th century style, frame to frame.

Palazzo Spada Roma
Palazzo Spada

Address: Palazzo Spada, Piazza Capo di Ferro, 13, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Grab a quick snack close by in very casual surroundings at Dar Filettaro for a Roman take on fish and chips! This fried, salted cod treat called filleti di baccala  is a favourite with locals. It’s meant to be eaten with your hands not cutlery, so dig in and enjoy.

Address: Dar Filettaro, Largo dei Librari, 88, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara
Dar Filettaro

3. San Luigi dei Francesi

The French have certainly been active in Rome, as this magnificent church is dedicated to St Louis IX, King of France. It is also known as the Church of St. Louis of the French.

One of the most outstanding Rome hidden treasures is the trio of Caravvagio paintings in the Contarelli Chapel. Created from 1599-1600 they depict the life of St Matthew with striking contrasts of light and shade.

To the left is The Calling of St Matthew and to the right is The Inspiration of St Matthew. The other painting is The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.

These were Caravaggio’s first important church commission, and greatly reinforced his reputation. Today, entrance to the church is free but you’ll be wise to spend a few coins in the slot machine to light up the paintings and see these baroque gems in all their splendour.

Address: Church of St. Louis of the French, Piazza di S. Luigi de’ Francesi, 00186 Comune di Roma RM, Italy

San Luigi dei Francesi - hidden gems in Rome
San Luigi dei Francesi

Dine at Etabli on Vicolo delle Vacche 9, a shabby chic Roman restaurant in a 15th century building on a cobbled pedestrianized street. They have really tasty food and some of the friendliest waiters in the city. It’s a nice hidden Rome eatery in which to enjoy an aperitivo in Summer or a winter warmer by the open fire.  

Address: Etabli, Vicolo delle Vacche, 9, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Etabli restaurant in Rome
Etabli restaurant

4. Rome Rose Garden and The Garden of the Oranges

Savello Park, or Garden of the Oranges, has a fantastic view across the Roman hills. On the walk up Aventine Hill, you’ll come across the lovely Rome Rose Gardens, one of our favourite Rome secrets.

Open from 21 April to 14 June, if you’re lucky to visit between those dates you can admire 1,100 varieties of rose and some of the best views of Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill.

Rose Garden Rome
Rome Rose Garden

Once at the top, you’ll see lots of oranges on the trees and also on the ground – we couldn’t resist trying our hand at juggling! There was originally a castle here in the tenth century and its medieval walls still surround the park.

This charming area is one of the best Rome secret places to watch the sunset over the monuments.

Address: Orange Garden, Piazza Pietro D’Illiria, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

The Garden of the Oranges in Rome
The Garden of the Oranges

Eat at Marco Martini down the hill from the Orange Garden. This Michelin starred Rome restaurant serves delicious food in a shady courtyard. There’s a stylish Rome boutique hotel, The Corner Townhouse, above if you don’t feel like going home.

Address: Marco Martini, Viale Aventino, 121, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

Marco Martini restaurant, Rome
Marco Martini restaurant

5. The Mouth of Truth

The Bocca della Verità or Mouth of Truth is an image of a face, housed in the entrance to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. No one knows what the sculpture originally was, some say it was part of an ancient Roman fountain or even a manhole cover.

This famous Rome landmark may represent the god of the river Tiber. From the Middle Ages onwards, people believed that if you told a lie with your hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off.

In the classic film, Roman Holiday, Gregory Peck improvised a scene there with Audrey Hepburn, pretending that his hand had indeed been bitten off! For lunch or dinner afterwards, Corner Townhouse is very close by.

Address: Mouth of Truth, Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18, 00186 Comune di Roma RM, Italy

Mouth of Truth Rome
Mouth of Truth

6. Trastevere

This picturesque area on the other side of the Tiber is hidden Rome at its best. In fact it takes its name from the Latin trans Tiberim which means beyond the Tiber. You can reach Trastevere by crossing Ponte Sisto, a picturesque pedestrianized bridge.

Take time to explore the narrow lanes and cobbled streets, and to enjoy the restaurants and lively nightlife. Once a working class neighbourhood, today it’s a popular area for tourists and locals alike. Many people congregate in the Piazza Santa Maria, the heart of the area, to listen to the street performers at night.

Experience a hidden Rome food tour, which includes multiple tasting stops followed by a delicious dinner and wine. This fun tour is led by an expert English speaking guide.

We also recommend visiting one of the best gelaterias in Rome – look for the sign “Artigianale” above the door which means that it’s all home made. There are lots of great eateries on our tour, but if you want the inside scoop, do take their tour.

Hidden gems in Rome: Trastevere - this area has lots of cool restaurants and shops
Hidden gems in Rome: Trastevere

7. Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla are ancient Roman baths that are thought to have been built between AD 212 and 216. In use until around 530, they are named after Emperor Caracalla who ordered their construction.

One of the largest bathhouses in Antiquity, Caracalla had three bathing rooms – a hot pool, cold pool and tepid pool. Today, the baths are surprisingly well preserved. Visitors can see segments of original walls and mosaic floors.

The Baths of Caracalla, Rome, Italy
The ancient Rome Baths of Caracalla

8. Quartiere Coppedè

The area of Coppedè is Rome’s smallest district yet it has a lot of historic charm. Designed by the architect Gino Coppedè in Art Nouveau style, the buildings are rich in floral and mythological symbolism.

The Fontana delle Rane, or Fountain of Frogs, is where the Beatles took a dip after playing a concert in Rome. Enter the area via an archway on Via Tagliamento, noticeable thanks to its large outdoor chandelier.

Quartier Coppede - one of the best hidden gems in Rome
Quartier Coppede – one of the best hidden gems in Rome

9. Villa Farnesina

The Villa Farnesina is a unique place built in the 16th century for banker Agostino Chigi. Located in the Trastevere district of Rome, this Renaissance building is now home to an art museum.

Designed by the architect Baldassarre Peruzzi, Villa Farnesina features an impressive fresco by Renaissance artist Raphael, the Lodge of Cupid and Psyche.

Villa Farnesina - hidden gems in Rome
Villa Farnesina – hidden gems in Rome

10. Ponte Sisto

This charming medieval bridge crosses the Tiber River and offers lovely views of Rome’s skyline. It’s less crowded than other bridges in Rome and makes for a great spot to take photographs.

Connecting Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere to Via dei Pettinari in Regola, Ponte Sisto was built between 1473 and 1479.

Ponte Sisto on the River Tiber in Rome
Ponte Sisto on the River Tiber in Rome

11. Vicus Caprarius

Also known as the City of Water, Vicus Caprarius is a series of underground tunnels beneath the Trevi district. This archaeological site is a Rome hidden gem that many locals don’t know about.

The complex includes an imperial era domus and the path of the Virgin Aqueduct that supplies water to the Trevi Fountain. There are also some interesting archaeological finds such as African amphorae and the bust of Alessandro Helios.

Vicus Caprarius, the City of Water
Vicus Caprarius, the City of Water

12. Galleria Sciarra

Architecture lovers will be impressed by this hidden Rome courtyard at Piazza Santi Apostoli. Built in the 19th century, this masterpiece of Art Nouveau style was painted by Giuseppe Cellini.

The gallery’s vibrant frescoes features wealthy Roman women as well as the female virtues of kindness, modesty, patience and strength. There is also one painted man, the writer Gabriele d’Annunzio.

The covered passage of the Galleria Sciarra building
The covered passage of the Galleria Sciarra building

13. Tiber Island

Known in Italian as Isola Tiberina, this small island on the river Tiber has the shape of a boat! It is connected to the mainland by two bridges, Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabricio.

In Summer, the Isola del Cinema film festival takes place here. You will also find Fatebenefratelli Hospital on Tiber Island. During World War II, the hospital manager, Dr Borromeo invented a contagious, deadly disease on the island to prevent the Nazis from deporting Jewish people who had sought shelter there.

Tiber Island Rome night view panorama

14. Appia Antica

The Appian Way, or Via Appia Antica in Latin, is an ancient Roman highway that leads from Rome to Southern Italy. Work on this historic road began in 312 BCE, under the supervision of statesman Appius Claudius Caecus.

The important thoroughfare is the origin of the famous phrase, “All roads lead to Rome“. Portions of the road have been preserved as part of the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica or Appian Way Regional Park.

The second largest urban park in Europe at 4,580 hectares, it’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The Appian Way section starts at Piazzale Numa Pompilio and stretches for around 16 kilometres.

The Appian Way - one of the top hidden gems in Rome
The Appian Way – one of the top hidden gems in Rome

15. Largo di Torre Argentina

Located on the site of the former Campus Martius (Field of Mars), this lesser known Roman landmark was built in the third century by Gaius Lutatius Catulus.

There are four Roman Republican temples and the ruins of The Theatre of Pompey. One of the most distinctive features of this square is the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. Founded in 1993, the shelter houses around 350 cats who roam freely around the Romain remains.

Largo di Torre Argentina square in Rome, Italy
Largo di Torre Argentina square in Rome, Italy

Other Hidden Gems of Rome

Antica Farmacia della Scala is a 17th century pharmacy with beautiful wooden panelling. Palazzo Farnese is a stunning Renaissance villa that is now the French Embassy in Rome.

Places to Stay in Rome

There are some very luxurious hotels in Rome, many with tranquil courtyards or rooftop terraces. We particularly like the newly renovated Hotel Eden, the Intercontinental de la Ville Roma and the Parco dei Principi.

In Conclusion: Hidden Gems in Rome

If you’re looking for a city break that will take your breath away, the Eternal City is the place to go. While it can be touristy in some areas, there are plenty of unusual places waiting to be discovered if you know where to look.

We’ve given you a few tips on our favorite spots in Rome, but there’s so much more to explore. These are some of Rome’s lesser known attractions, however you’ll want to make time to visit the Colosseum as well as the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s and the Vatican.

Be sure to check out our other Italy travel articles for more ideas on what to see and do while you’re in this beautiful country. And if you like getting off the beaten path, do check out our recommendations for hidden gems in London, Ibiza, Paris and Venice.

Are there any other hidden gems in Rome that you would recommend visiting? Let us know if you have any good recommendations.

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15 Unmissable Hidden Gems in Rome
Best hidden gems in Rome

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