If you missed part 1 of this Hidden Gems Guide, click on this link: Rome Hidden Gems: the Ultimate Guide – part 1
Now let’s continue with the second part!
10) Napoleonic museum
There is a “corner of Versailles” in Rome that you can explore totally for free.
This is the Napoleonic Museum (Museo Napoleonico) where the family members of Napoleon resided during the French republic of Rome, in which Napoleon’s brother was ambassador.
📍Piazza di Ponte Umberto I
11) Ancient Roman walls museum
What is the greatest “monument” of ancient Rome? The first you think of is surely the Colosseum, but what about those Aurelian walls still running for big part around the city?
Did you know you can actually walk on the walls? I took this picture from one of the towers of the Ancient Walls museum (Museo delle Mura).
A fantastic museum, with spectacular views included (in the FREE ticket 😉).
📍Via di Porta San Sebastiano, 18
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12) The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni by Bernini
This is one of those jaw-dropping marvels that you can enjoy in Rome, simply walking into a church. This is the blessed Ludovica Albertoni sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. You can see it in the church of San Francesco a Ripa in Trastevere.
Ludovica Albertoni lived between the 1400 and 1500s, she was married to a violent man, she had three daughters. When the husband died, she decided to dedicate her life to God and to help the poor people, especially during the devastating Sack of Rome in 1527.
Ludovica died on January 31st 1533, in her bed, during sunset, the light was streaming in from her window.. Bernini depicts her in that very moment, when she is pulling out her last gasp, the light coming from the side..
She is in agony and with the last spasm she repeats the words of Jesus on the cross: “God, in your hands I leave my soul”.
Isn’t just impressive how Bernini can photograph into marble an instant, an emotion, a story? The way a solid stone of marble becomes soft and fluffy in clothes and pillows?
📍Church of San Francesco a Ripa. Piazza di S. Francesco d’Assisi, 88
Want to know which are the the other hidden gems near this Bernini statue? We are putting them together into an itinerary for you. Get our Off-the-beaten-path Video Guide of Rome to learn where to go and what to see when in Rome 😉
13) The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini
Another Bernini wonder. One of Bernini’s most controversial marbles: the “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa”.
Many defined this sculpture to be resembling an erotic ecstasy and to be an inappropriate expression for a saint. But Bernini defended himself by saying he had simply transformed Saint Teresa words into an image, nothing more:
”I saw in his hand a long spear of gold.. he appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to get rid of it..”
This theatrical scene was carved out of a single piece of Carrara marble! The folds are so deep that during one of the last restoration works, tiny fragments of marble from Bernini’s carving were found 😍
You can visit this marvel at the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, on the Quirinal hill in Rome.
📍Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Via Venti Settembre, 17
14) The Baroque machine in the Church of the Gesù
Something beautiful happens every day at 5:30PM in Rome.. All you need to do is enter into the Church of the Jesus at 5:30PM.
Here you will find the fabulous Macchina Barocca (Baroque Machine)! One of those Rome hidden gems that very few people know! What is it?
It was a way of evangelizing through spectacular and sensational theatrical shows. People entering this church would enter a sort of ecstatic state and feel transported into the story and faith of St Ignatius.
A little bit of context..
The Church of the Gesù (Chiesa del Gesù, in Italian) is the mother church of the Jesuit order, whose founder was Ignazio di Loyola.
The Jesuit have always been very successful at evangelizing, because of their great communications skills. They knew how to get to the hearts of the people. And here you can have an idea of that.
This church that we see today was built in the 1600s. After the period of the Counter Reformation (when people got away from the Church of Rome due to scandals and loss of trust) the Church of Rome aimed at bringing as many people back to church.
And the Baroque Machine was one of the ways to do so. Since the 1600s, every day at 5:30PM the show starts! On the left nave the music starts, with a voice narrating the story of St Ignazio di Loyola. The painting on top of the altar starts sliding down, revealing the super precious statue of St Ignazio Today we have speakers playing music, but originally the music and the narration would be played LIVE! Imagine.. there were musicians, singers, funambulists lighting the candles.. what an incredible show it must have been! At the end of the show the whole church is illuminated, revealing the incredible paintings and frescoes of the dome and the ceilings! Be on time, and you will be rewarded for your visit!
📍Via degli Astalli, 16
Looking for the hidden gems nearby Piazza Venezia? They’re all here: 7 Hidden Gems nearby Piazza Venezia
15) Galleria Colonna
Statues, painting, mirrors with golden frames, chandeliers, consoles.. frescoes on the ceiling, colorful marbles on the floors.
It’s impossible to look somewhere without seeing something super beautiful.. 🤩
But where are we?
We are in a corner of heaven and beauty in the hectic heart of the city.. We are in Palazzo Colonna!
📍Via della Pilotta, 17
16) Villa Medici
The best Rome hidden gems are always next to the most known places of a city. And this makes them even more special! After taking a pic or two on the Spanish Steps, you should walk up the staircase and turn to the left. Because here you’ll find the heavenly Villa Medici in Rome.
📍Viale della Trinità dei Monti, 1
17) Basilica of San Clemente
Hidden gem 400m from the Colosseum! 🤩 This place is such a super “lasagna” of history!
In the basilica of San Clemente you can find: ancient Roman buildings, medieval buildings and the basilica that we see today. Here’s the layers:
Layer n.1: the basilica that we see today, on the modern ground level. This was built in the 12th century
Layer n.2: below the modern basilica, we find the previous basilica! This was built in the 4th century. This was badly damaged by a barbaric invasion in 1084. It was then abandoned and filled with ground to support the new basilica on top.
Here you can also find the first written proof of swearword in vulgar language (the precursor of Italian language)!! 😜
Layer n.3: ancient Roman ruins! Here there are ruins of various buildings, among them: the State mint, a deposit for the show decorations of the Colosseum, private houses and a Mithreum (the temple of the Mithraic mystery cult).
📍Via Labicana, 95
18) Galleria Sciarra
This is one of those places you don’t expect to find in a city like Rome. Galleria Sciarra is the inner courtyard of a private building, Palazzo Sciarra. This courtyard follow office hours, so you will find it closed during the weekends. And this makes it an even more hidden gem! 😉
📍Via Marco Minghetti, 10
Galleria Sciarra is part of the Hidden Gems of the Historical Center itinerary inside our Off-the-beaten-path Video Guide of Rome. Check it out discover itineraries that you can walk in person when you are in Rome (secrets, coffee break and happy hour included 😉)
Be sure to read part 3
To read the third part of this Hidden Gems of Rome Guide, click on this link: Rome hidden gems: the ultimate guide – part 3