Rome hidden gems: the ultimate guide – part 6

If you missed part 5 of this Hidden Gems Guide, click on this link: Rome Hidden Gems: the Ultimate Guide – part 5

Now let’s continue with the sixth part!

46) Piazzale Caffarelli

Do you like those peaceful and hidden corners in the middle of Rome’s hectic life? This is another one. Climb up the stairs of the Capitoline hill, have a look at the beautiful square designed by Michelangelo, but then make a right. You will end up in Piazzale Caffarelli, a beautiful terrace with views over the skyline of Rome. Best enjoyed during sunsets 😉

📍Piazzale Caffarelli

47) The view from the stairs of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli

While on the Capitoline hill (Campidoglio), enter the church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. Enjoy the views inside, and then walk out towards the main facade. From up here you can get one of the most beautiful views of Rome (and escape the crowds).

📍Scala dell’Arce Capitolina, 12

48) Palazzo Massimo alle terme

Have you ever walked into an Ancient Roman luxury villa? I am not talking about just the stones, where the rooms are hard to imagine. I mean real rooms where you get the real sense of space and pleasure. Jump off Termini station and explore Palazzo Massimo, where you will find the rooms of some of the most incredible villas in Ancient Rome!

The rooms you see in this video belong to: the Villa of Livia, Augustus’ wife, in Prima Porta (north of Rome); the Villa of the Farnesina, which was found beneath the “modern” Villa Farnesina in Trastevere (in this case I am not sure which of these Villas is more beautiful 😅).

These frescoes are original! I know, it’s hard to believe. The frescoes were moved in these rooms of the same size of the original rooms, to give us an idea of the spaces inside these luxury houses. Palazzo Massimo is part of the Museo Nazionale Romano, which means that with one ticket you can see FOUR incredible sites: Palazzo Massimo, Diocletian Baths, Crypta Balbi and Palazzo Altemps.

📍Largo di Villa Peretti, 2

Read also: 4 museums in one: the National Roman Museum

49) Markets of Trajan

Did you know that the first shopping mall ever built in history is in Rome? And that it was built in the 2nd century AD? Exactly, there is really nothing that ancient Romans did not invent already! Go have a look and tell me: don’t you recognize this structure in the closest shopping mall to you?

It’s right in front of millions of tourists and Romans every day, while they stroll via dei Fori Imperiali. But I can assure you that very few people are aware of this hidden gem!

📍Via Quattro Novembre, 94

50) Testaccio hill, a hill of Terracotta 

rome hidden gems testaccio hill
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The Testaccio hill is entirely made of terracotta fragments!

If you really want to go off the usual tourist path and discover the finest hidden gems of Rome, the Testaccio neighborhood is where you should go. The highlights of Testaccio are quite unusual: a Pyramid, ancient Roman ruins popping out the market and the apartment buildings, a slaughterhouse .. and a whole hill made of Terracotta!

The name “Testaccio” comes from the latin testae, which means earthenware. In short, the Romans had to get rid of the millions of anphoras (urns) that were used to import wine and oil into the city, so they made them into fragments and piled them in a tidy manner. This continued to the point that the pile of terracotta fragments became a hill, which today is called Monte Testaccio.

Later on during the centuries, the Romans made caves inside the hill and opened cellars, then restaurants. And this is the very place where some of the most traditional Roman dishes where born, such as the Coda alla Vaccinara and the Pasta con la Pajata!

📍via di Monte Testaccio

51) Galleria Spada

Palazzo spada, prospettiva di borromini, 03
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Very close to Campo de’ Fiori, Galleria Spada is one of the most hidden gems of Rome. Inside the Palazzo Spada you will find the extensive 1600s baroque collection of the cardinal Bernardino and Fabrizio Spada.

But the real highlight of this place is the Perspective Gallery designed by Borromini, which you will find in the garden. When looking at the gallery, it looks about 20 meters long, but it actually is only 8 meters! All is due to an optical illusion, given by the columns and the squared pattern on the floors.

📍Piazza Capo di Ferro, 13

52) Borgo Pio

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Detail of Borgo Pio, near Saint Peter square

Start from the world famous St Peter square to then explore one of the cutest Rome hidden gems just few steps away: the picturesque Borgo Pio! Borgo Pio looks like a street of a small village, buildings are no higher than three stories and are all in pastel colours. Super cute!

📍Borgo Pio

53) Horti Lamiani

Will Rome ever stop surprising us with its hidden gems? Please update your bucket lists, a newly opened wonder has arrived! This is the Horti Lamiani, an ancient Roman sumptuous private residency.

The Horti Lamiani were found beneath the palace of ENPAM, a foundation that takes care of the welfare schemes of the medical personnel. And just recently the Horti Lamiani opened to the public! Get the ticket, make a few steps and dive into Ancient Rome. Here you will find some of the rooms of this residency, the marble floors, amazing frescoes with such vivid colors.. How great is to explore these hidden gems underground Rome? The Horti Lamiani are only open for visits during the weekends in the morning. You can buy the tickets online.

Read: Horti Lamiani: a secret garden underground Rome

📍P.za Vittorio Emanuele II, 78

54) Palazzo Altemps

One of the Rome hidden gems near Piazza Navona. Palazzo Altemps is a place you definitely must visit if you want to go beyond the main landmarks of Rome.

What is the story (in brief) of Palazzo Altemps?

The palace was built in the 1400s by the nephew of pope Sixtus IV (the pope that made the Sistine chapel!).

A hundred years later the palace was bought by an Austrian cardinal, called Marco Sittico Altemps, nephew of the pope Pius IV.

Cardinal Altemps established his residency in this palace, and that’s where the name of this place comes from: Palazzo Altemps.

He also decorated this palace with beautiful frescoes and chose this as the location for his collection of antiquities and books.

To make the long story short, the palace changed property over the years, until in 1982 it became property of the Italian State, and it was eventually turned into the beautiful museum that we can see today. Palazzo Altemps houses some of the most incredible ancient sculptures, not only from the Altemps collection but also coming from other noble families, such as the Boncompagni Ludovisi and Mattei. Visiting Palazzo Altemps means walking through a series of colorful and beautiful rooms, corridors that take you to incredible marbles. It’s like a continuous discovery room after room.

I am expecting to add this wonderful place into your bucket lists NOW!

Palazzo Altemps is part of the museum complex of the Museo Nazionale Romano. This means that with ONE ticket you can visit not one, but FOUR museums! 🤯 Such as Diocletian baths, Crypta Balbi and Palazzo Massimo! 🤩

📍Piazza di Sant’Apollinare, 46

55) Crypta Balbi

A few steps away from the location where Caesar was assassinated, you can find a one of those Rome hidden gems that will surprise you.

The Crypta Balbi is where all the layers of the Roman history come together in one single place! What I like to call a “lasagna of history”.

What was the Crypta Balbi? Despite the name, Crypta Balbi was not a crypt.

It was actually a portico running around an outdoor square. This square was located right next to the Theatre of Balbo. The Crypta Balbi was the place where the spectators used to take shelter in case of rain, or where they were spending their time in the breaks during the plays.

In Ancient Rome the word “crypt” was used to refer also to an area covered with a portico. The term “crypt” was later used by the Christians to refer to the area which is usually below the altar of a church. Today the Crypta Balbi is underground, but this is only because of the ground level that has been raised through the centuries. Originally the Crypta Balbi was on the street level.

📍Via delle Botteghe Oscure, 31

56) The Cat Sanctuary of Largo Argentina

What’s the fluffiest corner of Rome?

If you ever wondered around Largo Argentina (fyi, location of Julius Caesar murder) you might have noticed for sure a higher amount of cats compared to other areas of the city. Why?

The answer is right below your feet. In fact, you only need to take few steps down to find a real cat kingdom! It is the Cat Sanctuary, an association of voluntaries that has been helping the cats of the cities for 26 years!

The Cat Sanctuary is ran by super sweet voluntaries that take care of the sick cats, disabled cats and of the cycles of sterilizations of cat throughout the city. They rely on donations, and they sell a variety of cat-themed gadgets.. where usually the cats sleep!

But apart from the Cat Sanctuary itself, cats are free to roam around the ruins and sleep in the hundreds of hollows of the ancient Roman temples of Largo Argentina.

Follow them here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1418952351453243/

📍Largo di Torre Argentina angolo, scavi archeologici, Largo Arenula

Map of the hidden gems of Rome by Live Virtual Guide

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Written by Federica

Creative director of Live Virtual Guide. Her favorite things are gelato, pizza and the hidden gems of Rome.
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