It would take a lifetime to explore everything that Rome has to offer. This means that, once you’ve ticked off the main tourist sites, one of the pleasures of the city is the things you discover just by wandering around. There are minor Roman sites, curiosities and lesser visited areas, all with the added possibility of finding an inviting back street café or restaurant. This is my own, very small, selection things to see off the beaten track, an introduction to hidden Rome.
Lesser Known Roman Sites
It may seem odd to include Roman remains in a list of “hidden Rome”: you may argue that these are why tourists come to Rome in the first place. However, there are lots of archaeological sites beyond the Forum and the Colosseum. You are likely to discover many of these just by keeping your eyes open as you explore.
In my last visit alone I found several Roman sites that were new to me. There was the Largo di Torre Argentina, a temple complex that is now a cat sanctuary. Then there was the Portico d’Ottavia (remains of a fish market), part of the Ludi Magni (where gladiators once trained) and much more. And, of course, “new” sites are always being discovered and excavated, like the Circus Maximus, which opened to visitors in 2016.
Away from the centre you can explore Roman aqueducts in the Parco degli Acquedotti. Or walk along the Via Appia Antica, a 4th century road lined with houses and burial places. A short train ride away is Ostia Antica, the harbour city of ancient Rome.
The Caelian Hill
Of the seven hills of ancient Rome it is probably the Palatine and the Capitoline that are the best known. But the Caelian Hill, just a short walk from the Colosseum, is well worth a visit. This area was once home to wealthy Romans and was partly covered by a vineyard.
Today the former vineyard is occupied by the beautiful gardens of the Villa Celimontana. Elsewhere you can see parts of the Clivus Scauri, an old Roman road, and the Case Romane del Celio, the remains of a group of Roman houses. There are also several notable churches on the Caelian Hill, including the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral church of Rome.
Trastevere is Rome’s “left bank”, across the river from the main city. Easy to get to by bus or on foot, this is a lively, bohemian area, full of restaurants, churches and creative graffiti. Read more about Trastevere, the “other side” of Rome.
The Walls Of The Vatican City
The Vatican City is a very popular tourist spot but did you know that it is surrounded by a wall, and that you can walk around the outside of that wall? I did just that a few years ago, and enjoyed a stroll through peaceful residential districts as well as gaining a rather different perspective on the Vatican. Read more about walking round the walls of the Vatican City.
Tours Of Hidden Rome
A tour with a local guide can be an excellent way of discovering new – and hidden – sights.
As well as their tours of well known sites, LivItaly have more specialised tours such as Trastevere and Jewish Ghetto or Catacombs and Underground Rome. They also have some online experiences – ideal for the present time – such as Live Stroll from Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican (I have done this one myself and it is highly recommended).
Remember that, as a reader of this website, you can get 10% off any of LivItaly’s tours by using discount code BEWITCHEDBYITALY.
Another possibility is to take a tour with WithLocals. As the name suggests, these activities are organised by people who live and work in the city, and they can be customised to your interests. Tours include Highlights & Hidden Gems, or A Day like a Roman, and you can even book a completely personalised experience.
Again, some of these experiences are available without leaving home. Have a look at Legends of Rome’s District, or the many other online offerings.
If you prefer to explore on your own, BiteMojo’s self guided food tours might suit you better. Each of these includes a few “hidden gems” (curiosities you might otherwise have overlooked) as well as the food stops. Read about my own experience with BiteMojo in Rome.
If you are tempted by a BiteMojo tour, you can use code WWW for a 10% discount.
Day Trips From Rome
If you have more than a few days in the city, Rome is ideally placed for a number of day trips. Whether you head inland to the spa town of Tivoli, or south to the hills and lakes of the Castelli Romani, there is plenty to explore and discover.