I live in Rome and these are my 13 secret things to do that most tourists miss, including where you'll find the best views of the city
Romeis filled with well-known bucket-list sights for tourists, but also many lesser-known hidden gems.
- These are the places you won't find in most guidebooks, but shouldn't miss either.
Rome has a lot happening, so settling on the "best, must-do things" can be daunting. It's OK to embrace the bucket list, especially when that list includes a UNESCO World Heritage site historic center, one of the most important ancient arenas in the world, and one of the best art collections.
You don't need me to tell you to go to the Pantheon or the Colosseum. And you absolutely should. But as a local who has lived here for 20 years, after you see those, I want you to do more. I want you to see my favorite under-the-radar sites for a true taste of the city that you won't find in most major guidebooks.
Some days, I love searching for all of the Raphael artworks in the city; other days, I want to fangirl arte povera. If I'm hanging out with my husband, an intrepid archaeologist, I know that we'll go back in time, and possibly underground. For us, Rome is eternal because it is a never-ending story, and there are so many ways to hear its tale.
Whether you're here to step back into antiquity or walk to the future, here are my favorite things to will fully immerse yourself in Rome.
Rome With a View
Altare della Pace
For a few years now, I've celebrated my birthday at Terrazza delle Quadrighe, a 360-degree panoramic terrace atop the white mega monument, Altare della Pace. I'd hold out my arms à la Rose in "Titanic," taking in the entire city and its history, from the ancient Roman Forum to the shops on Via del Corso. Then I head down to Campidoglio (Michelangelo's piazza) and watch the sunset drip pinks all over the city's rooftops and into the Roman Forum.
When I want nostalgia, I'll head to the Janiculum hill, with its sweeping views of the city. This is where everyone in high school cuddles up. At my age, I'd rather culture up, so I walk over to Bramante's tiny church and then make my way to the Fontanone (a monumental Baroque fountain) with another great view.
For me, there is no better view than from the Colle Opio, the hill that overlooks the Colosseum, because it encapsulates Rome. It includes a verdant park where the Colosseum serves as a backdrop to a skate park, and underneath is the Domus Aurea archaeological site, Nero's Golden Palace.
Via Appia Antica
To really love ancient Rome, I always say you have to get out on a bike. Go to the Museo delle Mura, a museum located inside the Porta San Sebastian, which is the entry gate of the ancient Aurelian walls. I like to stand on the rooftop of its bastion, and imagine looking out for invading armies. It's also a great starting point for a bike ride on the Via Appia Antica, the empire's oldest road, lined with ancient tombs and bordered by sheep-trolling pastures.
When I want to get a sense of Rome's unparalleled urban planning, I'll hop a local train to Ostia Antica, the port city of ancient Rome. Some consider the archaeological park akin to Pompeii; I think it's better because more structures are preserved and you can walk through all of them.
Renaissance and Baroque Rome
Galleria Barberini, Galleria Colonna, and Galleria Doria Pamphilj
Everybody loves a great art collection, and Rome has several epic private family galleries that will give you a glimpse into the lavish lives of Roman nobility in their incredible homes. My favorite three are Galleria Barberini, Galleria Colonna, and Galleria Doria Pamphilj, all located in Baroque palaces.
To experience the charm and beauty of Renaissance frescoes, I walk over to Trastevere's Villa Farnesina, a tiny Renaissance villa built by Alessandro Chigi in the 1510s. Chigi commissioned a dream team of artists to create and decorate it. It's like a Faberge egg of Raphael, Il Sodoma, and Peruzzi. And it's totally palatable for kids.
If you're Roman, you grew up walking around Villa Borghese, the city's large, green expanse that has a smorgasbord of activities (biking, walking, boating, skating, even a Globe theater and tiny cinema). What I've noticed is that everyone tends to overlook the museums in the park (except for Galleria Borghese and its collection of Carvaggio paintings and Bernini sculpture). If you're like me and love quirky museums, head to Museo Pietro Canonica for its larger-than-life statues, or catch up on Etruscan history at Villa Giulia.
Most people ignore the modern history of Rome, and that's a mistake. The oddly anachronistic neighborhood EUR is the best example of modern Italian architecture from the 1930s and '40s. About 15 minutes south of the center, EUR was designed to promote Rationalist architecture (and the Fascist agenda) for the 1942 World's Fair. Beautiful and axially planned streets are flanked by minimalist buildings, inspired by Roman classical and Renaissance styles.
Cinecittà has been called "Hollywood on the Tiber," but it's more than that. The enormous studio complex where some of the most acclaimed films in history were made was and is a melting pot of creativity and artistry. For the director Federico Fellini, it was home. The sound stages are active with production, and there are great museums to visit on the history of Italian cinema and more. I like to take the VIP tour and drive around the historic film studios and sets and feel as if I'm in ancient Rome.
La Galleria Nazionale
If anyone were to ask me for my happy place in Rome, I'll gladly tell them it's La Galleria Nazionale, a gorgeous neoclassical building on the edge of Villa Borghese. It's home to the very best of Italian art from the 1870 unification to today. Coming here is like receiving a visual history lesson in art, from neoclassicism to arte povera, conceptual art, and more.
Quadraro and Torpignattara's Street Art
For a 21st-century take on art, Quadraro and Torpignattara's street-art scene serves as a canvas for beautiful murals, stencils, and more, painted by acclaimed artists from
Finally, you wouldn't be in Rome without a visit to the Stadio Olimpico, to catch an AS Roma game (sit in the Tribuna seats) and get swept up with the amore of the fans or simply walk around the area to search for traces of Mussolini's audacious self-promotion that's still visible on its walls.
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