Wondering what are the best non touristy things to do in Rome? You’ve come to the right place!
Rome is a city that needs no introduction. The capital of Italy boasts some of the world’s most famous landmarks, from the Colosseum to the Vatican City.
But what if you’ve already seen all the tourist hotspots and are looking for something new? Or what if you’re such a curious traveller that you enjoy discovering the undiscovered? Fear not, because there are plenty of Rome off-the-beaten path things to do. These Rome hidden gems are everything from exploring local markets to sipping on aperitivos in trendy neighbourhoods.
I’m what you might call a slow traveller. I spend as much time as I can in one place and I revisit places, especially big cities like Rome to really experience as much as I can. So, I’ve seen all of the must-see Rome sites. And, I’ve returned to the city to explore more of those best-kept secrets of Rome. I talked to locals to find out about those places that only locals know about.
And, now I get to share those Rome secret places with you. Shhhh, it will be our little secret, okay? I’ve got you covered with my guide to experiencing the authentic side of Rome like a local. So no matter how many days you are spending in Rome, try and sneak a few of these into your Rome itinerary. Let’s discover these places that are off the beaten track in Rome Italy, shall we?
Table of Contents
Non Touristy Things to Do in Rome
1. Aventine Hill and Knights of Malta Keyhole
A short distance from the Colosseum, Aventine Hill offers breathtaking views of Rome making it a popular spot to catch the sunset. Visit the Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci), filled with fragrant orange trees, and enjoy a panoramic vista of the city, with St. Peter’s Basilica dominating the skyline.
Next, admire the beauty of Basilica di Santa Sabina all’Aventino. This ancient church dates back to the 5th century and features stunning mosaics and intricate wooden doors. But its quiet courtyard in front of the church is what really stole my heart (called Piazza Pietro d’Illiria).
As an added bonus, nearby you can also peek through the keyhole of the Knights of Malta, which frames a stunning view of the Vatican. Aventine Hill is one of the best hidden spots in Rome, with at least 3 worthy things to do in Rome off the beaten path.
📍Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, 3 | 🕐24 hours | Free
2. Pyramid of Cestius
Did you know that Rome is home to an ancient pyramid? Located near the Testaccio neighbourhood, the Pyramid of Cestius stands as a fascinating testament to the city’s rich history. Built around 18-12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a Roman magistrate, this pyramid is an intriguing blend of Egyptian and Roman architectural styles.
📍Via Raffaele Persichetti | 🕐No tours permitted inside | Free
3. Baths of Caracalla
Step back in time and explore the grandeur of the Baths of Caracalla, one of the largest and most impressive thermal complexes of ancient Rome. These monumental baths were built in the 3rd century AD and provided a luxurious bathing experience for the citizens of Rome.
Marvel at the colossal ruins, intricate mosaics, and towering walls that still stand today. Take a moment to imagine the bustling atmosphere of this once-thriving social hub and appreciate the engineering marvels of the Roman Empire.
4. Domus Aurea or Golden House
Experience a taste of Nero’s opulence by visiting the Domus Aurea, also known as the Golden House. This extravagant palace was built by Emperor Nero in the 1st century AD and covered a vast area of Rome. While much of it has been lost to time, you can still explore its underground chambers adorned with intricate frescoes and marvel at the remnants of its grand architecture.
What I enjoyed the most was the surrounding Parco del Colle Oppio, a pretty park made for strolling. The towering trees provide plenty of shade on a warm day, and many benches are strategically placed so you can admire the views.
📍Via della Domus Aurea in Parco del Colle Oppio | 🕐Fri to Sun 9am – 6pm
Domus Aurea 2 hour Guided Tour Rated ⭐4.7/5
5. St Clement Basilica
Located close to Domus Aurea is the Basilica of San Clemente, a remarkable church that showcases different periods of Rome’s past. As you descend into the lower levels of the basilica, you’ll discover an ancient Roman house, complete with frescoes and mosaics, dating back to the 1st century AD. Further down, you’ll find a 4th-century Christian basilica, adorned with stunning medieval artworks.
Finally, explore the subterranean level, where you can wander through a well-preserved 1st-century AD Mithraic temple. This church that holds 2000 years of history is definitely one of the best sites to add to your Rome off the beaten track list.
📍Piazza di S Clement | 🕐Mon to Sat 10am – 12:30pm, 3pm – 5:30pm and Sun 12pm – 5:30 | Cost 10 €
St Clemente Underground & Basilica 1.5 hour Guided Tour Rated ⭐4.7/5
6. Lateranense Palace
Escape the crowds and venture to the Lateranense Palace, also known as the Lateran Palace or Palazzo Lateranense. This historic palace served as the residence of the popes from the 4th century until the 14th century. Today, it houses the Museo Storico Vaticano, a museum that exhibits a vast collection of religious art and artifacts, including papal regalia, ancient manuscripts, and intricate tapestries.
Also, visit the nearby Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, a beautiful cathedral, that serves as the Pope’s official seat outside of Vatican City. The grand church is definitely a lesser-known gem of Rome due to its location near the Esquiliano neighbourhood. Visit the nearby Viale Carlo Felice garden which features the ancient Roman wall and aqueduct.
7. Casino Massimo Lancellotti (in Villa Giustiniani Massimo)
For a taste of aristocratic glamour in Rome, visit the Casino Massimo Lancellotti, located within the stunning Villa Giustiniani Massimo. This pretty 19th-century villa promises to offer a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of the Italian nobility. Unfortunately, it was closed when I visited, so I could only admire the exterior.
The opulent interior is said to feature frescoes, lavish furnishings, and beautiful artwork. I tried to peek through the gate to see the gardens, hopefully, you have better luck than I do!
📍Via Matteo Boiardo, 16 | 🕐Tues and Thurs 9am – 12:30pm, 4pm – 6pm, Sun 10am – 12pm | Free
8. Isola Tiberina or Tiber Island
Escape the bustling city streets and find a bit of tranquillity on Isola Tiberina, a small island in the Tiber River. Connected to the city by two picturesque bridges – Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabricio – is how you can reach this Rome off the beaten path location.
When strolling along the riverside promenade called Lungotevere, take the stairs leading you down to this popular hang-out spot. Enjoy the views while listening to the musicians who come and set up under the arch of the bridge just for the acoustics. On the island, you’ll find the 10th-century Basilica of St. Bartholomew and a 400-year-old hospital still in operation today.
📍Tiber Island at bridges Pont Fabricio and Ponte Cesto | 🕐24 hours | Free
9. Porta Portese Flea Market
For a unique shopping experience, head to the Porta Portese Flea Market, one of the largest and most famous flea markets in Rome. Located in the Trastevere neighbourhood, this bustling Sunday market offers a vast array of stalls selling a wide range of items, from vintage clothing to small household items to books, and more. Locals come out in droves searching for a bargain from the eclectic selection of goods.
I even found myself getting caught up in the hunt and managed to find myself a pair of leather sandals “Made in Italy” for 25€.
📍Piazza di Porta Portese | 🕐Sun 7am – 2pm | Free
10. Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere
Nestled behind the Basilica of Santa Maria, you’ll discover a hidden oasis. The church itself is not a hidden gem as it sits on one of the must-see squares in the Trastevere neighbourhood – Piazza di Santa Maria which is lined with some great Trastevere restaurants. So wander around back and step through the archway into the tranquil garden. The secret garden is lined with well-manicured pathways and a quiet spot to sit.
📍Piazza di Santa Maria (behind) | 🕐24 hours | Free
11. Janiculum Hill – Piazzale Garibaldi
For amazing panoramic views of Rome, head to Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo). Located just west of the Tiber River, this hill offers a picturesque vantage point to admire the cityscape.
Take a leisurely stroll up the hill, through the Botanical Garden of Rome (Orto Botanico di Roma) this lush oasis covers 30 acres and is home to a diverse collection of plants from around the world. As you walk along the winding paths, you’ll pass through themed gardens, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, and a medicinal plant garden.
Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Rome’s historic landmarks, including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. Visit around noon to witness the firing of the midday cannon, a tradition dating back to the 19th century. I visited to try and catch the sunset, but mother nature had other plans (and the rain came instead).
📍via Garibaldi, Salita di Sant’Onofrio | 🕐24 hours | Free
12. Villa Sciarra
Tucked away in the residential neighbourhood of Trastevere, this beautiful lesser-known park offers a serene and picturesque setting. Meander through its winding paths, lined with lush greenery and towering trees. What I loved the most was discovering the hidden fountains, statues, and romantic gazebos scattered throughout the park.
Seek out Fontana dei Putti è Biscione, a pretty fountain where these large birds fluttered about. I wish I knew the name of these brightly coloured yellow and green birds as they added to the magic of this garden.
Enjoy panoramic views of Rome from the Belvedere, a terraced area that provides a stunning vista of the city’s rooftops.
📍viale delle Mura Gianicolensi, 11 | 🕐Open daily 7am – 9 pm | Free
13. Villa Doria Pamphili
As one of the largest public parks in the city, and nestled in a residential area this is a local’s favourite. When I visited, there was an entire Italian family who was gathering for a picnic and putting on a little skit in front of the ancient stone theatre. How lucky was I to be able to watch such an outward display of joy and laughter, not to mention the spread of food? I also saw another local set up his easel and was painting a pretty scene of the garden.
Although this park might be a bit out of the way, if you are looking for off the beaten path things to do in Rome, then this is it! Stroll along the scenic pathways shared with runners, families who come on their bikes and many dogs being walked. Walk and discover the lake filled with ducks and fountains scattered throughout. It’s a quiet pace of life, even while you’re on holiday.
📍via di S Pancrazio | 🕐Open daily 7am – 6 pm | Free
14. Via Piccolomini
This residential street near Villa Doria Pamphili promises to give you an optical illusion, far better than the famous keyhole (and the first one on this list). How it works is that when you turn onto via Piccolomini you will see the dome of St Peter’s, rising up at the end of the street. As you move towards it, it is supposed to shrink.
I didn’t really see it, only to find out later that it works best when you approach it with speed. Since I was walking, it doesn’t have quite the same effect. So if you want to try it, rent a bike or scooter and watch the magic of Via Piccolomini – the shrinking dome.
📍via Piccolomini | 🕐24 hours | Free
15. Teatro di Marcello
History buffs will want to visit the Teatro di Marcello, also known as the Theatre of Marcellus located in Rome’s Jewish Quarter. This impressive structure, often mistaken for the Colosseum, was built during the Roman Republic and was commissioned by Julius Caesar and completed by Emperor Augustus in 13 BCE. The theatre was dedicated to Augustus’s nephew and heir, Marcellus.
📍via del Teatro di Marcello | 🕐Open daily 9am – 6pm | Free
16. Portico of Octavia
Discover the remnants of ancient Rome at the Portico of Octavia, an architectural marvel located in the Jewish Ghetto neighbourhood. Originally built in 27 BCE by Emperor Augustus in honour of his sister Octavia, this grand portico served as a monumental entrance to a complex of buildings. Although much of the original structure was lost over time, the remains of the portico still impress with their elegant arches and towering columns.
📍via del Portico d’Ottavia, 29 | 🕐24 hours | Free
17. Cat Sanctuary at Largo di Torre Argentina
Right in the centre of the historic area of Rome is where you’ll find this unique hidden gem. You might discount it as just another ancient ruin in the middle of the city (as there are several). But this is the very spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated. The remaining four pillars date back as far as the 4th century.
The cats moved in when the site was uncovered and almost a hundred years ago, and today 130 stray cats call it home.
📍Piazza dei Calcarari | 🕐24 hours | Free
18. Galleria Sciarra
Are there any architecture lovers out there? You’ll want to visit this hidden gem of Art Nouveau architecture at the Galleria Sciarra. Tucked away in the heart of Rome, mere steps from the Trevi Fountain seek out this beautiful courtyard. What might just seem like a shortcut going from one street to another you’re likely to not even notice it. Step inside and look up, way up and you’ll be mesmerized by the stunning frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings from the 19th century.
📍via Marco Minghetti, 10 | 🕐24 hours | Free
19. Galleria Colonna Museo e Pinacoteca
Located within the stunning Palazzo Colonna, this gem houses a remarkable collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. As you wander through the opulent rooms adorned with exquisite frescoes and ornate furnishings, you’ll encounter masterpieces by renowned artists such as Vermeer, Titian, and Caravaggio.
The museum’s collection is thanks to the noble Colonna family over the centuries. If you want a more intimate and less crowded setting as you admire art, this is the place to visit.
20. Santa Maria della Concezione, Cauchin Crypt
Descend into the eerie yet fascinating Capuchin Crypt beneath the Santa Maria della Concezione church. Decorated with the bones of around 4,000 bones of Capuchin friars line the walls of six tiny chapels.
I’ve seen these Chapel of Bones in other cities like Paris and Evora Portugal so I skipped this unique thing to do in Rome.
21. Palazzo Barberini, Galleria Nazionale d’arte antica
Step into the magnificent Palazzo Barberini, home to the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica. This art museum showcases a diverse collection of Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces, including works by famous artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio, and Hans Holbein the Younger.
This underrated art gallery is the perfect spot to enjoy a couple of hours in Rome even if it’s just to explore the palazzo’s opulent rooms adorned with exquisite frescoes.
22. Villa Medici
The elegant Villa Medici, a stunning 16th-century Renaissance palace, is located on Pincian Hill. Not only does this historic residence, now home to the French Academy in Rome but also offers a formal garden with picturesque views of the city.
Villa Medici is located near the famous Borghese Gardens, which makes sense to combine visiting both of these beautiful sites at the same time. Be sure to walk to Terrazza del Pincio, a scenic lookout point that overlooks the busy Piazza del Popolo.
23. Villa Borghese
Escape to the expansive and enchanting Villa Borghese, a vast park and garden in the heart of Rome that most tourists don’t venture to. The network of winding pathways lined with umbrella pines or parasol pines offers shade in the warm sun. This park is too large to explore in a couple of hours, so I recommend renting a bike or golf cart that can be rented on an hourly basis.
Visit the Galleria Borghese, housed within the park, to admire a collection of sculptures and paintings, including masterpieces by Bernini and Caravaggio.
For Gallery:📍Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5 | 🕐Sun, Tue, Fri, Sat 9am – 7pm, Wed 9am- 10pm, Thu 9am – 9pm |
Borghese Gallery Entry Ticket with Escorted Entrance – 2 hours Rated ⭐4.3/5
24. Vatican Gardens
It’s no secret that most travellers book a tour as part of their Vatican City itinerary to see the Vatican Museums including the Sistine Chapel and St Pauls Cathedral. Without realizing that the real hidden gem is taking a tour of the Vatican Gardens tour. Exclusive access to see these heavenly gardens can only be through a guided tour.
Admiring these meticulously landscaped gardens from a small open-air bus that winds you through the spacious gardens where you’ll come across fountains, sculptures, and breathtaking viewpoints that provide unique perspectives of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Vatican Gardens Minibus Tour with Vatican Museums Entry- check prices and book dates – Rated⭐4.0/5
25. Trionfale market for the best food experience
Foodies will love the lively atmosphere of the Trionfale Market, located near the Vatican. This bustling market is the largest food market in Rome and is a treasure trove of fresh produce, local delicacies, and culinary delights. Wander through the colourful stalls, sample a variety of Italian cheeses, cured meats, and seasonal fruits, and interact with friendly vendors.
📍Via Andrea Doria | 🕐Mon – Sat 8am – 1:30pm | Free
26. Walk on Appian Way
Step back in time and walk along the historic Appian Way (Via Appia Antica), one of the oldest and most important Roman roads. The “all roads lead to Rome‘ is about this ancient pathway that was once a bustling thoroughfare connecting Rome to the southern regions of Italy.
As you walk on the original cobblestones, surrounded by the scenic Roman countryside, you’ll encounter ancient ruins, catacombs, and mausoleums. Explore the archaeological sites along the way, such as the Tomb of Cecilia Metella and the Circus of Maxentius, and soak in the rich history that unfolds before you.
📍Via Appia Antica, 42 | 🕐24 hours | Free
27. Catacombs of Priscilla
Delve into the underground world of the Catacombs of Priscilla, a fascinating network of burial chambers and tunnels beneath the city. These catacombs were used by early Christians as burial sites and also served as secret meeting places during times of persecution.
Explore the intricate network of passages adorned with stunning frescoes and discover the tombs of early Christian martyrs. The Catacombs of Priscilla provides a unique glimpse into the early days of Christianity and offer a serene and contemplative experience.
Non Touristy Places in Rome
Experience the bohemian charm of the Monti neighbourhood, located between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Monti is known for its trendy boutiques, vintage shops, and artisanal craft stores. Its narrow, winding streets are lined with lively cafes, restaurants, and bars, creating a vibrant atmosphere day and night.
Monti also boasts an artistic community, with numerous galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists. The neighbourhood’s laid-back vibe and its mix of traditional Roman character and contemporary creativity make it a popular destination for both locals and visitors seeking a more alternative and authentic experience in Rome.
29. Jewish Quarter
Discover the rich cultural heritage of Rome’s Jewish Quarter (Quartiere Ebraico). Located near the Tiber River, this historic neighbourhood is one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe.
Explore its narrow alleys, lined with traditional kosher restaurants, bakeries, and shops. Visit the Great Synagogue of Rome, an impressive architectural masterpiece, and explore the Jewish Museum, which provides insights into the history and traditions of Rome’s Jewish community. The Jewish Quarter is a vibrant and thriving neighbourhood, offering a unique blend of history, cuisine, and cultural experiences that make it a hidden gem well worth exploring.
Jewish Ghetto Walking Tour – 2 hours – ⭐Rated 4.8/5 – Check prices and Book your dates
30. Quartiere Coppede
And, saving the best for last! Step into a fairytale-like neighbourhood in Rome’s Quartiere Coppedè. Designed by architect Gino Coppedè in the early 20th century, this whimsical and eclectic area is characterized by its fantastical buildings and unique architectural styles.
The neighbourhood features a blend of Art Nouveau, Gothic, Baroque, and even medieval influences, resulting in a charming and whimsical atmosphere. Stroll through its streets and admire the intricate details, decorative elements, and symbolic sculptures adorning the buildings. Quartiere Coppedè offers a delightful escape from traditional Roman architecture, making it my favourite off-the-beaten path in Rome experience!
FAQ Hidden Gems in Rome
Are there any hidden gems in terms of dining and food experiences in Rome?
Absolutely! For a unique dining experience, try Monti or Trastevere neighbourhoods, which offer a more local and authentic vibe. Check out Testaccio Market for delicious street food and fresh produce.
Are there any lesser-known churches in Rome that are worth visiting?
Rome is known for its magnificent churches, and beyond the famous ones, there are lesser-known gems. Visit the Basilica di Sant’Alessio all’Aventino or the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, which houses Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.
I enjoy outdoor activities. Are there any parks or natural spots in Rome that are less touristy?
Rome offers several parks and natural areas for outdoor enthusiasts. Take a stroll through the Parco degli Acquedotti, which showcases ancient Roman aqueducts. Villa Borghese Gardens, although popular, offers plenty of hidden corners to explore. For a peaceful garden head to Villa Sciarra.
Are there any interesting local markets or shops in Rome where I can find unique souvenirs?
Yes, there are several markets and shops in Rome that offer distinctive souvenirs. For artisanal crafts and handmade goods, head to the Monti neighbourhood, specifically Via del Boschetto and Via Urbana.
I’m interested in exploring local art and culture. Are there any hidden art galleries or cultural events in Rome?
Rome is rich in art and culture. Visit the MAXXI Museum, which focuses on contemporary art and architecture. For smaller galleries, explore the neighbourhoods of San Lorenzo and Pigneto, known for their vibrant art scenes. Keep an eye out for local cultural events like open-air concerts and street performances, especially during the summer months.
Are there any non-touristy events or festivals that take place in Rome?
Keep an eye out for local events and festivals in Rome. The Festa de’ Noantri, held in Trastevere during July, is a popular local celebration with processions, live music, and food stalls. The Rome Fringe Festival, held in June, showcases a variety of performing arts in unconventional venues across the city.
Are there any non-touristy day trips from Rome that I can take?
Absolutely! Consider taking a day trip to Calcata, a medieval village known for its artistic community and unique atmosphere. Or explore the town of Tivoli, where you can visit Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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As a Holidaymaker
Rome is a city that never fails to amaze visitors with its stunning architecture, rich history, and mouthwatering cuisine. While the must-see landmarks such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and Vatican City are definitely worth visiting, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path in Rome Italy to discover those hidden gems.
From quaint neighbourhoods like Quartiere Coppede to lesser-known museums like the Centrale Montemartini, there is so much to explore beyond the tourist hotspots. By taking a chance on these unique experiences, you’ll not only gain a deeper appreciation for Rome’s culture but also create some unforgettable memories.