Hidden Rome: An Insider’s Guide to the City’s Best-Kept Secrets
Unveiling Rome’s Hidden Gems and Authentic Experiences
Embarking on a journey to Rome offers the opportunity to explore its lesser-known destinations, revealing the concealed charms that only true Romans are familiar with. This article uncovers some of Rome’s secret spots.
St. Peter’s Basilica, with its daily influx of up to 20,000 visitors, is a must-see. Yet, Rome boasts other grand basilicas that are equally stunning and significantly less crowded. Consider venturing a few metro stops out to San Paolo Fuori le Mura, the third-largest church in Christendom. Here, you’ll be awestruck by its immense size, primarily 19th-century architecture, a 5th-century triumphal arch, and medieval Cosmati mosaics in the cloister.
Similarly, the patriarchal basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura in the university area of San Lorenzo is another hidden gem. This breathtaking church, with its striking, ethereal allure, receives only sporadic visitors, adding to its mystique.
For a more intimate experience near St. Peter’s, book a tour of the Vatican Gardens a week in advance. This exclusive visit offers a glimpse into the Vatican’s secluded world, with its meticulously landscaped gardens, symmetrical box hedges, and whimsical grottoes reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.
Cross the Tiber River and escape the bustling Spanish Steps to discover the lesser-known Museum Missionario di Propaganda Fide. This hidden treasure houses an impressive collection of artifacts brought back by priests from their overseas missions, all within a structure designed by the Baroque masters Bernini and Borromini. Don’t miss Bernini’s wooden-paneled library and Borromini’s Chapel of the Magi.
In the glittering Tridente district, amidst designer boutiques, you’ll find timeless leather artisanal workshops. At Armando Rioda, located on the first floor of Via Belsiana 90, skilled craftsmen create bespoke bags, wallets, and belts to your exact specifications for a fraction of the designer prices in neighboring stores.
The Tridente district also offers some fantastic, under-the-radar spots. For an affordable and scrumptious lunch, visit the quaint pasta shop Pasticcio on Via della Croce, serving two fresh pasta dishes from Monday to Saturday between 1 and 3 pm. Patrons eagerly await the arrival of freshly prepared dishes, with meals costing as little as four euros—a steal in this upscale area.
If you’re craving the perfect dessert, head to Re di Roma, a single metro stop away from San Giovanni. Nearby, the little-known Bar Pompi is renowned among Romans for its exceptional tiramisu, offered in flavors ranging from classic to pina colada. Spot the young locals gathered outside, enjoying their heavenly desserts beside their scooters.
Alternatively, if you prefer ice cream, visit the master himself, Claudio Torcè, at Viale Aventino 59. Although rarely mentioned in guidebooks, Rome’s ice cream connoisseurs swear by his creations. Torcè’s most inventive flavors include celery, carrot, and gorgonzola.
Trastevere, the picturesque district south of the Vatican, is a popular spot for evening drinks amid its maze of ivy-draped, ochre and orange buildings. The area can become quite crowded, particularly during the summer months. For a more serene atmosphere, stroll up the Gianicolo (Janiculum hill) to Il Baretto, a stylish cocktail bar with a vintage ambiance, lush terrace, and stunning views of the neighborhood. This is the place to savor Rome’s modern dolce vita (sweet life).