6 Unmissable Hidden Gems in Rome

Updated on 20 August 2017

Rome has many world famous attractions, but there are plenty of lesser known sights that are equally interesting. We’ve put together a list of 6 unmissable hidden gems in Rome, to help you get the most out of your time there.

1 – Hidden Gems in Rome – Villa Medici

Home of the French Academy in Rome, the villa has a fantastic location near the Spanish Steps, overlooking the whole city. Built in 1540, it was bought by Ferdinando dei Medici in 1576 and then by Napoleon in 1801. The best French artists, composers and sculptors came here to study, including Boucher, Fragonard, Berlioz, Debussy and the architect of the French opera house, Charles Garnier. These days there are up to 19 French-speaking artists and musicians in residence, and the villa hosts regular exhibitions and performances.

Villa Medici Rome visit
There are 18 acres of gardens to explore on the guided tour, and you’ll also see the cardinal’s painted apartments. There’s an elegant café selling panini and other snacks.

Villa Medici Garden Rome
And now for that view, one of the best kept secrets in Rome! From this angle you can spot the huge white Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele I to the left but there’s a panoramic, unencumbered view from all sides.

best view RomeNearby, take lunch at Ginger, Via Borgognona 43, for healthy salads and people watching – walk down the Spanish Steps and check out the luxury hotels on via Condotti on your way. If you’re also visiting Villa Borghese, I can highly recommend the fine dining at Pauline Borghese, Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel & Spa’s beautiful restaurant.

Ginger Rome restaurant2 – Borromini’s Perspective

Something of an oddity, Borromini’s Perspective is one of the most fascinating Rome secret places. The gallery has been designed to make you believe that it carries on far longer than it really does. Giving the illusion of a length of around 37 meters, it’s actually only 8 meters long. The effect is created by a rising floor, descending ceiling and lateral columns gradually becoming smaller, and the Roman warrior at the end is 60 centimeters high.

Borromini's Perspective Rome
Housed in a shady courtyard filled with orange trees in the Palazzo Spada, this optical illusion was commissioned by Cardinal Spada. He asked Baroque architect Francesco Borromini to create it with the help of a mathematician. The Palazzo Spada itself is one of the most impressive places to see in Rome. The gallery is filled with paintings, sculptures and furniture from Cardinal Spada’s private collection. There are works by Rubens, Titian, Caravaggio and Brueghel the Elder to admire, hung in the 17th century style, frame to frame.

Palazzo Spada Roma
Grab a quick snack close by in very casual surroundings at Dar Filettaro, Largo dei Librari, for a Roman take on fish and chips! This fried, salted cod treat called filleti di baccala  is a favourite with locals.

Filetti di Baccala Rome

3 – San Luigi dei Francesi

The French have certainly been active in Rome, as this magnificent church is dedicated to St Louis IX, King of France. It has many outstanding artworks, but is particularly famous for the trio of Caravvagio paintings in the Contarelli Chapel. Created from 1599-1600 they depict the life of St Matthew with striking contrasts of light and shade. To the left is The Calling of St Matthew and to the right is The Inspiration of St Matthew. The other painting is The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.

hidden gems Rome
These were Caravaggio’s first important church commission, and greatly reinforced his reputation. Today, entrance to the church is free but you’ll be wise to spend a few coins in the slot machine to light up the paintings and see these baroque gems in all their splendour.

San Luigi dei Francesi Rome paintings
Dine at Etabli, Vicolo delle Vacche 9, a shabby chic Roman restaurant on a cobbled pedestrianized street, with really tasty food and some of the friendliest waiters in Rome.

Etabli Rome luxury blog

4 – Rome Rose Garden and The Garden of the Oranges

Savello Park, or Garden of the Oranges, has a fantastic view across the Roman hills. On the walk up, you’ll come across the lovely Rome Rose Gardens, one of our favourite Rome secrets. Open from 21 April to 14 June, if you’re lucky to visit between those dates you can admire 1,100 varieties of rose and a view towards Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill.

Rose Garden Rome
Once at the top, you’ll see lots of oranges on the trees and also on the ground – I couldn’t resist trying my hand at juggling! There was originally a castle here in the tenth century and its medieval walls still surround the park.

Orange Garden Rome
It’s a very romantic place to watch the sunset over Rome’s monuments.

unmissable hidden gems in Rome
Eat at Corner Townhouse down the hill on Viale Aventino 121 , for a brilliant buffet in a shady courtyard and a Superman statue!

Corner Townhouse Rome

5 – The Mouth of Truth

The Bocca della Verità or Mouth of Truth is an image of a face, housed in the entrance to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. No one knows what the sculpture originally was, some say it was part of an ancient Roman fountain or even a manhole cover. It may represent the god of the river Tiber. From the Middle Ages onwards, people believed that if you told a lie with your hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. In the classic film, Roman Holiday, Gregory Peck improvised a scene there with Audrey Hepburn, pretending that his hand had indeed been bitten off! For lunch or dinner afterwards, Corner Townhouse is very close by.

Mouth of Truth Rome

6 – Trastevere

This picturesque area beyond the Tiber is hidden Rome at its best. Take time to explore the narrow lanes and cobbled streets, and to enjoy the restaurants and lively nightlife. Once a working class neighbourhood, today it’s a popular area for tourists and locals alike, many of whom congregate in the Piazza Santa Maria, the heart of the area.

Trastevere Rome hidden gem
We took a Trastevere food tour with The Roman Guy, they’re really knowledgeable about places to eat locally. We stopped at a small shop selling only fresh, locally sourced Roman produce. We also visited one of the best gelaterias in Rome – look for the sign “Artigianale” above the door which means that it’s all home made. There were lots of great eateries on our tour, but ssh! it’s a secret. If you want the inside scoop, do take their tour.

Trastevere food tour
These are some of Rome’s lesser known attractions, but no doubt you’ll want to make time to visit the Colosseum as well as the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s and the Vatican. And if you like getting off the beaten path, do check out our recommendations for hidden gems in London, Ibiza, Paris and Venice!

Are there any other hidden gems in Rome that you would recommend visiting? I’d love to hear your tips! 

  • Rome has always been one of the places ive always wanted to visit some say… These all look amazing and rich of culture that intrigues me

    Candice Beauty Candy Loves

    • The amazing thing in Rome is that even little churches are full of treasures and there are so many ancient ruins worth seeing too

  • Angie SilverSpoon

    Oooh I’ll bear some of these in mind for next time, the rose garden looks gorgeous and I want to spend more time in the Trastevere.

    Lots of love,


    SilverSpoon London

    • We were lucky to catch the rose garden at the right time of year, it smelt gorgeous. We didn’t get all that much time in Trastevere either

  • Oooh that pic of The Rose Gardens – the view and I love the pic of you juggling oranges! I went to the Travastere and enjoyed a good walk around – I loved it, but I would love to visit these other areas.

    • The Rose Garden is so lovely. Apparently the oranges are very bitter, we didn’t try eating them! Glad you had fun in Trastevere, Holly

  • Awesome pictures. I’ve always wanted to visit Rome – never had the chance to, though. X!

    • I hope that you get the chance to visit, Sjoukje. Have a great Sunday

  • Oh wow, looks like I definitely have to go back to Rome just to see and go to all of the above! Great post.

    x- Naomi in Wonderland

    • Glad you liked it Naomi, I’ve been to Rome twice and still feel like I’m only scratching the surface of all there is to see!

  • Linzi Clark

    A lovely mixture of food and art – great to see another side to Rome away from the well-trodden tourist trail. Impressive juggling skills too!

    • I can’t juggle at all but it looks like I can in the photo 😉

  • I have been to Rome twice but it seems that I could go back many more times as there is so much more to see.


    • I know, so much to see – we would have loved to take a day trip to the Villa d’Este!

  • Wioletta M.
  • So cool! I want to visit!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

  • Corinne C

    I’m dying to visit Rome! Come with me, someone!

    Corinne x

    • Even if you go alone, you’ll meet a lot of people there – they’re very outgoing!

  • Harija Ravi

    Wonderful post, can’t wait to read the next one!!

    Thanks a bunch for your support on my blog,I am glad you liked my recent post on My Pan AM Experience:


  • louie.and.coco

    The Mouth of Truth!! So Roman Holiday!! i will save this post until i visit to Rome!

  • cmclaire

    Oh how lovely! Italy (Rome, Venice, Milan & Florence) is to be our trip away next autumn – some splendid suggestions to include here!


    • Lucky you, I’ve visited Milan and Florence too so need to write those up, Florence is gorgeous and Milan has a lot more going for it than people realize.

  • Wow there’s a lot more to see in Rome.

    I love it and can’t wait to go there soon

    The Bandwagon Chic | Instagram | Bloglovin | Snapchat: bandwagonchic

    • On this trip we really got a feel for the size of the place as we got up to the hills, I hope you get to visit soon, Zarrah

  • Ellie Adams

    This is a fab post lovely, I always feel like I miss out on so many hidden gems when I holiday so this is amazing. I’m actually thinking of booking a trip to Rome so it’s safe to say that this has been bookmarked 🙂


    • Oh thank you Ellie, there really is a lot to see and some of it we came upon by chance like the rose garden

  • ♫ Alison M ♪

    Some gorgeous spots there, Villa Medici looks amazing. I would love to live in a house like that! With servants of course!

    • The artists and musicians that get to live in Villa Medici are very lucky, there’s a great cafe too!

  • gina
  • I somehow managed to miss every single one of these…. hmm I guess I shall just have to go back then 😉

    Ash | Liakada

    • It’s a good excuse to go back, Ash – hope you’re having a great Summer

  • Borromini’s Perspective has certainly peaked my curiosity – if I ever find myself in Rome again, I’ll be sure to take a look! I really love your white dress with the rope-belt by the way, it looks as though it were made for you 🙂

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice


    • Thanks Gabrielle, it was sweltering hot so the dress was sticking to me by the end!

  • Belén Muñoz

    Wow, I need travel!! Every place look amazing! I love your white dress:) I hope ser more photos like this!

    • Thanks very much Belen, glad you enjoyed it and looking forward to checking out your blog, Belen

  • Aisha

    Wow ! I went in Rome last year but only for one day because I was in Frosinone ! So beautiful <3


    • I hadn’t heard of Frosinone but I’ve googled it and it looks lovely especially at night

  • AdventureHan

    It’s been many years since I went to Rome but I never came across these! They look fantastic!

    • We’d both been before so we didn’t need to spend as long on the main sights, though we did enjoy those too

  • Paola

    Great job, Amazing pics!!!!
    xo Paola
    My Facebook

  • It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Rome. It’s such a great city with so many interesting places to see. I didn’t get a chance to go see the Month of Truth, but I’ll definitely go next time.

    • There was a huge queue so we just had a quick look at it, as you say there’s so much to see, Carmen

  • Patricia Blaj

    Oh my god, I’ve been to Rome and didn’t see any of these gorgeous places! Thank you so much for sharing, this post is definitely getting bookmarked in care of a future visit!




    • Glad you liked it Patricia, and hope you get to visit Rome soon

  • The country is very beautiful and fulls of historical places. I need to visit one day 🙂

    • You definitely should Gail, I’m lucky as I’m returning to Italy in September for a friend’s wedding

  • I need to visit Rome someday…looks like such an amazing place!

  • Such an interesting post. I’ve been there, but never visited these places! May be next time, so thank you for sharing them with us!
    Have a nice day, Suze!



    • My pleasure Cvetina, hope you’re having a great week so far

  • Rome is my favourite city in the world and I’ve been a few times….I’ve only been to a few of these though! Great tips!!



    • Thanks Ally, there’s so much to cram in, isn’t there! Hope you’re having a great Summer

  • I seriously need to go back as i definitely missed some of these!

    Also just wanted to point out that Filetti di Baccala just means fried fish and the restaurant is actually called “Dar Filettaro”. (i know, confusing!). Such a cute hidden gem that I’m glad we didn’t miss!

    Tahira x

    • Oh thanks for pointing that out Tahira, I’ll update my post!

  • Johanna Bradley

    Such wonderful stylishness! It almost makes you wonder why anyone would go anywhere else, Suze. I might not make it past Villa Medici 🙂

    • Ha ha, wouldn’t mind moving into the Villa Medici myself Jo!


    This city has so much to offer. Wonderful that you’ve had the opportunity to visit it, Suze!


    • It was a fantastic opportunity and the Colosseum visit in particular is one I’ll always remember


        I’m sure of it!! Gotta visit Italy one day, Rome is totally a must! 🙂 Appreciate your replies, Suze!


    • It’s a brilliant place for a short break, Ira


        Indeed! 😉 Thanks for your reply, Suze!

        xoxo Ira

  • Well, I guess I need to return to Rome. I didn’t have a chance to see most of what you listed. That optical illusion arcade is my favorite.

    • It’s weird because even though you know it’s an illusion, it still really fooled me well!

  • emi

    looking forward to these when we return to rome!!

    xoxo welltraveledwife.com

  • Rome is such a beautiful city. Would love to return on a photography mission. PS – you are a babing juggler! 😉

  • How great! Pinning this on my ‘next stop’ board as I’ll be going to Rome in 1,5weeks. I’ll be living in the Trastevere area for about 2 weeks, so also the food tour tip is most welcome! Thank you!

    • How cool that you’ll be staying in Trastevere, Maaike – can’t wait to read your posts

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  • I love this post Suze! The orange gardens were a highlight of my tour around Rome. I do love the photograph with you juggling the oranges, how many attempts did it take to get that shot I wonder 😉

    Lovely post and great suggestions!

    Laura xo