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.

Hidden Gems in Rome

From lesser known Rome museums to panoramic viewpoints and restaurants popular with the locals, these are the top secret Rome places that are well worth a visit.

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1. 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.

Although it’s an unknown Rome attraction to most overseas visitors, it has been frequented by many creative Europeans over the years. 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
Villa Medici

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
Villa Medici gardens

And now for that view, one of the best Rome secret spots. 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.

Panoramic Rome view
Panoramic Rome view

Address: Villa Medici, Viale della Trinità dei Monti, 1, 00187 Comune di Roma RM, Italy

Nearby, take lunch at Ginger Sapori e Salute, 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. This light and airy restaurant focuses on Mediterranean food and 70& of the menu is organic.

If you’re also visiting Villa Borghese, we can highly recommend the fine dining at Pauline Borghese, Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel & Spa’s beautiful restaurant.

Ginger Rome restaurant
Ginger restaurant

2. Borromini’s Perspective

Something of an oddity, Borromini’s Perspective is one of the most fascinating secret Rome 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.

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.

Address: Borromini’s Perspective, Piazza Capo di Ferro, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Borromini's Perspective Rome
Borromini’s Perspective

The Palazzo Spada itself is one of the best Rome hidden gems. 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
Palazzo Spada

Address: Palazzo Spada, Piazza Capo di Ferro, 13, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Grab a quick snack close by in very casual surroundings at Dar Filettaro for a Roman take on fish and chips! This fried, salted cod treat called filleti di baccala  is a favourite with locals. It’s meant to be eaten with your hands not cutlery, so dig in and enjoy.

Address: Dar Filettaro, Largo dei Librari, 88, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara
Dar Filettaro

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 is also known as the Church of St. Louis of the French.

One of the most outstanding Rome hidden treasures is 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.

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.

Address: Church of St. Louis of the French, Piazza di S. Luigi de’ Francesi, 00186 Comune di Roma RM, Italy

San Luigi dei Francesi - hidden gems in Rome
San Luigi dei Francesi

Dine at Etabli on Vicolo delle Vacche 9, a shabby chic Roman restaurant in a 15th century building on a cobbled pedestrianized street. They have really tasty food and some of the friendliest waiters in the city. It’s a nice hidden Rome eatery in which to enjoy an aperitivo in Summer or a winter warmer by the open fire.  

Address: Etabli, Vicolo delle Vacche, 9, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

Etabli restaurant in Rome
Etabli restaurant

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
Rome Rose Garden

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

This charming area is one of the best Rome secret places to watch the sunset over the monuments.

Address: Orange Garden, Piazza Pietro D’Illiria, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

The Garden of the Oranges in Rome
The Garden of the Oranges

Eat at Marco Martini down the hill from the Orange Garden. This Michelin starred Rome restaurant serves delicious food in a shady courtyard. There’s a stylish Rome boutique hotel, The Corner Townhouse, above if you don’t feel like going home.

Address: Marco Martini, Viale Aventino, 121, 00153 Roma RM, Italy

Marco Martini restaurant, Rome
Marco Martini restaurant

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.

This famous Rome landmark 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.

Address: Mouth of Truth, Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18, 00186 Comune di Roma RM, Italy

Mouth of Truth Rome
Mouth of Truth

6. Trastevere

This picturesque area on the other side of the Tiber is hidden Rome at its best. In fact it takes its name from the Latin trans Tiberim which means beyond the Tiber. You can reach Trastevere by crossing Ponte Sisto, a picturesque pedestrianized bridge.

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 people congregate in the Piazza Santa Maria, the heart of the area, to listen to the street performers at night.

Experience a hidden Rome food tour, which includes multiple tasting stops followed by a delicious dinner and wine. This fun tour is led by an expert English speaking guide.

We also recommend visiting one of the best gelaterias in Rome – look for the sign “Artigianale” above the door which means that it’s all home made. There are lots of great eateries on our tour, but if you want the inside scoop, do take their tour.

Hidden gems in Rome: Trastevere - this area has lots of cool restaurants and shops
Hidden gems in Rome: Trastevere

Other Hidden Gems of Rome

The area of Coppedè is Rome’s smallest district yet it has a lot of historic charm. Antica Farmacia della Scala is a 17th century pharmacy with beautiful wooden panelling. Palazzo Farnese is a stunning Renaissance villa that is now the French Embassy in Rome.

Places to Stay in Rome

There are some very luxurious hotels in Rome, many with tranquil courtyards or rooftop terraces. We particularly like the newly renovated Hotel Eden, the Intercontinental de la Ville Roma and the Parco dei Principi.

Famous Attractions in Rome

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? Let us know if you have any good recommendations.

Read all our Italy travel tips here.

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See more worldwide hidden gems below.

Hidden Gem Travel Destinations

The best hidden gems and secret places worldwide, from tourist attractions to restaurants and places to stay.

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Best hidden gems in Rome

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76 thoughts on “HIDDEN GEMS IN ROME: 6 OFF THE BEATEN PATH ROME GEMS”

  1. Candice Petersen

    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

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

  2. 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,

    Angie

    SilverSpoon London

    1. 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

  3. 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.

    1. LuxuryColumnist

      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

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

  5. 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

    1. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    www.LUXESSED.com

    1. LuxuryColumnist

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

  8. 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:

    MyLyfeMyStory

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

    www.countrymouseclaire.com

    1. 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.

  10. 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

    1. 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

  11. 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 🙂

    Elle
    www.theellenextdoor.com
    xx

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

  12. ♫ Alison M ♪

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

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

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

    Ash | Liakada

  14. 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

    x

  15. Wow, I need travel!! Every place look amazing! I love your white dress:) I hope ser more photos like this!
    xx
    www.onlybmh.com

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

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

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

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

  17. Carmen's Luxury Travel

    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.

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

  18. 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!

    Fashionably,

    Patricia

    http://www.wingsforliberty.com/

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

  19. 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!

    xx

    cvetybaby.com

  20. Ally // Digital Diva

    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!!

    www.digital-diva.co.uk

    xx

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

  21. 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

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

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

  24. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    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.

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

  25. Frankie | TheMayfairy.com

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

  26. Maaike - travellousworld.com

    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!

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

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  29. 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

    www.shehearts.net

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