Far away from the madding crowd, Rome’s quieter corners offer a fresh look at the culture of the Eternal City. There are plenty of showy monuments to admire. The Colosseum and the Pantheon stand large. There are the appealing piazzas and Instagram-perfect vine-covered lanes, but all of that is accessible and easy to obtain. What really makes Rome a special destination are her secrets.
Some of Italy's most valuable art treasures are not found in the big museums that hold vast collections and more often than not massive crowds. That is not at all how these remarkable pieces were meant to be viewed. Often the empty palaces and secret gardens that are overlooked by the whistle-stop visitor provide a more rewarding experience. Slow down and step off the well-trodden path and you can see a Rome that most people miss.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
Via del Corso is always crowded. Best known as a shopping destination, Romans jostle you on the narrow sidewalks and the buses whiz by, but behind one of the traffic-blackened façades is a gilded and elegant palazzo that is easy to overlook. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is a grand space packed with paintings by Caravaggio, sculptures by Bernini and heavy crystal chandeliers. Members of the once powerful Papal family still reside on some of the upper floors.
Saturday mornings in Rome are hectic affairs. Schoolchildren have classes and many offices are open in the morning. Palazzo Colonna is an art-filled haven that offers respite from the busy routine. Walk down Via della Pilotta that centuries ago was a narrow country lane under the Travertine arches connecting the Colonna palace to a secret garden that was created by the Emperor Caracalla in the third century. Once inside the sumptuous palace, the home to the Colonna family for over twenty generations, immerse yourself in the stunning gilt-framed collection of paintings by Brueghel, Vanvitelli, Carracci, Tintoretto and others.
The Non-Catholic Cemetery & Testaccio
Leave the noisy, busy, Roman streets behind and enter the blissfully quiet Cimitero Acattolico (Non-catholic Cemetery). Inside the peaceful solitude of the cemetery, you will find the graves of artists, authors and poets such as John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Maintained by locals, this is a place where history meets the present day. After wandering through the cemetery, visit Testaccio market, a nearby food district, that is the perfect stop for a delicious Italian meal.
All roads lead to Rome. How many times have you heard that phrase? The Appia Antica is the start of a story of some 80,000 kilometers of roads built by the Roman Empire a few thousand years ago. The wide flat basalt stones that compose the legendary Appia Antica are forged from volcanic lava. The road itself follows a lava flow that began in the Alban hills and provided the path and foundation. The road, which strictly speaking runs from Porta San Sebastiano, not far from the Circus Maximus in Rome, all the way to Brindisi in Puglia, contains lifetimes of history. When you walk across these stones you are walking in history, and you can imagine that you are stepping where Spartacus, Cesar and Saint Peter once trod. The best way to experience the Queen of Roads is on Sundays. Rent a bike and cycle to the far edges of this vast green stretch of land, out past remains of ancient villas and aqueducts, grassy hills that hide a labyrinth of submerged catacombs, and with a bit of luck you will come upon a shepherd with his herd of Roman sheep obliviously grazing on living history.
Neoclassical by design, the EUR district differs from the typical Baroque period architecture styles on display throughout the rest of Rome. Originally built to celebrate 20 years of Italian fascism, launch the expansion of the city and host a World Fair that did not take place due to WWII, the EUR district is now a relatively small residential and business area. While you are in the district, visit the Square Colosseum, a fascinating construction that blends classical architectural traditions with more modernist styles, and uncover the history behind the EUR District.
3 of Rome’s Most Exclusive New Hotels in/around the Spanish Steps
Margutta 19 ***** - Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Centrally located in Rome, less than a 10-minute walk from the Spanish Steps, Margutta 19 features a sun terrace and views of the shared garden. – click here for prices!
Hotel Vilòn *****- Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Hotel Vilòn is set in Rome historic center, 656 feet from Via Condotti. The property is located a 6-minute walk from Piazza di Spagna and 1640 feet from Via Margutta. – click here for prices!
Rocco Forte Hotel De Russie *****
If you need a tranquil refuge from the glorious mess that is Rome, try this five-star hotel with elegant, contemporary interiors and state-of-the-art spa, complete with Turkish-style hammam. Part of Rocco Forte's portfolio, the Hotel de Russie was among the first properties to break the fusty design mold a few years back; it's still the first pick for media and fashion types who love the refreshingly contemporary decor and garden bar. Past guests include the likes of Picasso and Jean Cocteau, and the property's extensive terraced gardens are legendary and provide fine views of Villa Borghese. The hotel has 122 bedrooms including 33 suites and is conveniently located for the shopping district near the Spanish Steps. Some of the rooms are ridiculously small for the price, however, so be sure to check the size when booking. Le Jardin de Russie restaurant serves traditional Italian cuisine which can also be enjoyed outside on the terrace, while the Stravinskij Bar is a fashionable hot spot in the summer months. – click here for prices!
Are you planning a trip to Rome?
Rome wasn’t built in a day and you’ll need more than a couple here to uncover all of her secrets. Flying visit? No worries, our travel designers can create the perfect trip with the best boutique hotels, top-notch and off the beaten track activities so you can 'do as the Romans do'.