Are you a big fan of the splendid Italian capital? I totally am! And since I went there for the first time 6 years ago and have been visiting at least twice a year since then, by now I’ve seen Colosseum more times than I’ve seen The Lord of the Rings (and that’s a lot!). Luckily, Rome offers much more than the standard Colosseum, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums. Today we are sharing a list of secret Roman places that don’t appear on the classical tourist guides but are absolutely worth checking out if you want to feel the charm of many-faced Rome.
Parco degli Acquedotti
Imagine a park that stretches for several kilometers, with stone pines that give comforting shade (very welcome under Italian scorching sun!) and skeletons of ancient aqueducts scattered all around. This place really exists – it is called Parco degli Acquedotti (Park of Aqueducts) and is located in the outskirts of the city.
Parco degli Acquedotti is home to three monumental structures: it is crossed on one side by the Aqua Felix and also contains parts of the Aqua Claudia and the ruins of Villa delle Vignacce. The place is virtually empty – you can bump into locals running, cycling or chilling on a picnic, but almost no tourists. Perfect place for a calm stroll or a quiet afternoon with a book!
Bonus points: the park is located on a hill and you can see a railroad from its top. Wait till a train passes and enjoy a surreal view – a modern train sneaking right near an ancient aqueduct!
Where to find: 00178 Rome, Italy. Just jump on the metro, get to Giulio Agricola stop, and then walk for 5 min.
Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana
Next stop – Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana that was constructed in 1937 as part of a big exhibition, which was subsequently canceled. It stood abandoned for over a decade and finally was used for hosting Roma Agricultural Exhibition in 1953. The building is now converted into a headquarters of Fendi, Italian luxury fashion house.
Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is widely known among locals as “Square Colosseum”. Honestly, it lives up to its name – the huge marble square and the weirdly porous construction leave quite an impression. Come here if you need a break from ancient Rome and want to get a glimpse of something as monumental, but more modern.
A bonus tip – on the Fendi official website, you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the building.
Where to find: Quadrato della Concordia, 3, 00144 Rome, Italy. You would need to get to EUR Magliana metro station and then walk 10 mins.
Quartiere Coppedè is one is my personal favorites. Has it ever happened to you that you see a place and say to myself “I would totally live here”? That happened to me in Quartiere Coppedè. Actually, it still happens – every time I get there!
Quartiere Coppedè is a building complex that dates back to 1913, a real masterpiece by Italian architect Gino Coppedè who skilfully mixed Art Deco, Gothic, and baroque styles in order to create it. The main entrance is shaped like a huge asymmetrical arch that links two palaces with a wrought iron chandelier.
Once you pass the arch, you get into a separate world, where every building has its own unusual name – Palace of a Spider, Frog Fountain, Villas of Fairies. Make sure you stop in front of the most interesting structures, as their facades are full of small details and references important for Italian culture. For example, you can find portraits of Dante and Petrarch on the walls of Villas of Fairies.
Where to find: Via Tagliamento, 6 (main entrance)
The Aventine Keyhole
A huge closed metal door and 10 people lining up to it – this is what I saw when I got at the crossing of via di S. Sabina and via di Porta Lavernale on the Aventine hill. This is where the Aventine Keyhole is located – a small peephole through which you can see the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica in a beautiful frame of leaves.
The huge metal door leads to the Villa del Priorato di Malta that has been in the possession of the Order of Malta since the 14th century. You can’t really get easily past the door and enjoy the view directly – to do so, you would need a special appointment. You can book it via email, the booking information is available here.
Funny detail: as the villa is granted extraterritorial status by Italy, by looking through a keyhole you look across three territories – Italy, the Vatican, and the Sovereign Order of Malta.
Where to find: the crossing of via di S. Sabina and via di Porta Lavernale
Sapienza University of Rome Campus
Do you want to see what the life of Italian students is like? Then make sure you walk through the campus of the most prestigious Roman university, a not very secret, but not a completely obvious location for a tourist stroll. You will get a chance to enjoy some epic architecture there too!
Sapienza University or simply Sapienza is one of the oldest European universities and one with the largest number of enrolments too. Sapienza was founded in 1303 and boasts six Nobel prize winners among its alumni, such as Guglielmo Marconi and Franco Modigliani.
The main Sapienza Campus, the Città Universitaria, is a city of its own. It was established in 1935, and consists of 41 building among which there are faculty buildings, libraries, administrative structures, and even its own theatre and kindergarten! This is not to mention bars where you can grab a coffee with a brioche, typical Italian pasty. The heart of the campus is the library – a monumental squire building that dominates the landscape. The map of the campus is available here.
Where to find: Piazzale Aldo Moro, 5, 00185 Rome, Italy.