While the Colosseum, Pantheon and Forum will always be on the first time visitor’s wish list, there’s much more to Rome. Even after a few visits, I’ve still got much more to see (including big hitters like the Galleria Borghese and much of Trastevere) but these were some of the quieter spots that I’ve visited…
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If you’ve watched Medici: Masters of Florence on Netflix then this is one for you. This Villa, now the home of the French Academy in Rome, sits in prime position at the top of the Spanish steps. When we visited we had it almost to ourselves. Daily guides tours are offered in English and other languages.
Many of its original masterpieces now live in Palazzo Pitti in Florence, but the guided tour was a great introduction to the world of the Medici. You can also visit regular exhibitions and stay in the villa itself.
Situated on the Piazza di Spagna, this is an oasis of calm in the centre of the city. It’s the location where a consumptive Keats spent his last few months, having decamped to Rome for better weather conditions. His room is the main attraction, while the apartment complex is a wonderful site for literature lovers as it contains much memorabilia and artefacts from Keats, Shelley and the Romantics.
Again you can stay here – it’s bookable through the Landmark Trust.
And if you’re a fan of Keats, then remember to pay a visit to the Protestant Cemetery, only a few metro stops from the Colosseum.
Museum of the Liberation
The Museo Storico della Liberazione is situated in an apartment block on Via Tasso, an unassuming side street between the Colosseum and St John Lateran. The block was the HQ of the SS in Rome during the early 1940s, a site where resistance and Jewish leaders were imprisoned and tortured. It felt disrespectful to photograph the cells here, and it’s doubtful whether I could have captured the site’s full horror. Much of the material is, of course, in Italian but a leaflet in English is available. The story of Rome’s wartime experience is powerfully relayed.
On the day I visited I literally had the place to myself, which I hope isn’t the norm. This is a convent complex five minutes away from the Colosseum. It originated in the 4th Century, and takes its name from 4 crowned but unnamed saints who may have been Christian martyrs. Step back in time and view Rome’s oldest campanile, and peak into the small oratory containing ridiculously fresh frescoes dating from the 13th Century.
Bonus points here as a visit can be combined with a visit to the neighbouring Santa Croce In Gerusalemme and the Museum of Musical Instruments. I’m not really into military history, but it was an interesting journey, with examples of uniforms and a different perspective on wars in which Italy was involved. Bonus points – the gardens have some of the remnants of Saint Helena’s 4th Century Sessorian Palace. Check opening times as they’re somewhat restricted.
This site had much in common with St Peter’s Basilica – all of the scale but none of the crowds, which led to such a sense of space. The Basilica houses the supposed tomb of St Paul, and amazingly covers the same space as the original 4th Century church. Much was destroyed in a 19th Century fire, but some aspects like the 4th/5th Century mosaics and triumphal arch are original. Explore the archaeological remains of the earlier site.
What’s your favourite relatively off the beaten track spot in Rome?