The Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trastevere, Piazza di Spagna, the Vatican Museums… there are so many iconic places to visit in Rome, so many must-see locations that you can’t miss for any reason in the world when you find yourself in the Eternal City. But what if you’re already a veteran tourist and now you want to spice your trip up a bit? We have thought of 6 underrated sights in Rome that you could visit apart from the most famous ones.
You may have heard of them already, of course. Rome has its secrets but its doors are always open to the world. Still, it could be a good opportunity to find the perfect spot for a new experience in the Italian capital. Enjoy!
1. Underrated sights in Rome: Palazzo Altemps
Find the first of our underrated sights in Rome near Piazza Navona, more specifically at Piazza di Sant’Apollinare, 46. It’s part of the complex of the National Roman Museum and there you will find stunning examples of ancient sculpture. The palazzo is an absolute delight to the eye as well. It will be like discovering a beautiful shell among the sea of the Roman museums and on top of it all finding the hidden art treasure within it. The advised duration of the visit is 1-2 hours. You can book a single tour, or you can buy a pass which will give you access to all four museums of the complex: Palazzo Altemps, the Baths of Diocletian, the Balbi Crypt and Palazzo Massimo.
2. Baths of Diocletian and the Charterhouse of Santa Maria degli Angeli
We’d like to include in our list another of the National Roman Museum‘s buildings. Each one of them is worth a visit, but we wanted to spend some more time on this one. The Baths of Diocletian are a very well preserved monumental complex that was built between 298 and 306 AD. The structure was the classical one of the imperial baths and at the time it had a capacity of about 3000 people. What you’ll be able to see nowadays as the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, was then the frigidarium, as in the chamber for cold bathing.
The Church and Charterhouse of Santa Maria degli Angeli was built in 1561 at the behest of Pope Pius IV. Old Michelangelo in person completed the Church and started projecting the Charterhouse. Today you can visit the complex every day during opening hours. Buy the pass and don’t forget that, due to COVID-19 restrictions, you’re granted the entrance only if you possess proof of your vaccination or a negative COVID test.
3. Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
This one will be an irresistible stop for all cat lovers. The Cat Sanctuary is located in the Area Sacra di Torre Argentina, an archaeological site discovered in 1926 and that has been a cat refuge for decades now. Stray or abandoned cats have always found shelter among the ruins since they were found, and soon many people started bringing them food and love daily. This brought to the foundation of an actual organization of volunteers who aimed to restore the site and make it more cat-friendly. They made sure the animals had fresh food and water every day and also provided them with veterinary care.
Throughout the years the Torre Argentina voluntary association raised enough funds to be able to provide for countless lucky cats. They now are commonly known as the “Roman Cats” and you can visit them and the site every day for free. You also can see the facility where they take care and cure sick cats and learn their stories through the passionate volunteers. You can also choose to adopt one (or more!) of the cats, even at a distance. Behold the beautiful historical ruins of Rome and watch as the cats climb them, rest on a bench or enjoy the sunlight on the grass. A perfect combination, and a heartwarming experience you shouldn’t miss!
4. Underrated sights in Rome: Museum and Crypt of Capuchins
Moving on, among the underrated sights in Rome that we selected today is this Crypt. The place may seem a bit eerie to you, and now we’ll tell you why. Still, it’s definitely worth a visit: it will take you way deeper into Rome’s history. On Via Veneto, the street from La Dolce Vita, you’ll find the Church of Santa Maria Immacolata, built in the 17th century. The place is not only frescoes and beautiful typical decorations: in fact, its crypt contains the bones and skulls of more than 4000 friars! They all are very visible on the walls of the crypt, arranged in various compositions. You can even see some full skeletons. Spooky, but still very suggestive and worth a visit when in the Eternal City.
5. La Piccola Londra (Little London)
We couldn’t miss the opportunity to mention this lovely, hidden gem in Rome. Many people may not know that the Eternal City features a little residential area called Little London, because it actually resembles the English capital’s streets and houses. It may remind you of the most famous Notting Hill and Portobello road. It’s located in the Flaminio district, about 20 minutes walking from Piazza del Popolo. It’s a quiet place, with not many things to see or to do, but the perfect spot to pretend you’re Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts in the famous movie Notting Hill and take some great pictures. Imagine the people coming on your Instagram profile, seeing the photo and thinking you’re in London, but then notice the location tag “Rome, Italy”. A fun thing to try!
6. Porta Alchemica (Magic Door)
And finally, our last recommendation among the underrated sights in Rome has some magic in store for you. Tourists don’t find themselves around here a lot, so if you’re reading this, it’s a chance to do something different and new! Discover the last door standing from the Villa Palombara, a construction that you can find in the park of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. There’s a legend that says that an old alchemist in the 17th century had discovered a way to turn all metals into gold. However, the morning after his discovery he was said to have vanished and left behind only traces of gold powder and his unreadable recipe. The latter was copied and inscribed on this door so that hopefully someone else who could read it would come and knock on it.
This mysterious site is a must-see if you love these kinds of stories. And who knows, maybe when you get to the door you will magically find out that you can read its secret inscriptions…
Find more about the city and why, not, even more, underrated sights in Rome at its official touristic website here.