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How to Get Off the Beaten Path in Rome

Take a break from Rome’s busy, blockbuster attractions and see these hidden gems instead.

Travelers explore the Villa Borghese.
Hi, I'm Rebecca!

Rebecca’s first visit to Italy was a coup de foudre and her affection for Il Bel Paese has only grown over almost 30 years of living here, during which time she has mastered the art of navigating the sampietrini cobblestones in heels but has yet to come away from a plate of bucatini all’amatriciana with an unsullied blouse. She covers Italy travel, culture, and cuisine for a number of print and online publications.

Rome’s world-famous sights, like the Colosseum and Vatican Museums, attract millions of visitors each year.

But once you’ve checked these must-sees off your list, put some distance between you and the tourist crowds by exploring the Eternal City’s many attractions that fly below the radar. From ornate palace museums full of artistic masterpieces to ancient Roman roadways lined with catacombs and ruins, here are a few of our favorite off-the-beaten-path gems just waiting to be discovered.

Visit the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

At the regal Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Rome.
At the regal Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.Photo credit: Suchart Boonyavech / Shutterstock

Enjoy the artworks of Caravaggio and Velázquez.

Crowds in the Vatican Museums can overwhelm even the most ardent art lover. The regal, 16th-century Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is an excellent alternative.

Peruse hundreds of works by masters like Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, and Velázquez in lavish halls that you’re likely to have all to yourself. This ornate palace was once the residence of the aristocratic Pamphilj family, and you can visit the ornate palace ballroom, chapel, and apartments in addition to the prestigious art collection.

Explore the Baths of Caracalla

Visitors explore the Baths of Caracalla on a sunny day.
Visitors explore the Baths of Caracalla.Photo credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Feel like an ancient Roman citizen.

If you want to avoid the crush at the Colosseum but still get your archeology fix, head to the Baths of Caracalla, one of the world’s largest and best-preserved thermal complexes.

Tour what remains of the ground floor with a guide to best appreciate the size and opulence of these 3rd-century ruins, formerly Emperor Caracalla’s public baths. The massive Circus Maximus, Rome’s ancient stadium venue for everything from chariot races to gladiator battles, is just a short walk away.

Travel down the Appian Way

Visitors explore the archeological ruins in the Appian Way of Rome.
The archeological ruins in the Appian Way of Rome.Photo credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Study the heritage of Ancient Rome.

When the urban bustle of downtown Rome is too much, do as the ancient Romans did and escape from the city via the Appian Way. The first Roman road built during the Imperial Age, this paved route is lined with archaeological ruins and atmospheric catacombs.

Join an e-bike or Vespa tour to admire the scenic stretch from Porta San Sebastiano to the Roman aqueduct and visit the fascinating Catacombs of St. Callistus.

Tour the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on a sunny day.
St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.Photo credit: San Clemente / Shutterstock

Discover one of the oldest cathedrals in Rome.

Rome has hundreds of churches, but most visitors only enter St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Paul Outside the Walls (San Paolo Fuori le Mura), thought to be built over the tomb of Paul the Apostle, provides a quieter alternative to St. Peter’s. Plus, the church’s interior is particularly glorious, with 80 columns and extensive mosaic decorations.

St. Peter’s and St. Paul Outside the Walls are only two of Rome’s four Papal Basilicas. Be sure to pop into the other two—St. John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano) and Saint Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore)—during a visit to the Eternal City.

Head underground at the Basilica of San Clemente

The courtyard at the Basilica of San Clemente.
At the Basilica of San Clemente.Photo credit: essevu / Shutterstock

Travel through the many layers of Rome’s history.

A short walk from the Colosseum, the Basilica of San Clemente offers thousands of years of history. The street-level basilica, built in the 12th century and decorated with glittering Byzantine mosaics, sits above the ruins of the 4th-century church that once sat on this spot.

Head further below ground to marvel at an ancient Mithraeum temple, remains of a Roman villa dating from the 1st century AD, and the rushing water of one of the 11 original aqueducts that provided ancient Rome with fresh water.

Check out Rome’s street art scene

Street art by Lucamaleonte in Rome.
Art by Lucamaleonte in Rome.Photo credit: gabriele gelsi / Shutterstock

Take in edgy works by the Eternal City’s vibrant muralists.

Most art enthusiasts make a beeline to Rome’s great museums, but the city is also home to one of Europe’s buzziest street-art scenes.

Head out to residential neighborhoods like San Lorenzo, Pigneto, and Ostiense to catch works by the city’s contemporary open-air artists, like Alice Pasquini and Lucamaleonte, before they disappear. The street art cityscape changes daily, so set out with a local guide with up-to-date intel.

Related: 8 Must-See Rome Neighborhoods and How to Visit

Marvel at Centrale Montemartini

A look inside Centrale Montemartini.
Sculptures inside Centrale Montemartini.Photo credit: Sibil Photos / Shutterstock

Admire ancient art in a former power station.

One of Rome’s most remarkable museums, Centrale Montemartini is an extraordinary pairing of the industrial and ancient ages. This former electrical power station is now a striking exhibition space for the Capitoline Museums. Unlike the crowded main museum galleries on Capitoline Hill, this outpost in Ostiense is refreshingly quiet.

Savor the spectacular collection of classic sculptures surrounded by the station’s original turbines, diesel engines, and steam boiler in perfect peace.

Check out Rome’s 20th-century architecture

Coppedè is known for its interesting architecture.
Rome’s 20th-century architecture in Coppedè.Photo credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Wander the unique Coppedè and EUR districts.

Rome’s ancient and Baroque masterpieces get most of the attention, but the city’s architectural evolution didn’t end in the 1700s. There are a number of modern buildings and entire neighborhoods built in art nouveau (known in Italy as Liberty) and modernist styles, which offer a fascinating glimpse of Rome in the 20th century.

Stroll the fairytale-like Coppedè residential district in the center of the city, or head to the outlying EUR neighborhood built during Italy’s Fascist years, home to the famed Square Colosseum and other modernist creations.

Relax in Rome’s Villa Borghese

Row boaters enjoy Rome’s Villa Borghese on a sunny day.
Row boaters in Rome’s Villa Borghese.Photo credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Stroll, cycle, or row your way through this lush park.

The third largest park in Rome, Villa Borghese offers a welcome respite from the relentless urban pace and crowds. You can get a culture fix at the park’s Borghese Gallery (book ahead) or simply explore its tree-lined paths, charming rowing pond, historic fountains, and outdoor cafés.

At sunset, head to the Terrazza del Pincio overlook for one of the best (and least crowded) views over Rome.

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