No city can compare to Italy’s capital of Rome when it comes to historical richness. The choice of sites to see and museums to visit is so vast that it is just unattainable to grasp it all during the first trip. However, if you’re returning to Rome and you’ve already seen its most famous landmarks, such as the Vatican, Colosseum, Forum Romanum, and the Capitoline Museums, you can now go deeper and explore what usually escapes the tourists’ eyes. You can start with these five secret places, each of them a unique treat for connoisseurs of art and beauty:
1) Villa Farnesina
If you’ve been to the Vatican Museums, you’ve probably seen the dazzling frescoes of Raphael, including the legendary philosophers’ debate of the “School of Athens’. The Vatican, however, is not the only place in Rome that houses treasures of art painted by Raphael’s hand. Within just a twenty-minute walk from St Peter’s Square, you’ll find another spectacular display of the Renaissance master’s skill: Villa Farnesina. Built in the early sixteenth century as a suburban residence, the Villa is now in the heart of the Trastevere district, surrounded by lovely, narrow streets and ivy-covered houses. As alluring as the exterior is, it is inside the Villa where true miracles await you. In the first section, you will find the ‘Galatea’, Raphael’s most-acclaimed secular painting. Then, in the bright loggia, you’ll see the entire ceiling decorated with scenes from the story of Amor and Psyche (a light-hearted, adventurous Roman tale of love written in the first century BCE). These frescoes have nothing to do with the sincerity of the Vatican, on the very contrary, they will show you the playful and jocose side of the Renaissance art.
You can easily walk to the Villa from any point in Trastevere; however, if you prefer to take a bus, there are a few convenient stops just a couple steps away. Make sure to check the timings and routes of the buses online beforehand (Google Maps can be useful).
Address: Via della Lungara, 230 - 00165 ROMA
Price: 6 EUR (6.50 USD)
Opening Hours: 9 am - 2 pm, Monday to Saturday only (check the website for special openings on selected Sundays)
Contact: [email protected] +39 06 68 02 7268
2) Palazzo Corsini
Just across the street from Villa Farnesina, another treasury of European art awaits you: the late-baroque Palazzo Corsini. Nowadays a gallery of art, the Palazzo houses lesser-known works of Caravaggio, Rubens, van Dyck, Fra Angelico, and many others. If you saw all the major Roman galleries during your previous trips, it is just the right place to continue your adventure with the history of art. Climatic and wonderfully decorated, the Palazzo is rarely frequented by visitors, hence, you’ll have a chance to encounter the olden masters in an intimate atmosphere. Each room and piece of art are accompanied by a bilingual description, so don’t worry if you’re not an art pundit, as you’ll find all the explanation you need right on the spot.
You can get to the Palazzo Corsini exactly the same as for the Villa Farnesina, above.
Address: Via della Lungara 10, 00165 ROMA
Price: 6 EUR (6.50 USD)
Opening Hours: 2 pm - 7.30 pm on Monday and from Wednesday to Saturday; 8.30 am to 7 pm on Sunday. Note that the last admission is at 7 pm. Closed on Tuesdays
Contact: [email protected] +39 06 68802323
3) Centrale Montemartini
Centrale Montemartini is a must-see if you’re a lover of Greek and Roman art. One of the newest museums of Rome, it is praised for the unique design, as it marries ancient sculpture with the post-industrial space of an old factory. The results of this experimental collocation are glorious: delicate, meditative Hellenistic statues of young girls look royally amidst the industrial entourage, and the Roman emperors seem to have regained a part of their long-lost majesty as they stand next to the grand turbines. The two remote worlds come together to form an outstanding alliance, which turns a dull visit to another museum into an engaging and intriguing encounter with the past.
Centrale Montemartini is located in the vicinity of San Paolo Fuori Le Mura. You can come here after the visit to the basilica; otherwise, the most convenient way to get to the Centrale is by the underground; Garbatella Station is only a couple minutes away.
Address: Via Ostiense 106, 00154 ROMA
Price: 7.50 EUR (8.20 USD); concessions are available for selected age groups
Opening Hours: 9 am - 7 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays and selected public holidays (details on the website)
Contact: [email protected] +39 060608
4) Palazzo Altemps
Palazzo Altemps is another treat for those who can’t get enough of ancient art. Exhibited in the warm and inviting interior of a Renaissance palazzo, the collection of Greek and Roman sculpture features artworks known from every art history handbook. The poignant group of the ‘Gaul Killing Himself and His Wife’, the sincere and elegant Ludovisi Ares, and other legendary sculptures are magnificently displayed, dramatically lit, and accompanied by exhaustive introductions. What is more, the interior of the palace creates a natural, befitting background, as the small, cosy stanzas are decorated with the original, Renaissance frescoes and wooden ceilings. You can take a rest here and sit down, for there are armchairs and benches for you to enjoy a quiet moment. It is rather surprising that such a splendid place is known only to a handful of people. Thanks to this, however, it’s a just a perfect refuge if you grow tired of crowds.
Palazzo Altemps is located in the heart of the city, just two minutes’ walk from Piazza Navona
Address: Piazza di Sant'Apollinare 46, 00186 ROMA
Price: 7 EUR (7.60 USD). The ticket for the Palazzo is also valid for a series of other Roman museums and monuments, including Palazzo Massimo and the Baths of Diocletian
Opening Hours: 9 am - 7.45 pm. Closed on Mondays and selected public holidays (check the website for the details)
Contact: +39 06 39967700
Gianicolo, a prominent hill in Trastevere, is a great place to go if you love magnificent views. Nowadays famous for the horse statue of Garibaldi and the church of San Pietro in Montorio, the hill used to be the home to ancient Roman soothsayers, who would uncover the fate by observing birds flying in the sky. And no wonder: the panorama seen from Gianicolo seems boundless. The best place to view it is Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, a beautiful, early-baroque fountain with its wide pool of crystal-clear water. If you’re a fan of Italian cinema, you may already be familiar with this place, as it was featured in the opening scene of Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning ‘La Grande Bellezza’.
The easiest way to reach Gianicolo is to take a walk from Trastevere. It won’t take you long, as the hill is not that high, and the road is not too steep. Remember to bring your camera with you, it’s an awesome place for a picture!
Rome – a never-ending adventure
Rome is often called ‘Eternal City’ and, in fact, it would take an eternity to see it all. Allow yourself to go off the beaten track and explore as much of it as possible. You can start off with the five places suggested above, and then make your own discoveries and plot your own amazing trails. There’s so much to choose from!
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