10 Hidden gems in Rome: my favorite secret places that many tourists don't know exist!

Rome has a lot of hidden gems, beautiful places that -surprisingly- many people never heard of (tourists and often also my fellow insiders)... this can't be! To help you discover what a lot of people are missing, I produced this list of my 10 favorite hidden gems in Rome. Places that are not only great to see, but also, often, surrounded by very interesting stories and legends. Ready?


1. The building with the hand of Cicero pointing up to the sky This unusual building, with an curious architecture and a facade decorated as a cake, is near the Circus Maximus, but usually very few tourists notice it. And among these, even fewer look up and realize that on top of it there's a giant stony hand, with its index finger pointing up to the sky. The same hand is present again, sculpted as relief, on the frame that surrounds one of the windows. What's that hand and why is it pointing up? According to the tradition, that's the hand of Cicero, one of the most influencial figures of ancient Rome...

location is via dei Cerchi, at the side of Circus Maximus.

nearby, interesting to visit, are the Mouth of Truth and the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Tiber Island, the basilica of Santa Sabina, piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta (with the keyhole).


2. The view of saint Peter's basilica through the keyhole There are two very different ways to admire the cupola of saint Peter. Going to the Vatican is one, of course..... or you can put your eye at the keyhole of the priory of Malta, on the Aventine hill: the basilica will appear through the bushes, in a magical way! Note that beside this very original perspective that the keyhole offers, also the little square itself where the door is located deserves some attention: enclosed in white neoclassic walls, there's a quite unusual set of obelisks and military tropheums as decorations, and they may suggest... masonry.

location is piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, on the Aventine hill, near the Circus Maximus.

nearby, interesting to visit, are the basilica of Santa Sabina, the Circus Maximus, the building with the hand of Cicero, the Mouth of Truth and the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin.


3. The alchemical door in piazza Vittorio This is much more than just a hidden gem: the alchemical door of Rome is one of the most relevant monuments in existance with references to occultism, secret societies and alchemy. Symbols, arcane formulas, phrases in latin and hebrew are inscribed all over its frame, on the step, and even above it, and they suggest that this door could actually be... a portal, but only for those who are able to dechiper the signs left by marquis Massimiliano Palombara, who lived in Rome between 1614 and 1680.

location is piazza Vittorio Emanuele (in the gardens at the center of the square), in the "Chinese" district of Rome.

nearby, very interesting to visit, in the small and beautiful basilica of Santa Prassede.


4. The tower of the monkey Between via dei Portoghesi and via dei Pianellari, in the very center of Rome and near the parliament, there is an uncharacteristic building equipped with a medieval looking tower, traditionally called "tower of the monkey". The tower features a statue of the Virgin on top of it, with a lantern at her side which is lighted night after night. That's certainly a bizarre location to place a cult image, and besides, what is that light for? The answer is provided by an old legend of Rome, that explains what this tower has to do with monkeys.

location is via dei Portoghesi, near the parliament Montecitorio and piazza Navona.

nearby are piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the beautiful basilicas San Luigi dei Francesi and Santa Maria sopra Minerva.


5. Tiber Island: the heart of Rome is an island shaped as a ship Tiber island is surely not unknown to the mass of tourists in Rome, but if like many tourists you walk on it and are distracted, you risk not to notice the many hidden gems and curious details that are spread all over it. First of all... why is the island itself shaped as a giant rocky ship? This is not just a casual reemblance: you'll even find lifebelts on the "bow". Also, as tiny as the island is, there is a real hospital here, the "Fatebenefratelli", plus several snake representations on the island, and the head of a woman (made of stone) embedded right in the middle of the facade of a tower.

location is Lungotevere de Cenci, the nearest metro station is Circo Massimo, but then you have to walk for approx. 15 minutes.

nearby is the Jewish ghetto of Rome, the theatre of Marcellus, the Mouth of Truth and the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the Altare della Patria and the wonderful Ara Coeli.


6. The uncharacteristic Coppedè district Coppedè has a very weird and unusual appearence compared to all the other areas of Rome: very calm, and originally decorated buildings that seem to belong more to fairy tales or Hogwarts! bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla


7. The small basilica of Santa Prassede, in the Esquilino neighborhood, is in my opinion one of the most beautiful churches in Rome. It's hard to explain why: it's small, it doesn't have famous masterpieces, but it has a special charisma and the mosaicos are just beautiful. bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla


8. The lapis diaboli and the centenary orange tree in Santa Sabina.

Walking inside the basilica of Santa Sabina you notice that in one of the corners, lying on a column, almost like if someone forgot it there, there's a big black stone with some marks on it. According to the myth, those marks have been left by the devil's claws! bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla


9. The capuchin crypt in via Veneto The capuchin crypt, located beneath the church santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, is decorated with the bones of 37.000 human bodies. Definitely something we're not used to see every day. Some may consider it macabre and horrifying, but for some others it's a very fascinating place, and also a chance to reflect about mortality and time. bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla


10. The "monstruous" Palazzo Zuccari is located between via Sistina and via Gregoriana, and its facade is maybe the most unusual and curious in the city. The frames of the main door and and the windows are huge mouths, wide open. The palace was built by Federico Zuccari, famous baroque artist, who took the inspiration by the monster park in Bomarzo, at the north of Rome. This architectural caprice was criticized and admired, and quickly became the ideal house for the artists of the area. Today Palazzo Zuccari hosts the Bibliotheca Hertziana, an institute for research on Italian art.


029 Notes: last update November 12, 2015

You're here: >
Leave me a comment, I read all of them.