Explore off the beaten path with Rome's best hidden gems

Discover another side of the Eternal City with these off-the-beaten-path experiences and hidden gems that you shouldn’t miss when you visit Rome

Rome's major landmarks are known all over the world. There's more to the Eternal City than the Colosseum and the Vatican, as you'll see with this list. We've found the best hidden places in Rome. Most tourists have no idea about these hidden gems in Rome, so keep it to yourself!

On our list, you'll find some great places to enjoy authentic local food. Some of our activities are exciting tours that will show you another side of the city, while others are great for the whole family. From unique neighborhoods to cooking classes, these secret places are great additions to your trip.

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1. Make spaghetti from scratch at a local cooking class

While you're in Rome, you'll be chowing down on some of the best food in the world. Take it home with you when you take an authentic cooking class. Roll up your sleeves and learn to make your very own pasta.

Highlights:

At this cooking class, you'll learn to make a traditional carbonara. You'll also master the art of some top Italian cocktails, so your next party is sure to be a success.

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2. Hunt for Rome's ghosts on the spookiest tour around

Let the dark side of Rome send a shiver down your spine. Take a ghost tour through secret alleyways. Your guide will explain the creepiest side of Rome's legends and history, including tales that go back to the ancient Romans and stories about the most notorious Popes of all time. If you're lucky, you might even see a ghost or two wandering the streets.

Highlights:

A ghost tour will take you way off the beaten path, with the help of an expert guide. Young kids may find this to be too scary, as you will be hearing a lot of ghost stories.

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3. Go underground to discover a secret temple

St Clement's Basilica may seem like just another Roman church, but it houses a secret. Go underground, and you'll find an ancient Mithraic temple, as well as a worship site of the earliest Christians. There's even an underground river down here, far from the eyes of most tourists in Rome.

Highlights:

We recommend a guided tour of this underground secret. You'll learn the history of both Rome's ancient pagan cults and the early Christians, who worshipped here in secret to escape persecution.

Address and opening hours:

Via Labicana 95, 00184 Rome. Open Monday-Saturday, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM and 3:00 PM-5:00 PM. Open Sunday, 12:00 PM-5:00 PM.
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4. Brush up your combat skills at gladiator school

Let your inner Spartacus come out to play with a session at gladiator school. You'll don a tunic, pick up a wooden sword, and learn the basics of combat. Will you become the Emperor's favorite?

Highlights:

This gladiator school session is great fun for both kids and adults. You'll even get a special certificate at the end to prove that you're ready for the Colosseum.

Address and opening hours:

Via Appia Antica 18, 00179 Rome. Open Monday-Sunday, 9:30 AM-7:00 PM.

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5. Eat like a local on a gourmet tour of Trastevere

Forget the tourist traps. Take a foodie tour of the trendy Trastevere neighborhood to eat like a real Roman. You'll enjoy delicious traditional fare as you hop from one bar to the next.

Highlights:

With an expert guide to show you the way, you'll go to a number of different bars. You'll also learn some of the neighborhood's history along the way as you sip on some refreshing Prosecco or delicious local cocktails.

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6. Join in an ancient ritual at the Vatican

Can the Sistine Chapel really be a hidden gem? The answer is yes if you join the Key Master's Tour. You'll follow the official Key Master as he engages in the daily ritual of opening the doors. This is truly special, an experience usually reserved just for the Key Master and the Pope.

Highlights:

The best part of your private VIP tour is the entry to the Sistine Chapel. As the Key Master turns on the lights, you'll see Michelangelo's stunning paintings burst into life. Consider yourself lucky, as this is one of the few truly unique experiences you can try in the Vatican.

Address and opening hours:

00120 Vatican City, Rome. Tours are offered at various times.

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7. Head to the countryside for la dolce vita

Escape the city and go into the beautiful Italian countryside. At a charming, rustic farm, you'll take a cooking class to learn to prepare a delicious three-course meal. Yes, that includes a decadent Italian dessert.

Highlights:

As part of this day trip, your friendly tutor will take you to the market to choose the freshest ingredients. You might also get to pick some delicious herbs and vegetables from the farm's own gardens.

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8. Let a local show you the real Rome

Who better to show you Rome than a true Roman? Take a private tour with a local guide to see the other side of the city. You'll see a mixture of tourist sites and hidden secrets with the help of your personal guide.

Highlights:

A local guide is the best way to see the other side of Rome. Be prepared with questions because this is your chance to learn.

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9. Discover the underground secrets of Piazza Navona

Most tourists are content to explore Piazza Navona from above the ground, but why not do something different? Under the square, you can explore the ruins of an ancient Roman stadium.

Highlights:

On this walking tour, you'll start above the surface before going underground. Your expert guide is on hand to explain everything that you see.

Address and opening hours:

Piazza Navona, 00186 Rome. Tours begin at various times.

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10. Crack your own Da Vinci Code with a special treasure hunt

Want the kids to take more of an interest in history? Take them on this unique treasure hunt through da Vinci's Rome. Armed with a tablet, you'll try to solve puzzles and crack codes.

Highlights:

This treasure hunt will take you to a number of fascinating spots. You'll even win a prize if you can solve the final clue.

Address and opening hours:

Piazza della Cancelleria 1, 00186 Rome. Open Monday-Sunday, 9:30 AM-7:00 PM.

FAQs

What are some lesser-known attractions in Rome that are worth visiting?

With such a long history, Rome is packed with interesting places to visit. Try a visit to the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo, a 5th-century church with an unusual, circular shape. You can also go to the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, a lesser-known gallery with a stunning collection of Renaissance and Baroque works.

Are there any hidden or secret gardens in Rome that I can explore?

Take a walk to the Aventine Hill, where you can stroll through the Giardino degli Aranci. This massive park is surprisingly quiet and also offers some of the best views of the city's skyline.

Can you recommend any hidden or secret viewpoints in Rome with great views of the city?

Take a visit to the Knights of Malta Keyhole on the Aventine Hill. This gives you a unique, remarkable view of the dome of St Peter's Basilica, perfectly framed by neatly-trimmed green hedges. It feels like you've found the ideal spot to spy on the Vatican.

What are some lesser-known neighborhoods in Rome that are worth exploring?

One of the most interesting neighborhoods to visit in Rome is Piccola Londra. The name translates as Little London, as the houses here are designed in an unusual style inspired by the British capital. It's a very distinctive place that feels quite different from the rest of Rome.

Can you recommend any hidden architectural gems in Rome that are not as crowded as the famous landmarks?

You've seen the Colosseum, so why not go to a pyramid? Rome's Pyramid of Cestius was built as a tomb for the ancient Gaius Cestius. 120 feet high, it's a remarkable, unusual sight that's worth checking out.