Rome is Italy’s historic capital. Renowned for its Roman heritage, most travellers stick to the traditional tourist checklist. They visit of the Colosseum, then the Pantheon and won’t leave until they’ve tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain.
If you’re looking to be more adventurous, though, you’ll see that Rome isn’t the tourist trap everyone makes it out to be. This beautiful city has so much more to offer. If you venture out of the crowded centre, you can discover the mysteries that are hidden in Rome’s lesser known districts. Follow this off-the-beaten-track guide for my top picks of secret gems.
Explore the Centrale Montemartini
Originally founded as an annexe to the Capitoline Museums, Centrale Montemartini is situated just down the street from Porta San Paolo on Via Ostiense.
This amazing art museum is one of Rome’s lesser known attractions, despite its impressive collection of classical statues. With exhibits placed in an industrial setting, much like the Tate Modern in London, this impressive building is home to a thought-provoking juxtaposition of technology and classical art. It is filled with everything from ancient white marble sculptures to enormous steam boilers and impressive diesel engines. You won’t find another museum like it in Rome.
Visit the Esposizione Universale di Roma (EUR)
If you’re looking to explore Rome’s quirky underbelly, there’s no better place to start than the EUR district. It is located in the far south of the city.
In complete contrast to the rest of the city, the EUR is a remarkably spacious district that boasts modern and hip architecture. Explore this underrated part of Rome and keep your eyes peeled for its most striking masterpiece, the Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro. An iconic Fascist building, its box shape has earned it the nickname of ‘Square Colosseum’.
Insider tip: If you go in the evening, preferably around sunset, the great atmospheric lighting will let you capture the most amazing photos.
Stroll Through the Quartiere Coppedè and Garbatella
Clear your head and escape from the noisy streets of Rome for a few hours by wandering around these lesser known districts. Built in the 1920s, Quartiere Coppedè will take you back to your childhood and the fairy tales you once read. With beautiful turreted villas, detailed gargoyles, striking archways and impressive towers, it offers stunning views and a tranquil atmosphere. Garbatella is also a charming suburb where you can recapture that earthy feeling. Wander around its gorgeous green gardens, which offer a long-awaited relief after seeing so much brick in the city centre. Its architecture is original and peculiar, too, combining faux baroque palazzi, low-rise villas and large housing blocks.
Insider tip: There are loads of excellent photo-ops here, so don’t forget your camera!
Don’t Miss the Il Cimitero Acattolico and Testaccio
This cemetery is situated on the slope adjacent to Rome’s ancient Aurelian wall in the Testaccio district.
This non-Catholic cemetery wouldn’t be on most people’s to-do list, meaning that it offers travellers like us a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds. As one of the oldest burial grounds in Europe, it is beautifully maintained, boasting blooming flowers and towering cypress trees. It is also the final resting place of several famous painters, sculptors, artists and poets, including John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Once you’ve taken in the lovely sights, you can top off your day with a delicious authentic Italian lunch from a local trattoria. There are several located just outside the cemetery walls. Take your pick!
How to Get to Rome
The easiest way of getting to Rome is to fly to Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO). Several low-budget airlines, including Ryanair and easyJet, offer
direct two-and-a-half hour flights from London. You can then book an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct. This service offers great deals to suit your budget, so you can choose a very affordable shared transfer or treat yourself to a private one. Either way, book your ride in advance via the user-friendly website.
Where to Stay
New Generation Hostel Santa Maria Maggiore: This hostel is just ten minutes away from the metro and train line that will take you on your off-the-beaten-track adventure. The accommodation is air-conditioned, and there is a TV lounge, shared kitchen and snack bar as well as free Wi-Fi. You can book an en suite room or, if you’d rather chat with your fellow travellers, a dormitory with a shared bathroom.
Camping Village Roma: Located near the historic centre, Camping Village Roma offers both chalets and air-conditioned bungalows. It also boasts a delicious Italian restaurant with mouth-watering pizza. For a bit of banter with other explorers, there’s a poolside bar, where you can have a drink and mingle.
Hotel Zara: Housed in a historic building, this rustic family-run hotel is warm and friendly. With air-conditioned rooms, a TV lounge and a bar, you’ll have a comfortable place to relax after a long day of uncovering Rome’s hidden gems.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is Europe and North Africa’s principal airport transfer provider. It guarantees a fixed low price which doesn’t affect the quality of their hassle-free transfer service. You can book a shared, group or private shuttle in advance via the website and enjoy stress-free travel. An experienced and helpful driver will meet you outside the terminal and take you to your hostel safely and swiftly.