There is no city on Earth more steeped in history, both written and visible, then the fabled city of Rome in Italy. Over the last 3,000 years, Rome has played host and home to countless war-making generals, prolific politicians, religious figures and fabled warriors, many of whom have left behind wondrous, breathtaking traces of their lives and exploits, each of them waiting to be discovered in one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.
Upon arriving in Rome, you’ll undoubtedly visit the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Pantheon along with many other popular attractions, but don’t let the throngs of tourists at these locations fool you; there are many more locations around the city with the same sights of history and essence of Roman life, all alongside modern wonders that are often forgotten when visitors are exposed to the wonder of mega-structures like the Colosseum.
If you’re interested in veering just slightly off of the beaten path while visiting the city, be sure to check out a few of the most exciting hidden gems to be found in modern Rome!
1. Fontana di Trevi
Depicting the god Neptune supported by Tritons and set against the beautiful Poli Palace, the Fontana di Trevi is considered by many locals to be one of the most beautiful spots in the entire city. Designed and built for Pope Celemente XII by Nicola Salvi in the late 1700s, local lore has it that throwing a penny into the fountain over one’s left shoulder will help ensure a swift return to the city, a clear blessing for anyone who has visited Rome.
2. Castel Sant’Angelo
Originally constructed to serve as a massive mausoleum and church for Roman Emperor Hadrian in 139 CE, the Castel Sant’Angelo was rebuilt as a fortified castle nearly 1,000 years later before finally being converted into the luxurious and art-filled residence of Pope Alexander VI Borgia. Today, the castle stands as a public museum, offering visitors the opportunity to candidly explore a piece of ancient history in its open halls; be sure not to miss one of the most thorough collections of suits of armor in the world.
3. Piazza Navona
Boasting a beautiful sculpted fountain, crafted by the famed Bernini and dubbed “The Fountain of Rivers,” the Piazza Navona is set against a towering obelisk and today typically plays host to merchants selling their wares. This area is a must-see for visitors staying in Rome during the Christmas season when it plays host to hundreds of merchants selling toys, sweets and holiday decorations to throngs of jubilant customers.
4. Galleria Nazionale dell’Arte Moderna
Helping tourists to keep in mind that Rome’s history extends far past ancient times, the Galleria Nazionale dell’Arte Moderna, Rome’s national modern art gallery, showcases pieces created in the 19th and 20th centuries. With a special focus on works inspired during the days of the macchiaoli, a movement of expression that saw painters use a style based on colored dots to make features distinguishable only from particular distances, this stop on your Roman itinerary allows you to be refreshed with the new in the midst of the old.
5. Piazza di Spagna
Home of the Spanish Steps leading to the Chiesa di Trinita dei Monti, the Piazza di Spagna is a large public square near the center of Rome. Whether you visit in order to get a prime look at the renowned fountains, the many famous streets that lead into it or some of the modern attractions that take place there, the Piazza di Spagna offers something for every visitor.
The opportunities to find and explore the hidden wonders and treasures of Rome are nearly endless and there is no other city in the world that combines so well the impressions of days past and present. While you should definitely make a point to stop at the big five or 10 attractions that draw the majority of visitors to Rome, one should never forget the hidden treasures of Rome that can be found in the most inconspicuous of the city’s corners.