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Secrets of Rome
This note converted from a discussion on our forums.
Many have seen the major tourist attractions of Rome, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, a visit to Vatican City. Here are some member responses to the question, "Please, those of you who know the city well, would you share a few of your favorite sights?"
We have also created this corresponding map to show you where these sights are located.
Dragonphligh shares, "I love the view from the top of the Vittorio Emmanuele monument in Piazza Venezia. You can climb the steps to the top of the building, where you can get a cocktail at the very modern bar." You can also pay €7, to take a glass elevator to the top (aka Roma Del Cielo). Open 9:30am - 5:30pm in the summer, until 4:30pm in the winter.
Amica adds, "I also love the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele both for the views noted above, but also for the special exhibits they have. One year, there was an exhibit about Italy and the holocaust that was very informative and moving. I visited over several days because there was so much information. Last year, there was an excellent exhibit on the emigration of Italians to both the US and other foreign countries during the late 19th and early 20th century."
Around La Sapienza (San Lorenzo)
According to Starlings, "This is an area that is low on monuments and 'attractions' but is full of interest, at least for me." In this residential neighborhood, near the Tiburtina train station, Starling recommends:
The Verano Monumental Cemetery is located at Piazzale del Verano, 1 at the end of Via Tiburtina. The cemetery is open to the public from 7:30am to 6pm (October 1 - March 31) and from 7:30am to 7pm (April 1 to September 30). It has been a burial place for over 2,000 years. Nine different guided tours are offered (though these may only be in Italian), lasting about two hours each and reservations are required. For more information, see the Visite guidate al Verano (Guided tours of Verano) page on their main website.
Said, a family owned and operated store/restaurant has been making their own chocolate delights for over 90 years. You can find them at Via Tiburtina 135. Starlings recommends their Chocolate with Black Pepper.
This seafood restaurant is located at Via dei Falisci 1/b one block off Via Tiburtina and is open daily, except Sunday for lunch (1pm - 3pm) and dinner (8pm - 11pm).
Located north of the Villa Borghese at Viale delle Belle Arti 131, the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (modern art) is open 8:30am until 7:30pm daily except Monday and national holidays. Amica says, "On my last visit to Rome, I went to the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna and enjoyed it very much. I should point out that while there is what I would normally think of as "modern art", there are also works by Van Gogh, Monet, Canova, Cezanne, and others from the 19th century."
The Palace for the Pamphilj family, the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, located at Via del Corso 305, is open daily from 10:00am until 5pm, closed on Christmas Day and Easter. It costs €10.50 for standard entry and reservations are not required. The Galleria contains much 17th Century artwork including works from Caravaggio and Carracci as well as Renaissance works by Titian and Raphael among others.
The National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia houses an extensive collection of Etruscan artifacts in a villa built by Pope Julius III during the 1500s. The museum is open daily except Monday from 8:30am until 7:30pm. It is also closed on New Year's Day, May Day (May 1) and Christmas Day. Tickets cost €8 and the museum is located northwest of the Villa Borghese at Piazzale di Villa Giulia, 9.
The Spada Gallery located at Piazza Capo di Ferro, 13 houses the art collection of Cardinal Spada featuring works of the 16th and 17th century including those by Caravaggio, Titian and Artemisia Gentileschi (featured in the fictional book, The Passion of Artemisia) as well as the Borromini Perspective. American in Parigi says, "I loved the false-perspective colonnade in the Palazzo Spada. Trompe-l'oeuil is an art form that I have always been fond of. The colonnade perspective is especially fun."
You can visit the Gallery at the Palazzo, Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30am to 7:30pm and tickets, which can be booked in advance, cost €5.
While no longer the secret it once was, as Jane says, "...one of my favorites is Basilica di San Clemente. It is a major site but not one of THE major sites." The Basilica itself is a 12th century church with beautiful mosaics and frescoes. Yet, what's really special is that this church is built atop an earlier 4th century church which was built upon 1st century buildings including a temple of Mithras and you can tour all levels, traveling back in time.
Located at Via Labicana, 95 you can tour the excavations and church Monday to Saturday from 9am to 12:30pm and 3pm to 6pm (last entrance to the excavations is at 12:10pm and 5:40pm respectively). On Sundays and state holidays from noon until 6pm (last entrance to the excavations at 5:40pm). The cost is €5.
The Palazzo Massimo located in the Piazza dei Cinquecento was built in the late 19th century and houses the National Roman Museum which contains such artifacts as the Boxer at Rest as well as The Painted Garden of the Villa of Livia, from the times of the Emporer Augustus (63 BCE – 14 AD). JChrisP says, "One of our favorite places is the Palazzo Massimo, near Termini. We especially love the frescos from the dining room of Livia, the wife of Augustus Caesar."
You can visit the Museum daily from 9am to 7:45pm, except for Mondays. You can purchase a single ticket which will not only cover this museum but also the Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi and the Baths of Diocletian for €7 and it is good for three days. The museum is located at Largo di Villa Peretti near Termini station.
The Basilica Sant'Andrea della Valle is located on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. SJ says, "...it's really beautiful inside, all blue and gold."
The Cloisters of Bramante, located within Santa Maria della Pace, are open daily from 10am to 8pm and house exhibitions as well as a bistro-caffeteria. According to Doru, "Had there the most quiet and discreet coffee possible in the heavenly surroundings of the second level of the Chiostro."
The church, located upon the Gianicolo hill in Piazza di San Pietro in Montorio and featuring within its within its courtyard, Bramante's Tempietto, is a favorite of Doru. The Church of San Pietro in Montorio is open Monday to Friday from 8:30am until noon and then again from 3pm to 4pm on non festival days.
The Basilica of Saint Sabina is located in Piazza Pietro D'Illiria in the Aventine section of Rome. Fibonacci says, "I like Basilica of Saint Sabina at the Aventine and the enclosed garden of orange trees just north of the church." The church is open daily from 8:15am until 12:30pm and again from 3:30pm until 6pm. You may not enter the church during mass and they suggest you contact the church for hours as schedules are subject to change.
Ellens says, "I just love this church, and the mosaics are amazing." The Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere is located at Via della Paglia, 14/C. The church is open daily from 7:30am until 8pm. You may not enter the church during mass and they suggest you contact the church for hours as schedules are subject to change.
Ellens says, "Bernini's Ecstacy here rivals the one at Santa Maria della Vittoria (which should also be seen, to compare) and you can get much closer to it." San Francesco a Ripa is open daily from 8am until 1:30pm and from 2pm to 7:30pm. You cannot visit the church during mass as it is primarily a house of worship. You can also visit the "Chapel" of De Chirico and the Museum of St. Charles of Sezze with a guide but this must be booked ahead of time.
The Churches of the Quirinale
San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, designed by Borromini and built in the 1600s, is a prime example of Baroque architecture. It is located at Via del Quirinale, 23 near the corner of Via delle Quattro Fontane. The church is open Monday to Friday from 10:00am to 1pm and again from 3pm to 6pm. On Tuesday though, it does not repopen at 3pm and on Friday it closes at noon with mass at 11am. During the months of July and August, the opening hours are 10:00am to 1pm Monday to Saturday, and noon to 1pm on Sundays with mass at 11am.
Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, also built in the 1600s and designed by Bernini is another example of the Baroque architechture of the time. It is also located on Via del Quirinale at #29. Sunday mass is at 10:30am and you can arrange a guided tour by contacting the church.
Located at Via della Lungara, 230, in the Trastevere neighborhood, Villa Farnesina contains many examples of Renaissance art including frescoes by Raphael. Ellen says, "Great architecture and frescos, and very few tourists (although I have run into a fair number of Italian school field trips here)." The villa is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 2pm; closed on Sundays and holidays. There are guided tours in English on Saturday at 10am. If you bring your admission ticket from the Vatican museum (within 7 days of use), you can receive a reduced admission to the villa otherwise admission is €6.
The Wedding of Alexander and Roxanne by Sodoma
It surprises many of our members how many people miss a visit to Castel Sant' Angelo, also known as The Mausoleum of Hadrian, during trips to Rome. The Castel, originally built over 2,000 years ago has had a varied history, starting as a mausoleum, then a fortress, a refuge (especially after the contstruction of the Passetto, linking the Vatican to the castle), a prison and now a museum. The Castel is open daily, except Mondays, from 9am to 7:30pm. It also closes for Christmas Day and New Year's Day. It costs €10.50 to visit the castel. You can purchase tickets on site (ticket window closes at 6:30pm) or online via www.gebart.it (service fees may apply). The Castel participates in the Roma Pass program.
Ara Pacis Augustae or altar of peace was built during the rule of Augustus in commemoration of some battles including his securing control over the Alps. Lost over time, its rediscovery and reconstruction was completed in 1938. However, the original restoration and the building which housed the altar did not suffice, so a project was undertaken, designed by architect Richard Meier, to create a new home for the altar leading to the creation of the Museo dell'Ara Pacis.
In addition to housing the Ara Pacis, the museum offers different exhibitions and events. The museum is located on the Lungotevere in Augusta near the southern intersection with Passeggiata di Ripetta. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday: 9am until 7pm. On Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve from 9am until 2pm (last admission is an hour before closing). It's closed on Mondays, New Year's Day, May Day and Christmas Day. Ticket prices vary based upon exhibitions and may be purchased at the site or online at www.ticketclic.it.
Early Christian Churches
Around the corner from the more well known Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (also worth a visit), sits the Basilica di Santa Prassede. Built in the 800s on the remains of an earlier church, this jewel of a church is known for its incredible mosaics. The church, located at Via di Santa Prassede 9a, is open daily from 7am to 12:30 pm, and from 4pm until 6:30pm.
Also in the same neighborhood as Santa Prassede, the church of Santa Pudenziana is known for being the oldest place of Christian worship in Rome, originally built in the 2nd century encompassing part of a bath house it contains beautiful mosaics going back to the 4th century. It is located at 160 Via Urbana.
As Jim Zurer says, "The mosaics in the early Christian churches of Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana are remarkable..."
Closer to the Basilica of San Clemente, the original church was built in the 6th century upon the remains of a Roman villa. According to AER, "the medieval basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati, on the Celian hill (stone's throw from the Colosseum) ... boasts beautifully-preserved 13th-century frescoes..." The cloisters are also worth a look. The church is located at Via dei Santi Quattro, 20. The church is open from 6:30am until 12:45pm and again from 3:00pm until 7:45pm. The cloister is open from 10:00am until 11:45 am and from 4pm until 5:45pm. Like other churches, the chapel is not open during Mass (11am on holidays, 6:30pm on weekdays and 8:45am on Saturdays though these times are subject to change).
Accoding to Jim Zurer, "The Roman sculptures displayed in the former electric power plant in the Centro Montemartini Museum..." are worth seeing. The museum is located outside the city center at Via Ostiense 106 but can be reached via mass transportation. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am until 7pm and on Christmas and New Year's Eve from 9am until 2pm (last admission 30 minutes before closing). It is closed Mondays, New Year's Day, May Day and Christmas Day.
San Pietro in Vincoli is home to several famous items, among them the sculpture of Moses by Michaelangelo as well as the chains uesd to bind St. Peter, which are housed under the main altar. The church is located at Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a and is open daily from 8am until 12:30pm and again from 3:30pm until 6:30pm.
Another example of Baroque architecture, Santa Maria della Vittoria is known for housing Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa. Located at Via XX Settembre 17. The church is open daily from 7am until noon and then again from 3:30pm until 7pm. Like other churches, you cannot visit during mass.
Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio sits in the center of Rome, not far from the Pantheon. Located on Via del Caravita, 8a, Zia Alfonso tells us, "drop in to see Andrea Pozzo's ceiling frescoes, especially the tromp l'oeil dome. (A "dome" from the angle below, but stand right under it, and you'll see it was painted on a flat surface)." The church is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30am until 7pm (in August in opens at 9am) and on Sundays and holidays from 9am until 7pm. Be aware that mass is held at 8am and 6pm Monday through Saturday (only 6pm in August) and on Sundays and holidays at 11:30am and 6pm. Free guided tours are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays except in August.
Not as much of a secret as it once was, the Scavi Tour takes you down to the Necropolis (city of the dead) below Saint Peter's. You can find more information on the Vatican Website in the "Monuments" section under St. Peter's Basilica, Pre-Constantinian Necropolis also read our article, The Vatican's Scavi Tour - Excavations under St. Peter's Basilica. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
Lesser Rome: other lesser known sights in Rome.
City Secrets Rome: a book recommended by many members for discovering the city's hidden gems.
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