Hidden Rome – neglected treasures of the Eternal City
Rome swelters in August – and it’s packed with tourists too. So it’s a perfect time to slip away from the crowds and get a down-home sense of this city.
While you won’t want to miss Rome’s big draws, add a couple of the city’s more secluded corners to your itinerary, and discover its quirky and quiet sides:
1. Stake out a secret garden
Make your escape to a shady spot away from the bustle and noise. The landscaped grounds of Villa Torlonia (Via Nomentana) may be grand, but they afford space and stillness. They’re also full of eccentric buildings and out-of-the-way nooks – perfect for when you want to get lost.
Best for: lovers and weary travellers
2. Savour a signature flavour
What Italian treat beats the heat? Gelato, of course! Little ones love traditional flavours, and thankfully you’ll find the standards everywhere. But seek out a gelateria with a distinctive selection, and you’ll discover an authentic pleasure for grown-ups too. Try Il Gelato di San Crespino on the Via della Panetteria, where the house speciality is crema with honey, and other flavours include chestnut and rum, and fresh walnut and dried fig.
Best for: little ones and kids at heart
3. Hunt for flea-market treasure
Rome’s Porta Portese flea-market is Sunday-morning heaven for seekers of second-hand finds. But it’s also a brilliant place to re-awaken your curiosity if you’re jaded by the tourist trail. Stroll among stalls offering everything from tat to genuine treasure, fill up on street-food, catch musical snatches from buskers – and soak up the atmosphere amid a diverse jumble of Romans and out-of-towners.
Best for: bargain-hunters and people-watchers
4. Eat in a family-friendly restaurant
Eating out is a way of life in Rome, so you’ll find no shortage of restaurants that give a warm welcome to family parties of all sizes, and are good at accommodating kids too. Wander your hotel neighbourhood for a place that appeals. It may become your ‘local’ for a few days! Wood-panelled Trattoria der Pallaro (Largo del Pallaro) is a classic example – but there are countless others.
Best for: families of all shapes
5. Cycle the Appian Way
Most visitors to Rome see the Via Appia Antica jammed with traffic on their way to the catacombs. But on Sundays it’s traffic free – except for cyclists. Rent a bike and get a new perspective on this ancient road. Just be warned: its flagstones are bumpy, so it’s easiest to follow the dirt path already worn by cyclists on its grassy shoulder.
Best for: anyone with moderate fitness
What do you think… do any of these ideas take your fancy? Have you been there, done this? Let us know in the comments below.