Rome is a fantastic blend of ancient ruins and modern marvels, but it’s also the 12th most visited city in the world.
So while the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Colosseum, Piazza Navona, Vatican, Pantheon, and Roman Forum are absolutely worth visiting, it’s also nice to escape the crowds when you’re here.
Here are some lesser-known spots to explore Rome Off The Beaten Path!
Tiber Island is the only island in the part of the Tiber River that runs through Rome. This island is connected to the “mainland” by bridges on both sides, and it’s home to the beautiful Basilica of St. Bartholomew.
This island has always been associated with medicine and healing. It used to be the site of an ancient temple to the healing demigod Asclepius. And throughout Rome’s history, there’s always been a hospital or place of healing here.
Tiber Island is only about a fifteen-minute walk from the Roman Forum, but you’ll be amazed at how few tourists are here compared to the ancient city-center.
Church of St. Ignatius
The Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius (what a name! Thankfully, it’s also just called the Church of St. Ignatius) is a Roman Catholic church built in the 17th century in honor of the founder of the Jesuit Society.
There’s nothing eye-catching about the exterior of this church. You could walk right by it and never realize what you had missed, but the inside is an astonishing work of art.
The alters are ornately decorated, frescos line the walls, and the ceiling is a masterpiece. Your neck will be as stiff from looking up in here as in the Sistine Chapel.
This church is just a short walk from the Pantheon. There’s no entry fee to the church, and it’s open Sundays from 9:00 am – 7:00 pm and Monday – Saturday from 7:30 am – 7:00 pm
Imperial forums were public squares that were the political centers of the Roman Empire. Trajan’s Forum was the last and largest of these gathering spaces, built by Emperor Trajan in 112 AD and 113 AD. This forum consisted of an enormous basilica, two libraries, markets, Trajan’s Column, and a large temple.
Historians believe that, in its prime, Trajan’s Forum was one of the most impressive and magnificent groups of buildings in Rome. Today, you can see Trajan’s Column in its entirety and wander through the remains of the shops in Trajan’s Market – considered the world’s first shopping mall.
Trajan’s Forum is only about a ten-minute walk from the Colosseum and the Vittoriano – the Victory Monument to Vittorio Emanuelle II.
Fun Fact: The carvings on Trajan’s Column tell the story of Trajan’s victory over the Dacians (modern-day Romania). The engravings on the column would measure about 660 feet/200 meters if they were laid flat.
Ostia Antica is an archaeological site about 20 miles/32 kilometers southwest of Rome. It used to be the seaport of ancient Rome, but because of erosion, silting, and time, the city now sits about 2 miles/3 kilometers from the sea.
You might have had your “fill” of ruins by this point in your trip, but in addition to its exceptional preserved ancient buildings, Ostia Antica is known for its magnificent frescoes and mosaics.
Because Ostia Antica is so close to Rome, it makes for a great half-day trip. By car, Ostia Antica is less than an hour’s drive from Rome. Pro Tip: make sure you’ve programmed your GPS for Ostia Antica and not the modern-day town of Ostia.
Via public transportation, it also only takes about an hour to get to Ostia Antica. You’ll take the metro line B and get off at Piramide. Then take the Roma Lido commuter train to Ostia Antica, and the archaeological site is a ten-minute walk from there.
Ponte Umberto I
Rome has lots of bridges, most of which give you lovely views of the city. But Ponte Umberto I gives you the best views of any bridge in the city! From here, you can see the Ponte Sant’Angelo and Saint Peter’s Basilica at their best angles.
I recommend coming here in the evening for even smaller crowds and to see the basilica at night.
Even though I’d seen pictures of this place, I was skeptical about really being able to see the dome of St. Peter’s through a perfectly aligned keyhole, garden, and opening in the city skyline. But you really can!
The keyhole is a regular, tiny keyhole, so the view is comically small. But the borderline-absurdity of the alignment is what makes this view so unique and stellar.
Plus, the walk up and down the Aventine Hill (which is one of the “seven hills of Rome”) to the keyhole is lovely.
The Janiculum Hill is the second highest hill in Rome, but it’s not one of the “seven hills of Rome” because it’s outside the ancient city. From here, you have some of the most incredible views of the Roman skyline.
In Roman mythology, this hill was the epicenter of ancient cultists who worshiped the two-faced god Janus. Janiculum was also the preferred site of ancient priests who interpreted the will of the gods by studying the flights of birds.
This Hill is thought to be the site of St. Peter’s crucifixion, and a small shrine called the Tempietto marks where Peter was supposedly killed.
The Janiculum Hill is about an hour’s walk from the Roman Forum, but there’s also a bus stop at the foot of the hill.
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