We all know that Rome is a pretty cool place to visit. It’s home to the Colosseum, Pantheon, Sistine Chapel and so much pizza you’ll probably come home about 5kgs heavier. But that’s all stuff you can get from reading a guidebook – what about Rome’s hidden gems and fiercely guarded secrets?
I take it as my responsibility to reveal all secrets and spill all beans in order to bring you the most exhaustive account possible of this historic city. Come with me (or at least pretend) as we journey around the real Rome and discover three of its beautiful off-the-beaten-path attractions.
A view like no other
Make sure you see all the sights during your Roman holiday by journeying to some (or all!) of the myriad vantage points Rome offers to see a unique side to the city. Warning: some of these may involve walking uphill, but you’ll need to burn off that pizza somehow.
Gianicolo Hill, also known as Colle del Gianicolo, is well worth the somewhat tiresome walk up. Take a bottle of water, a snack and your camera because when you reach the top you’ll want to get snap-happy – this hill offers possibly the best panoramic views anywhere in Rome. Time your visit around midday and you’ll hear the cannon that has fired every day since the battle for Rome was won.
For something a bit more romantic, don’t miss the Knights of Malta Keyhole on Aventine Hill. It’s like something you’d see in a fairytale, giving you the most gorgeous view of St Peter’s framed beautifully by lush foliage.
And for those who can’t get enough of pretty things, schedule in a trip to Monte Mario. This is the highest peak in Rome, located about a 15-minute drive from the inner city, and is particularly stunning if you visit at night.
Cats, cats and more cats
The Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is an animal-lover’s dream. If you don’t like cats, I’d advise staying away as you may find the Sanctuary a bit creepy. But if you’re fond of furry friends, this is the place for you.
Head to the ancient ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina to discover around 250 cute, cuddly, curious and sometimes crazy cats. These little guys have found refuge in the ancient ruins throughout history, and these days there’s a team of volunteers who feed, clean and look after them every day of the week. Visitors are always welcome at the Sanctuary, so don’t be shy!
Villa Doria Pamphilj
When you think of Rome, you don’t necessarily conjure up images of sprawling parklands complete with manicured gardens and leafy trees. At Villa Doria Pamphilj, however, that’s exactly what you’ll find. It’s the largest park in the city and has regal roots – it originated as the private estate of Prince Camillo Pamphilj. Relax beneath an umbrella pine tree, smell the citrus in the air and watch the clouds float by in this truly idyllic public space.