5 hidden gems in Rome

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The eternal city may boast some of the most famous historical attractions in the world, but Rome is also home to plenty of lesser known, but equally interesting hidden gems.

Villa Medici offers stunning gardens and a panoramic view of Rome close to the Spanish Steps. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the whole city from this fabled monument. Villa Medici was built in 1540 and was owned by Napoleon in 1801. Some of the world’s best artists, sculptors and composers came here to study. The villa still hosts regular exhibitions and performances with 20 artists and musicians in residence.

Take a guided tour of the Villa and gardens and take time out to enjoy some delicious Italian food at the onsite café.

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Borromini’s Perspective is one of Rome’s weirdest hidden gems and is something of an oddity by anyone’s standards. This gallery has been designed to make visitors believe that it stretches for almost 40 metres while its actual length is just 8 metres. The incredible effect is created by a rising floor, descending ceiling and lateral columns which become gradually smaller. The Roman warrior at the end of the gallery is just 60cm high.

The Palazzo Spada, where Borromini’s Perspective is situated is an impressive gallery filled with paintings, sculptures and furniture from Cardinal Spada’s private collection. There are works by Rubens, Titian, Caravaggio and Brueghel the Elder to admire.

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The stunning San Luigi dei Francesi church is dedicated to St Louis IX, King of France. Many outstanding artworks are exhibited but the most famous are the Caravvagio paintings in the Contarelli Chapel. The paintings were created from 1599-1600 and depict the life of St Matthew with striking contrasts of light and shade. Today, entrance to the church is free but you’ll be wise to spend a few coins in the slot machine to light up the paintings and see them at their very best.

Rose Garden

The Rome Rose Garden and the Garden of Oranges are two of the most romantic spots in Rome. Also known as Parco Savello, the park offers breath-taking, panoramic views of Rome and is home to orange trees and colourful rose gardens. Open from April to June, the park boasts over 1,000 varieties of roses and views to Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill. The walls of a former medieval castle still surround the park.

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Probably the world’s most quirky lie detector, the Bocca della Verita, or Mouth of Truth is a stone image of a face in the entrance to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The sculpture is said to be part of an ancient Roman fountain which represents the God of the River Tiber. From the Middle Ages onwards, locals believed that if you told a lie with your hand in the mouth of the sculpture it would be bitten off.

Trastavere

Rome is full of superb restaurants offering delicious Italian cuisine but if you want to explore one of the liveliest areas, go to Trastevere. This Medieval district is home to cobbled streets and alleyways, lively nightlife and some of the best food Rome has to offer. Visit the Piazza Santa Maria in the heart of Trastevere and enjoy people watching in one of the pavement cafes.

Book a Trastevere food tour to enjoy some of the best artisan cheeses, ice creams, pasta and authentic Roman produce.