Rome Hills and Hidden Gems
Use our Rome self-guided tour to experience some of the more unusual and fun things to do in Rome, Italy. Our Rome Hills and Hidden Gems tour includes the Eternal City’s very best views, most colorful piazzas, and legendary attractions. You choose the mode of transportation. The tour works well by scooter, golf cart, or electric bike.
The itinerary, as calculated by Google maps, is 11-kms. With you at the helm, this Rome self-guided tour can be completed in about 4-5 hours. The route utilizes city streets on the outskirts of the Centro Storico (historic center). Have a GPS available for if you get off-track. The maze of linking alleys and avenues can be tricky, but getting lost is part of the adventure.
Most of the Rome attractions (ruins, churches, panoramic views, and fun landmarks) on this self-guided tour are free or low cost. It’s a great way to decompress from the crowds, get some fresh air, and see how the locals live. Grab your camera and prepare to enjoy Rome off the beaten path.
Free Rome Attractions: The attractions that are free on this tour include the Bridge of Angels, Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori, Jewish Ghetto, Trastevere, Mouth of Truth, Largo di Torre Argentina Theater, Piazza del Campidoglio, Circus Maximus, Aventine Gardens, and Santa Sabina Church.
This self-guided Rome city tour is designed to see the outside of Castel Sant Angelo and the Colosseum. If you wish to enter these Rome attractions the tour will be significantly longer and there will be admission costs.
For more information on travel to this area, read our other Rome and Italy blog posts on:
ROME HILLS AND HIDDEN GEMS TOUR ROUTE (STOPS 1-14)
Castel Sant’ Angelo: (Address: Lungotevere Castello, 50, Rome)
Between the Vatican and the Tiber River stands the Castel Sant Angelo (aka Mausoleum of Hadrian). Over the years, the cylinder-shaped fortress has served as an Emperor’s tomb, a papal residence, and a prison. Today, the Castel is a museum that is open to the public. Cruise around the star-shaped fortress. Explore the beautiful path that runs along the Tiber River in front of complex. Then, head to the Bridge of Angels.
Bridge of Angels: (Address: Ponte Sant’Angelo Bridge, Rome)
Linking the Castel Sant’ Angelo to the center of ancient Rome is the Bridge of Angles. This gorgeous, pedestrian only bride has provided passage across the Tiber River since the Roman empire ruled. The bridge that stands today is a 17th century Bernini inspired project. Ten magnificent angle statues adorn the overpass.
Take a few minutes to walk the bridge. On one side of the bridge enjoy views of Castel Sant Angelo and Vatican City. On the other, see Centro Storico.
Piazza Navona: (Address: Piazza Navona, Rome)
From the Bridge of Angles, make your way to Piazza Navona. Note: if you are in a motorized vehicle you will need to go to an adjacent bridge to cross the Tiber River. The next portion of the route dips into Rome’s Centro Storico, but the crowds will be worth it.
Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most beautiful and historic gathering spaces. Shaped like a race track, the plaza was originally built as a Roman stadium for athletic competitions (Circus Agonalis). Over the millennia, it has functioned as a venue for chariot racing, religious ceremonies, and countless festivals. There is always a crowd eating and being entertained by musicians and street performers in this vibrant plaza.
Campo di Fiori: (Address: Campo di Fiori, Rome)
From Piazza Navona, head to one of Rome’s most ancient markets. Campo di Fiori (field of flowers) is a charming square that has been the location of a market six days a week since the 15th century. On market mornings, wooden stalls fill with produce, spices, flowers, and other goods. Customers wander beneath colorful umbrellas and a statue of Giordano Bruno (an Italian philosopher who was burned at the stake in 1600).
Campo di Fiori is surrounded by restaurants and bars with outdoor seating, and vine-covered shops. It also has the distinction of being the only piazza in Rome that is not anchored by a church. This is a great place to pause for a gelato and shop for souvenirs.
Jewish Ghetto - Rome: (Address: Via del Portico d'Ottavia, Rome)
The next stop on the tour is to wander the Via del Portico di Octavio in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. The street is the center of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. In 1555, Pope Paul IV decreed that all Jews must live within the district. The ghetto endured despite floods, overcrowding, and plagues through the end of World War II (when over 1000 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps).
Take some time to explore the synagogues, kosher shops, and Italian / Kosher restaurants that characterize the neighborhood. At the end of Via del Portico, wander a group of well-preserved Roman ruins that includes the Octavia’s Portico complex with the Jupiter and Juno temples.
Trastevere: (Address: Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome)
From here, you will cross the Tiber River into the fun and colorful neighborhood of Trastevere. Away from Centro Storico, the atmosphere morphs into a less frenetic, more laid-back vibe. Explore the areas around Piazza di San Calisto and Piazza Santa Marie. Throughout the district, visitors will find buildings painted in varying shades of ochre, and lanes canopied with flowers and vines.
Peruse the many trattorias, taverns, and artisan shops that call Trastevere home. If uyou like visiting churches, see if the gilded Basilica di Santa Maria is open.
Mouth of Truth: (Piazza della Bocca della Verità, Rome)
Leaving Trastevere, cross the Tiber River and ride along its banks until reaching the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Located in the church’s portico (columned porch) is the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita). The “mouth” is a marble mask that is said to bite the hand of those who have lied. The famous Rome attraction, representing the God of the Sea, draws couples who want to test each other’s faithfulness (and many tourists) by sticking their hand in the mask’s mouth.
Marcello Theater: (Address: Via del Teatro di Marcello, Rome)
The Theatre of Marcellus is a large, well-preserved open-air theater. Construction on the ancient structure began in the time of Julius Caesar. At its completion, the theater held some 11,000 to 40,000 spectators. The entertainment consisted primarily of musical and dramatic performances. After passing by the Marcellus, it is a short jaunt to the views of Capitoline Hill.
Capitoline Hill & Piazza del Campidoglio: (Address: Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome)
One of the founding seven hills of Rome, Capitoline Hill has a long and storied history. Evidence of habitation on the hill dates back to the Bronze age. Later, the hill’s strategic position made it the epicenter of the Roman Empire when several important temples were erected upon it.
By the 16th century, the area had fallen into disrepair and Pope Paul III charged Michelangelo with revitalizing the square. Michelangelo redesigned the Piazza del Campidoglio, and changed its orientation from the Roman Forum to St. Peter’s Basilica. The new square has a grand staircase leading to the piazza, and an enormous equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.
Today, the square is often mentioned as one of the most beautiful in Rome. Tourists visit the historic buildings surrounding the piazza including the Palazzo Senatorio (the oldest town hall in the world), the Capitoline museums (with the legendary wolf statue), and the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Take some time to walk the staircase and enjoy the sights from the top.
Largo di Torre Argentina: (Address: Largo di Torre Argentina, Rome)
Departing Piazza del Campidoglio, the route dips back into Centro Storico until reaching the Largo di Torre Argentina. Situated on Champ de Mars, the archeological site was hidden until the area underwent a period of redevelop in the 1920s. After the unearthing of a statue, excavations were initiated which led to the discovery of four Roman temples and the Theater of Pompey.
This Rome attraction is not open to the public. However, the ruins sit in the middle of a Roman neighborhood, and are visible from the street. While walking the perimeter of the site, look for the well-known colony of cats that inhabit the area.
Colosseum: (Address: Via di S. Gregorio, Rome)
Next, head to the spectacular Roman Colosseum. On the way you will pass the Roman Forum and have views of Palatine Hill in the distance.
At the Colosseum, ride around the road ringing the oval shaped amphitheater. Park by the Arch of Constantine near the main entrance. Take a close up look of the arch and Colosseum. The Colosseum is the biggest amphitheater ever constructed.
At this site, the emperor of Rome would host brutal and bloody gladiator competitions for the entertainment of the masses. From the grounds you can see a view of the Colosseum’s inner and outer walls. Then, use the public restrooms, and buy a ticket to visit inside the Colosseum on another day.
Circus Maximus: (Address: Via del Circo Massimo, Rome)
Travel on to Circus Maximus. The flat open area was once the largest chariot racing stadium in ancient Rome. At its height, the stadium could hold over 150,000 spectators. Chariot racing was a hugely popular (and dangerous) sport in ancient Rome that attracted a fierce and loyal following. Today, the area is a city park that is free to the public. Many concerts and festivals are held here.
Aventine Hill: (Address: Piazza Pietro D'Illiria, Rome)
From Circus Maximus, journey on to one of the most elegant residential neighborhoods in Rome. Aventine Hill is one of the original seven hills of ancient Rome. The hill features prominently in the legend of Romulus and Remus. During the Roman era, the hill was home to many Roman patricians (noblemen).
Don’t miss a trip to this stunning location. On the ride to the top of the hill, pass through blocks of beautiful residences. Out of the hubbub of the city, this neighborhood offers visitors a glance into the ordinary comings and goings of local Romans.
At the Aventine Hill summit, visitors will come upon a park that offers panoramic views of St. Peter’s Dome and the city. Onsite, there is an Orange Garden, Roseto Comunale, Mascherone Fountain, and beautiful paths to stroll. In the afternoon, classical musicians often busk in the shade. Nearby is the famous Key Hole. Peeking through the “key hole” of a private garden, visitors get a view of St. Peter’s framed by the garden.
Santa Sabina Church: (Address: Piazza Pietro D'Illiria, Rome)
When in Rome, your last stop on any outing should always be a church (they are everywhere). Today, we will end our self-guided Rome Hills and Hidden Gems tour with a visit to the Santa Sabina Church at the top of Aventine Hill. One of the earliest churches built in Rome, the structure was constructed with materials stripped from the Roman buildings upon which it sits.
There is much to see in this interesting little basilica from the heavy wooden doors to the ancient mosaics and marble-work. While inside, explore the three naves that are separated by soaring Corinthian columns. This church is much less visited than many in Centro Storico. It is a treat to visit such a beautiful structure in relative solitude.
We hope you enjoyed taking a route less traveled. Arrivederci! Laura and Randy
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