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Rome Hidden Gems Blog Header

Rome's Best Kept Secrets

shannon levi
by Shannon Levi

May 10, 2022

3 minute read

As a born and bred Roman, I often get asked for my preferred off-the-beaten-path locales in the Eternal City. There is so much to see here in Rome, from the ancient ruins of the Colosseum to the majesty of the Vatican and everywhere in between, but to experience the city like a true local, you’ll have to go a bit deeper.  

Read on for a few of my favorite ways to soak up an authentic Roman vibe. 

Rione Monti, a small neighborhood in downtown Rome is great for food, shopping, and just general atmosphere. If you turn a corner from the busy Via Nazionale or Via Cavour thoroughfares, this lively neighborhood with its ivy-clad buildings and cobblestone streets feels a bit like stepping back in time. It’s a great place to peruse independently owned shops selling both vintage and locally designed clothes, jewelry, and accessories. There are plenty of great restaurants here too—especially around Piazetta Monti (Little Monti Square). Here you’ll find local Roman food as well as some international (there’s actually a great little sushi place and a wonderful Indian restaurant!). If you’re looking for a bakery, check out the one at the intersection of Via Panisperna and Via dei Serpenti. 

Later in the day, beginning around 6 p.m., the neighborhood is a hot spot for aperitivo time (a sort of Italian style happy hour) and popular with a younger, rowdier crowd. For a more relaxed atmosphere, start with a sunset walk at the Terrazza del Pincio (Pincio Terrace) inside Rome’s Borghese Garden (once the private property of a Cardinal!). Pincio has the best view over Rome, and— contrary to the Spanish Steps —it’s mostly frequented by locals, including families with children playing among the trees and shrubs.  

Rome Hidden Gems Blog Inset 1 Borghese Garden

Then make your way downhill to the impressive, rounded Piazza del Popolo with its twin churches (there are three on the plaza—two twins and a single which hosts a gorgeous painting by Caravaggio), and pause for an aperitivo drink at Caffe’ Canova. Fellini fans will want to treat themselves to one of the outdoor tables to enjoy the Dolce Vita—the famous director lived nearby and used to have coffee or aperitivo right here!  

Conclude the walk with a romantic stroll down the peaceful and pedestrianized Via Margutta (where Fellini lived) and search for the gate to the building where Roman Holiday was filmed!  

Rome Hidden Gems Blog Inset 2 Via Margutta

Along this small street you can also find one of Rome’s disappearing artisan crafts, the “Marmoraro,” or marble plaque carver. You could hire the artisan to carve anything from the street number for your house to a little plaque with a traditional good luck phrase or a “beware of the dog” warning sign. Look for “Il Marmoraro.”  

And one last thing—if you’re a night owl like me (or a very early morning riser), find out if there’s a Cornetto-Notte anywhere near your hotel! It’s traditional in Rome, at the end of a night out, to stop at bakeries that are only open at night. They open at sunset, work all night baking croissants (in Rome we call them “cornetto”) and pastries for the local cafés, then send out the deliveries at sunrise and close down the shop. But at night, they’re also open for sale to the public so you can hop in for a freshly baked croissant—there’s truly nothing like it! 

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