Everybody goes to the Colosseum. You think of Rome and this tourist attraction is one of the first things that comes to your mind. The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, the Column of Trajan, and Piazza Navona, these places are the buzz words of Rome. While it is spectacular to visit and experience these places, there is so much more to Rome than what tourist agencies tell you about. You should try to take the time to find some of Rome’s hidden gems to get a more wholistic experience of the city.
This past weekend, I visited Palazzo Colonna’s gallery and Princess Isabelle’s Apartment and then I also went to Palazzo Barberini for their gallery, but as well to see their special exhibition on Arcimboldo. I was blow away by these collections, but I would not have known about them if I only listened to what trip agencies told me to go to. For being in Rome for such a long period of time, you want to go beyond just the stereotypical Roman attractions and get to a larger variety of museums, monuments, piazze, and exhibitions to feel like more than just a tourist, to feel more like a local.
With Palazzo Colonna, the gallery is made up of mostly Baroque paintings and sculptures, but the atmosphere is amazing. You walk in and it actually feels like you have just walked into a palace. The main entrance hall has ornate columns and marble stairs with at least 20 Venetian glass chandeliers hanging in front of the double decker windows. Going through the grand hall, you feel like you have been transported back in time. Or that you are about to enter a grand gala event. I bought a special ticket here for a guided tour of Princess Isabelle’s Apartment, and this was just as transformative. Again, it feels like I have been ripped from the 21st century and plopped back in time someplace else. This exciting, fantastical feeling is what makes studying in Rome so exciting. That is why it is so important to explore outside of the typical Roman pit-stops; you may be missing out on some awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping experiences by avoiding places like this one.
The following day I wanted to prolong this excited feeling, so I decided to go to Palazzo Barberini for the Barberini Gallery. My roommates and I didn’t realize we went in the wrong door way, and we actually ended up going to a special exhibition first, which was all works of Guiseppe Arcimboldo. I had seen signs at the metro stops for this exhibition, but I didn’t really have a strong desire to go see the showcase, but I am glad I went. Arcimboldo was an Italian painter, best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of objects, like flowers, fish, vegetables, fruits and books. His work was funky, fun, and a breath of fresh air having been going to so many museums dedicated to Renaissance and Ancient art. Once we finally got to the actual Barberini Gallery, our small group had fun exploring Medieval, Renaissance, and mainly Baroque paintings. There was also a special Picasso exhibit on temporary display too! This felt like a special gem of the city that I feel like few would have known to look for.
Rome cannot be fully experienced by only visiting the ‘buzz word’ sites. It is important to get a little taste of everything to better understand how the Eternal City has been able to weave together the ancient past with more contemporary inventions and innovations. These places off the beaten track may end up being some of the more interesting and insightful places you decide to visit. What big travel agencies say to go to may not always be what is best for you, so don’t be afraid to spend some extra time researching alternative places to explore.
I have compiled a list of some of the more obscure, unknown, or ‘hidden’ places in Rome that I have discovered thus far. I encourage all to try out some of these locales in addition to whatever traditional tourist sites you may what to go to:
Palazzo Colonna (the Gallery, Princess Isabelle’s Apartment, and the Colonna Gardens)
Palazzo Barberini (Barberini and Corsini Galleries)
Basilica di San Clemente (a Church but also an Excavation site)
Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna (instead of the Nazionale one)
Ara Pacis Museum
Hendrick Christian Andersen Museum
The Keats-Shelley Museum
National Museum of Pasta
Museo Leonardo da Vinci
and many, many more!