A city filled with history and art, Rome has its share of off the beaten path landmarks. While many people limit their holiday in Rome to the city’s churches, museums and worldwide famous historical buildings, you should know there is much more to do and see in Rome than this. Whether you are interested in the history of criminal activity on the Roman territory, in visiting crypts with morbid exhibits, or you are a cat lover, here are some of the off the beaten path landmarks in Rome:
A tiny space underneath the Santa Maria Della Immacolata Concezione Church, the Capuchin Crypt is the place the bones of more than 4,000 Capuchin monks are skillfully displayed to ornament the walls of several small sized chapels. You will notice that some of the bones are piled up along the walls, some have been erected as complete skeletons and clad in their monks’ robes.Book Tour
Mostly they have been used to create patterns on the walls and ceilings, and this makes the Capuchin Crypt a wonderful yet scary place. There is no entry fee, but you are not allowed to take pictures. Instead they ask for donations, so you can pay how much you want only if you want to.
Chiesa di Santa Prassede
If you are into Byzantine mosaics and amazing apse designs dating from early centuries, Rome is filled with such attractions. One of the best is this small church, ignored by most travel guides.
If you are in the area, visiting Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – one of Rome’s four patriarchal basilicas, venture inside Chiesa di Santa Prassede. This off the beaten path landmark will complete your experience!
Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary
Torre Argentina is a Roman cat sanctuary providing its services that consist in looking after the city’s stray cats. The landmark has been housed by one of the many ancient temples spread throughout the city ever since this one was excavated in the late 1920s, and this where the place took its name from.
The work here is done by volunteers who house and care for more than 250 cats at present. Sylvia and Lia, the two loving women who run the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary also take care of the vaccination, and several medical tests such as feline leukemia. Donations are welcomed at Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary. Otherwise, you can tour the landmark every day from 12 to 18, free of charge.
Baths of Caracalla
Located in the south of the city, the Baths of Caracalla had two main functions in Ancient Rome’s time: sanitary facilities for the Romans living in crowded tenements with no running water and a venue for socializing.
The sight you can visit today has an archaeological significance and provides you with a broader perspective on Ancient Rome. The venue had three large bathing rooms (one with hot water, one with warm water and one with cold water). They could accommodate about 1,600 bathers. There were also two adjacent libraries and an extensive garden you can enjoy until present day.
If you want to visit this off the beaten path attraction of Rome, you can take the metro to the Circo Massimo Metro station. The Baths of Caracalla are just a few minutes walk from there. The hop on and off Rome City Buses also stop at Circo Massimo.
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè
Maybe a bit too touristy for an ‘off the beaten path’ list, but this traditional coffee shop is often ignored by travel guides, despite being the oldest one in the city. Sant Eustachio dates back to the 1930s and it’s a place where you can experience the authentic Italian coffee culture.
It’s also a good place to buy coffee blends or coffee flavored sweets to take home as souvenirs. Be aware that enjoying your cup of espresso at the tables outside will cost you more than doing the same thing at the bar because of the cover charge. But, if you are a fan of people watching, it’s worth the extra price as this coffee shop is located in the old town centre of Rome, in the Pantheon’s proximity.
The Turtles Fountain
Known among the locals as Fontana delle Tartarughe, the Turtles Fountain is located in Piazza Mattei. This off the beaten path Rome attraction designed by Giacomo della Porta and completed by Taddeo Landini in the 1580s.
An Italian Renaissance fountain, the Turtles Fountain was one of the 18 such fountains built in Rome during the 16th century in order to supply drinking water to the city’s inhabitants. Nowadays, it is a sight to behold and nice place to hang out in Rome and soak up the atmosphere.
What sets this fountain apart is the design and decorations. It has a square basin at the basis. In the center, a circular vasque of African marble is mounted on a pedestal. Four heads of putti spout water around the vasque. Around the pedestal, you can also see four marble conch shells and four bronze ephebes, each of them standing on the head of a bronze dolphin. The four turtles were added later on between 1658 and 1659, when the fountain was restaured upon Pope Alexander VII’s request.
The Aventine keyhole
Rome is famous for its numerous vantage points from up the seven hills. However, few people are aware that one of the best vistas are through a keyhole.
If you are touring Rome’s churches (and you should!), put Santa Maria del Priorato on your itinerary. Designed by the architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the building features interesting architectural motifs inspired by the marine world, but also plenty of esoteric and Masonic symbols.
The door featuring the Aventine keyhole leads to the Priory of the Knights of Malta. When looking through its keyhole you get a great view of the Vatican with St. Peter’s Basilica right in the center and the exquisite gardens in front.
Mouth of Truth
The Mouth of Truth or Bocca della Verità, as the locals call it, can be found in the portico of a medieval church – Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, standing at the foot of the Aventine hills. The Mouth of Truth is actually an open-mouthed mask carved in marble. There are several theories as to what it represent and why it was designed. Some believe it was removed from the Temple of Hercules Invictus. Others say it depicts the sea god Oceanus.
The legend says it bites the hand of liars and proves you are telling the truth in a contrary case, as you have most probably seen it in the movie Roman Holiday. Be aware: you will have to pay a fee to take the test!
Although not one of Rome’s top attractions, you will most probably have to stand in a long line to get a picture of the mask.
St. Valentine’s Skull
Inside the same Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin you will find another off the beaten path landmark of Rome – the skull of St. Valentine. It’s skull of a martyr called Valentinus and dates back to the 3rd century AD.
The whole story is shrouded in mystery, but it is supposed to be the starting point of the beloved holiday we nowadays celebrate every day on February 14. The skull was discovered during an excavation of a catacomb some time at the beginning of the 19th century.
Cimitero Acattolico per Stranieri
Did you think a cemetery cannot be a tourist attraction? The Pere Lachaise in Paris and the Cimitero Acattoloco in Rome prove you wrong! The final resting place of names like Shelley, Keats, Gregory Corso, Cimitero Acattoloco is an interesting sight to visit.
You will find here tombstones of people of many faiths, as well as the Pyramid of Cestius. The statues and tombstones are very interesting. Besides, this space is a oasis of quietness and serenity.