Picture a city so ancient and full of history that it feels like time stands still. A city so gorgeous, that even wild oregano and rosemary can’t help but break through concrete corners.
A place where you can easily have two portions of gelato a day to cool you down from the Mediterranean heat. And so vast that countless adventures are just waiting to be explored.
Time to head off the beaten path in Rome, travel through time, and fall in love with la dolce vita while exploring marvelous non-touristy things to do in Rome.

Rome – the eternal city. Though you’ve heard so many stories about it, this place still knocks you for a loop, once you’re there.
A paradise for history fans, foodies, sun chasers, and everyone who loves Italian charm as much as I do. Believe me, these non-touristy things to do in Rome are just what you’ve been looking for.
It goes without saying that the well-known sights in Rome are impressive, but you can find them in any Rome travel guide.

What’s really fun is to get off the beaten path in Rome, dive deeper, and explore what millions of tourists flocking to Rome miss. So fall in love with these hidden gems and visit Rome like a local, as Petrarca has put it:

“A fool is one who admires other cities without visiting Rome.”

Non-touristy things to do in Rome far from the Colloseum / Geheimtipps Rom fernab vom Colloseum

Neighborhoods off the beaten path in Rome

Testaccio – for foodies & fans of street art

Testaccio turned out to be our favorite neighborhood in Rome, although we originally chose it mainly in order to be close to Trastevere (Rome’s lively bar and restaurant neighborhood) but at the same time not right in the middle of the hustle and bustle.

But Testaccio is far more than its great location. It’s an authentic area full of locals, with a lively square where the old and the young like to meet in the evenings to chat and hang out. It’s also home to so many good restaurants and quite a few hidden gems and non-touristy things to do in Rome you shouldn’t miss.

Apartment in Testaccio

Recommendation for accommodation in Testaccio: Appartamenti con vista Piazza Testaccio

For us, Testaccio was the perfect location to explore Rome – it’s a hidden gem itself and located right next to bustling Trastevere and in walking distance of numerous famous sights. A huge plus is the great restaurants around the neighborhood. Check out these apartments right in the heart of Testaccio next to the square.

Favorite non-touristy things to do in Rome’s neighborhood Testaccio:

  • Food tour in Testaccio – Join a local guide for the best eateries around the neighborhood
  • Testaccio Market – For street food (try pizza at the Casa Manco stall or take away pasta at Renzo e Lucia or Altro Pasta).
  • Tram Depot – Our favorite breakfast café to sit in the shade at the corner of a green park, serving fresh juices, amazing coffee, and fresh cornetti (but also great for Aperitivo at night).
  • Panna & Co – One of the best Gelaterias in Rome with homemade ice cream flavors such as “plum from my own garden”. Isn’t that adorable?
  • Street Art at Via delle Conce – Great art pieces such as the mural “Hunting Pollution” address environmental sustainability. The best: It’s made of paint that absorbs smog.
  • Cimitero Acattolico – Not only a stunning old cemetery but the only non-catholic cemetery in Rome – the resting place of many poets and artists is a beautiful park worth a visit and a small donation.
  • Piramide di Caio Cestio – An ancient pyramid that is actually a tomb (you can’t actually enter but take a view from the outside).
  • Rome is more – An unconventional souvenir shop with some cool pieces like tote bags or socks with typical Roman sayings.

Tram Station café | Street art | Testaccio market

Tram Station café | Street art in Testaccio

Aventino & San Saba – a calm break where the locals live

Right next to Testaccio, you can find the peaceful, local neighborhoods Aventino & San Saba – a visit here is a rather unusual thing to do in Rome. Not many tourists make it here, even though a stroll through the tree-framed streets, old villas, and their small parks is a refreshing break from the other busy quarters. Over here, you can see Roman nonnos (grandpas) walking their dogs, meeting in the park, and buying a newspaper at the “chiosco” just before lunchtime.
They are welcoming and happy to have a chat if you speak a bit of Italian. We actually met an elderly man who told us a lot about the history of the San Saba neighborhood which was built by order of Mussolini as an area for workers. You wouldn’t believe it at first when you see the beautiful houses.

When you visit Terme di Caracalla, make sure to make a quick stop in the neighboring quarters San Saba and Aventino. Both are super close, even though they’re off the beaten path in Rome.

Sanctuary Urban Retreat Rome

Recommendation for accommodation in Aventino: The Sanctuary Urban Retreat

In the calm neighborhood Aventino, The Sanctuary Urban Retreat awaits you with a beautiful urban garden, aesthetic design and great breakfast to start your day right.

Favorite non-touristy things to do in Rome’s neighborhoods Aventino & San Saba

  • Stroll & have a break in one of the calm parks – The best thing to do in order to get a feeling for the local life.
  • Giardino degli Aranci – A small park full of orange trees that makes a perfect viewpoint (open until sunset).
  • Buco della Serratura dell’Ordine di Malta – Not such an unusual thing in Rome anymore as the word had spread that looking through this keyhole you get an amazing view of St. Peters Dome.
  • E-bike tour to Aventine Hill – Join an evening biking tour with food and wine

San Saba | Aventino | Flower seller in the neighborhood

San Saba | Aventino neighborhood

Trastevere – the artist and bar quarter

Well, I guess visiting Trastevere has grown out of being a non-touristy thing to do in Rome. It has become so popular that it’s bursting at the seams once the sun goes down.
At night, locals as well as travelers, love enjoying their Cacio e Pepe in one of its Trattorias, slurping a glass of wine in one of its many bars and hopping from one bar to the next while jamming its narrow alleys.

During the day, it’s much calmer but worth a stroll as it’s not just Rome’s popular bar district but also the bohemian side of town.
And yet, there are some insider tips in Rome that you shouldn’t miss in Trastevere.

Studio in Trastevere

Recommendation for accommodation in Trastevere: Studio via Nicola Fabrizi

What a perfect location! Studio via Nicola Fabrizi is in a calmer part of Trastevere – so you’re close to all the restaurants and bars, but can enjoy quiet nights. And the beautiful apartment with its flowery balcony has it all.

Favorite non-touristy things to do in Rome’s neighborhood Trastevere

  • Eat and drink – There are so many delicious and authentic places in Trastevere that you can never get enough of this neighborhood
  • La Parolaccia – It may be the weirdest non-touristy thing to do in Rome, but the atmosphere in this restaurant is quite unique and so much fun (read further down why)
  • Have a Grattachecca – In Trastevere, you can find two historic places for the Roman version of granita (either at Alla Fonte d’Oro or at Sora Mirella)
  • Enjoy Aperitivo – The place to go is Freni e Frizoni with their buffet right next to River Tiber or any of the bars right down at the river Bank between Ponte Sisto & Ponte Garibaldi
  • Walk up to Belvedere del Gianicolo – A great sunset spot and viewpoint

Drinks in Trastevere

Pigneto – an upcoming, multicultural neighborhood

What used to be a run-down area is more and more becoming a hip neighborhood. It’s multicultural, charming, and evolving. Pigneto has long been a melting pot for different cultures and is known for its inclusive mentality.
Due to its location not far from the university, it’s also a hub for students, LGBTQ bars, and cultural centers.
The main road – Via del Pigneto – is full of bookshops, cafes, and a few vintage shops.  Here you can visit Rome like a local and get a feeling for how the eternal city is actually in a transformation process as well.

Recommendation for accommodation in Pigneto: Residenza il Palazzetto

From their beautiful huge terrace, you can enjoy the Roman sun. Their apartments are colorful, bright, and authentic – just as Pigneto. And their host Massimiliano will make sure you have the best time in Rome. 

Favorite non-touristy things to do in Rome’s neighborhood Pigneto:

  • Enjoy international food – From Lebanese to African, in Pigneto you’ll find what you’re craving. Or head to Vitaminas24 for a Brazilian-Italian vegetarian treat
  • Aquedotto Claudio – Visit this aqueduct (here) that runs all the way until Parco Aquedotti join a walking tour from Pigneto to Parco Aquedotti to learn more about the ancient aqueducts of Rome
  • Dive into cultures – Let the flow lead you from one multicultural bar to the next, or just enjoy the hustle and bustle from a café by the roadside
  • Libreria Tuba – A feminist bookstore where you can not only read but also enjoy organic wine

Aqueduct | Streetfood in Pigneto

Monti & the Jewish Ghetto

Located right next to each other and in the heart of the city, both Monti and the Jewish Ghetto are very typical Roman neighborhoods. Despite their location close to many famous sights such as the Colosseum, they are home to quite a few non-touristy things to do in Rome.
While the name “Ghetto” may revoke rather unpleasant images, the Jewish Ghetto is actually a super beautiful area with cute alleys nowadays. But the Jewish roots and history still run through its veins and you will feel it at every corner.

Il Giardino Monti

Recommendation for accommodation in Monti: Il Giardino del Colosseo

You can’t stay more central. And at the same time, you’re still in a quiet neighborhood. Il Giardino del Colosseo offers modern apartments with a small terrace and garden close to the Colosseum.

Favorite non-touristy things to do in Rome’s neighborhoods Monti & the Jewish Ghetto:

  • Teatro Marcello – The Colosseum’s smaller (but older) brother
  • Isola Tiberina – Many don’t know that the island on the Tiber River is actually part of the Jewish Ghetto
  • Stumbling stones – Look out for these golden stones serving as a memorial for one of the darkest times in history: They are placed in front of the houses of victims of the Nazi regime
  • Street Food Tour in Monti – Embark on a Roman street food adventure with a foodie guide
  • Street Food &  History Tour in the Jewish Quarter – Taste the street food that has shaped Roman history

Alleys in the Jewish quarter and Monti

San Lorenzo – the student quarter

Up for another non-touristy thing to do in Rome?
Head to San Lorenzo – the student quarter. San Lorenzo awaits you with a local flair, affordable food and drinks, and many pieces of street art. It’s only a few minute’s walk from Rome’s main station Termini. And while it may seem rather quiet during the day, the evenings and nights are lively for sure.
Attic San Lorenzo

Recommendation for accommodation in San Lorenzo: Modern Attic

Dreaming of a terrace with a view of Rome? Look no further. This stunningly beautiful apartment in San Lorenzo offers not only modern rooms but also a spacious terrace and is close to all the cool bars in the student quarters.

Favorite non-touristy things to do in Rome’s neighborhood Lorenzo:

  • Drink & munch on a budget – The choice of bars is awesome over here and you can get an Aperol Spritz for around 4 Euros
  • Street art – Get lost in the streets and you will stumble upon many murals on gates and walls

Impressions of San Lorenzo

Historical sites off the beaten path in Rome

One of the most amazing things about Rome is that you stumble upon archeological sites on every corner – no matter if you had or hadn’t planned to. After all, you’ve got over 3000 years of history underneath your feet.
An Italian once told me that the whole city is like a huge ancient open-air museum. And I simply can’t find a better way to describe it.

Terme di Caracalla

As we arrive, the crickets seem to chirp exactly as they used to two thousand years ago. How is it even possible that so few people know about and visit this stunning archeological site? I was speechless that there was just a handful of people in the line before us – in high season! This could be the most impressive of all the non-touristy things to do in Rome on this list.
Terme di Caracalla are the impressive massive ruins of the thermal baths that used to accommodate up to 6000 people. Can you imagine?
You can easily spend two hours here marveling at the remains of the mosaic floors, the ancient pools, or the walls (some of which are still 40 meters high). And all that without the masses of tourists that you find in most other archeological sites in Rome. For me, this turned out to become my favorite gem off the beaten track in Rome.
You can even download an app or rent VR goggles to get a better feeling of how the thermal baths used to look like. Quite a different experience, but well worth it.
Terme Caracalla, Rome

Book your visit: Terme di Caracalla

My favorite tip off the beaten path in Rome: Visit these stunning, huge Roman thermal baths and dive into 3000 years of culture.

Terme di Caracalla

Teatro Marcello

When a friend of mine moved to Rome and walked home after a few drinks on one of his first nights in the city, he found himself quite surprised turning up next to the Colosseum. Or rather what he thought was the Colosseum, at least for a moment. That’s how similar the Teatro Marcello is to its big brother. And it’s even older than the Colosseum and has been instructed by Caesar himself.
So if you’d like to visit an ancient amphitheater without the crowds, Teatro Marcello is the perfect site to visit off the beaten path in Rome.

Teatro Marcello

Parco degli Aquedotti

As we arrive in Parco degli Aquedotti, it’s not as hot yet. The warm wind carries a scent of dry soil and straw around. And: History is in the air.
If you want to get a feeling for how Rome used to look like, you should definitely go on a small hike with Sal to Parco degli Aquedotti.

Outdoor enthusiast Sal has been living in Rome for over 15 years and since 2022 he has combined his passion with the love for his chosen home. With his “Urban City Hikes” he offers different kinds of tours – by leaving the crowded metropolis. You can really get off the beaten path in Rome by joining him to where you can experience ancient Rome peacefully.
We booked a hike to Parco degli Aquedotti with Sal and spent an awesome morning, feeling as if an old friend led us through his favorite part of Rome. With the huge benefit that we also learned many interesting facts about botany, history, and nature.
Nature with Sal, hike to Parque degli Aquedotti

Book your tour: Mini hike to the ancient Parco degli Acquedotti

To really get off the beaten path in Rome, you can’t miss Parco degli Acquedotti. In order to learn a bit about its history, a guided walk all along the aqueducts from the city of Rome into the park with Sal is the best way to do it. We enjoyed this experience so much.

Virginia Woolf, one of the most important authors of the 20th century put it like this, after falling in love with this part of Rome:

“I only wish to be allowed to stay here – for ever and ever – never see a soul. (…) I suppose France is all right, and England is all right, but I have never seen anything as beautiful as this is. Figure us sitting in hot sunshine on the doorstep of a Roman ruin in a field with hawk-colored archways against a clear grape-colored sky, silvery mountains in the background.”
(Virginia Woolf, after visiting Rome in 1927)

Teatro Marcello | Parque degli Aquedotti | Via Appia Antica

Parque degli Aquedotti

Via Appia Antica

Up for another outdoor adventure off the beaten path in Rome? Then grab a bike and head to Via Appia Antica. You can rent bikes anywhere in the city (also simply through the Uber app), or head to Appia Antica Café for a snack and then rent mountain bikes right in front of the cafe. That’s obviously the better choice for riding along a cobblestoned ancient street that is over 2,000 years old.
And yes, the large stones are still the original ones.
The Via Appia is a paradise for those seeking non-touristy things to do in Rome. Along the street, you can find hidden gems such as the catacombs, and old graves and mausoleums. The whole ancient trade route runs 560 km all the way to Brindisi in southern Italy.

Via Appia Antica

Appian Way Hike

Book your tour: Hike along the ancient Appian Way

Hiking guide Sal also offers an epic walk in nature where you cross several stunning reminders of the Roman Empire. A hike like no other with an expert who knows the area like no other.
Bike Tour Via Appia Antica

Book your tour: Ancient Appian Way E-Bike Tour

If you prefer support from a motor while cruising along Via Appia Antica, an e-bike tour with a guide is the most fun way to do it. A guided tour of the catacombs is even already included.


What used to be Rome’s vast subterranean cemetery, back in times when it wasn’t allowed to bury the dead inside the city, is a fascinating underground system of tunnels and burial chambers. Looking for a non-touristy thing to do in Rome where you can also escape the heat for a little while? Then the Catacombs are the place to go.
There are several Catacombs, all of them located close to the Appia Antica and thus quite off the beaten track in Rome:
  • Catacombe di St. Callisto – The largest and most popular catacombs to visit.
  • Catacombe di San Sebastiano – Apparently the oldest underground cemetery of Rome
  • Catacombe di Santa Domitilla – Catacombs with a sunken church
You can only enter with a guide, as you could easily get lost in the underground labyrinths. But tours run every 30 minutes and the queue is usually not very long.
No photos are allowed inside but that makes it an even more interesting gem off the beaten path in Rome, as you won’t find the internet flooded with pictures of the Catacombs.

Book your tour: Underground Catacombs E-Bike Tour

Riding a bike underground? Go below the Appia Antica and into the San Callisto Catacombs. That’s definitely a unique way of seeing Rome’s ancient history underground.
Catacombs Rome

Book your tour: Catacombs Guided Tour with Transfers

With this tour, you can visit the Domitilla Catacombs and transport from Rome is already included. So that’s the best deal you get (in case you don’t want to ride a bike all the way to the Catacombs).

Feral Feline Torre Argentina

A place where purring kittens, instead of tourists, populate an ancient archaeological site – a dream for all those who love cats. Well, at least my heart jumped a bit.
Largo di Torre Argentina is originally the place where Cesar was assassinated. At some point, feral cats decided that this site in the middle of the city was the perfect hideaway. And so they moved in. Soon, local cat ladies started looking after them and eventually created a cat sanctuary. While you can’t enter the ruins, you have a great view from outside and see cats roaming around, balancing on ancient walls, and napping in the sun.

Be aware, that you must not feed the cats! When they get used to tourists feeding them, chances are higher that they leave the sanctuary and get hurt by traffic (or humans).

Torre de Feline, a non-touristy thing to do in Rome

Can you spot all the cats?

Piramide di Caio Cestio

A pyramid in Rome? Yep, I’m not mixing up countries.
The Pyramid of Cestius is a Roman Era pyramid and serves as a tomb for this wealthy Roman magistrate. While it used to be outside the city, it’s now located right in Ostiense – just a short walk from Testaccio. Definitely an un-touristy thing to do in Rome many visitors don’t know about.

Viewpoints off the beaten path in Rome

Belvedere del Gianicolo

Looking for the best place for sunset? Gianicolo Hill is definitely one of my favorites. There’s a park leading all the way up the hill, so you can walk, take the bus, or rent a bike. Once you’re up there you’re not only rewarded with a beautiful view but also a nice cozy bar serving chilled drinks. Sometimes there’s even live music up here, so you can listen to a live act while sipping on your cold Aperol.

San Gianicolo hill off th beaten track in Rome

Belvedere del Gianicolo

Buco della Serratura

This used to be a true hidden gem in Rome, but peaking through the keyhole on Aventine Hill is not such an unusual thing to do in Rome anymore. Still, the view is quite unique, so definitely worth it. “Buco della Serratura” is the keyhole in the gate of the Knights of Malta. You may wonder what’s so special about this keyhole? When you look through, you have a magnificent view of the St. Peter’s Basilica, framed by the bushes of the garden.
But, since word got around, you even have to queue in order to catch the view. So I’d recommend coming here at night or reeeeally early in the morning. And if you have a good camera (ideally with a telephoto lens) you can take an awesome shot here.

The keyhole in Rome

Buco della Serratura

Giardino degli Aranci

Right next to Buco della Serratura, also on Aventine Hill, there’s another gorgeous sunset spot in Rome. Giardino degli Aranci (“orange garden”) is a small park with a nice terrace overlooking the Eternal City. There are a few benches to rest and enjoy the view. But you can only enter until 9 p.m. Afterward, the gates of the park are closed. But it’s also one of the nicest places for sunset.

View from Parque degli aranci

View from Giardino degli Aranci

Belvedere del Gianicolo | Buco della Serratura | Giardino degli Aranci

Passeggiata del Gelsomino

While visiting or photographing St. Peters Dome is anything but a non-touristy thing to do in Rome, there’s a secret pathway from where you can see it from a rather unusual perspective.

Passeggiata del Gelsomino (“Pathway of Jasmine”) got its name from the large number of Jasmine blossoms framing this promenade during spring. That’s why spring is also the most beautiful time to walk along this path. It used to be the path for the rail tracks connecting Rome and the Vatican City. Nowadays, the rail tracks are closed, but you can still walk next to them.
It’s just around one kilometer starting from San Pietro station. Just walk to the right along the tracks and you’ll automatically get to Passeggiata del Gelsomino. Don’t trust Google Maps in this case, as the pin is completely wrong.

Passeggiata de Gelsomino, a hidden gem in Rome

Passeggiata del Gelsomino

Map of non-touristy things to do in Rome

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Map of hidden gems in Rome (click for interactive map with all details)

Rome off the beaten path – Good to know

Rome’s Fountains – Can you drink tap water in Rome?

All over Rome, water is safe to drink and tastes fine. You can find “i nasoni” – the public water fountains – all across the city. So no need to buy any bottled water and cause unnecessary plastic waste.
Also, when you’re in Rome in summer it can get really hot and the fountains are a great way to give your arms and legs a quick refresh.
Fun fact: The original water system dates back to the aqueducts providing the whole city with fresh water already thousands of years ago.

Water foumtain in Rome

“Nasoni” in Rome

Where to stay in Rome?

My favorite area off the beaten path in Rome is Testaccio. It has a local touch and many Romans still live here, while at the same time, it’s in a great location. From here you’re really close to many well-known sights as well as non-touristy things to do in Rome.
And the choice of restaurants in Testaccio is also amazing. So what else do you need for your perfect area to stay in Rome?

What is the best time to visit Rome?

My first time in Rome was in May. And I came back ten years later in July. Even though I can handle the heat quite well, I was melting every day. So I wouldn’t recommend visiting Rome in the hottest summer months (July & August). It can be unbearably hot, the city is crowded and everything is even more expensive. Better come in early spring or late autumn to enjoy an emptier Rome with mild temperatures. Even in winter, it’s still rather mild, and you can have an amazing time exploring Rome off the beaten path.

How many days do you need in Rome?

A friend once told me that you can spend a month in Rome and see something new every day. And that’s so true. The city is huge, and packed with sights as well as non-touristy things to do in Rome. So I recommend staying at least for five days to get a good overview of the city and a feeling for La Dolce Vita. The more time you have, the better.
I’m sure even Elizabeth Gilbert still explored new corners of the Eternal City after four months. And there will always be hidden gems left to be explored for your next visit.

Passegiata del Gelsomino | “Nasoni” | Aperitivo in Rome

Aperitivo in Rome

Rome off the beaten path – a wrap-up

Rome in three words: food heaven | open air museum | “nasoni” (the water fountains)

Did you know? The water fountain’s original water system dates back thousands of years ago when Rome had already made fresh water accessible to all inhabitants.

Favorite photo spot: Terme Caracalla

Favorite food: Grilled artichokes

Can’t miss: Have a refreshing aperitivo or a Grattachecca to cool you down from the heat

Have you enjoyed these non-touristy things to do in Rome? Which is your favorite spot off the beaten path in Rome? Let me know in the comments below.

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