If you’re planning a trip to Rome, you’ve probably already got a list of all the usual “must-see” attractions. The Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon. You may even be putting aside enough time to stand in line for hours to gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Sure, they’re all terrific venues, but how about something a little off the beaten path?
If you want a different kind of Roman holiday, there’s plenty to see away from the crowds. Here are just a few destinations that you may never have heard of but are well worth a visit.
Tempietto del Bramante
This small temple hits all the top notes of High Renaissance Italian architecture, with Tuscan columns and a classic entablature (the bit at the top). The commemorative tomb was commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in the early 1500s and can be found in the courtyard of the San Pietro in Montorio church.
Basilica de San Pietro
If you want to see one of Michelangelo’s iconic pieces, you don’t need to go to the Vatican or head for the David in Florence. Michelangelo’s Moses (complete with horns) is at the church of San Pietro in Vincoli and is a stunning example of the master’s work. The statue was originally commissioned for the tomb of Pope Julius II, a project that was never completed due to lack of funds. Moses was designed to sit on the upper part of the monument, along with about 40 other statues, which is why the perspective seems a little weird when viewed at eye-level.
If you want to see something really strange, head for Via Bernardo Celentano if you happen to be in the area visiting the Olympic stadium. It’s a small residential street that looks unlike anything else in the city. When Rome began to expand in the early 20th century, architect Quadrio Pirani experimented with a design that has now been dubbed “Little London”. Brightly painted facades with gated front walks and pocket back gardens that you’d expect to find in England rather than inner-city Rome.
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini
An ossuary is a room that contains human bones, and this one has a ton of them. The church was built for the Capuchin order, and in 1631 Cardinal Antonio Barberini had the remains of thousands of monks exhumed and moved into the crypt. The bones were used as decorative art, patched together in huge frescoes and ornamental designs. Piles of skulls, skeletons dressed in Franciscan habits, and five chapels filled with sculptures made of human remains. Totally creepy and strangely mesmerising.
Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary
This square marks the location where Brutus killed Emperor Julius Caesar. When excavation began of what is known as the Sacred Area of Largo Argentina, the city’s stray cats found shelter in the ruins of four ancient temples. Since 1929, they’ve taken up residency and hundreds can be seen lounging on the columns and sunning themselves among the stones. A fun place to tour, even if you’re not a cat person, and the ruins themselves are definitely worth a look.
Much of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Rome never ceases to amaze. Find your own favorite spot to sip an espresso and marvel at this living outdoor museum.