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Six places to escape the crowds in Rome

From the Colosseum to the Vatican, Rome's best-known sites attract throngs of sightseers, particularly in the high season. Here are six of the Eternal City's best hidden attractions to escape the tourist crush.

Here's where to head if you need a break from the crowds in Rome.
Here's where to head if you need a break from the crowds in Rome. Photo by Giulio Gabrieli on Unsplash

The National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia

Perhaps because of its location – just north of Piazza del Popolo and Villa Borghese park, a little outside the city centre – or its subject matter (the pre-Roman Etruscan civilisation), Villa Giulia is one of the Italian capital’s most overlooked attractions.

That’s a shame, because many who do pay the museum a visit consider it a highlight of their Rome trip, combining a stroll through a Renaissance villa and grounds with the opportunity to check out one of the world’s largest collections of Etruscan artifacts.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Nine tips for making the most of a Rome city break

On some days the museum gets so few visitors that some report feeling like the only people there, and numbers tend to be low even on free museum Sundays – perfect for getting a break from the crowds on a busy day.

The Non-Catholic Cemetery

Often referred to simply (and incorrectly) as the ‘Protestant Cemetery’, Rome’s non-Catholic Cemetery on the edge of the Testaccio neighbourhood is a verdant haven away from the city’s chaos.

Amongst its graves are those of the English poets Keats (‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water’) and Shelley, as well as the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci and Inspector Montalbano author Andrea Camilleri.

READ ALSO: Eight things you can do in Rome for free

Entrance is free, though visitors are asked to make a small donation of a few euros for the graveyard’s upkeep.

Across the street from the non-Catholic cemetery is the Rome war cemetery, which commemorates the soldiers who died liberating Rome during World War II; another peaceful oasis for rest and contemplation.

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

Its gated entrance and position at the other end of a large courtyard behind an imposing building are probably what keep tourists away from the Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere; from the outside, you wouldn’t necessarily know this was a space open to the public.

Those who do venture within will find a 9th century church containing a statue of the brutally martyred Saint Cecilia, a Roman aristocrat who in the 3rd century was locked up for three days in a steaming caldarium and then (unsuccessfully) beheaded for trying to convert members of her family to Christianity.

READ ALSO: Six essential apps that make life in Rome easier for foreign residents

For a small donation, visitors can descend underground to view the real attraction: the 2,000-year-old Roman ruins and mosaics beneath the church that made up part of the saint’s house, as well as a spectacular crypt built in 1899 to house her tomb and those of her husband and brother, as well as two popes.

The Baths of Caracalla

Not far from the Colosseum and Circo Massimo chariot racetrack, the Terme di Caracalla is one of ancient Rome’s largest public bath complexes, and one of the most intact today.

As well as being off the beaten track, its vast size means any visitors are naturally spread out throughout the grounds. The only time you’ll find a crowd here is on summer evenings, when ballets, music concerts and operas are staged amongst the ruins.

If you get the chance, make sure to rent the VR goggles from the ticket office that reveal how the baths would have looked in their original splendour.

The Gardens of Saint Alessio

Visitors to Rome flock to the ‘Parco Savallo’ orange gardens on the Aventine hill for their romantic terrace with impressive views over the city and St. Peter’s basilica and the opportunity for a sunset photoshoot.

But the Giardini di Sant’Alessio, less than a hundred metres up the road, is where locals go. This little park also has orange trees and a nice view, but is far more peaceful – plus you’re allowed on the grass.

READ ALSO: Five ways to have the perfect romantic weekend in Rome

If you’re in the area, stop by the Sant’Anselmo Benedictine Abbey complex, where on Sunday evenings you can attend an evensong service and hear Gregorian chants sung by the monks who live there.

Rome’s Botanical Gardens

Situated at the foot of the Gianicolo (‘Janiculum’) hill in the Trastevere neighbourhood, Rome’s botanical gardens offer an oasis of calm in one of the city’s most crowded districts.

The plants themselves may not be anything spectacular and the grounds may be a little run-down, but if you want a quiet stroll to clear your head or a pause on a bench surrounded by palm trees, it’ll only set you back a few euros.

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For members


25 alternative places to see in Veneto other than Venice

As the most popular tourist destination in Italy, Veneto has a lot to offer. But there's a lot more to this region than just Venice, Verona, and Lake Garda.

25 alternative places to see in Veneto other than Venice

Tucked in the North-East corner of Italy, lies Veneto, an Italian region spanning from the Dolomites in the North to the Adriatic in the East. This history-saturated region is perhaps best known for otherworldly Venice and romantic Verona which is just under an hour’s reach of Lake Garda.

Veneto consistently tops the list of Italy’s most-visited regions. In a recently published report by statistics agency Istat and Italy’s tourism ministry, Veneto had 71.9 registered overnight visitors last year, which was around 16 million more than runner-up Trentino-Alto Adige.

READ ALSO: 16 alternative places to visit in Lazio other than Rome

But what lies beyond the famous sights of Venice, Verona, and Lake Garda? We’ve divided the region into its seven provinces and looked at where’s best to go in each of them.

Metropolitan City of Venice

The surrounding areas of La Serenissima should not be missed, especially if you are planning on spending a long summer in the region; there are a few beaches here that should not be missed such as Caorle and Jesolo.

Caorle is a colourful, compact beachside town, and Jesolo offers something for all ages on its long stretch of sand, whether that be beach clubs such as Capannina or water park Caribe Bay.

MAP: Which regions in Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches in 2024? 

While they may not be as stunning as the crystal clear waters of Sardinia, they are both blue-flag beaches boasting excellent services.

For those seeking a quieter, less-crowded Venice, try its carbon copy, Chioggia. This small fishing town isn’t as grand as Venice, but it still has canals and bridges with a backdrop of the sea. The food is a bit more authentic and definitely cheaper. 

Province of Treviso 

Treviso city itself deserves a special mention here. The town is (debatably) the homeplace of tiramisu and the world championships are held there every year. The famous layered dessert was said to first be invented in the kitchen of Le Beccherie, a restaurant near the central piazza. 

Other places in the province include Asolo and Valdobbiadene. Asolo is a small hilltop town with wonderful views of greenery below it. It’s often cited as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.

Valdobbiadene on the other hand is prosecco vineyard after prosecco vineyard. Tours and tastings are easily arranged. A favourite haunt to frequent is Osteria Senz’oste, a self-serve charcuterie and prosecco place with seats overlooking i vigneti.

Possagno is also a place you shouldn’t miss if you enjoy works by sculptor Antonio Canova; the town was his birthplace after all.

Valdobbiadene is the prosecco zone in Italy. Photo: Jessica Lionnel/The Local

Province of Belluno

Like Treviso, the city of Belluno is well worth a visit, especially for those who like cities surrounded by nature. But it’s the nature itself in this province that gets people talking.

Take Lake Sorapis for example, with its icy turquoise waters, or the Cinque Torri, a rock formation in the Dolomites that has good walking routes and marvellous views.

The famous winter sports resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo is another town in this area to check out,especially for skiers. 

If you like looking at mountains but not walking up them, try going to the forest and plains of Cansiglio but be careful as wolves were spotted there not so long ago.

Province of Vicenza

The namesake of this province, Vicenza, has wonderful architecture designed by Andrea Palladio throughout. Landmarks to check out include the Olympic Theatre, the Basilica of St. Mary of Mount Berico and the Palladian Basilica.

Venture further out, and Bassano del Grappa, Asiago and Marostica are all places you shouldn’t miss.

As the name suggests, Bassano del Grappa is famous for the spirit grappa. There are distilleries in the town but perhaps the most beautiful feature is the alpine bridge designed by the aforementioned Palladio. 

Asiago is a town famous for its cheese, and not only. The town is lively, especially during the Christmas period, and is also known for its large war memorial.

Lastly, Marostica is perfect for chess lovers. Every September a game of chess is played in the principal square with human pieces. The tradition is supposed to have started in 1454 and it’s a very unique event to go to in Italy.

Province of Verona

Though Verona city and Lake Garda take up a huge chunk of what to see in this province, there are other small gems too. Borghetto Sul Mincio is a wonderfully quaint waterside village perfect for those seeking something a bit more rustic. 

Madonna della Corona sanctuary is also not to be missed. It lies in the heart of the Baldo rocks and is perhaps one of the most picturesque churches in Italy. 

If red wine is your passion, go to the Valpolicella zone to try out the different wines in the plentiful cellars. 

And finally Soave has an impressive mediaeval castle you can walk around.

Mountains near the Cinque Torri. Photo: Jessica Lionnel/ The Local

Province of Padua

Padua, a city known for its university, has many treasures such as Prato della Valle, St Anthony’s church, and most importantly, the Scrovegni Chapel. It often gets overlooked on the common journey between Verona and Venice.

In terms of towns in the province, Este and Cittadella are worth visiting for their churches and city walls respectively. 

The Euganean hills also have plenty to do in them, such as walks in nature. Popular spots are Arquà Petrarca, a town named after the famous poet and Abano Terme, a town locally popular for its range of hot springs. 

Province of Rovigo

Rovigo is just on the cusp of Veneto and is very close to Emilia-Romagna. The city isn’t as grand as some in the other provinces, but it does have a few nice areas to check out around it, such as the Po Delta National Park, which is great for birdwatching. 

Do you have a favourite place in Veneto that’s not listed here? Let us know in the comments below.