Rome is a city that thrives on chaos. From the layers of architecture, ancient to baroque to Renaissance all piled together, often with scooters flying past, right through to the crash and clanks of any Roman café preparing coffee from dawn until well after dark. There are plenty of showy monuments to admire.
The Colosseum and the Pantheon stand large. There are the appealing piazzas and Instagram-perfect vine-covered lanes, but all of that is accessible and easy to obtain. What really makes Rome a special destination are her secrets. Some of Italy's most valuable art treasures are not found in the big museums that hold vast collections and more often than not massive crowds. That is not at all how these remarkable pieces were meant to be viewed. Often the empty palaces and secret gardens that are overlooked by the whistle-stop visitor provide a more rewarding experience. Slow down and step off the well-trodden path and you can see a Rome that most people miss.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj – Escape Monday morning madness
Galleria Doria Pamphilj Cortile del Bramante
Via del Corso is always crowded. Best known as a shopping destination, Romans jostle you on the narrow sidewalks and the buses whiz by, but behind one of the traffic-blackened façades is a gilded and elegant palazzo that is easy to overlook. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is a grand space packed with paintings by Caravaggio, sculptures by Bernini and heavy crystal chandeliers. Members of the once powerful Papal family still reside on some of the upper floors. Wander undisturbed through the velvet-lined rooms and imagine the Pamphilj children rollerskating through as they did only a few decades ago. Open every day 9am-7pm www.doriapamphilj.it
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Palazzo Colonna - Saturday morning calm
Palazzo Colonna Sala Grande
Saturday mornings in Rome are hectic affairs. School children have classes and many offices are open in the morning. Palazzo Colonna is an art-filled haven that offers respite from the busy routine. Walk down Via della Pilotta that centuries ago was a narrow country lane under the Travertine arches connecting the Colonna palace to a secret garden that was created by the Emperor Caracalla in the third century. Once inside the sumptuous palace, the home to the Colonna family for over twenty generations, immerse yourself in the stunning gilt-framed collection of paintings by Brueghel, Vanvitelli, Carracci, Tintoretto and others. Open every Saturday 9am-1.15pm www.galleriacolonna.it
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Appia Antica - Sunday strolling
© Flickr/yulia strelkova
All roads lead to Rome. How many times have you heard that phrase? The Appia Antica is the start of a story of some 80,000 kilometres of roads built by the Roman empire a few thousand years ago. The wide flat basalt stones that compose the legendary Appia Antica are forged from volcanic lava. The road itself follows a lava flow that began in the Alban hills and provided the path and foundation. The road, which strictly speaking runs from Porta San Sebastiano, not far from the Circus Maximus in Rome, all the way to Brindisi in Puglia, contains lifetimes of history. When you walk across these stones you are walking in history, and you can imagine that you are stepping where Spartacus, Cesar and Saint Peter once trod.
The best way to experience the queen of roads is on a Sunday afternoon. Rent a bike and cycle to the far edges of this vast green stretch of land, out past remains of ancient villas and aqueducts, grassy hills that hide a labyrinth of submerged catacombs, and with a bit of luck you will come upon a shepherd with his herd of Roman sheep obliviously grazing on living history. www.parcoappiaantica.it
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These three insiders hold the key to a private Rome that only a select few are able to experience.
Culinary city walks with Elizabeth Minchilli
Visit bakeries, pastry shops, cheese stores, markets and coffee bars to discover the very best of Rome’s food traditions. elizabethminchilliinrome.com
Palazzo tour with Stefano Aluffi Pentini
Palazzo Colonna, Sala della Fontana
Discover the interiors and gardens of aristocratic palaces normally closed to the public. www.apvoi.com
Sketching tour with Kelly Medford
Sketching is a great way to absorb the atmosphere of a location. sketchingrometours.com