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3 Hidden Gems To Visit In Rome

GoWithGuide travel specialist Official

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:GoWithGuide travel specialist Official

Last updated : May 22, 20248 min read

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Rome Tours - GoWithGuide

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ See Rome's incredible ancient history through our highly rated Rome private tours.

 

Rome is one of the oldest cities in the world, and one of only a few that has been permanently inhabited from its founding in 753 BCE to the present day. When you walk the streets of Rome, you move over thousands of years of human history, from trials and tribulations, to triumph and splendor. 

 

While the Colosseum or Vatican City usually comes to mind when thinking of Rome, it goes without saying that the city is also home to many lesser known areas.

 

For those with an adventurous spirit, we’d recommend visiting some of these spots, and since you’re unlikely to find them in a travel brochure, why not hire one of our local guides to show you the secrets of the Eternal City? 

 

The Magic Door 

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Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons & Wikimedia Commons

 

Hidden amongst the ruins of the Villa Palombara on the Esquiline Hill is an intriguing door named the Porta Alchemica, colloquially known as the ‘Magic Door’. This mysterious door used to be part of the residence of the marquis of Pietraforte, Massimilliano Palombara, and is the only remaining of five former gateways into the villa. It is thought to date back to the 1600s, during a time when belief in the ancient “science” of alchemy was widespread. There are many legends surrounding this enigmatic doorway, one states that the person who is able to recite the inscriptions engraved on the door will be able to enter into another dimension. 

 

A more common and accepted tale is that the marquis was visited by a traveling alchemist, who left behind a recipe that could turn metal into gold. Unfortunately, Massimiliano was unable to decipher the mysterious symbols and equations on the recipe, so he had it engraved on the doors and walls of his villa in the hopes that eventually someone would be able to crack the code. The Latin and Hebrew inscriptions are hard to make out, and include puzzling phrases such as: “The diameter of the sphere, the tau of the circle, the cross of the globe do not benefit the blind”, amongst others. 

 

The doorway is also flanked by two statues that represent the ancient Egyptian god known as Bes, a divine entity associated with childbirth and infants. These statues were not originally placed here however, they were relocated from a different location in the 1800s. If you are in the mood for a rare and tantalizing sight, ask one of our private guides to show you the Porta Alchemica. If you fail to decipher its inscriptions, you’ll at least get a nice photo opportunity! 

 

The Pyramid of Cestius 

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When one hopes to visit pyramids on your journey, chances are you’re either in Egypt or South America, but what would you say if we told you that you can marvel at an ancient pyramid in the heart of Italy’s capital? Located close to the Porta San Paolo, the pyramid of Cestius was constructed from 18-12 BCE to serve as the final resting place for Gaius Cestius, a Roman magistrate and religious official. 

 

Today the pyramid is one of Rome’s most well-preserved ancient structures, its slabs of white marble enduring years of post-Imperial decline thanks to its incorporation into the city’s fortification system as part of the Aurelian walls. The base of the pyramid measures in at 29.6 meters (97 feet) with a height of 37 meters (121 feet). 

 

As mentioned previously, the pyramid was constructed to serve as a tomb (like most pyramids are), and contains an interior burial chamber. This relatively small chamber is where Gaius Cestius was presumably interred, but unfortunately its contents were ransacked back in antiquity. Scholars did find elaborate frescoes adorning the walls, though only a few of these survive today. In the mid 2010s extensive restoration work was carried out at the site, and while it was usually forbidden for visitors to enter the interior chamber, this is now open to the public every second and fourth Saturday of the month. 

 

One does have to book a visit in advance to go inside the pyramid, though, something one of our Rome guides can definitely help you with. If you’d like to see this unusual structure for yourself, the easiest way is to take the metro and jump off at the aptly named 'station Piramide'. 

 

Stadium of Domitian

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Commissioned around the year 86 CE, the Stadium of Domitian was part of a large-scale building program to expand the Field of Mars following a devastating fire in 79 CE. While a smaller venue than the gargantuan Circus Maximus, it still seated around 15,000–20,000 people and was dedicated to athletic competitions. Following ancient Greek layouts, the stadium’s length was about 250 meters long, and it’s thought to have included a permanent track for foot races similar to the ones we have in modern athletics stadiums. 

 

Unlike the Circus Maximus and other venues, the Stadium of Domitian was not primarily dedicated to gladiatorial combat or other blood sports, but to pure athletics as we understand it today. Here competitors from all over the empire could come to compete in events such as discus, javelin throw, long jumping, and of course sprints. 

 

While this was the intention, as the empire declined the stadium was eventually put to other uses, its arcades being used as brothels and execution venues, while in later years the poor started using it as makeshift accommodation. Eventually the stadium was completely abandoned and left to succumb to the elements, with substantial parts of the structure being carried off by looters.

 

Thankfully, some parts of the stadium survives underneath the Piazza Navona, and can still be visited today. If you’re looking for a true ‘underground’ experience, you can take a tour of its subterranean levels to truly understand the complexity of Roman engineering. 

 

Conclusion 

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Rome is a city filled with wonder and mystery, perhaps more than any modern capital. Here you can marvel at ancient structures while simultaneously enjoying the convenience of modern transportation and hospitality. The Eternal City is filled with an untold variety of hidden gems and treasures, many of which don’t show up on your everyday tourist brochure. If you truly want to get a taste of the deeper side of Rome, we highly recommend employing the services of one of our knowledgeable local guides

 

Alongside them, you can plan a customized tour of the city, seeing both the famous attractions and delving deeper into the mysteries that have given Rome its formidable reputation. 

Written by GoWithGuide travel specialist Official

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GoWithGuide’s writers are passionate travel specialists sharing unique tips and essential information for global explorers.

Lazio Tour Guide - Alvise D.

Alvise D.

5.00 / 5
(2 reviews)
Italy

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Rome Tour Guide - Alessio P.

Alessio P.

Italy

I am a certified Italian Mtb CycleGuide. I live in Rome and I speak 3 languages: English, Italian, Spanish. I started this work more than 5 years ago and I am happy to tell fascinating stories about the beauties of Rome. Discovering hidden, not overcrowded, mysterious and historical places in Rome is one of the things I am passionate about doing.                                                                                                                                 

Rome Tour Guide - Georgea C.

Georgea C.

Italy

I am an outgoing guide with years of experience. I have a bachelor's degree in art history and a bachelor's degree in modern languages and literatures from La Sapienza in Rome. I have been doing this job for many years. I have been working as a tour guide since 2006. I'm an official guide of Rome. I love my work because it allows me to know many people from all over the world and make their experience on Rome unique. In addition to offering tours to the most common places in Rome, such as the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums, I especially enjoy being able to build an itinerary for you that is unique to your personal needs and allows you to have a true "Roman" experience. That is why I always suggest you to contact me before booking so that I can get to know you a little bit and get more information to allow me to create an itinerary tailor-made for you. If you want to visit Rome like a local and get to know the less common places as well as visit famous monuments together, I am the guide for you. I can also create customized itineraries with multiple days experiences in Rome and surrounding cities or day trip from Rome. Everything you have to do is trust your guide and tell me your wishes. I am waiting for you!                                                                                                                                  

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