Unusual places to visit in Rome
"... there are some places hidden outside the mass of tourist circuits..."
Rightly considered one of the most fascinating cities in the world, Rome is like an immense and inexhaustible treasure chest full of treasures: a lifetime wouldn’t be enough to know them all. However, in addition to the countless symbolic places and monuments highlighted by traditional guidebooks - the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza San Pietro, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Venezia, just to mention a few of them - there are some places hidden outside the mass of tourist circuits. These places are little known by the Romans themselves despite representing the authentic spirit of the Eternal City, and which are undoubtedly worth visiting.
In this article Argiletum Tour has selected some of the most significant ones:
- The Coppedè district
- The Little London
- The Pyramid of Cestius and the Non-Catholic Cemetery
- The Bunker of Villa Torlonia
- The Botanical Garden
The Coppedè district
The Coppedè district is located between Via Salaria and Via Nomentana, it was built in 1915 by the architect Gino Coppedè by the will of the Società Anonima Edilizia Moderna. Coppedè created an astonishing housing complex almost out of nowhere, small villas with pretty bizarre and singular shapes, cornices and moldings in the manner of imperial Rome, an arch that recalls the triumphal arches ... a mixture of Roman architecture, Art Nouveau, Art Decò, Gothic, Baroque and medieval elements. Another city, another dimension.
Several famous directors, such as Dario Argento, have used the Coppedè district as a set for their films.
Little London is another of those surprises that conceals the Capital. Hidden among the buildings of Viale del Vignola and Via Flaminia, in the Flaminio district, it is a pedestrian street paved with Sampietrini on which colored houses overlook, with iron gates and railings, carved wooden doors and stone staircases in London style. Everything recalls the districts of the British capital such as Notting Hill, Chelsea and Mayfair.
The Pyramid of Cestius
Outside the Porta San Paolo is located the bizarre Pyramid of Caius Cestius, a funerary monument that an official responsible for sacred banquets had built for his own burial, between 18 and 12 BC. With its 37 meters high, and its cement coated with marble slabs, it is inspired by Egyptian models, fashionable in Rome after the conquest of Egypt (30 BC). A small door on the West side (opened in the 600s, when the pyramid was brought to light) leads into the tunnel leading to the rectangular funerary cell. The walls are plastered and painted in panels, with chandeliers framing female figures (poorly preserved). In the 3rd century the monument was incorporated into the Aurelian Walls.
The Non-Catholic Cemetery
Just a few steps from the Pyramid of Cestius is “hidden” a little profane gem: The Non-Catholic Cemetery, also known as the Cemetery of the English, built in 1716 to host the graves of the Protestant dead.Over the years, the Non-Catholic Cemetery has been populated with the graves of foreign non-Catholics from all over the world, especially Russians, Orthodox, Muslims and Jews. Among the numerous graves of celebrities, we would point out the graves of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hendrik Christian Andersen, Axel Munthe, August son of Goethe, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Gramsci, Amelia Rosselli, Emilio Lussu, Dario Bellezza, Gregory Corso, Lindsay Kemp, Jannis Kounellis, Miriam Mafai, Luce d'Eramo, Andrea Camilleri. High pines and cypresses surround the paths of this unique place, where different faiths coexist peacefully. The most famous funeral monument is the Angel of Pain, one of the most imitated sculptures in the world, created by the American William Wetmore Story in honor of his wife. The Non-Catholic Cemetery is located in Testaccio, a district famous for its nightlife. Address: Via Caio Cestio, 6
The Bunker of Villa Torlonia
There’re 3 bunkers under the building of Villa Torlonia, the Roman private residence of Benito Mussolini and family at that time: the anti-aircraft bunker built in 1943 to protect his family in the private residence, the Shelter in the central room of the basement of the Casino Nobile and the Cantina della Villa Shelter, equipped around the middle of 1940. Mussolini ordered the construction of the bomb-proof bunker, safer than the two existing shelters, driven by increasingly frequent aerial bombardments.
After some structural and reclamation interventions, these places, continuously monitored, can welcome visitors in complete safety. The full practicability of the sites, set up with original equipment of the time, allows a guided tour enriched by a multimedia room, photographs and panels that present documents of great historical interest.
The Cantina Shelter
The first room used as a shelter was the cellar under the Fucino Lake, near the Theater. It was equipped with security doors and a gas system hand operated for filtering and regenerating air. The lighting was battery-operated, and the shelter also had a toilet, a telephone with a direct line for Mussolini’s use, first-aid kit, and a box spring with mattress.
The Casino Nobile Shelter
The second shelter was more functional than the Cantina Shelter. It was built in 1941 in the central room of the basement of the Casino Nobile on indications of Mussolini, unhappy with the discomfort of the Cantina Shelter. The rooms were equipped with reinforced concrete walls 120 centimeters thick and an air filtration and circulation system.
The anti-aircraft Bunker has a cross-shaped floor plan and round tunnels protected by a covering in reinforced concrete 4 meters thick. The structure of the armored bunker was dug to a depth of 6 meters and a half below the courtyard in front of Casino Nobile. The Bunker was never finished since Mussolini was discharged and arrested the 25th of July 1943. The armored doors, exterior covering of the chamber, and technological features such as the ventilation system were missing.
The Botanical Garden
Located in the heart of Trastevere district since 1883, the Botanical Garden is rightly considered a little piece of Heaven in Rome. It covers an area of about 12 hectares, between Via della Lungara and the Colle del Gianicolo. This archaeological area is known as Horti Getae and in ancient times was composed by the baths of Septimius Severus.
The Botanical Garden of Rome is one of the Museums of the Department of Environmental Biology of the Sapienza University of Rome, an authentic concentrate of distant lands: you can go through Japan, Brazil and Australia, until you reach a garden for the blind people, dominated by the aromas.
The main collections of the Botanical Garden are:
The Gimnosperme, the collection occupies mainly the part of the hilly area
The Bambù, this collection is one of the richest in Europe
The Mediterranean Wood is located in the hilly area and represents a testimony of the vegetation that once covered the Colle del Gianicolo
The Palm trees, is a collection of great importance due to the large number of entities that are grown outdoors
The Rose Garden with a significant collection of wild roses present in Italy
The Garden of Aromas is organized in a series of raised flower beds in masonry that welcome species recognizable by tactile characteristics (for example, the pubescence) or olfactory (aroma) and accompanied by Braille tags
The Valletta of Ferns welcomes a collection of herbaceous ferns
The Mediterranean Garden is organized in flower beds, where you can observe typical species of the Mediterranean scrub
The Orto dei Semplici, with medicinal species organized in raised flower beds. Other medicinal species are cultivated in the surrounding area, while others are still present in the adjacent Tropical Greenhouse
Aquatic plants, the aquatic environment in the Museum is represented by the stream, the pond and some tanks
The Monumental Greenhouse has been home to a collection of euphorbias since 1877, and two climbing plants, Quisqualis indica L. and Petrea volubilis L.
The Corsini Greenhouse, built in the nineteenth century, represents the first warm greenhouse built in the garden. It houses a collection of succulents whose families are mostly represented Cactaceae, Agavaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Crassulaceae. There are also two basins that belonged to Queen Christina of Sweden in the period in which she was staying (from 1659 to 1689) at the Villa Riario, now Palazzo Corsini
The Japanese Garden, was built according to a model of oriental garden, is composed of water features, small waterfalls and two ponds
The Tropical Greenhouse, the collection is a small example of the extraordinary plant biodiversity present in tropical forests
Monumental trees, there are several centenary specimens
We hope to have given you a small but significant taste of what a city like Rome can offer. In the next article we will discuss the following unusual places: The Roman houses of the Celio, the National Museum of Villa Giulia, the Municipal rose garden, the Montemartini Central, The Casina delle Civette, the Spada Gallery, The Garbatella district.
Contact us to organize your unusual guided tour in Rome, private customized tours for couples, families and groups
Translation by Eleonora Mucci
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