Going off the beaten path in Rome
It can be tempting to stick to the most famous attractions in Rome – the Colosseum, St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. But going off the beaten path definitely has its rewards, as you can escape the crowds and discover the hidden masterpieces of the Eternal City in peace and tranquillity. While the Vatican Museums deserve their reputation and are undeniably a must-see, there are plenty of smaller museums and art galleries in Rome that are surprisingly underrated, considering the quality of the collections. From Egyptian statues to Baroque paintings, here’s what you can see on guided tours of the lesser-known museums in Rome…
The best lesser-known museums in Rome
Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini). Although hardly obscure, the incredible collections of the Capitoline tend to be overlooked by many tourists in Rome. There’s an impressive display of Roman statues, including famous works such as the original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback (the one in the piazza outside is a copy), and well-known statues of gods and emperors. On your tour of the Capitoline Museums, make sure you don’t miss the breathtaking view of the Roman Forum from the Tabularium.
Centrale Montemartini. Part of the Capitoline collection is on display in Centrale Montemartini, one of the most underrated museums in Rome. Located just outside the centre in the Garbatella district, this former power plant is now home to various Roman sculptures, busts and friezes, strikingly juxtaposed against the old machinery.
Palazzo Massimo. Despite its central location – right opposite Termini station – Palazzo Massimo remains a lesser-known museum in Rome. It’s full of masterpieces, from the bronze statue of the Boxer at Rest to the gorgeous garden frescoes from the Villa of Livia, yet it remains mysteriously empty. Temporary exhibitions tend to be good too, so make sure you pop in on your way to Termini.
Villa Giulia. Take a walk through Rome’s most famous park, Villa Borghese, to reach the Etruscan museum known as Villa Giulia. Undoubtedly one of Rome’s most underrated museums, Villa Giulia has a vast collection of Etruscan artefacts and artworks, including the celebrated Sarcophagus of the Spouses. A visit to Villa Giulia is a unique opportunity to learn about the intriguing Etruscan civilization, which pre-dates the Romans.
Palazzo Altemps. This Renaissance palace close to Piazza Navona houses a magnificent collection of Egyptian, Greekand Roman artworks. The undisputable highlights are the Ludovisi pieces, including the intricately carved Battle Sarcophagus and a powerful statue of Gaul committing suicide while supporting his dying wife. The building is beautifully decorated with frescoes and would be worthy of a visit in itself. Add the artwork and it becomes unmissable.
Doria Pamphilj Gallery. The aristocratic Doria Pamphilj family are the owners of an opulent palace on Via del Corso and its impressive art collection, featuring masterpieces such as the Portrait of Innocent X by Velazquez and several works by Caravaggio.
Palazzo Valentini. This is one of Rome’s best-kept secrets, right in the heart of the city. Palazzo Valentini is close to Trajan’s Column and sits above the atmospheric remains of some Roman houses (Domus Romane). On a Palazzo Valentini tour, guided by an archaeologist, you’ll get to explore the remains of the houses and travel back in time thanks to innovative virtual reconstructions.
Guided tours of Rome’s best museums
When visiting lesser-known museums in Rome, make sure you make the most of the experience by booking a guided tour with an expert. Roads to Rome Private Tours only uses guides who are archaeologists, experts in their field. A knowledgeable guide can help bring the past to life, showing you the secret treasures of the Eternal City and giving you a more comprehensive, in-depth experience.