Finally, even if you must visit a popular site during the day in high season, here's what to do . . .
1. Escape the Crowds in Rome - Come in Low season
In recent years, I've noticed that even during months I used to consider "low-season", there are a lot more tourists than before. I think with the help of the internet, people now know better when "low season" is, and they are coming then, so even those months are getting busier.
As of 2018, I would consider Rome to be at its quietest: around the third week of November; December, 10-24; January 7 - February 7 more or less. Yes, I know, those are pretty short periods. But that's the way it is now.
Are you shocked at how crowded Rome is?
I find many people don't realize when high season is, and come in spring or fall thinking it would be a "good time to come to Rome".
Yep, it is.
The weather is beautiful. The days are long and comfortable. The nights are cool and great for strolling and eating outside.
And that's why it's high season.
So Rome is pretty busy from mid-march to mid-November.
One way to escape the crowds in Rome - come in low season, which is only from mid-November - early February, not including holiday dates.
2. Escape the Crowds in Rome - Visit Less Popular Sites
You know what the popular sites are. They are on your list just like they are on everyone's list. And of course you should see them!
But there are also some stunning museums, churches, piazzas and fountains
3. ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN ROME - Go Super Early or go Late
4. ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN ROME - Book a VIP Access Tour
5. ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN ROME - Take a Day Trip
6. ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN ROME - Use your Feet
7. ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN ROME - Don't Stay in the Center
8. ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN ROME - Change your Altitude
9. ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN ROME - Go underground
10. ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN ROME - How to stay sane in high season
Where to go to Escape the Crowds in Rome
So let's say you are here during a busy period, i.e. pretty much any time from mid-March - November.
You can bet the hotspots like the Colosseum, Vatican and Trevi Fountain will be packed to the gills!
So one way to escape the crowds in Rome is not to visit those monuments. If you want to visit some other things in Rome that are absolutely wonderful and much less crowded, try these options:
Parks - An easy way to enjoy some green space, quiet and views
Museums - Visit some of the less-visited but still spectacular museums in Rome
Churches - See my page about some very special churches in Rome: Quiet, cool and peaceful, some of Rome's less-visited churches offer some wondrous art
Roman Ruins - Rome is full of archeological sites that are off the beaten track
Cemeteries - There are two beautiful and historic cemeteries right next to each other in the heart of Rome.
Escape the crowds in Rome: Views, Parks and Quiet
Rome is blessed with a number of parks and green space. You won't find these parks (or trees or benches for that matter) in the historic center of Rome, where all the major sites are. But they are all around Rome and very accessible, even by foot.
Gianicolo (Janiculum) Hill and Trastevere
The Gianicolo (Janiculum) hill is without a doubt one of the best places to have a panoramic vista of Rome. You see almost the entire center of Rome, with many monuments clearly visible, spread out in front of you. But also, to the back, you also get bonus views of St Peters dome.
This is where the locals go to escape the crowds in Rome. It's green, shady, peaceful and quiet and you can still enjoy a slice of Rome life by taking a stroll down the hill to the other side, towards the quiet back streets of Trastevere (if you wind up in the main square of Trastevere, Santa Maria in Trastevere, or on one of the main streets, such as via del Moro, via della Lungaretta or vicolo del Cinque, then it will not be quiet any more.)
How to get here: You will want to connect to the 115 or the 870 bus that winds up the hill. (You can use the city transportation website, ATAC, to see which bus to take from where you are.) Alternatively, from the left side of the Vatican, you may even walk up this winding hill, and take in the views as you climb.
The Janiculum is not one of the Seven Hills of Rome, as it is west of the Tiber and outside the confines of the ancient city of Rome.
Other wonderful things to see on the Gianicolo hill as you walk down towards Trastevere:
The Fontana dell'Acqua Paola ("Er Fontanone" in Roman dialect.)
The Tempietto del Bramante, sequestered behind the gates of the church of San Pietro in Montorio.
Spectacular Views from the "Other" Ancient Rome
I have spent a lot of time developing walks for visitors to Rome. Here's one I just love. It includes some of Rome's most wonderful sites (The Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and the Mouth of Truth), while avoiding most of the hustle and bustle.
In this 2-hour walk, you get parks, green space, places to sit and relax, and plenty of amazing views along the way.
Start at the Complesso Vittoriano in Piazza Venezia. (This is the monument to the last king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele. It was built between 1885 and 1925.)
Walk around it to the right hand side and pass the ancient Roman houses (insulae romane), one of the few ancient Roman ruins left on the Capitoline Hill after Mussolini plowed most of it down to make way for this monument and the impressive roads leading to it.
Walk up the ramp towards the Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill - one of the 7 hills of Rome.)
This beautiful square was designed by Michelango. If you could see it from above, you'd see a perfect geometric design on the floor.
Capitoline Hill is also where City Hall is - and where I got married!
At the top of the ramp to Campidoglio, turn to your right before setting foot on the piazza. You will see an archway...walk through that.
On your left is the secret back-door entrance to the cafe at the top of the Capitoline museums. You do not need to enter the Capitoline Museums to visit the cafe. Just go on up! And this is the view you get (above.)
And...if the museum is closed, in any case, there is a little park right at the entry level, with similar views (just a little lower.) It's a lovely, quiet, shady space to contemplate some of Rome's rooftops.
After you've had some nice quiet time pondering the beautiful rooftops in front of you, and perhaps enjoyed some shade in the little park, come back down to the plaza of the Campidoglio (yes it will be crowded here, but we will move along.)
The statue in the middle is of the square is Marcus Aurelius, one of the first emperors of Rome.
It's actually a replica. The original is inside the Capitoline Museums (on either side of you. You just went to the top, remember?)
Now walk to the right of the square and all the way to the back.
This is not the part where we escape the crowds in Rome, but the view is on our way towards quieter spaces and so worth the stop.
Just a note...you are now standing on top of the Tarpeian Rock (Rupe Tarpea), from where, in ancient Roman times, criminals were thrown to their deaths.
Now turn towards your right and walk down the street that takes you down the Monte Tarpeo.
You will come to a little staircase. Take that down and you will find yourself in a large square full of parked cars (plus an impressive church.)
Walk up the stairs to the hill on the opposite side, and you have a choice of cafe's where you can sit in the shade and peace and enjoy the scenery of the ruins in front of you.
Continue walking on via Fieneli, through this serene, un-visited residential neighbourhood, and you will come to via san Teodoro.
Take a right here, and it will bring you to the Circus Maximus. The Circus Maximus was once a huge stadium used for chariot races and many other types of games and spectacles.
Today it is a large, grassy park, and is used for relaxing, dog-walking and occasionally, protests or concerts.
Walk around Circus Maximus to get a beautiful view of the Palatine Hill from above. Even in high season, it is just not that crowded up here.
Now, turn behind you and you'll see a giant statue of Giuseppe Mazzini (an Italian activist for a unified Italy). Just behind him, is the splendid Roseto Rose Garden of Rome. It is only open during the month of May (and it's free), but even if it's not open, you can still along the road that takes you through it.
Once you pass through the Roseto, keep walking up through the Aventine Hill (yes, this is another of the 7 hills of Rome), and you will come to the Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci, or, as it's actually called, the Parco Savello.)
Here, again, you can sit, have some water from the drinking fountain, enjoy some shade, take in some spectacular rooftop views of Rome, and certainly escape the crowds in Rome.
If you like, you can keep going along this road to the top. There you will find a curiosity in Rome: the locked doorway of the Order of the Knights of Malta. And why is there such a huge queue there? To look through the keyhole and see the dome of St. Peters. It's very nice but when there is a massive crowd, I'd suggest you skip it. This walk is meant to escape the crowds of Rome.
Now we come to one of the prettiest, and quietest parts of our walk. We are near the end.
Come back out of the Orange Garden, and go back just a little the way you came. On your left you will see a gate to a slope called Clivo di Rocca Savella. This is what is known as one of the "Silent Streets of Rome."
It's an ancient Roman road, that cuts between the San Sabina church and the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (which will be the end of the walk.) At the bottom of the Clivo, turn right and walk to the church below:
Once you reach the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, you are back in the crowds.
Why? Because in the little outside area of this wonderful Byzantine church, you will find the Mouth of Truth (La Bocca della Verità.) And it has become a huge tourist attraction. In fact, they charge money now to take your picture with it.
So...in keeping with our desire to escape the crowds of Rome, skip this line, and go inside the church. It's really beautiful, with a well-preserved Cosmatesque floor, and even an underground site to visit to the crypt of Hadrian.
Do you still want to see the Mouth of Truth? Just peek through the grating and you can get this photo:
Want to download a map of the above walk? I've mapped it for you. You can go to this site and download my trip to your smartphone or gps, and follow it yourself:
The Villa Borghese Park
The Borghese park, or Villa Borghese is probably one of the most central and most accessible parks in Rome.
The Villa Borghese park is home to the stunning Galleria Borghese museum (but also other museums); a zoo, a swan lake with paddle boats; cafe's; an old horse-track used by runners today; a carousel; and lots of lakes, fountains and grassy spots to chill out and enjoy some quiet time.
You can also rent bicycles, Segways and go-carts and ride around the park.
It's not that easy to find a map of the Villa Borghese online. I've taken this photo of a map posted in the park by the City of Rome. It may be misleading because it seems as if things are close to each other. In fact, to get from the left side to right side of the park, walking, would take you about an hour.
In the map of the Villa Borghese park above, the Galleria Borghese museum is all the way to the far upper-right hand side. To the far upper-left hand side is the Pincio.
The Pincio is another wonderful spot in Rome where you may escape the crowds in Rome. If you are planning to see the Spanish Steps, you will find that it's usually pretty packed full of people, whether at the top of the steps or the bottom. Try this short itinerary, which includes the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, but also, surprisingly, allows you to escape the crowds in Rome.
Starting at the top of the Spanish Steps (called the Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, named for the church there), you'll want to see the view, but you'll find crowds, artists, street vendors and more crowds. Just keep walking along the road to the right, the Viale della Trinità dei Monti.
Ciampini Bar, at the top of the Spanish Steps. Sit and have a coffee while enjoying the rooftop views of Rome, and Saint Peters done, in front of you.
Ciampini Bar, open from spring - fall, allows a lovely oasis for a quiet drink or snack. In the middle right of this photo, you might see a little fountain in the middle with turtles.
A nice place to stop for a coffee or snack is Ciampini bar/restaurant, just at the top of the Spanish Steps to the right. It's not that expensive, and you will already start to escape the crowds at the top of the Spanish Steps.
As you walk along the street leading away from the top of the Spanish Steps, you start to have these beautiful rooftop views of Rome all to yourself.
When you see this ramp going up to the right, take it up and you will start to see panoramic views of Rome below you to your left. And even in high season, it's not ever really crowded up here.
From the Pincio, you have this view in front you: piazza del Popolo below and St Peters directly ahead. To your left, you will see much more of a panoramic view of Rome's rooftops.
You may decide from here to spend just a little time walking into the Villa Borghese park, enjoying the green space.
Walk down the right hand side of the pincio hill, and you will find yourself in Piazza del Popolo. Although this is not a place to escape the crowds in Rome, you may want to sit in one of the two cafés on the plaza and do some Roman people watching.
View of Piazza del Popolo from the cafe's.
Start walking down the left-hand street, via del Babuino. This is a major shopping street and also has very narrow sidewalks, so it's always crowded. So to keep with our theme of how to escape the crowds in Rome...
This may not be for everyone, but if you really want a special retreat from the masses, pop into the Hotel de Russie immediately on your left as you begin to walk down via del Babuino. It's an oasis of a hotel with a special outside garden bar in the back. Drinks will set you back from 15-25€ each, but they come with lots of snacks, and you can sit and rest and enjoy the garden for as long as you like.
As you walk down via del Babuino, just after the Hotel de Russie, there is a street to your left. Take this and you will come to via Margutta. Walk down via Margutta, which is parallel to via del Babuino, and almost never crowded.
Via Margutta is an artists' street, full of art galleries and antique shops. It's almost always quiet and in spring and summer you will find it covered in plants and flowers.
So, despite being in one of the busiest, most tourist-visited parts of Rome (the Spanish Steps), by walking along the Viale della Trinità dei Monti, visiting the Pincio, and strolling down via Margutta, you will manage very well to escape the crowds in Rome, if just for a bit.
Escape the Crowds in Rome: Take in Rome's Under-visited Museums
Rome is full of amazing museums, and most visitors only have time for the two most famous ones (the Vatican museums, and the Galleria Borghese.) But, if you want to escape the crowds in Rome (it does not get more crowded in Rome than at the Vatican Museum), try visiting some of these:
Palazzo Altemps - an old ducal palace showcasing ancient Greek and Roman sculpture
Villa Farnesina - a noble Italian Renaissance villa, with frescoes by Rafael and others
Of these museums, the Villa Torlonia, Ara Pacis and Palazzo Altemps all participate in the Roma Pass. So if you have one, you may use it to enter these museums for free or at a discount. Go to my Roma Pass page for more details.
The palazzo Doria Pamphilj is an easily overlooked treasure of a museum. It's actually the downtown Roman villa of a once wealthy and prominent Roman family, and visiting it is like stepping back into their world. You will see ballrooms and sitting rooms as they were once lived in, and in the back there is an art gallery full of world-class paintings and sculptures, including works by Valazquez, Bernini, Brueghel, Correggio, Caravaggio, Rafaello, Domenichino and so many more.
The museum is also astoundingly accessible: just off the via del Corso, so you can escape the crowds in Rome immediately by just walking off the busiest street in Rome's center and right into the villa.
Details: Galleria Doria Pamphilj. Via del Corso, 305. 11€ entry also includes a well-done audio tour, given by the charming Prince Pamphilj himself! Open every day from 9.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. Closed: 25th December, 1st January, Easter.
The Villa Torlonia was once Mussolini's party palace. Visiting the villa Torlonia is combining a museum visit with a park visit. The Villa Torlonia is made up of several buildings, all set in a large park. The main building is a beautiful villa itself, with a permanent exhibit of Futuristic art on the top floor.
The other buildings has some other temporary exhibits, and in one, there is a charming outdoor cafe with lemon trees all around.
Or you can do as the Romans do, and escape the crowds in Rome by simply coming to the park itself, and lounging on the grounds with a blanket and a book.
Details: Villa Torlonia. Via Nomentana 70. Several buses stop here. See the ATAC website for directions from where you are. Tuesday-Sunday: 9.00 - 19.00; Closed Mondays and 25 December; 1 January; 1 May. Entry costs 11€.
The Ara Pacis ("Altar to Peace") is a large relic that was discovered just under the now via del Corso. It was such a large and important find, that a whole museum was built to house it.
The museum that showcases it was designed by American architect Richard Meier. It's a wonder of glass and light, and when you are inside this building, part of the joy of the museum visit is seeing the beautiful Baroque Roman architecture around you, through the enormous glass walls and skylights.
Not surprisingly, the building was vilified at first by many Romans who saw this modern building with its sharp, clean minimalist lines as being an affront to the wondrous ancient and baroque architecture surrounding it. Gianni Alemmano, once a candidate for Rome's mayor, used as part of his campaign platform, a promise to tear down this building if he became mayor. He has since come and gone as mayor. The building is still there.
Details: Museum of the Ara Pacis. Lungotevere in Augusta. This is another very accessible museum in Rome. It is also just a block off the via del Corso, and easily affords a quick way to escape the crowds in Rome. Tuesday-Sunday: 9.00 am - 7.00 pm. Closed Mondays and 1 January; 1 May; 25 December. Entry costs 8.50€.
The Palazzo Altemps is another little-known museum, but an excellent choice if you love ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. It's located just off of Piazza Navona, which in high season is always chock-a-block with people, so if you want to see escape the crowds in Rome, the Palazzo Altemps is just a few feet away.
Details: Palazzo Altemps. Piazza di Sant'Apollinare, 46 (just next to Piazza Navona, on the side closest to the Tiber river.) Open 9.00 to 19.45. Closed Mondays (except Easter Monday and during the "Culture Week"), 1 January, 25 December. Single ticket costs 7€ and is in fact valid for 3 days at 4 Roman Museum sites (Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Baths of Diocletian, Crypta Balbi.)
The Villa Farnesina is in a quiet part of Trastevere. It was once built for a wealthy banker, Agostino Chigi, during the Renaissance. The ceilings are covered with frescoes by Rafael (and other well known Italian artists of the day.)
The villa was eventually purchased by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (another wealthy nobleman, whose family also owned the Villa Farnese near Campo dei Fiori, which is today the French embassy.)
It is really worth visiting this gorgeous villa, just to see the Rafael frescoes. And it's almost always quiet and fairly empty inside, making this a great place to escape the crowds in rome.
Details:Villa Farnesina. Via della Lungara, 230. From piazza Trilussa in Trastevere, with your back towards the river, make a right, and keep walking, even walk past John Cabot University. Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Closed Sundays and holidays. Guided tours in English on Saturday at 10 am. Tickets are 6€.
Escape the Crowds in Rome: See the less-visited ancient Roman ruins
You can easily spot the big ancient Roman ruins smack in the center of Rome: The Roman Forum and the Coliseum. And, you can also spot the crushing crowds here.
Yes, they are worth a visit. But the Roman empire was vast and long, covering hundreds of years and several continents. But even in Rome itself, there are many ancient Roman ruins (besides the Coliseum and Forum), and they are absolutely worth a visit.
And, as wonderful as they are, you are unlikely to find many people there. If you want to escape the crowds in Rome, and still visit amazing ruins from Ancient Rome, add these to your list:
Technically Ostia Antica is not IN Rome itself, but it's also not far from Rome's city center. Ostia Antica is the ancient port city, the most important in Roman times. The ruins are fairly intact (think Pompeii without the ash, well not quite but really, they are really well-preserved), and easy to navigate.
I went here once in late spring and there was almost nobody there. Even in high season, you can escape the crowds of Rome and still enjoy an important Roman archeological site. You can stroll through the ruins, under tall pine trees, and really get a sense of Ancient Rome. There are intact amphitheaters, market stalls and even a toilet. And, if you like, you can take the train one more stop and go have lunch at the beach at Ostia.
Details: Ostia Antica. Take the Blue metro line B to the Piramide metro station. Come up out of the metro and go to the ground-level train tracks, taking the next train that comes along. You may use the same metro ticket you used already, as this is an urban train. In about half an hour, you will come to the stop, Ostia Scavi. Open Tuesday - Sunday, varying times, depending on daylight hours. Closed Mondays and holidays. Single tickets are 8€.
A visit to the Appian Way (Appia Antica) and the Catacombs is a wonderful way to escape the crowds in Rome, and still be IN Rome - really Ancient Rome. This subject deserves its own page but suffice to say, it's easy to get here, and you have a wealth of things to see and do:
Rent a bike and ride around the ancient Roman roads and through the Caffarella park.
Walk through the Caffarella park and visit the shepherds who sell the cheese they make there.
Visit some of the spectaular ancient Roman ruins such as the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella and the Villa dei Quintili.
Details: To get to the Appian Way, you can 1) take the Metro line A to San Giovanni, then take the 218 bus to the catacombs; 2) take the Metro line B to Circo Massimo and then take the 118 bus to the catacombs. Catacombs have varying hours, but there is at least one open every day. See above links for details.
The ancient Roman baths built by the emperor Caracalla in 216 AD comprise one of the most intact archeological sites in Rome. If you want to escape the crowds in Rome at the Coliseum and Forum, come visit these ruins.
The Caracalla Baths were some of the largest baths in Roman history, and best preserved today. They are so well preserved in fact, that in summer, The Rome Opera holds some of its performances there. It makes for a wonderful backdrop for these shows, and is almost always cool in the evenings, even in July and August, another reason to visit.
Details: Terme di Caracalla. Take the Blue Metro line B to Circo Massimo and walk from there. In fact it's a lovely walk along a grassy park. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9.00 to 18.30. Mondays from 9.00 to 14.00. Closed 1 January, Easter Monday, 25 December. Single ticket 6€.
Escape the Crowds in Rome: Enjoy the Silence of Two Beautiful Cemeteries
It seems visiting a cemetery might not be that pleasant. But in Rome, there are two beautiful, historic cemeteries right near each other. In addition to allowing you to escape the crowds in Rome, a walk through these two cemeteries is a lovely way to see another side of Rome, and enjoy some green space as well. Both cemeteries are also strangely uplifting, at least for me.
The non-Catholic cemetery in Rome
The Cemetery for non-Catholic Foreigners in Rome is not only beautiful but is also historic and unique. Keats and Shelley are both buried here. So are many other prominent artists, authors and diplomats.
Often called the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, it's been in continuous use (and still is today), since 1716.
In fact, many non-Catholic faiths are represented in this cemetery: Buddhism, Islam, Orthodox Christian, Judaism, and more.
It's a beautiful, peaceful place to stroll through. Here, you can not only escape the crowds of Rome, but you can also take in a bit of history that is often overlooked.
Details: Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome. Via Caio Cestio, 6, in Testaccio. The easiest way to get here is by taking the Blue Metro line B to the Piramide stop. Once you come up out of the metro, go to the pyramid, and walk around it to the back. Via Caio Cestio is a street off of via Marmorata, one of the main arteries of the Testaccio neighbourhood. Monday - Friday 9am-5pm. Sundays and holidays 9am - 1pm. 3€ Entry donation requested.
Once you have visited the "Protestant" cemetery of Rome, you can walk just a little ways to another, very little-known cemetery, the Memorial to the Commonwealth War Dead.
When you first enter this cemetery, you will walk through a sort of memorial dome, which already casts a sense of solemnity and deep respect. The grounds are not that big, but beautiful to wander and ponder. This cemetery contains the graves of 426 soldiers from the Commonwealth from WWII.
Details: Rome War Cemetery. Via Nicola Zabaglia 50. Turn left out of the Protestant cemetery and this cemetery will be at the far end of the road. The cemetery may be visited at any time. If gardeners are there, the gate will be open. Otherwise, you may use this combination on the padlock which is behind the two handles of the gate (the padlock is only there to prevent vandalism): 1221
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