Did you know we have secret gardens in Rome?
If you're looking for some peace and quiet in Rome, it can be tough to come by when you are zipping around in high season, trying to see all the sites along with the hordes of other visitors like you.
Would you believe that there are some real oases of peace, right in the center of Rome? Right near the tourist sites?
I am talking about green space, fresh air, and a respite from the din and chaos of touristy Rome. A place to sit, take in some nature, gather your thoughts, your strength, and some zen.
But often, when I am making my way through the crowds in Rome, I need a place to rest my feet, to absorb some of that sensory overload that Rome can give you, for better or for worse, and really, to just some peace and quiet for a moment.
Below you'll find my favorite secret gardens in Rome near many of the main tourist attractions.
Some are public parks, others are hidden gardens. They are all free and open to the public. Most are open daily, all day long:
Every time I visit the gardens of Palazzo Venezia, I am amazed to find there is hardly anyone there.
It's been open to the public for a few years, but it still seems relatively unknown.
There is a sweet decorative fountain, and there are benches under palm trees filled with chirping birds.
What it's near: Piazza Venezia, and the Complesso Vittoriano (big wedding cake); via Fori Imperiali; Capitoline Hill and Capitoline Museums.
How to get there: Via del Plebiscito, 118, but you can also go in from the back. Facing the Complesso Vittoriano, walk to your right. Pass the Basilica di San Marco and you will see the gate to the garden.
One of my favourite places to visit in Trastevere is the medieval cloister inside the hospital there. Yes, you read that right. This stunning cloister is part of a hospital.
Anyone can visit, and locals often do, especially in nice weather.
You can enjoy the space, sit and relax, or explore a little bit and check out the various spaces, and even the very special church in the second cloister.
What it's near: Santa Maria in Trastevere, Piazza San Cosimato
How to get there: Viale di Trastevere, but you can also get there from the car entrance on the side. Facing the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, walk to your left onto Piazza San Callisto (there you can grab a cafe at the iconic bar, Bar San Callisto). Keep walking straight but stay to your right as the road forks. You will pass the huge open square of San Cosimato. You might catch the outdoor market there. Keep going straight, keeping this market to your right. You will pass a small playground. Just after that, look on your left. You will see a medieval gate. Just past that you will see a driveway that's the entrance to the hospital. Go inside and straight ahead you will see the cloister.
Situated between the Quirinal Palace, the beginning of Monti neighbourhood, and Trajan’s Market, there is a beautiful garden with views over Rome.
It's run by the city of Rome and is completely public. Sometimes it looks a bit forlorn but no matter, it's still a lovely peaceful spot.
How to get there: Via Mazzarino, 11. It's a short walk from Piazza Venezia or from Piazza della Repubblica.
By now, the Orange Tree Garden on the Aventine Hill has become a little bit famous. If you haven’t been, by all means, head over there!
The Orange Tree Garden a nice green space all by itself. But it can be busy there, especially in high season, and at sunset.
But there is another beautiful park, just down the road a little bit, as part of the church of Sant'Alessio. And it’s pretty much always empty.
What's it near: Testaccio, Basilica of Santa Sabina; Knights of Malta keyhole; Orange tree garden; Roseto rose garden
How to get there: Via di Sant'Alessio. From the Circo Massimo Blue line Metro, walk half-way up via del Circo Massimo. Turn left at the Roseto Rose Garden and keep walking straight past the Basilica of Santa Sabina.
This interesting 19th-century building was once an aquarium, a cinema, a circus, and a warehouse. It was long abandonded before being recently restored, along with the garden. The building today is an event space focused on promoting architecture.
It's free and easy to visit the gardens.
You will find benches, some cats, and a large remnant of the Servian Walls that once defended Rome in the 4th century BCE.
What's it near: Termini station; Santa Maria Maggiore; Piazza Vittorio
How to get there: Piazza Manfredo Fanti, 47. From Termini station it's a 2 block walk.
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While Villa Borghese may be one of Rome's most beautiful and most visited public parks, Villa Celimontona is a bit more of a local gem. Residents love to stroll, exercise, take their kids to play, and just enjoy this beautiful little green space.
But this park is so close to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, it is a perfect spot to come for a break in between or after sight-seeing.
You'll find pony rides for kids, plenty of drinking and decorative fountains, an ancient Egyptian obelisk, and much more. Great in summer for open-air jazz concerts!
What's it near: Palatine Hill, Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Basilica of San Clemente
How to get there: Via della Navicella. From the Colosseum, it's a 10-minute walk up via Claudia. From the Palatine Hill at via di san Gregorio, you can take some footpaths and walk nearly straight up the hill to the Clivo di Scauro and enter the park through the back.
Which makes for a busy sightseeing day.
But part of the makeup of Castel Sant'Angelo is its garden that wraps like a horseshoe all the way around the back. Most people miss it because you don't really see it from the front, and once you visit the monument, you've used up quite a bit of time and energy.
Which is precisely why this is one of the best secret gardens in Rome for a break near the Vatican.
While the museum of Palazzo Barberini is well worth a visit, many people don't realize there are a lot of hidden gems here that are free and open to the public whether you visit the museum or not.
For example, you may want to see the two stunning staircases by Bernini and Borromini.
Or, you may want to walk straight through the middle of the building to the back, where you can find perhaps one of the loveliest secret gardens in Rome.
There are a few places to sit and some trees to offer shade.
How to get there: From Red line Metro Barberini/Piazza Barberini, walk up via delle Quattro Fontane about halfway. From the Trevi Fountain, it's about a five minute walk straight up.
It may seem unusual to include a cemetery in a list of secret gardens in Rome.
But I also know many people enjoy taking some quiet time in cemeteries. I often see people sitting on the benches in the nearby Protestant Cemetery.
This cemetery is a bit different. It's slightly off the beaten path and very little-known.
And besides taking the time to contemplate the somber nature of this place, you can also admire a good stretch of the Aurelian walls, not to mention a piece of Hadrian's Wall brought all the way from England! This is, after all, the Cemetery of Commonwealth War Graves.
There is usually a padlock on the gate to keep out vandals/vagrants, but you will either find it's not actually locked, or, you can open it with the combination 1221. The padlock is located at the rear of the gate, behind the two handles. (This information is on their website.)
What's it near: Testaccio; Pyramid; Non-Catholic cemetery
How to get there: Take Blue Metro B and get off at Piramide. It's a 6-minute walk from there. It's also at the end of the block past the Protestant cemetery, and on the same street as the Roman trattoria Flavio Velavevodetto.
The little park of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale is like many secret gardens in Rome - small, easily missed, but very green and very quiet. I love this garden for a few reasons.
It's easy to reach from Piazza Barberini, the Trevi Fountain, the Qurinale. It's got lots of places to sit. It always seems clean and well-kept.
And I love the little drinking fountain in the back.
What's it near: Quirinal Palace; Four fountains; Borromini's San Carlino church; Bernini's Sant'Andrea church; Trevi Fountain
How to get there: It's between the Four Fountains and the Quirinal Palace. Just walk along via XX Settembre and you will see it.
There are certainly more than just 10 secret gardens in Rome.
If you're looking for off-the-beaten-paths spots, try ducking into a church.
These 10 secret gardens in Rome are just some of my favorites. And, they happen to be smack in the middle of the tourist areas, so they are perfect for me to escape and breathe for a moment.
I cherish these spots as a place to rest, meditate, and just enjoy some quiet. And now you can too.
Click here to visit my interactive Google map showing all the secret gardens in Rome listed on this page. It will open in a new window.