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Secret Gardens in Rome - Oases hiding in plain sight

Did you know we have secret gardens in Rome? 

I love this gothic structure in the Villa Celimontana, not far from the Palatine Hill.

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.

The best secret gardens in Rome near the sites

Would you believe that there are some real oases of peace, right in the center of Rome? Right near the tourist sites? 

I am not talking about churches, or a cozy cafe (those are great too!)

The Villa Borghese is one of the loveliest parks we have in Rome. Nearly 40% of Rome is made up of green space, making it one of the largest among European capitals.

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.

You may know some of these spaces already - the Villa Borghese, the Appian Way, the Palatine Hill. These parks are usually destinations in and of themselves.

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:

1. Palazzo Venezia

Every time I visit the gardens of Palazzo Venezia, I am amazed to find there is hardly anyone there. 

One of my favorite things about this secret garden is the mix of architectural styles from the Medieval to the Renaissance to the Baroque.

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.


2. Ospedale nuovo trastevere

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.

I know it's hard to believe but this stunning medieval cloister can be found inside a hospital. And it's free and open to the public.

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.

This has to be one of my all-time favorite secret gardens in Rome, especially in spring and summer when the hydrangeas bloom.

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.


3. Villa Aldobrandini

Situated between the Quirinal Palace, the beginning of Monti neighbourhood, and Trajan’s Market, there is a beautiful garden with views over Rome. 

Just above Piazza Venezia and near the ruins of Ancient Rome, this quiet secret garden is a green oasis of calm.

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.

What's it near: Trajan's Market, Quirinale, Fori Imperiali, Via Nazionale (shopping), Trevi Fountain, Piazza della Repubblica, Termini Train station.

How to get there: Via Mazzarino, 11. It's a short walk from Piazza Venezia or from Piazza della Repubblica.


4. Garden of Sant'Alessio

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 Giardino degli Aranci, or Orange Tree Garden, on the Aventine Hill, is a favorite for many. For a quieter spot, head just down the street.

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. 

From the secret garden of Sant'Alessio, you can admire this view of Saint Peter's basilica in peace and quiet.

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.



The perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome

Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.

In my 3-day itinerary, you'll see all the major must-see Rome attractions like the Vatican, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo, and much more.

And if you have more time, or want suggestions for extra/other things to do, you'll find that there too.

Visit my page with the best 3-day itinerary in Rome for first-timers.


5. Casa dell'Architettura

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.

I love this quiet green spot so close to Termini station.

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.

There is also a café inside the Casa dell'Architettura.

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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6. Villa Celimontana

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.

Villa Celimontana offers a lot of quiet green space complete with ponds, fountains, and lush rolling lawns. Perfect for a nap between sites!

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.


7. Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo is definitely a must-see monument in Rome.

And given its proximity to Saint Peter's Basilica and also to Piazza Navona, many people visit Castel Sant'Angelo together with one of those sights.

Part of the park that surrounds Castel Sant'Angelo is this structure of the Vatican Walls that pope's once used to escape attacks on the Vatican and Rome.

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.

I love the view of Castel Sant'Angelo from the garden in the back, especially in the afternoon when the sun makes it glow.

Which is precisely why this is one of the best secret gardens in Rome for a break near the Vatican.

What's it near: Castel Sant'Angelo; Vatican; Piazza Navona, Angel Bridge

How to get there: Walk out of Saint Peter's Square, straight ahead and you'll come to it in about 5 minutes. Coming from Piazza Navona, cross the Angel Bridge


8. Palazzo Barberini

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.

Palazzo Barberini is one of my favorite art museums in Rome. But it also has one of the best secret gardens in Rome!

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.

Palazzo Barberini offers what I consider one of the loveliest secret gardens in Rome.

There are a few places to sit and some trees to offer shade. 

What's it near: Piazza Barberini; Spanish Steps; Trevi Fountain

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.


9. Cemetery of Commonwealth war Graves

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 quiet cemetery on the edge of Testaccio offers a quiet place to rest and contemplate.

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.

The Cemetery for Commonwealth War Graves is home to 422 graves of casualties from WWII.

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.

Want to know more about cemeteries in Rome?

Check out my page Cemeteries in Rome (and near Rome) that you can visit!


10. Sant’Andrea al Quirinale

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.

The park of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale is one of the smaller secret gardens in Rome.

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.

More secret gardens in Rome

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.

Sometimes you can find a hidden cloister. Or, check out some of the parks in far-flung local neighborhoods.

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.

Secret Gardens in Rome - a Map

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.


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