Peeking into courtyards is a great way to explore a town literally going beyond the surface of a destination. From pocket parks in New York City to “Jardins” in Barcelona, such little oases help us escape overcrowded city lives. But if many of New York’s pocket parks are corporate-backed and designed down to the most minute details and Barcelona’s “jardins” are something out of the most creative dreams of landscape gardeners, Rome’s hidden inner courtyards were meant to recreate the atmosphere of the village’s main square. They are places where you can hang out the laundry, let the kids play all day long, and where neighborhood relationships are built. You can find these hidden gems of beauty both within the medieval buildings of the city center and in the suburbs of Rome, especially in those suburban neighborhoods planned as garden cities. Here are 5 of our favorite destinations in Rome:

1. Arco Degli Acetari | Campo de’ Fiori

top-5 hidden courtyards of Rome campo de fiori untapped cities giulia blocal

This is probably one of the most famous hidden courtyards of Rome, portrayed in many postcards and featured in several movies. You can enter it from a striking passage from via del Pellegrino just few blocks away from the popular piazza Campo de’ Fiori. Here the time seems to have stopped; you will find a characteristic hand-cart parked in the middle of the courtyard and some sleepy cats resting on the outer stairs of the beautiful medieval buildings.


Once you have seen the Colosseum, visited the Vatican Museums and wandered around the historic center, you should venture off the beaten track to get a true taste of the Eternal city. From industrial archeology to contemporary and street art, here are 10 lesser-known spots that you won’t find in your pocket guide.

1. MURo, the urban museum of Rome, Quadraro

Top 10 lesser-known sites of Rome.MURO_Quadraro.Blocal

Rome is not exactly full of street art, but there are still a few areas worth a graffiti hunt, such as the open air urban museum at the old Quadraro neighborhood. Since 2010 the organizers of this street art project have invited several international artists (such as Jim Avignon and Ron English) as well as Italian artists to re-paint this hood, which is worth a visit anyway, if only for the charm of its decadent villas and the quaint atmosphere.  (more…)

Untapped Cities Rome Ara Pacis E Ryan museum plaza

One thing you learn quickly in Rome is that there is not a lot of contemporary architecture in the historic center. Newer high profile works tend to be clumped at the edges, like Renzo Piano’s Parco della Musica and Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI Museum.  So it’s notable when a bold new work, like the Ara Pacis Museum, muscles its way into the historic core.

The Ara Pacis, or “altar of peace” is a remarkable artifact. Lost for over a thousand years, it was discovered piece by piece, over centuries, and involved everyone from archaeologists to members of nobility and even Mussolini himself. (more…)

Source: Wikimedia Commons Source: Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that Roman Holiday, the 1953 film that launched Audrey Hepburn‘s career, was the first American movie to be shot entirely in Italy? In addition to Hepburn’s career, it also launched Rome onto the world stage as a major cultural destination once more. Today, we’re touring of some of Roman Holiday‘s most memorable filming locations.  (more…)

Untapped Cities Capuchin Crypt 6 E Ryan

Of all the places you might find the Capuchin crypt, the Via Veneto in Rome seems to be the unlikeliest location.  But amid this district of four star hotels, expensive restaurants and swanky habitués, there resides a strange ossuary that has survived the centuries. Here, five successive chambers are decorated in carefully wrought patterns and vignettes constructed entirely of human bones and mummified corpses.  (more…)

Untapped Contributor: Ellen Ryan

06/29/2013 at 10:00 am

Posted In Arts & Culture, Rome

by diksha

Ellen Ryan Untapped Cities

Every week, we highlight one of our 300+ Untapped Cities contributors worldwide. This week, we’re featuring Ellen Ryan, an Untapped city correspondent based in Rome.

What’s your “day job”?

Right now it’s exploring Rome while my husband completes his felllowship at the American Academy here. Previously I was interim executive director at openhousenewyork and before that I was a senior staff member at three great organizations: Brooklyn Bridge Park, the NYC Department of City Planning and the Municipal Art Society.

What’s your favorite Untapped spot in your city?

Pamphili Park is a true gem, a local park the way only Rome can do them. A former estate of one of the city’s wealthy Renaissance families, Pamphili is lush, filled with decrepid follies and the perfect retreat from the constant hum of motorinos and carabinieri.

Favorite piece you’ve written for Untapped?

Centrale Montemartini, a beautifully restored thermoelectric plant filled with imperial era sculpture. This museum is the perfect pairing of industrial architecture and classical archaeology. (more…)