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
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.
Thanks to a visionary public housing project inspired by the English concept of “garden cities“, this neighborhood is full of beautiful courtyards where locals love to gather. Rose gardens, orange blossoms, fountains and paved paths: each courtyard has its own peculiarity and you can cross the whole neighborhood stepping from one courtyard to another.
The charm of Testaccio is strictly connected to its sunny courtyards where you can forget about the chaos of one of the most dynamic neighborhoods of Rome and simply sit in a corner to people-watch and enjoy the bustling life of this hood.
4. Trullo Neighborhood
Trullo is one of the poorest neighborhoods of Rome, whose name is also sadly linked to the criminal organization ‘Banda della Magliana‘ born in this area during the 1970s. But this violent aura originating from a criminal past has been color-washed for good thanks to a recent makeover undertaken by the Anonymous Painters from Trullo, an independent group of local artists who are repainting the hood with a colorful style, making this garden city turned slum even prettier.
Via Degli Orti D’Alimbert | Trastevere
If you think that Trastevere neighborhood lost its charm becoming an area overcrowded by tourists, think again: almost halfway along via degli Orti d’Alimbert you will discover one of Rome’s best kept secret by entering a small arch which will lead you into a maze of hidden courtyards and characteristic alleys adorned with lovely potted plants and clothes characteristically hung out. Still part of a public housing complex, these beautiful buildings with traditional red ochre facades remind us about the working-class origin of this neighborhood, which now is sadly known as the drunken tourists’ top destination in Rome. But, as always, all you need is peeking beyond the facade.