Today Luxurysafes blog will share with you 8 of Rome’s secret places to go:

1.Ostia Antica

Why do the long haul down to Pompeii and Herculaneum when you have this wonderful alternative just outside the city? A half-hour hop on the commuter train to Ostia brings you to Ostia Antica, the impressively preserved port of the ancient city. The Med is now two miles away but for well over 600 years, until its decline in the fourth century AD, Ostia buzzed with maritime trade from the whole immense Empire. 

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The decumanus maximus (main street) leads through the site to a theatre, a cosy communal toilet block, a forum where trade guilds’ emblems appear on floor mosaics, and houses with first floors still partially intact. My favourite bit is the ancient bar-restaurant, with the day’s menu still frescoed on the walls. The Roman theatre is still used for plays and concerts during the summer months.

2. San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

What an architectural marvel San Carlo is! Enter this ingenious little church, by Baroque maverick Francesco Borromini, and you’d hardly guess that the whole footprint was the size of one of the pilasters of St Peter’s (this is why locals refer to it affectionately as San Carlino – ‘Little Saint Charles’). 

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The tortured, bipolar architect twisted lines and space to such an extent that volumes seem to appear out of nowhere in this oval creation, lit beautifully by high windows. There’s a tiny courtyard with perfectly proportioned Corinthian columns. And when the monks are in the mood, they’ll show you their extraordinary library too. 

3. Protestant cemetery

That Keats and Shelley should be buried in this lovely place beneath the shadow of Rome’s only pyramid is particularly fitting: the cemetery is hopelessly romantic. It was my green refuge of choice when I lived just down the road in the Testaccio district. The cemetery grew up here because it lies ‘beyond the pale’, just outside the town walls. Non-Catholics struggled to be allowed a burial in papal Rome, and even after this patch of land was granted to them in the early 18th century, funerals tended to take place quietly, often at night. 

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Since 1953, this graveyard has officially been known not as the ‘Protestant’ but as the ‘Acatholic cemetery’: Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians… and Antonio Gramsci, founder of the Italian Communist Party, are buried here. But for most Romans, it’s the old name that sticks. 

4. San Clemente

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One of Rome’s most worthwhile but least publicised sightseeing treats, this historically-layered cake descends from a street-level medieval and early-Renaissance church, with frescoes by Masolino, via a fourth-century early Christian church to the basement remains of a second-century insula (apartment block), complete with shrine to Mithras. When down here, listen for the sound of running water: an ancient sewer passes close by before dumping its contents in the Tiber. 

5. Pizzeria Remo

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To see a Roman pizzeria at its most enjoyably lively, head for the down-to-earth Testaccio district. On a corner overlooking a small park, Remo serves up good Roman-style flat pizzas, with all the classic toppings, to a loud and appreciative audience. The tomato and basil bruschettas are also excellent. Beer, water or soft drinks are the liquids of choice; they do also have wine, but it’s pretty rough. To secure one of the few coveted outside tables you’ll need to come early, or wait your turn, as they don’t take bookings.

6. Antica Birreria Peroni

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Roll out the barrel at this vintage Roman-style bierkeller, where crowds of appreciative locals and tourists pack in to dine on filling carb and meat fare, washed down with draught Peroni. There are four beers on tap, including Nastro Azzurro and, believe it or not, Fuller’s London Pride. The food, served by hale and hefty waiters, consists of three or four daily-changing pasta dishes, plus sausages, steaks, goulash, grilled scamorza cheese and a few salads.

7. Bar Necci dal 1924

Few tourists ever venture into Pigneto, where this uber-cool, all-day bar-restaurant is situated. But it’s well worth making the effort. Once an under-the-radar district of ramshackle housing sandwiched between the busy Casilina and Prenestina roads, Pigneto has become the Hoxton or SoHo of Rome in the last decade or so. And Bar Necci is the poster-boy for the transformation. Late lamented film director Pasolini used to hang out here when it was a drinking bar with pool tables. 

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Now it’s a funky diner with sixties-themed décor, but there’s substance beneath the style. The food is based on fresh, seasonal ingredients – as in the panicollo (skirt steak) served with Swiss chard and sweet-and-sour Tropea onions. Open from breakfast through to the small hours, this is a multi-tasking space where you can enjoy a full meal or simply stop in for a drink with all the other Pigneto hipsters. 

8. Bottega del Marmoraro

Man reading newspaper in Bottega del Marmoraro on Via Magutta.

At first glance, it’s not easy to work out Sandro Fiorentini’s little kingdom in artsy Via Margutta. Is it a shop, a workshop, or simply the ground-floor den of a passionate collector? In reality it’s all three: set up by Sandro’s father Enrico, this cave of wonders is dedicated to the working of marble in all its aspects (marmoraro means marble mason in Roman dialect), though these days restoration and the sourcing of antique materials, carvings and sculptures is Fiorentini’s core business. If you’re just looking for an original gift, however, he also does a nice line of small marble plaques with humorous mottoes in Latin, Italian and Roman dialect.

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