Eternal City's Hidden Charm: 10 Unique Off-the-Beaten-Path Squares in Rome, Italy

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Buongiorno and welcome to RomeCabs, Rome’s top-rated tour company for private tours of Rome and Rome Shore Excursions from Civitavecchia. Rome breathes history from every cobblestone and whispers tales of the ancient world while mesmerizing all who visit it with its charm and beauty. While iconic squares like Piazza Navona and Piazza di Spagna are must-visit squares, there are so many other unique and off-the-beaten-path squares waiting for you to discover them.

In this travel blog, we will show you 10 unique and lesser-known, off-the-tourist-path squares in Rome that exude charm, authenticity, and a taste of local life.  While some of these squares are part of our Rome tours and Shore Excursions, if you wish to book a driver for the day to take you to all the amazing places Rome has to offer, check out our ROME YOUR WAY WITH PRIVATE DRIVER.


10 Unique Off-the-Beaten-Path Squares in Rome


1.  Piazza Mattei - Turtle Fountain Square

 Piazza Mattei - Turtle Fountain Square unique off beaten path squares in Rome private tours in limo


First on our list of unique and off-the-beaten-path squares in Rome is Piazza Mattei, often referred to as Turtle Fountain Square, which is a hidden gem nestled within the historic Jewish Ghetto of Rome. This quaint square, with its cobblestone pathways and charming ambiance, stands as a testament to the city's rich history. The centerpiece of Piazza Mattei is the exquisite Turtle Fountain, a masterpiece crafted by the skilled hands of Giacomo della Porta.

The fountain is a captivating work of art, adorned with four intricately designed bronze turtles that gracefully support a majestic obelisk. This unique and whimsical feature adds a touch of playfulness to the otherwise serene surroundings. As the turtles bask in the flowing water, they create an enchanting spectacle that captures the imagination of visitors and locals alike.

Designed during the Renaissance period, the Turtle Fountain reflects the artistic finesse of Giacomo della Porta and serves as a testament to the era's fascination with classical motifs.

Piazza Mattei provides a welcome escape from the bustling city life that surrounds it. As you stroll through this small quare, you'll find yourself surrounded by well-preserved historic buildings that whisper tales of bygone eras. The ambiance exudes a sense of timeless beauty, inviting visitors to pause and absorb the tranquil atmosphere.


2.  Piazza del Popolo


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Piazza del Popolo, though not a hidden gem, stands as a monumental and often underrated square in Rome, overshadowed by the nearby Spanish Steps and the grandeur of Piazza di Trevi. However, upon closer exploration, Piazza del Popolo reveals its own unique charm and historical significance.

At the heart of the square is a majestic Egyptian obelisk, one of Rome's thirteen ancient obelisks. This impressive structure, originally erected in Heliopolis, Egypt, was later transported to Rome and placed in the center of Piazza del Popolo by Pope Sixtus V in 1589. The obelisk, with its hieroglyphic carvings, adds a touch of ancient allure to the square.

Dominating the eastern side of the square are the twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto. These nearly identical Baroque churches were built in the 17th century and stand as architectural masterpieces, creating a symmetrical and harmonious backdrop to the square. Their domes and facades contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal of Piazza del Popolo.

The northern entrance to the square is marked by the stunning Porta del Popolo, an ancient city gate that dates back to the Aurelian Walls and served as a grand entrance to the historic center of Rome.

As you explore Piazza del Popolo, consider making your way towards the Pincio Gardens, situated on the Pincian Hill just beyond the square. This elevated vantage point offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city, providing a picturesque setting to appreciate the iconic skyline, including the domes and rooftops of Rome.

Adjacent to Piazza del Popolo is the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, a hidden treasure that shouldn't be overlooked. This Renaissance church houses notable artworks, including masterpieces by Caravaggio and Raphael, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts.

In essence, while Piazza del Popolo may not be off the beaten path, its grandeur, historical elements, and the adjacent Santa Maria del Popolo church make it a captivating destination that deserves exploration beyond its more renowned counterparts in Rome.


3.  Piazza Venezia


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Piazza Venezia, although functioning as a bustling roundabout for traffic, is a monumental square that serves as a prominent crossroads of history and architecture in the heart of Rome. At its center stands the imposing Altare della Patria, also known as the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II. This grandiose structure of pure white marble, built to honor the first king of unified Italy, is a marvel of neoclassical design, adorned with Corinthian columns, equestrian statues, and allegorical figures representing the virtues of the Italian nation.

Adjacent to Piazza Venezia is the historic Capitoline Hill, where you'll find the iconic Campidoglio Square, designed by Michelangelo. The square is surrounded by three palaces, creating a harmonious trapezoidal shape. At its center stands an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, while the Capitoline Museums house a wealth of ancient artifacts and art collections.

Piazza Venezia serves as a pivotal hub in Rome, connecting various significant routes. From this central point, Via dei Fori Imperiali extends towards the Colosseum, offering a captivating journey through the archaeological heart of ancient Rome. Meanwhile, straight ahead leads Via del Corso, a vibrant shopping street that winds its way to Piazza del Popolo, inviting both locals and visitors to explore Rome's diverse offerings.  Another route takes you towards Teatro di Marcello, an ancient Roman theater, in the proximity to the Jewish Quarters. Continuing straight past Teatro di Marcello, your journey unfolds, eventually bringing you to the historic Piazza Bocca della Verità.


4.  Piazza Bocca della Verità


Piazza Bocca della Verita best squares in Rome private tours


Next on our list of unique and off-the-beaten-path squares in Rome is Piazza della Bocca della Verità, a square that resonates with history and mystery.  The square itself is steeped in history, occupying the site of the ancient "ox market" of the Forum Boarium. Legends suggest that this area drew visitors from Greece and Asia even before the founding of Rome. Archaeological discoveries, including Greek ceramics dating back to the 8th century BC and Mycenaean fragments, lend credence to this ancient tradition.

Piazza della Bocca della Verità is adorned with a wealth of monuments, each contributing to its historical and artistic significance. The prominent Santa Maria in Cosmedin church graces the square, offering a visual feast with its medieval portico adorned with ancient columns. Within the church, visitors can marvel at beautiful mosaics and frescoes, and the famous  Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità), a unique manhole that is preserved in the portico of the church.

Adding to the square's allure are the Temple of Hercules, mistakenly associated with the Temple of Vesta, and the Temple of Portunus, dedicated to the deity of the river port, both dating back to the 2nd century BC. These ancient structures, with their imposing presence, echo the rich history of Rome.

Facing the temples, the Fountain of the Tritons, a masterpiece created in 1715 by Carlo Bizzaccheri under the commission of Pope Clement XI, graces the square. This octagonal fountain features two tritons holding up a large shell, from which water gracefully flows. It serves as a testament to the city's commitment to art and beauty, providing a delightful visual centerpiece.

Mouth of Truth -  "La Bocca della Verità”


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Mouth of Truth, or "La Bocca della Verità" in Italian is an ancient artifact that both fascinates and mystifies visitors, adding a layer of intrigue to the atmospheric square.

Carved from marble, the Mouth of Truth takes the form of a circular stone disk featuring the detailed relief of a human face. This iconic marble mask is believed to trace its origins back to the Roman period, likely dates to the 1st century BCE.  According to popular folklore, the mouth possesses a magical quality: it would supposedly close shut if a person dared to tell a lie while placing their hand inside. This whimsical belief has captured the imaginations of countless visitors over the centuries, turning the act of placing one's hand in the Mouth of Truth into a lighthearted yet suspenseful ritual.


Roman Holiday (Vacanze Romane)

The Mouth of Truth is famously associated with the classic film "Roman Holiday" (Vacanze Romane). In the 1953 romantic comedy, directed by William Wyler and starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, the Mouth of Truth plays a memorable role in one of the film's iconic scenes.


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In the movie, Gregory Peck's character, Joe Bradley, takes Audrey Hepburn's character, Princess Ann, on a sightseeing tour of Rome. When they arrive at the Mouth of Truth in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Joe decides to play a prank on Princess Ann. He pretends that the Mouth of Truth has magical properties and will bite off the hand of anyone who tells a lie while placing their hand inside. Audrey Hepburn's reaction in the scene is genuine, as she was unaware of Gregory Peck's intention to play this prank. The scene is humorous and adds a delightful touch to the romantic and adventurous narrative of "Roman Holiday".

The Mouth of Truth scene has become an iconic moment in cinematic history, and the location has since become a popular tourist attraction in Rome, drawing visitors who want to recreate the charming moment from the film by putting their hand into the Mouth of Truth. The enduring popularity of "Roman Holiday" has contributed to the cultural significance of the Mouth of Truth and its association with the magic and romance of the Eternal City.


5.  Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere


Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere most unique must see squares in Rome private tours Civitavecchia


Venture across the Tiber River to the charming Trastevere district and discover Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. This picturesque square, anchored by the iconic Basilica di Santa Maria, beckons travelers with its timeless charm and authentic Roman ambiance.

Trastevere, renowned for its narrow cobblestone streets and historic architecture, is a bohemian neighborhood that retains the essence of old-world Rome.

Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere serves as the heart of this vibrant neighborhood. Locals and visitors alike gather in the square to enjoy the delightful surroundings. Inviting shops, charming cafes, and quaint restaurants surround the area of the square, providing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere and savor the authentic flavors of Rome.

The square comes alive in the evening, as the Basilica is illuminated and the surrounding area transforms into a romantic setting. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Piazza and beyond, appreciating the historic architecture and the intimate ambiance created by the soft glow of streetlights.

As you venture into Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Basilica di Santa Maria dominates the scene, standing as a testament to centuries of history and religious significance.


Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere

Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere unique squares in Rome in limo tours


The Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome, with its origins dating back to the 4th century. The present structure, a harmonious blend of Romanesque and Baroque styles, boasts an impressive facade adorned with mosaics and a bell tower that adds to the visual allure of the square. Step inside to discover a rich interior adorned with beautiful frescoes, intricate chapels, and a sense of tranquility that contrasts with the lively atmosphere of Trastevere outside

You can explore Trastevere and the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere on our popular Tour Rome as Romans Do.


6.  Piazza di Pietra


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Piazza di Pietra offers a captivating fusion of ancient history and modern vibrancy. The square is a testament to the city's ability to seamlessly weave the past into the fabric of contemporary life. At its core stands the imposing Temple of Hadrian, a majestic structure that dominates the square and provides a striking backdrop for visitors.

The Temple of Hadrian, originally constructed by Emperor Hadrian in 145 AD, was dedicated to his deceased predecessor, Emperor Trajan. While only a portion of the temple's facade remains standing today, it serves as a powerful reminder of Rome's imperial past. The intricate details of the Corinthian columns and the remnants of the friezes transport visitors back in time, offering a glimpse into the architectural grandeur of ancient Rome.

As you make your way through Piazza di Pietra, you'll find charming cafes that beckon you to savor a moment of tranquility. One such inviting spot is Gran Caffè La Caffettiera, where you can unwind with a cup of expertly brewed coffee or a refreshing beverage at an outdoor table. The leisurely pace and open-air setting make it an ideal place to pause, reflect, and appreciate the timeless beauty that surrounds you.


7.  Piazza Barberini


Step away from the well-trodden paths and uncover the beauty of Piazza Barberini. Despite being a traffic-prone roundabout, this elegant square is anchored by Bernini's captivating Triton Fountain which merits a visit.

Bernini's Triton Fountain

Bernini's Triton Fountain, a Baroque masterpiece created in the 17th century, steals the spotlight at the center of the square. The dynamic sculpture of Triton, blowing water through a conch shell, exudes a graceful energy that makes a visit to the square worthwhile. As traffic flows around the roundabout, the Triton Fountain stands as a testament to the enduring allure of Roman artistry.


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Explore Via Veneto nearby - a taste of La Dolce Vita

Extend your exploration beyond Piazza Barberini by taking a leisurely stroll along the iconic Via Veneto, a celebrated street exuding an air of sophistication and nostalgia of La Dolce Vita. This elegant thoroughfare, flanked by chic cafes, luxury boutiques, and luxury hotels, beckons you to take a stroll. 

Via Veneto holds a special place in the cultural history of Rome, particularly during the late 1950s and early 1960s. This period marked a vibrant chapter in the city's artistic and cultural scene, attracting actors, painters, nobles, and cultural figures who sought to revel in its irrepressible allure. The memory of this era is encapsulated in the very essence of Via Veneto, where historic cafes witnessed the mingling of old glories from American and Italian cinema.

Along this less-than-a-kilometer stretch leading from Piazza Barberini to Porta Pinciana, the evenings were adorned with the presence of renowned faces from the cinematic world. Paparazzi, eager to capture exclusive moments, hovered around, ready to immortalize celebrities and those in pursuit of fame.

The avenue eventually leads you to the lush expanse of the Borghese Gardens, creating a delightful contrast from the bustling square to the serene greenery beyond.


8.  Piazza della Repubblica


Next on our list of unique and off-the-beaten-path squares in Rome is Piazza della Repubblica, a vibrant square that skillfully intertwines the city's rich history with its contemporary energy.  From the square begins Via Nazionale, one of the fundamental streets of the quadrant. 

Piazza della Repubblica, formerly known as Piazza dell'Esedra (or Piazza Esedra) and before that as Piazza delle Terme, is a square in Rome located a few hundred meters from Termini station, opposite the Baths of Diocletian.

The beautiful monumental expanse took its former name (Piazza Esedra) from the large exedra of the Roman baths of Diocletian, whose perimeter is traced by the semicircular colonnade of the square.


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Fountain of the Naiads in Piazza della Repubblica

The Fountain of the Naiads in the center of the square is the work of Mario Rutelli from Palermo (great-grandfather of the former mayor of Rome Francesco Rutelli ), who sculpted the artistic group in 1901.

The naiads represented are the Nymph of the Lakes, recognizable by the swan she holds close to her, the Nymph of the Rivers, lying on a monster of the rivers, the Nymph of the Oceans, riding on a horse symbolizing the sea, and the Nymph of the Underground Waters, resting on a mysterious dragon. In the center is the Glaucus group ( 1912 ), symbolizing man's dominion over natural force.

The water comes from the Acqua Marcia aqueduct, among the most famous in Rome; in fact, Pius IX had previously inaugurated the Acqua Pia fountain here in 1870.

Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Dominating one side of Piazza della Repubblica is the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a grand church designed by Michelangelo himself. This architectural masterpiece seamlessly incorporates the ancient frigidarium of the Diocletian Baths, providing a unique blend of Roman history and Renaissance innovation.

Step inside to marvel at the Meridiana or Clementine Line on which, with polychrome marble inlays, the zodiac signs of the summer and autumn constellations and the spring and winter constellations are represented.


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9.  Piazza della Minerva

Piazza della Minerva is a charming square in Rome, Italy, situated just behind the Pantheon, quite often overlooked being in the shadow of this grand monument. The square’s name originates from a temple built by Pompey dedicated to Minerva Calcidica, and the statue of Minerva from this temple is now housed in the Vatican Museums.

At the heart of the square is the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which has historical significance dating back to the 8th century. The church stands as a testament to the intersection of Christian history and ancient Roman heritage, being built over the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, erroneously associated with the Greco-Roman goddess Minerva.

Unlike many other medieval churches that underwent Baroque renovations, this church stands as the sole existing example of original Gothic architecture in Rome. The Gothic interior, featuring painted vaulting and a 19th-century Neo-Gothic restoration, adds to the church's unique charm.


Bernini’s Elephant and Obelisk in Piazza della Minerva most unique squares in Rome private tours Civitavecchia excursions



Bernini’s Elephant and Obelisk in Piazza della Minerva

In the center of Piazza della Minerva stands the remarkable Elephant and Obelisk, a sculpture by Bernini created in 1667. The obelisk was excavated in the cloister and originally belonged to the Iseum. The sculpture features an elephant carrying an obelisk on its back and is known locally as "il pulcino della Minerva" or "porcino", owing to a popular Roman anecdote that suggests Bernini sculpted a pig due to a lack of inspiration from elephants.


Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva remains a significant church of the Dominican Order in Rome. Unlike many other medieval churches that underwent Baroque renovations, this church stands as the sole existing example of original Gothic architecture in Rome. The Gothic interior, featuring painted vaulting and a 19th-century Neo-Gothic restoration, adds to the church's unique charm. 

Inside the church, you can find Michelangelo's "Christ the Redeemer". The statue is located in the first chapel on the right and is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture. It was created by Michelangelo between 1519 and 1521 and represents Christ triumphant over sin and death.


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10. Piazza Mincio


The last on our list of unique and off-the-beaten-path squares in Rome is Piazza Mncio which also serves as a roundabout for vehicle traffic. If you venture into the northern area of Rome, between Via Salaria and Via Nomentana, you'll encounter the enchanting Coppedè district (Quartiere Coppedè) created in 1924 by architect Gino Coppedè.

This almost fairytale neighborhood is a captivating ensemble of 26 buildings and 17 villas, encircling the picturesque Piazza Mincio. The entire district immerses visitors in a lavish, even somewhat fantastical, ambiance reminiscent of the early 1900s.


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At the center of this charming square stands the Fontana delle Rane (Foutain of the Frogs), a work of art that pays homage to Bernini's fountains. The fountain features a four-lobed base supporting a central round basin, adorned with a complex interweaving of masks and figures cradling a shell valve with a prominent frog. Along the edges of the basin, eight more frogs playfully spout thin jets of water, adding to the fountain's delightful charm.

Surrounding Piazza Mincio, the buildings in Coppedè vary in shape and size, each a unique expression of architectural creativity. Notable among them is the Assyrian-Babylonian Palazzina del Ragno, distinguished by a large spider on its facade, and the Villino delle Fate. The latter, completely asymmetrical, boasts medieval arches and friezes crafted from an array of materials such as marble, brick, travertine, terracotta, and glass.

The fantastical appearance of Coppedè has not only captured the admiration of locals and visitors but has also served as a backdrop for several iconic films. The district's unique charm has inspired cinematic masterpieces.

Exploring Piazza Mincio and the surrounding Coppedè district is like stepping into a surreal realm where architectural diversity and artistic whimsy converge. It's a journey that not only captures the spirit of a bygone era but also serves as a testament to the enduring allure of Rome's cultural tapestry.


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As Quartiere Coppedè is outside the historical center, it can reach it by taxi, bus, or tram that stops in Piazza Buenos Aires. It can also be reached on foot as it’s about a 20-minute walking distance from Villa Borghese.

  • Tram:  (Piazza Buonos Aires): #3, #19
    Buses:  (Bus stops are located on Via Tagliamento and Via Po): #63, #86, #92, #630 


Rome's charm lies not only in its well-known landmarks but also in the hidden corners waiting to be explored. As you wander through the unique and off-the-beaten-path squares of the Eternal City, you'll uncover a side of Rome that is authentic, enchanting, and truly unforgettable. So, put on your walking shoes, embrace the spirit of exploration, and let these hidden gems weave their magic on your Roman adventure.

Be sure to browse our website for exciting Rome Tours, Rome Shore Excursions from Civitavecchia, Rome Pre-Cruise Tours, and Rome Post Cruise Tours from Civitavecchia, and discover the wonders of Rome on our private chauffeur-driven tours.

Thank you for reading our travel blog and for choosing Stefano’s RomeCabs for your private tours in Italy! We look forward to showing you beautiful places in Italy!

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