When in Rome, you find yourself with an endless list of things that you want to see. It is the city that inspired the most «must-visit» lists, for not to mention the myriads of «Rome’s hidden treasures» lists. This list begs to differ as it’s about five places that you probably know about, you definitely heard of but you can easily skip when you are actually visiting the city… and the reasons why you shouldn’t.
1 - San Clemente Basilica
San Clemente (entrance at Via di San Giovanni in Laterano) is the place when you can fully understand why Rome is called «Eternal City». Underneath the magnificent 12th century basilica, rich with decoration of Byzantine mosaics and a wonderful Cosmatesque inlaid paving, there is a 4th century church, with Early Medieval frescoes and a vast central nave. A ladder will take you further down to a labyrinth of rooms which are, in fact, a building from the Republican Era of Ancient Rome with several additions and alterations through to the Imperial one. Leave no corner of this extraordinary place unexplored. Follow the sound of running water to discover a small but dashing stream. The Basilica is also an important pilgrimage site as it houses the tomb of Saint Cyril.
Info: The entrance to the ground floor basilica is free but you need to pay a 5 euro ticket for the basement church and the ancient Roman building.
2 - Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Situated right at the back of Pantheon, this 14th century church is often neglected by the millions of visitors who leave Piazza della Rotonda bedazzled by the beauty of Pantheon itself. The lucky ones who make the turn to this magnificent church will be rewarded by the breathtaking Gothic interior (the only Gothic one in Rome, actually) and the abundance of art it contains: frescoes by Filippino Lippi, richly decorated chapels, glorious sculpted tombs (amongst them the tombs of Saint Catherine of Siena and painter Fra Angelico) and, right next to the High Altar, a statue of Christ carrying the Cross by Michelangelo. The beautiful marble elephant carrying an Egyptian obelisk on his back, in front of the church, was designed by Bernini.
3 - Modern art at the Vatican Museums
The Modern Art collection of the Vatican Museums is situated right under Capella Sistina with parts of it occupying the apartment of the notorious Pope Alexander VI Borgia. Many visitors actually pass these halls in a hurry on their way to the Raphael Rooms and the Capella Sistina but you shouldn’t do that. Take your time and see beautiful works of religious art by Rodin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Bacon, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Chagall, Klee, Dali, Matisse and many more. It’s an unexpected art-treat for the lovers of Modern art and, furthermore, in a surprisingly fitting environment.
4 - GNAM
The National Gallery of Modern Art could not be in a more peaceful and beautiful place; situated in the heart of the Villa Borghese Park it is very close to the city center and still far enough to give the visitor the serenity one needs to get in the mood for art. GNAM houses the best of Italian art of the 19th and 20th century (Manzù, de Chirico, Balla, Boccioni, Modigliani) as well as works by foreign artists such as Cézanne, Van Gogh, Klimt, Pollock, Warhol, Monet, Kandinsly and more. It requires some time as it is quite a large museum but it has a beautiful café where you can rest your art-loving feet.
Jesus Rafael Soto, Gran Muro Panoramico Vibrante, 1966. Photo by Helena Valls, cityartnow.com.
5 - MAXXI
This architectural marvel, designed by the late Zaha Hadid in order to house the 21st century Arts, is the newest addition to the city’s museums. It seems to be far from the city center but in fact it’s a 15 minute ride when you get the tram from the Piazza del Popolo. MAXXI has no permanent collection but there are always several interesting temporary ones on view. Right now you can see a grand exhibition dedicated to Pierre Luigi Nervi, the iconic Italian architect, as well as several art, photo and architecture exhibitions. For more information about current exhibitions you can check cityartnow.com.