Cats, street art, magical gates, bunkers and sculptures… Come with us to discover the Eternal City’s most mysterious places.
2 Dec 2020
When travellers return to Rome, they tend to just wander around, enchanted by its streets: the Colosseum’s majesty, a romantic sunset viewed from the Orange Garden, the many glories in the Vatican Museums, so full of history and secrets… But Rome also has its fair share of places unknown to most people, evocative and full of little secrets… Come with us to discover these magical places. It’s guaranteed to be a new and unusual experience!
Street Art in Ostiense - Via dei Magazzini Generali, 10.
South of central Rome, Ostiense has long been a nightlife hotspot. Formerly full of industrial sites, such as the former central fruit and veg market that today houses University of Roma Tre, in recent years Ostiense has become a magnet for street artists, with entire buildings in the neighborhood painted over. One of them is “Wall of Fame” by JB Rock, depicting famous writers, artists and musicians. A stroll round these parts is an excellent experience in the Eternal City. If you’re interested in urban art, check out our article Rome for The Artsy: Five Not-to-be-Missed Locations for Street Art Lovers to find Rome’s most evocative street art.
Sculptures at the Centrale Montemartini - Via Ostiense, 106.
The Ostiense district is also home to Centrale Montemartini, one of Rome’s strangest and most unusual museums. This intriguing place displays ancient sculptures against the backdrop of a long-decommissioned public power plant, which many years ago was Rome’s first. The alternation of Greek and Roman marble statues with modern machinery is an evocative way of uniting past and present in one space. The daring juxtaposition at the first ever exhibition here, Machines and Gods in October 1997, was so popular among the public and with cultural pundits that in 2001 the space became a permanent museum venue.
The Cats’ sanctuary at Largo Argentina - Largo di Torre Argentina.
One special place to visit in Rome is the city’s largest colony of wild cats, located in Largo Argentina, a square of historical ruins unearthed in 1927. You can spend a fun day admiring the archaeological site – it has remains of four temples dating back to 300-400 BC – in the company of over a hundred and fifty cats that have been living in the area since 1993. But how did all these cats get here? When in 1929 the ruins of the Sacred Area of Torre Argentina came to light, stray and abandoned kitties moved in, attracted by the protection offered by the below-street-level archaeological site. Since then, the square has attracted a procession of cat-lovers who look after the felines, bringing them food on a regular basis. The most famous of these gattare was great actress Anna Magnani, Muse of cinematic neorealism.
Bunker at Villa Torlonia - Via Nomentana, 70.
Concealed beneath the park at Villa Torlonia are three underground structures built between 1940 and 1943 to provide shelter for the Mussolini family from aerial bomb raids: two air-raid shelters and a bunker. Two of the shelters have been restored and furnished with original pieces from that period; the bunker has been restored to offer an “Air Raid Experience”. The bunker and shelters were restored and opened to the public for the first time in 2006, offering a chance to visit a place that tells of a tragic past from not so very long ago. If you’re interested, we recommend booking in advance.
The magic gate at Piazza Vittorio - Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.
If you happen to be round this part of town, keep an eye out for a rather mysterious gate in the middle of Piazza Vittorio, protected by two statues of the Egyptian god Bes, a coded message that no one has yet managed to crack, deepening its mystery. The magic gate is known as the Alchemic Gate of Rome. It was part of a villa of which nothing remains. It is said that through this gate, Marquis Palombara was able to transform metals into gold. One of the most magical and mysterious places in Rome, the Porta Alchemica is the only surviving gate from the five Villa Palombara once had. In the twentieth century, the gate was shifted slightly from its original position and placed behind the imposing ruins of the nymphaeum.
Where to stay in Rome.
For your unusual Roman weekend of discovery, you deserve an extraordinary stay! Right in the historic centre of the Eternal City, UNAHOTELS Decò Roma boasts an incredible location. Exceptional customer service will pamper you, while the evocative architectural design and art deco interior design assure a truly Italian welcome. Make your evening even more elegant and special by having dinner at the hotel’s famous restaurant, a perfect place for a memorable moment.