If you have never been east of the Borghese Museum, you've missed a little pocket of Rome that's historically interesting and off the beaten track.
Here's where you'll find the whimsical architecture of Gino Coppedè in a pocket of buildings built from 1913 to 1927 in a place called the Quartiere Coppedè. Just north of the quarter the Catacombs of Priscilla sit at the edge of the Villa Ada, the second largest park in Rome. To the south the Villa Torlonia stands inside a public garden hosting a Villa and buildings designed by Neoclassical architect Giuseppe Valadier. There is also a unique set of Jewish Catacombs recently discovered inside the property. And what can you say about the sublime Galleria Borghese? You need to see it with an art historian and we can tell you how.
From roughly north to south the map markers represent the Catacombs of Priscilla, the Quartiere Coppedè, the Borghese Museum and the Villa Torlonia. You can click each map marker to see what they represent.
The itinerary can be done on foot if you're used to walking. Perhaps if you stay in the Campo Marzio rione, you can do the whole itinerary without using public transportation.
Officially named Catacombe di Priscilla and called "The Queen of Catacombs" because of the numerous martyrs buried inside, you'll find the entrance inside the cloister of the ancient convent of Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla located on the Via Salari, an ancient Roman road that went all the way to Porto d'Ascoli (Ascoli Piceno) on the Adriatic.
Saint Priscilla's Catacombs are among Rome's oldest, dating back to the late 2nd century AD. They front onto the Via Salaria, another of Rome's ancient roads leaving the Eternal City at the Salaria gate, Porta Salaria, and heading east to the Adriatic Sea.
The galleries dug into the volcanic tuff have a total length of about thirteen kilometers. You can read about the features inside the catacombs and get opening hours on the official site.
Coppedè, brainchild of architect Gino Coppedè (built 1913-1927), is a jumble of historic styles such as Art Nouveau, medieval, Baroque and ancient Greek all whipped together in a dramatic frenzy. Nature is the principal inspiration; daring and eccentric curved lines seek freedom from tradition, coexisting with modern sensuous ironwork. Coppedè is Rome’s answer to the Gaudì structures of Barcelona. ~ Coppedè, The Fantasy District in Rome
You can see just a part of the Fontana delle Rane, the frog fountain in the center of Piazza Mincio, all moss and spitting frogs. The Beatles famously floundered fully clothed in this fountain.
For more, see Flavor of Italy's Rome's Fascinating Quartière Coppedé!
Our recommended place to stay in the Quartiere Coppedè is the Tirso SessantOtto Boutique Rooms.
Villa Torlonia, a lavish 19th century villa designed by Giuseppe Valadier for Alessandro Torlonia, is set inside a park that belonged to the Pamphili family in the 17th century. The villa is now a museum open to visitors, and you can visit the park free.
The most notorious occupant of the villa was Benito Mussolini, who settled in in the 1920s after renting the joint for one single lira per year. Some of his left-over furniture is inside. He also built an air-raid shelter and airtight bunker in case of gas attacks (from outside, one assumes).
In 1918 Jewish catacombs were discovered below the stables of the Villa. Excavations in 1973-1974 brought to light more information about the catacombs, they were used between the third and fifth centuries A.D. Unfortunately, they aren't ready for visitors on an ongoing basis.
For those who wish to buy tickets in advance for the museums: Villa Torlonia Museum Tickets
Suggested lodging: The highly rated B&B Queen Meg Roma is located between the Villa Torlonia and the Borghese gardens.
The Galleria Borghese, the western marker on the map, is one of Rome's top art museums, and is included here as an add-on to the itinerary if you have time. Allow at least two hours for a visit. The amazing art collection was started by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a patron of Bernini and an passionate collector of works by Caravaggio.
The Galleria Borghese includes twenty rooms across two floors.
You can buy your ticket and just wander the collection, but to get great insight into the art and the time period it's best to go on a tour. We recommend the Walks of Italy tour: Borghese Gallery Tour & Tickets.
Just a couple of blocks southwest of the Piazza Mincio and the frog fountain is the Piazza Buenos Aires. Take trams 3 or 19 to Piazza Buenos Aires and walk to the northeast. A taxi from Termini Station to Piazza Buenos Aires takes about 4 minutes if there's little traffic and costs 7-9 euro. See our guide: Rome Taxis.
The bus 310 takes you from Rome Termini to the stop at Nemorense/Crati, where is it s short walk to the Catacombs of Priscilla. A taxi takes about 6 minutes and costs 9-12 euro.
Buses N13, N2, and N2L from Rome Termini will get you to the Bari/Salerno stop where you will be at the south entrance to Villa Torlonia. A taxi will take about 2 minutes from Termini, and cost 5-7 euro.
Find out about other Rome neighborhoods, see our neighborhood map and guide