Rome slows down in August, as Romans pack up and head to the beach. That makes this month the ideal time to visit and have the city’s most charming neighborhoods to yourself. Trastevere is a favorite destination of mine in August. Even when the Trasteverini and ex-pats are gone, the zone is wonderfully atmospheric and you can experience some hidden gems on your own:
Botanical Garden Largo Cristina di Svezia 24 (daily 9-1hr before sunset).
Basilica di Santa Cecilia Piazza Santa Cecilia (daily 9-12.30 & 3-6). There are 9th century mosaics behind altar and there is an underground archeological site below. If you get there before noon, ring at the convent to the left of the church portico and ask to see Cavallini’s Last Judgement.
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere (daily 8am-8pm). Maybe this one is not so hidden, but it certainly doesn’t get the attention it deserves, considering its amazing decoration. Look for the spectacular mosaics in the apse, including some by Cavallini c. 1300.
Villa Farnesina Via della Lungara (Mon-Sat 9am-1pm; e5). Originally built for Agostino Chigi, Europe’s richest man in 1500, the villa was purchased by the Farnese family and renamed. The interior is decorated with frescoes by Raphael. In the Loggia of Amore and Psyche, look out for the playful phallic imagery employing corn cobs (the first time they appear in art work after arriving in Europe from the New World).
If it’s not too hot, head up to the Janiculum Hill—follow Via Garibaldi. There are great views from the Fontana Paola (aka Fontanone) and from Piazza Garibaldi. Beyond Porta San Pancrazio sprawls the Villa Pamphilj, Rome’s largest park and a nice place to sprawl out with a book.