Rome has been a major travel destination for centuries, and the city remains a must-see in our current era of mass tourism. Its popularity results in oppressive crowds at top sites like the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon and the Colosseum. Because I remember standing in relatively peaceful astonishment in these places 25 years ago, now I find visiting them almost unbearable.
Fortunately, Rome has no shortage of attractions, many of which are crowd-free. They range from quiet museums housing ancient masterpieces to entire complexes of atmospheric ruins that most people miss. In addition to the sites listed below, I strongly recommend visiting the fascinating National Etruscan Museum.
The Roman Senate commissioned this jewel of a temple in honor of Emperor Augustus’ successful campaigns in what is now Spain and France. Completed in 9 B.C., the Altar of Augustan Peace stood just off the Via Flaminia in the Campus Martius, a section of the city that, until recently, was a flood plain. As Rome declined, sediment consumed the structure and buried it. It had to be extricated, with great effort, from beneath the palace that was later built on top of it. It now stands near the Mausoleum of Augustus, well-protected within a controversial Richard Meier-designed atrium and museum, completed in 2006.