No, I can't promise you'll meet the dark-eyed love of your life here. But if you're already traveling with your sweetheart, you're golden: Rome has to be one of the most romantic cities around.
Of course, lots of people tend to think that the most romantic spots are also the most famous (the Trevi Fountain, say, or the Spanish Steps). Call me jaded, but I think the 24/7 crowds and pushy rose-sellers kind of suck the romance out of them.
Want to find a spot that's a little more tranquil... where you can actually grab a moment to yourself? Here are a few of my favorite, off-the-beaten-path romantic places in Rome.
Temple of Roma and Amor
As a sight itself, the temple blends in with the many (incredible) others in the Roman forum. But unlike, say, the Temple of the Vestal Virgins, built in honor of Rome's most chaste cult, this one has a seriously "awww"-worthy past.
Built in the 2nd century A.D., it shows that ancient Romans were just as romantic as their modern counterparts. One side of the temple was built in honor of the goddess of love, Venus. The other side was built in honor of the goddess Roma. In other words: it's the temple to amor... and to Roma.
Oh, those witty Romans. (Here's more on the Temple of Venus and Rome).
Aventine Hill and the Giardino degli Aranci
Tranquil, beautiful, and atmospheric, there's no doubt that the Aventine hill is for lovers. Don't miss the medieval churches, like Basilica of Santa Sabina, or the Giardino degli Aranci (more properly called the Parco Savello), a garden said to have been started when St. Dominic planted Rome's first orange tree here in the 13th century. (The park's beautiful views of Rome are pretty romantic, too).
It's the little surprise the Aventine hill hides, though, that makes this stroll especially charming. (Seriously, I'm not sure why this wasn't one of the places Gregory Peck took Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday—I think she would have been more tickled by this than by the Mouth of Truth!). The headquarters of the Priory of the Knights of Malta, the only private organization in the world to also be a sovereign state, are located, of all places, here. Peek through the headquarters' keyhole, and you see the dome of St. Peter's, perfectly framed. It's three countries in one glance.
Don't believe me? Come with me to check it out in the new video below!
Yes, some of the Appia Antica's history is downright bloody. It's likely where Spartacus and his rebel followers were crucified, it's where persecuted Christians were buried underground, and its Capo di Bove villa may even hide a murder mystery (for more, check out my previous post on the Via Appia Antica).
But a wander down the millennia-old paving stones is enough to wipe all of that from your mind. Few places in Rome are as peaceful, or as atmospheric, as this 2,300-year-old road. Stroll under the umbrella pines; peek through ornate gates to see opulent villas where Rome's other half live.
(Like the rest of these sights, by the way, the Via Appia is gorgeous and romantic no matter the time of year. It's shown here in January, while here's what the Appia Antica looks like in the spring. See? Stunning—and romantic—year-round).
Don't miss my video of taking a bike ride down the Appia Antica, below!