Rome is such a big and amazing city that it is often too difficult to decide what to visit and where to go.

Of course you need to see St Peter, the Colosseum and many other touristic places but if you have time to see a bit more of Rome and to discover little places a bit off the beaten path you will find out less crowded areas that show the most genuine side of this city that (unfortunately) is turning every day more into a huge metropolis.

Personally I have a few favourite spots and one of these is Piazzetta Mattei in the Rione San’Angelo.

This tiny and quiet square is located not far from the Marcello theatre at what was one of the 5 entrances of the ancient Jewish ghetto .


Its name derives from the family that used to own the palaces in the neighborhood; the Matteis. One of these palaces, the oldest one, still dominates the square with its elegant facade.

But the most remarkable point of the square is of course the beautiful marble Fontana delle Tartarughe, designed by Giacomo della Porta and realised by Taddeo Landini in the XVI century. The fountain was later refurbished in the XVII century by Gian Lorenzo Bernini that replaced the dolphins originally present with the turtles that now give the name to the fountain.


A legend says that the fountain was requested by one of the Mattei dukes in order to show his power and richness to the father of his betrothed that was objecting their marriage due to the duke’s gambling habits and his loss. He invited him over for a party and had the fountain built overnight so that he could show it to his future father in law on the morning after. He took him to the window and said “Watch out what a penniless Mattei duke can do in a few hours!”. Then he had the window walled up!

I love both the fountain and the legend and it is a place that retains a charming atmosphere, probably because is not that visited by tourists and it has its own very local character.

There are a couple of wine bars on the square and it’s a great starting point for a walk of the ghetto or just to relax out of the crowds of tourists.