A student of Luigi Canina, Rosa was an avid scholae of Rome and Latium. From 1861-1870 he carried out his excavations on the Palatine with the patronage of emperor Napoleon III. He also edited the Carta topografica del Lazio, an archaeological plan that he designed between 1850 and 1870 on a scale of 1:20,000. The map, measuring 3,40 x 3,10 m, is a unique and valuable study of the territory of Latium (modern Lazio) and the archaeological remains there. The work was completed only in certain areas, such as the Tyrrhenian coast, Tibur and Palestrina.
Rosa was named archaeological superintendent at Rome by royal decree on March 26, 1871. In the following years he was inspector general of antiquities in the ministry of public instruction and he was made a senator on December 1, 1870.