As usual I was awake far too early on my first morning in Roma. I set out on a mission to take some photos and a passeggiata before the Roman heat set in. The city of Roma was built on 7 hills. L’Aventino-the Aventine Hill, is the furthest south. In the legend of the founding of Roma, l’Aventino was picked by Remo as the spot to build a new city, but his twin Romolo disagreed. Remo was killed in the dispute, and Romolo built Roma on the Palatino-Palatine Hill. L’Aventino was originally outside the city, and it was populated by refugees from areas Roma had conquered. Then wealthy Ancient Romans started to build homes there and today it is still an elegant residential part of Roma. It is also the perfect place for a long, quiet passeggiata with beautiful views of Roma- without the crowds.
I started off by taking the Metro blue line to Circo Massimo, then heading up Viale Aventino, which was originally the ancient road between the 2 high spots of the hill. I passed beautiful homes and quiet streets as I walked uphill. My first stop on Via di Santa Sabina was the walled Giardino degli Aranci. The orange grove was originally planted in the 13th Century by the Dominican monks of Santa Sabina, who brought the seeds from Spain . The Giardino has a platform at the end with beautiful panoramic views of Roma and the cupola of San Pietro. A Roman friend once told me that when he was young, he and his friends used to have ‘arance’ fights in the Giardino with the oranges that fell on the ground!
In the piazza in front of Santa Sabina, near the door to Giardino degli Aranci is a wall fountain built in 1593. La Fontana del Mascherone floods an ancient Roman bathtub-a smaller version of the 2 giant ones in Piazza Farnese. Santa Sabina all’Aventino, built right at the top of the hill in 422 AD is one of the oldest Roman basilicas.
A short walk away, through a tree-lined residential neighborhood, is Piazza Cavalieri di Malta. This morning I had the whole piazza to myself! It is usually very crowded and full of taxis and people waiting in line in front of a heavy green door. The door belongs to La Villa del Priorato di Malta. I Cavalieri di Malta are a military order of knights founded in the 11th Century to look after the wounded in the Holy Land during the Crusades. In 1798, Napoleon kicked them out of Malta and they moved their headquarters to Roma. The villa and the church inside, Santa Maria del Priorato, are not usually accessible to the public. The people standing in line are waiting to look through the keyhole, known as ‘il buco della serratura’. I won’t spoil the surprise, so my photo is blurry on purpose. You will have to see for yourself—unless you have seen La Grande Bellezza and the surprise has been spoiled!
The walk back downhill was nice and I was able to admire the scenery and views as I walked back down Via Santa Sabina, then past Santa Maria in Cosmedin. This is the home of the famous ‘Bocca della Verità’ featured in the movie Roman Holiday. There is usually a line of people waiting to stick their hand in its mouth!As I walked past il Teatro di Marcello, I was surprised to notice that there are private residences on the top floor. Can you imagine living in Teatro Marcello! I have heard about first time visitors to Roma thinking that Teatro Marcello is the Colosseo and being very confused!
By the time I reached Il Vittoriano, it was getting hot. Time for a granita di caffè! Arrivederci da Roma, Cristina