Out of breath and far sweatier than our touristy outfit desired, we had finally reached the crest of our hike. Briefly looking back to admire the steep, sloping road we had just conquered, we then turned our view to the jewel that our “extra” day had allowed us to see: a panoramic view of Rome. Now there are many magnificent places throughout the tourist-laden city to get a bird’s eye view, and perhaps it was the journey that made this one so worthwhile, but as we looked out across the tiny buildings, laid before us like building blocks for the gods, we could do nothing but stand breathless. Within the forest green and sky blue frame of nature stood the entirety of the city. At one edge of the painting is The Vatican, and then all the way on the other stands the ancient ruins, including The Coliseum. Here before us lay all the amazing wonders we had traveled over 4,000 miles to see.
Now when we told our friend that we had planned 4 days in Rome, Italy, she told us blatantly that we would be bored. She recommended 3 days at most, and then one day exploring a nearby city, like Florence or Naples. We were skeptical, despite the fact that my friend has more stamps in her passport than anyone I know. Back home following our adventure (having not taken her advice), we reached a verdict. Could we have done “Rome” in 3 days? Sure. Did we miss so much that we’re itching to return to the ancient city? Not really. Would we have done it any differently? Not a chance.
The honest answer is that, yes, you could see all of the major sights in Rome in 3 days if you wanted. You could jaunt through The Vatican City, The Coliseum, and The Pantheon, fill yourself on pasta, pizza, and gelato, and call it a very successful vacation. But there are also several things you couldn’t see, that view from the top of Gianicolo Hill being one of them.
Hidden in and yet towering over the neighborhood of Trastevere, located just on the south side of the river from the heart of Rome, stands this amazing view. Gianicolo Hill, being in this case a substantial understatement, refers to Rome’s reputation as the city of 7 hills. Many of these are magnificent in terms of their views and/or architecture, especially Capitoline Hill, designed by Michelangelo and nestled right in the heart of old Rome. While they vary in size and proximity, Gianicolo allows for an overall experience. You start by traversing the narrow, unmarked streets of the area, vastly underpopulated in comparison to those around the more touristy areas. Locals sit under awnings of all colors, sipping coffee and lining the streets as you make your way to the base of the hill. The trip is free, if you are willing to scale it, and you hardly know if you are on the right path until you reach the top, but the end is worth it. Once you have soaked up your share of the god-like view, you can either turn around or wander through the bronze bust garden and down the other side, ultimately landing close to the entrance of Vatican City.
El Campo de Fiori
While ancient architecture may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Europe’s oldest cities (and rightly so), a close second is the laissez-faire image of open air markets selling a variety of delights. This market, located in small plaza to the south of central Rome, embodies this picturesque travel experience. Underneath expansive tents and drapes merchants sell a variety of Italy’s best fare, from pasta and oils to fruits and vegetables. It is worth just visiting and wandering the crowded, tight corridors between stalls to experience the bustle of the daily market, but I recommend doing a little shopping as well. For less than a Euro you can pick up any type of ripe, decadent fruit you could possibly want, and then find a place to enjoy it in the sun of the city. Church steps work quite nicely.