Rome is a city full of amazing walks- I want to share my favorite morning walk with you.. The historic city center is not large and the walking possibilities are endless. This walk focuses on the Ancient City and makes a full circle around the Palatine and Capitoline Hills at the center of Ancient Rome. This walk is unforgettable! It takes about an hour at a fast pace, or if you want to learn a lot about the Ancient World, I recommend taking 3-5 hours to fully appreciate all the offerings, and have time to enter a few sites.
A secret view of the Coliseum
I start out from the neighborhood of Monti, my favorite neighborhood in Rome known for its great restaurants, artisan shops, wine bars and local designer fashion. This view is from a tiny street that most people don’t end up on, which creates an opportunity for a unique view of the Coliseum.
Continuing along, I see this amazing view of the Coliseum, close up enough to see the giant holes left from where metal anchors that once attached marble facing, were pulled out in the Middle Ages by barbarians and locals desperate for metal. The Coliseum holds a world of fascinating history within its walls and makes for an unforgettable visit. Medieval historical lies are disproven, and a range of much more dramatic stories reveal its truly mind-blowing history.
The Arch of Constantine
As I continue walking around the Coliseum I am always thrilled to see the Arch of Constantine. Now believed to have originally been created much earlier by the Emperor Hadrian and then altered to feature Constantine, this arch bears homage to a renovation project, with some rather hilarious consequences.
Remains of the grand stands of the Circus Maximus
After walking along the South side of the Palatine Hill, I am always happy to arrive at the Circus Maximus. Recent excavations have revealed an ancient Roman road, a water fountain and much more. Here I love looking at these rare remains of the grand stands and imagining the 385,000 people that this stadium held, cheering or jeering on the chariot racers. Stories of rivalry between teams, favorite racers whose names were etched in history, and tales of fake naval battles and brutal accidents pass through my mind at this evocative site.
View of the Palatine Hill from the Circus Maximus
At the center of this walk is the Palatine Hill which I love to see from every angle. From this side I can see the grand area where the Emperor had a special viewing room looking onto the Circus Maximus. This hill is called the Palatine because of the word palace- it was a hill built of palaces of unbelievable proportions. Imagine a palace with hundreds of rooms, connected by hidden corridors, gardens, fountains and all covered with stunning gardens and filled with the greatest objects of classical art.
Roman drinking water- the Fontanella
The great thing about walking in Rome is that there is excellent drinking water everywhere, so you don’t have to bring your own water. I don’t like plastic drinking bottles and I often forget to bring my cantine so when I come across one of these I always stop for a cool refreshing drink. Water from deep underground acquafers supplies much of Rome with drinking water, and is considered to be perfect and does not need treatment.
The Temple of Hercules, Rome
Few people visiting Rome manage to see this gorgeous temple dedicated to Hercules, in an area not visited by a lot of tourists. I love this temple. It is one of two of the oldest and best preserved pagan temples in Rome. It is also the only preserved round temple in the city center. Once turned into a church, it was fortunately saved. Now the remnants of the church were taken out and it has been cleaned, and stands with grace and beauty with its enormous white marble columns. Next door is the Temple to the god Portunus, a god of the port which was a crucial part of ancient Rome, on the Tiber River. Across the street is the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin which holds the Mouth of Truth in its portico.
Ancient Temples with a church built around them
Most churches were built out of or on top of ancient pagan temples as the church rose in power and all other religions were banned by the late 300′s AD. This church has been excavated so that one can see the columns of the ancient pagan temples that it encapsulates. These make a great reminder of the dramatic changes that swept through Rome leading up to the Dark Ages, and into the Renaissance.
The Theater of Marcellus
The next site I love to see on my walk is the Teatro Marcello. This grand ruin is topped by Renaissance era apartments and presents a dramatic front. Built in the 1st century BC, it was a Greek style theater and held thousands of spectators. Roman crowds were said to be extremely unruly and thought nothing of interrupting performances with loud criticisms. Political showcasing was also common, as were brawls and even murders!
Convent of Rome
As I head up hill along the Capitoline Hill, I cannot help but get the creeps looking at this building. It is a massive convent, built out of ancient Roman bricks, with small heavily barred windows, that serves as a convent for nuns in chiusura. These nuns do not leave the premises. The heavy enormous walls, dotted by darkened and barred windows give me the shivers every time I see them! And I feel very glad that I was born and raised in a world believing in freedom and equal rights for women. At another time I could have been locked up in there against my will, never seeing the outside world again.
The Scalinata of Michelangelo- the Campidoglio
The Campidoglio is one of the most stunning places in Rome. Sometimes I walk up these stairs to the piazza, designed by Michelangelo as the Civic center of Rome in contrast to the Vatican. Here is where the mayor’s palace has stood for centuries. The tower is topped by the statue of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, the arts, women’s work and military power. Today though I choose to take the more daunting steps leading up to the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.
Santa Maria in Aracoeli- Capitoline Hill
Santa Maria in Aracoeli stands on top of the remains of the ancient temple of Juno. This important site to the history of Rome holds countless secrets and fascinating history. Geese that saved the city from being sacked, underground passageways, and bizarre sculptures of Popes are so fun to learn about here. I walk up these stairs several times a week and marvel at their beauty. They were also recycled from an ancient Roman building.
Interior of Santa Maria in Aracoeli- Capitoline Hill
I love to walk through this church. It holds so many amazing secrets, and some rather racy imagery for a church, ranging from torpedo sized bare breasts on angels, to a rather shockingly sexy John the Baptist that showcases the word “package” in its modern sense when referring to the male anatomy!
Vittoriano- the Capitoline HIll of Rome
I pass through the church (this morning with Blondie’s “Call Me” secretly blasting into my ears from my i-pod, creating a bizarre fusion of ancient and modern, as I imagine the religious sculptures dancing and performing a sacred-profane musical), and then exit out the side door. Next stop, the lovely cafe hidden at the back of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel. This massive monument gleams white and towers above me. Though many deride it, I love it. It is representative of a crucial point in Italian history: the defeat of rule over Rome by the Papacy, and pays homage to one of the great leaders in this long battle for independence from the rule by the popes.
Cafe behind the Monument of Victor Emmanuel
Next stop: the nearly secret cafe hidden behind the Victor Emmanuel Monument. This place has stunning views and is a good stop for cappuccino or shot of espresso. You can even get a decent salad here for a quick lunch.
View of the Roman Forum
Leaving the cafe I go back down to the Campidoglio and take a look over the Roman Forum. Every day of the year this is an impressive site. To visit it properly you need at least an hour. To see the Palatine Hill the Forum and the Coliseum one needs a minimum of three hours. An you will never forget it!
The Via dei Fori Imperiali looking towards the Coliseum
I have nearly made a full circle at this point as I descend to Via dei Fori Imperiali. On both sides there are splendid views- Trajan’s Market on one side and the Roman Forum on the other, and straight ahead the colossal Coliseum.
Living in Rome certainly holds many benefits. Visiting Rome is truly a life- changing experience. No matter how many times you come back there are always a million and one new things to discover!