Rome with a view

Scaling the heights

Always book a window seat when you fly to Rome. Looking down on the city from an aircraft is fascinating if you can do so undisturbed by giddy passengers beside you, in front of you, and if you're really unlucky, behind you too. I seem to attract all three whenever I travel. They collectively struggle and strain to get a better view, pointing out landmarks incorrectly, and generally making a bit of a scene.

Rome at street level in sweltering conditions is a challenge and the prospect of respite appeals to all. But where? Villa Borghese gardens apart, Villa Doria Pamphili, Villa Ada, Villa Torlonia, Villa Celimontana, Parco degli Acquedotti, Caffarella et al. are rarely frequented by non-residents.

Cobbling together the wherewithal to experience Rome as most other people never will is not mission impossible. There are several great vantage points from where one can engage in activities such as spire counting, nun numbering, Pope hunting, Christianized temple spotting, trying to name the half dozen mountains to the south and east, trying to work out which of the seven hills is which and why they are so damned hard to see, where is the Tyrrhenian Sea, where is that other sea (Adriatic), where is the nearest pub, what are those dinosaur trees called again, so on and so forth ad nauseam.

A higher, brighter, breezier alternative to traipsing through the detritus of Rome's past and present day dirt and dust might be to see the city from above. It may surprise you to learn that very few Rome tour companies offer a "bird's eye experience". If truth be told, at time of writing we are no different than our competitors as regards a tour of this kind, but it's the thought that counts. Seriously though, "Rome with a view" may well get chins wagging. A place in the new product pipeline is not unrealistic.

So where to begin? The best views of Rome are from Frascati, Grottaferrata, and Marino - three quaint and ancient towns as famous for wine making now as in antiquity, rich in natural beauty, steeped in pagan history, myth and legend.

It's not really a climb nor ascent of any kind, indeed, one must walk downhill to reach our first recommended vantage point in Rome. Upon arrival, however, the terrace view of the Roman Forum and Colosseum from Portico of the Twelve Gods is truly panoramic, a life affirming experience! It pains me to report that freelance guidebook writers have now labelled the location as "must see", cue masses of guidebooked tourists lining up to take photos during the day. Bangla street sellers of Chinese crap have inevitably cottoned on, so the best time to go is either very early or very, very late.

Gianicolo (Janiculum) is an easy walk from Ponte Principe Amedeo or Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, both of which are river crossings which connect Rome and the Vatican. While not one of the traditional seven hills (being outside the boundaries of ancient Rome and on the other side of the river), Gianicolo is, however, the second tallest hill in Rome. Views are spectacular, just be sure to find a quiet spot as it is popular with young Romans. The mountains of beer bottles they discard can obscure the beauty of the location.

For atmosphere and ambience, ascend the Palatine and Aventine hills (Knights of Malta keyhole). For lovers of vertigo, six euros and several hundred steep steps will guarantee you a view to die for from the cupola of St. Peter's Basilica. In between times, views from the top of Castel Sant'Angelo museum are good, but inferior to those at the summit of the National Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (Piazza Venezia) via "Sky Elevator", from where one can see Walt Disney World.

Published on August 6th, 2014
© When In Rome Tours, article provided by Cajes.

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