View of Rome from the Tiber River
Rome is an evocative city that should be visited at least once in a lifetime. You will fall in love with the Eternal City and will be inspired to return again and again.
If you stay away from the main tourist sites, you’ll discover hidden gems and charming old streets.
The Italian capital is one of my favorite destinations. I have loved it deeply since my youth and have created—there—excellent memories. Over the years, I have learned to see Rome from a different perspective. Outside the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain, there are areas that will appeal to the most curious and intrepid travelers. As you get away from the beaten path, you’ll discover small historic squares, exclusive palaces and unknown gardens—places which are not frequented by regular tourists.
First, after you visit the majestic Colosseum, walk to the nearby street of San Giovanni to see the ruins of Ludus Magnus, the center of operations and place of entry for the gladiators. You can observe the arched courtyard and the cells that sheltered those destined to die in the arena. The gladiators gained access to the Colosseum through a narrow corridor.
Above: Rome is teeming with lively cafés
Below: Garden of Oranges
Across the Tiber River, next to the wall built by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius about 100 years after Christ’s death, you will find what the Italians call the collina non è (the hill that is not a hill). It is an artificial mountain covered with vegetation with an area of over 20,000 square meters (215,000 square feet) formed by the remains of more than 25 million broken amphorae which contained olive oil and wine brought mostly from Andalusia, Tripolitania, and Gaul, which were destroyed after use.
One of my favorite spots in Rome is in the peaceful Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, which houses the Aventine Palace, the embassy of the Priory of Malta—a religious order that once had great power in these lands. This embassy is not Rome, nor is it Italy, as happens with the rest of the world’s embassies. Its gardens are gorgeous and very few people have visited them because they are out of limits to ordinary mortals.
It is curious to observe in front of the huge entrance gate groups of visitors looking through the keyhole because the Knights of Malta commissioned architect Battista Piranesi to align the garden with the dome of St. Peter’s in the background.
View of the Vatican from the Aventine Palace
Nearby is the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges), my favorite place to watch a sunset over Rome. This charming park is best visited in spring when the orange blossoms permeate the area with their intoxicating aroma. Many Romans like to come here for a relaxing stroll.