If you walk up the hill from the Circus Maximus along the Via di Santa Sabina, you’ll arrive at a pleasant square where a surprise awaits you.
Here in the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, surrounded by churches you’ll find the gateway to the Priory of the Knights of Malta.
A queue forming at the closed gates may give you a clue to what’s in store. Peep through the keyhole and you’ll find a perfect view of St Peter’s dome, framed by an arch of cyprus in the garden beyond the gates.
In 1765 the Order of the Knights of Malta commissioned the famous architect and painter Giovan Battista Piranesi to build the facade of the priory, as well as the garden beyond, which raises smiles of delight from those who view it through the keyhole.
Ambling back down the Via di Santa Sabina we spent a relaxing half hour in the Parco Savello, planted with orange trees beneath the shady cyprus and a terrace with more great views across the Tiber towards St Peter’s.