If you need to find some space and quiet in Rome, that busiest of capitals, my Guest post from Marie Allen of Elegant Resorts will help you seek out some blissfully peaceful bolt holes in Rome.
Ah, Rome – The Eternal City. A city where history seeps from every pore, a city where your camera never sleeps, and where beauty and passion, as Barry Manilow said, are always in fashion (true, he was talking about the Copacabana – but the same could be said for Rome’s seething street life, and its sultry procession of latter-day Lollobrigidas. But for all its beauty, the Eternal City does have its drawbacks – put simply, its eternal racket!
Yes, when in Rome you have to see the must-see sights. But don’t slavishly cross them off your list in a succession of exhausting cross-city escapades. Take time to seek out the quieter cul-de-sacs and secret sanctuaries. This is, after all, a spiritual heartland. So stop. Take time out. And spend a stolen hour or two in the city’s back waters. Your soul will thank you. And your soles too, for that matter!
Here are five off-the-beaten-track sights worth seeking out:
Views and more from Janiculum Hill
Janiculum Hill overlooks the modern city of Rome, and it’s here you’ll find the less-visited Syriac Sanctuary. They say this was a sinister spot – dedicated to the Goddess Furrina, ruler of the Furies. In other words, not someone you’d want to mess with. Perhaps that’s why, when this peaceful site was discovered 100 years ago, they found remains of human skulls without teeth or lower jaws. Still, today, it’s a splendid spot. The Janiculum Hill affords stunning views over the city – and the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola is a suitably baroque 17th century fountain worth seeking out.
Underground mystery at Livenza Hypgeum
Behind a workaday storefront of an oil-splattered city garage and, and through a nondescript metal door off bustling Via Salaria is an underground mystery, that Italian scholars are still trying to make sense of. This subterranean place of worship is adorned with colourful mosaics and elaborate frescoes, and it’s known as the Livenza Hypgeum (Via Livenza). The scenes lent weight to the theory that this monument was a place of worship for the Baptai — those immersed in water (from where we get the word Baptism from). But this strange, nocturnal cult was known for its debauchery and orgies. Still, today, there’s none of that here. Just peace, silence and an air of mystery.
Hidden treasures at Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia
Rome has scores of hidden, out of the way museums – you’d expect nothing less for a city with 26 centuries of history to plunder – and one of the most delightful is the Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia. A beautiful 16th century villa, built for Pope Julius II, and now home to a stunning display of Etruscan art and artifacts – pre Roman treasures. Especially worth seeking out is the museum’s delicate collection of jewellery, vases and votive statues. Far grander are its marble statues of Roman Gods – Apollo and Hercules. A little-visited gem, some way out of the centre, on the Vigna Vecchia, the old city walls ( 9 Piazzale di Villa Giulia )
English poets at the Keats-Shelley House
At the foot of the tourist-magnet of the Spanish Steps, you’d expect any visitor attraction to be animated and bustling. Not so. The delightfully airy and empty Keats-Shelley House (26 Piazza di Spagna) is a wonderfully cool and silent 18th century palazetto, faithfully restored to resemble the home of British poet, John Keats, who died in 1821. Byron, Shelly, Browning and many other poets stayed here – and you can imagine them passing the time in the palazetto’s graceful salons: in fact, many of their letters and manuscripts are on display.
Fountains and terraces at Villa Medici Gardens
Rome’s parks and gardens offer a pleasing counterpoint to the rattle and hum of the city’s ever-busy streets. Our favourite are the Villa Medici Gardens – an enchanting retreat on the Pincio Hill, covering around 17 acres of glorious terraces, splashing fountains, elegant and rare specimen trees from across the globe and clipped, formal lawns and borders. Henry James called them the most delightful in the world. On a summer’s day it would be hard to argue. (Viale Trinità dei Monti, 1)
Thanks for this guest post to Marie Allen of luxury holiday company Elegant Resorts for letting us in on Rome’s quieter corners. When I visited Rome a couple of years ago I did find the crowds at all the major sites offputting – next time I’ll be seeking out some of these hidden gems instead.
If this has inspired you to visit Rome then visit our Elegant Resort’s luxury holidays in Italy page for further details.
Photo Credits : View from Janiculum Hill in Rome by YuKengShih , Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia in Rome by Koji Yatani , Fontana dell’Acqua Paola in Rome by Mark Turner The Keats-Shelley House in Rome by frattaglia , Villa Medici Gardens in Rome by NoBigShot
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