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Although I’ve visited the Eternal City on five previous occasions, I never had the opportunity to explore Rome with a local, until now.
I yearned to be in the city again, since my last time in Rome was four years ago, so I decided to take a day trip to Rome from Florence, only a ninety-minute train ride on the Italo fast train.
Having no particular agenda, I wanted to wander around, shoot photos, and enjoy the vibe of the always interesting and busy capital of Italy. In the back of my mind, I thought I might like to see the “St Peter’s Keyhole,” on Aventine Hill, if I could find it.
I couldn’t have anticipated that it would be my good fortune to explore Rome with my own personal tour guide. Daniela Fanfarillo, a colleague and friend whom I had only known online, offered to drive into the city and show me some of the lesser known places of Rome.
She grew up in the hills just outside of Rome and was a wealth of knowledge with suggestions of special sites to explore. I always find it a thrill to finally meet someone in person after having made a connection and communicating on social media for some time.
I walked down via Cavour to the area near the metro stop, where Daniela and I met. Parking is a nightmare in Rome, where you are only allowed to park in certain districts with specific credentials. It was great to meet up and Daniela whisked me away in her car to our first stop. She had already designed an itinerary which she thought I’d enjoy, and she was right.
The first place she took me was Colle Oppio (Opium hill) where we visited Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli, in the beautiful Rione Monti.
We also passed by the ruins of Emperor Nero’s villa, known as Domus Aurea. We also enjoyed spectacular views of the Coliseum from this vantage point on the hill.
Colle Celio (Caelian hill)
Next stop was Colle Celio, another of Rome’s seven hills, and yet another place I have never been. Here we visited the Basilica of San Clemente, significant for its three historical layers.
The 12th-century basilica is built on top of a well-preserved 4th-century church, where frescoes can still be seen, and this was built next to a Mithraic Temple dating back to the third century. It’s fascinating to explore the excavations of the lower two levels, and amazing to see running water inside from a spring.
Afterward we stopped for gelato at Antica Gelateria De Matteis, recommended by Daniela. We had to try some of the unusual flavors such as mascarpone fighi and cioccolato al peperoncino. Delicious!
We continued our walk past the military hospital and the Romanesque church dedicated to Santi Giovanni e Paolo
Behind the church we found the subterranean archeological site, Case Romane del Celio, where the “ancient aperitif” is held on Fridays.
Next is Aventine Hill, another of the famous seven hills of Rome. This is where the famous St. Peter’s Keyhole is found. We walked up via Santa Sabina, which ends in the small, picturesque Piazza dei Cavallieri di Malta. The keyhole is located on a door of the Grand Priory in Rome of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. A small line of people were there hoping to get a glimpse through the peephole. I was excited to be here and happy that the line wasn’t too long.
I was thrilled to be able to see St. Peter’s Dome through the keyhole. It truly was amazing. But my excitement was tempered by my lack of being able to capture a good photo with my iPhone. I walked away to let the others in line have a turn. I assumed I needed a better camera.
I decided to try my luck at the keyhole one more time. So I waited in line again. And I couldn’t believe that I got the shot! I think it’s so cool!
Colle del Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill)
Capitoline Hill was next, and yet another place I have never been. Daniela has managed to take me to all places I have never seen in Rome. It’s been an amazing day so far. This is the place with the most spectacular views of the Roman Forum and the Coliseum.
We reached the Piazza Campodiglio, designed by Michelangelo with the statue of Marco Aurelio. The buildings on the side were part of the Musei Capitolini. We had a delicious lunch at Terrazza Caffarelli, where the views of the city were spectacular.
I saw places I’ve never been and exploring Rome with a local like you is the absolute best. Grazie, Cara.
Grazie and Ciao.
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