Exploring the Quieter Areas of Rome
Most tourists visiting Rome for a weekend break or a few days mainly want to see the sights, savour the Italian food and experience La Dolce Vita. After fighting our way through the masses of visitors and annoying touts constantly pestering us with their tatty goods, we had decided to head to quieter, lesser-visited areas of the capital for our second day exploring. There, local cafes in narrow alleyways, ancient ruins, charming palazzos and public parks invite curious travellers to explore a different side to the historic city and get a little off the beaten track. A wander along cobbled streets is a great way to discover more about local life and its people.
Breakfast at Cafe Fiorini
Breakfast at Café Fiorini, located in the Monteverde Veccio district, seemed like a sensible choice after a disappointing breakfast at our hotel. The family run café offered a vast range of sweet and savoury pastries, which made it hard for us to choose from. We started with a selection of different sweet pastries and croissants, followed by scrambled eggs with bacon, pancakes and of course a cappuccino.
Villa Sciarra Park and Gardens
The café was conveniently located for our Sunday stroll, starting at the close by gardens of Villa Sciarra. Walking along residential apartment blocks that looked distinctly Italian to our eyes, with their terracotta coloured facades, wooden shutters or stripy awnings. On our stroll along the paths of the gardens, we met many families, joggers and some residents with their dogs out for a walk.
Fountains and Sculptures
There were countless fountains and sculptures strewn throughout the walled park. One was most peculiar, a boy seated on a turtle, his hand laid on a boy’s figure, half human half sheep. Unfortunately there was no sign with the name of an artist, which would have allowed me to find out more about the sculpture. The main building of the Villa Sciarra itself is only accessible to students of the language school is houses today.
Travestere and Fontana dell’Acqua Paola
Exiting onto Via Giacomo Medici, we found ourselves in the exclusive part of Travestere, home to many embassies and institutes that have found a place in illustrious palazzos set among manicured gardens, most are hidden from sight behind high walls and sometimes guarded by security staff and cameras. The odd gate or entrance gave us the possibility to glance into the grounds of the wealthier Roman populace. At the bottom of the hill we stumbled onto another grand fountain, similar to the Trevi Fountain, the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, also known as the Fontanone del Gianicolo. Here there were no crowds spoiling our sight of the marble monument adding to the enjoyment. Next door to the fountain lie the Botanical Gardens, part of the university, showcasing a variety of plants and flowers but sadly closed on Sundays, or we would have definitely taken time to visit.
Panoramic Views From Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi
A short walk away, the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi offers incredible panoramic views of Rome and the hills in the distance. There was a little café with a small carousel for kids and a kiosk offering balloons and other treats, including gelato. All this seemed so much more genuine than the busy central sights. The statue of Guiseppe Garibaldi on his horse towers over the square and the passing cars.
Villa Doria Pamhilj
Further on the Villa Doria Pamphilj and its expansive parkland and gardens is only a few blocks from the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi and offers an escape from the busy streets of Rome. Stepping through the entrance gate of the villa’s grounds it is hard to believe it used to be the country residence of the Pamphilj family and now is located in the heart of the city.
Stroll Through the Gardens at Villa Pamphilj
On our stroll through the park we discovered many other sumptuous houses with adjoining gardens, fountains and sculptures, weirdly, most of them missing their heads, lopped off at one point or another in history. A fake limestone inspired grotto reminded us of the Raixa gardens on Mallorca.
Fun Times for Children
Playgrounds tucked into corners of the park offered younger children some fun times, also do not forget to pack some dry bread for the ducks on the lake in the centre of the park. Winding our way along the paths we took in the changing views of the villas and landscape. Jerome watched a group of kids playing football on the grassy fields before we reached a pine alley and the bridge crossing the dissecting road to reach the west side of the park.
The Wilder Westside of Pamhilj
This side of the park is much wilder and we also met fewer people on our walk. The way feels less urban and more country, the paths less maintained and more like footpaths. Following a stream north we soon reached the northern end of Villa Pamphilj, near a small pond. We exited from the gate and returned to the cobbled streets of Rome.
Before it was time for us to collect our luggage and jump into a taxi, we had just enough time for quick lunch at a small eatery nearby. Our walk had almost returned us to the hotel so after a few blocks we were soon walking down the pine covered drive to collect our bags. Time in Rome definitely went by far too quickly, and while we enjoyed glancing at the big sights, like the Colosseum and the Vatican, we also very much enjoyed exploring the lesser-visited area of Travestere and the parks.
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