This is the view that inspired my love affair with Italy. There is something about my first visit to the Aventine Hill that absolutely transformed my experience in Rome. The Aventine is under-visited in my opinion. Located in the southern part of the of the city along the Tiber River and next to the Circus Maximus, the Aventine is one of the seven legendary hills of Rome. It is a stone’s throw from the bustle of the historic center but the peace and tranquility there makes it feel like it is miles away. There are no shops or restaurants on the hill. It is primarily residential in addition to several monasteries, embassies, a park and some of the most beautiful churches in Rome. My personal favorite is Santa Sabina. The original church dates back to the 5th century. The original wooden doors are still in place and one of the panels contains the oldest known depiction of the crucifixion of Christ. Also original are the alabaster windows and, over the door, a part of the mosaic that would have graced the entire interior.
Right next to the church is the Parco di Savello which is never called by its official name but rather is known as the Orange Grove because of the abundant citrus trees that fill the park. The overlook from the park offers a gorgeous view of the city. But for a view like no other, continue to the end of the street to the Piazza of the Knights of Malta. Looking through the keyhole brings a surprise in a city that sometimes feels full of cliches. It is a delightful perspective that I never tire of, even after hundreds of visits.
All that beauty and culture will surely make you hungry. Head down the opposite side of the hill to Testaccio and head to the market or to Velavevodetto, one of the great restaurants in this neighborhood.
Rome is full of beauty, history and art, so much so that it is easy to focus on the “highlights” and never make it to the lesser known corners of the city. To miss the Aventine would be a shame.