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text Gabrielle Bolzoni photo Valentina Stefanelli

June 21, 2019

Eternal Terraces

panoramic viewpoints, which overlook the city and reserve those who linger here with spectacular views

Rome is the cradle of world history, and much of its ancient beauty still remains today. There’s so much to see and do that, even if you live here, you have the feeling you’ll never really know the city, because it has a thousand faces and it never fails to surprise. Among the classic tourist draws there are magical places which are completely unexpected and can be visited dozens of times without ever tiring of them. These are Rome’s classic terraces, designated as panoramic viewpoints, which overlook the city and for centuries have reserved those who linger here with spectacular views and deep emotions. A feeling of continuity between past and present and the illusion, for a moment, of grasping that sense of the infinite that only exists in the Eternal City.   

Trinità dei Monti stands at the top of the famous Spanish Steps, overlooking the picturesque Piazza di Spagna and the straight line of the ancient Via Trinitatis, which linked the square to the Tiber. To join the heights of the Pincian Hill with the lower level, in 1723 construction began on a Baroque staircase with two converging flights, whose arrangement of projections and indentations had been sketched by Bernini in the mid-17th century. The scene had been dominated since the 16th century by the church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, with its symmetrical pair of great bell towers, whose story began in 1494 when Charles VIII, king of Franc e, bought a vineyard on the site in order to build a monastery to house monks of the Minimite Order. Following the Sack of Rome in 1527, the complex was extended with a frescoed cloister and a well-stocked scientific library. At the centre of the terrace, an obelisk has stood since 1789. From here, it’s a short walk to the Pincian Hill, past the magnificent Villa Medici, home to the French Academy in Rome.

The Pincio Terrace at the top of the eponymous hill, which overlooks Piazza del Popolo and is crowned by Villa Borghese, today remains the historic walk that’s closest to Roman hearts. From late Antiquity to the end of the 18th century, many noble families - including the 14th-century Pincii, after whom the hill is named - owned vineyards and vegetable gardens in this area. In the late 18th century, architect Giuseppe Valadier proposed a plan for improving the area and the creation of a park which would bring relief to the Roman citizens - for centuries crowded along the banks of the Tiber - and glory to the emperor. The present-day Piazza del Popolo was built on Napoleon’s orders in 1816 and connected by ramps and terraces to the Pincian Hill, which became Rome’s first public garden. The enormous panoramic terrace, dedicated to Napoleon, offers spectacular views over the magnificent skyline. It is famous for its 229 classical busts, its Water Clock and its ancient obelisk, and there’s a pleasant café in Casina Valadier. The Janiculum is a smaller hill above Trastevere on the right bank of the Tiber, and it’s a lovely place for a walk. In 1849 this was the scene of a battle between Garibaldi - who is remembered with a grandiose equestrian statue in bronze - and the French troops who sought to occupy Rome. Today’s visitors can admire the monumental Acqua Paola fountain, built in the 17th century at the end of an ancient Roman aqueduct; the Manfredi lighthouse, constructed in 1911 as a gift from Italian immigrants to Argentina; and the church of San Pietro in Montorio. From the viewpoint overlooking the city centre, the peaks of the central-western Apennines can be seen in the distance. The famous San Carlino Theatre stages puppet shows for young children.

The Savello Park lies on the Aventine Hill, and has been renamed the Orange Trees Garden for the large number of bitter orange trees planted here in commemoration of S. Domenico, who founded a convent here. In 1300 the Savelli family built their own castle on the site, surrounded by thick medieval walls, which can still be seen today. Since 1932 the area has been home to a small garden, rectangular and symmetrical, designed by architect Raffaele De Vico with the aim of enhancing the space and creating a new scenic terrace for Rome. From here the view is magnificent, extending from the curve of the Tiber to St Peter’s Basilica. Leaving the Orange Trees Garden and turning right, you come to Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, designed in 1765 by the well-known architect and engraver Giovan Battista Piranesi. Here, if you peep through the keyhole of the door to the Priory of the Knights of Malta, you can see the dome of St Peter’s framed by the hedges of the garden.

The Campidoglio lies at the top of the Capitoline Hill and is reached via a monumental staircase.  The square was designed by Michelangelo, and for centuries this was the political and religious heart of the capital. Today the top of the Arx is occupied by the splendid church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Although in Roman times the main monuments on the Campidoglio faced the Forum, since the Middle Ages the views have been towards the Campus Martius. The late 15th century saw the establishment of the Musei Capitolini, the world’s oldest public museum, whose She-Wolf was to become the symbol of the city. The square centres on a massive equestrian statue in bronze of Marcus Aurelius. Michelangelo’s design was completed in 1940 with the laying of the beautiful star-patterned paving and the creation of an underground tunnel linking the three palaces that face onto the square. 

On the south-west side of the Campidoglio, on the top floor of the magnificent 16th-century palace that houses a wing of the museum, is Terrazza Caffarelli, an exclusive and elegant venue with a modern cafeteria. Its fabulous views of Rome’s artistic and architectural marvels are postcard-perfect.


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