ROMAN WALKS - 3 - SOUTH OF THE CENTER | Bed and Rome and Breakfast - 3 B&B in Rome

giovedì 1 marzo 2018


Circus Maximus and Palatine

The itinerary we are recommending today starts from the St. John Villa and is dedicated to the southern part of the historical center of Rome, so including the Aventine hill, Rione Testaccio and the Rione San Saba.

Leaving the St. John Villa, we first cross Porta Metronia to reach the Baths of Caracalla, the most famous of the imperial baths of ancient Rome. They are the location of the summer season of the Opera Theater of Rome.
After crossing
Baths of Caracalla
After reaching the headquarters of the F.A.O., we will start walking along the south-west side of the Circus Maximus, the biggest stadium ever built having accomodation for 250000 people. Nowadays the area continues to be used for concerts and other events. On 2007 the English band Genesis performed here a concert with an attendance of half million people.

Looking to the opposite side we can see the Imperial Palace on the Palatin hill. If you have the opportunity, come here at the sunset. The view of the palace illuminated by the red rays of the setting sun is really stunning.

Walking on the side of the Rose Garden, we will the climb to the top of the Aventine hill. In the ancient Rome, the Palatin was the place where most of the aristocratic families were living, while the Aventine was a popular neighborhood. Nowadays the Aventine is one of the most elegant neighborhoods of Rome.
Garden of Oranges
On the top of the Aventine we will find the Garden of Oranges, where you will have a stunning view of Rome from its panoramic terrace. Next to it, htere is the Basilica of Santa Sabina. This church was built in the early V century AD and, among the churches of Rome, it is the oldest extant in its original form. Actually, the Pantheon is over 300 years older but it was not built to be a church.
Aventine Hill and the Priory of the Knights of Malta
After Santa Sabina you will find the gate of the garden of the Priory of the Knights os Malta. At the center of the keyhole you will see the dome of St. Peter.

The Knights of Malta are one of the four sovereign entities that are based in Rome, the other ones being the Italian Republic, the Vatican City and the Holy See. It is complex to explain but Vatican City and Holy See are not the same thing. Anyhow, that is a unique case in the world, a city where not one, not two, but four sovereign entities are based.

Going down from the Aventine, you will reach the Rione Testaccio.

Testaccio is a recently established and urbanized rione (district) in the historic center of Rome, its official institution dating back to 1921. Nevertheless it boasts a very ancient history.

In ancient times, on the banks of the Tiber, there was the city port where daily barges attacked, driven by oxen, went up the river to unload the supplies needed to feed a city that had over one million inhabitants.
This is due to the topographical element that characterizes the district, the Monte dei Cocci (Mons Testaceus), an artificial hill of about 35 meters high consisting of all the broken amphora shards, amphorae that were used for the transport of genres food. The shards of the amphorae were then stacked regularly so as to allow the growth of the hill. In some points and even inside one of the many restaurants that surround the Monte dei Cocci you can see the various fragments.
Porticus Aemilia
In addition to the port in the area there were the warehouses; the whole was called Emporium, hence the today's word. In Via Rubattino you can see the remains of the Porticus Aemilia, part of the Emporium.

Over the years, Testaccio has become one of the centers of nightlife, concentrated above all in the premises built around the Monte dei Cocci. Compared to Trastevere, from which it is separated only by the river and invaded by tourists, Testaccio is much more Roman. In short, there are no rooms that are traps for tourists, no one that exposes the infamous tourist menu. The Da Bucatino Trattoria and the Nuovo Mondo Pizzeria, which are among my favorites in Rome, are simple but authentic places where you can eat well without having to ask for a mortgage in the bank to settle the bill.

In the eastern corner of the district, on the border with San Saba and Ostiense, is the most important monument of Testaccio, as well as probably the most curious of all Rome, or the Pyramid of Cestius (Piramide Cestia). This piece of ancient Egypt in Rome, not the only one, remembering the many obelisks, is the fruit of unbridled passion for all that was of Egyptian origin that flared up among the ancient Romans as soon as Egypt fell under their domination.
Already the construction of this monument, a gigantic block of concrete more than 35 meters high and covered with brick curtain and marble slabs, is curious.
Pyramid of Cestius
The rich Caius Cestius wrote in his will that he wanted to be buried in a pyramid and that this pyramid was to be built in less than 330 days from the day of his death. Otherwise the heirs would have lost any rights to its assets. Evidently the heritage of Caius Cestius was sufficiently large to motivate the heirs to proceed quickly with the work so that the pyramid, completed in 12 BC, was built in a shorter time. The testamentary will is remembered by an inscription on the eastern flank and still visible - opus absolutum ex testament diebus CCCXXX, arbitratu (L.) Ponti P. f. Cla (udia tribu), Melae heredis and Pothi l (iberti).
Right next to the pyramid is the Non-Catholic Cemetery, also known as the Englishmen's Cemetery, where the great English poets John Keats and Percy Shelley, Antonio Gramsci, Luce D'Eramo, Carlo Emilio Gadda and many others are buried.

Rione San Saba
From the Pyramid you will walk back to the top of the lowe peak of the Aventine, on the east side of the hill. This part is called the Small Aventine. Here there is the Rione San Saba, another one of the youngest districts in the center of Rome.
San Saba is like a village inside the city. Out of the main traffic roads, it is a green a quiet corner where you will enjoy sitting in the garden of Piazza Bernini.

Walking around the Baths of Caracalla, you will go back to Piazzale Numa Pompilio and, from there you will tale Via di Porta Latina. This street runs along the Parco degli Scipioni (Scipioni's Park) to reach Porta Latina, one of the gates of the Aurelian Walls. Along the street you will also find the ancient church of San Giovanni a Porta Latina. Afteer crossing the gate you will rapidly walk back to the St. John Villa.


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