On our final morning in Rome we started the day with a visit to the Gianicolo Hill viewpoint, one of the highest hills in Rome. It’s located above the Vatican and Trastevere districts to the west of the Tiber. Our phone map suggested taking the train to S. Pietro station and following a path from there but after walking up a steep hill and a lengthy flight of steps we discovered that the path ahead was blocked. After consulting our map again, we decided to take a bus from S.Paola to Gianicolo instead.
The journey to the viewpoint was up a steep hillside along narrow, congested roads. The viewing terrace in Garibaldi square was easily recognisable by its huge statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi on horseback surrounded by busts of other war heroes.
The viewing terrace was an oasis of calm with very few people taking in the panoramic views. From the viewpoint we could see many of Rome’s landmarks including the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and the gardens of Villa Borghese.
After exploring the square we caught a bus down to Trastevere. The small bus was already crowded when we boarded meaning that we had to stand for most of the journey. We needed to hold on tight as the bus sped down the steep hillside, twisting and turning as if we were on a rollercoaster.
Getting off the bus in Trastevere, we wandered along the charming narrow, cobbled streets which wind their way through this Bohemian neighbourhood. The Basilica of Santa Maria dominates the square bearing its name. Unfortunately, on the day of our visit, the church was undergoing renovations and covered in scaffolding, leaving only its clocktower visible. It is one of the oldest churches in Rome and although currently unattractive from the outside, the interior was open and we were able to admire its treasures including its noted 13th century mosaics.
Continuing our stroll through the district, we discovered that Trastevere still maintains a strong, local identity with dozens of family run trattorias and pavement cafes filling every courtyard and street corner. In typical Italian style, washing hangs overhead and geraniums blossom in window boxes on orangey-brown paint faded walls. The centre of Trastevere was crowded with locals and tourists alike enjoying leisurely lunch breaks but as we approached the river it gradually became quieter with fewer tourists in evidence. We strolled across the beautiful Ponte Sisto footbridge which crosses the Tiber. From there we took a bus along to Piazza Navona which seemed even busier than on our previous visit. It was bustling with tourists, performers, artists, musicians and, of course, those annoying street vendors armed with selfie sticks.
Finding a not too busy cafe we settled down for a light lunch then walked the short distance to the Campo de’ Fiori open air market to take a look around some of its stalls. This market is one of Rome’s oldest produce markets but nowadays many of its stalls are dedicated to souvenirs with just a few still selling traditional market produce and flowers.
Spending a shorter time than planned at the market provided us with an opportunity to walk along to Capitoline Hill, pausing to view some Roman excavations on the way.
Climbing the stone steps to the Piazza del Campidoglio we were rewarded with splendid views looking down. A path leading to the rear of the Rome City Hall gave us us some excellent aerial views of the Roman Forum. We returned down via a steep pathway and headed back towards the hotel by metro from the Colosseo station. It was then 4.30 p.m. and we planned to have an early meal before returning to the airport. Unfortunately, at that time many restaurants were closed so we had to walk around awhile until we found a suitable place to eat.
It was then time to return to the Holiday Inn Express to collect our luggage and make our way to the airport on the FL1 train from Tuscolana taking 40 minutes. Our Alitalia flight departed on time at 9.25 p.m. and we had plenty of room to spread out as the aisle seat next to us was unoccupied.
Back in Heathrow’s Terminal 4 we only had a few minutes to wait for a bus to nearby Feltham where we had booked an overnight stay in the Travelodge Feltham before returning home the following day. Our weekend break in Rome had been really nice with many interesting places to visit, a comfortable hotel, delicious Italian food and good weather. All our travel in Rome was covered by our Metrebus Lazio CIRS Regional weekly 3 zone ticket costing €34.50 each.
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