Not long after arriving in Rome I was invited to lunch by a friend of a friend who works at the FAO. The building itself is a nondescript office block next to Circo Massimo, but the view from the eighth floor terrace is spectacular. When I remember my lunch breaks at my previous job, often just an M&S sandwich eaten at my desk in a stuffy office…The FAO workers who get to enjoy their lunches with a view like this are very lucky indeed. I never get tired of looking at the Palatine from any angle. I remember my holiday in Rome two years ago, before moving here, when my friend and I first caught a glimpse of the Palatine from the Circo Massimo side and didn’t know what it was. Obviously once we worked it out we felt stupid, because we’d actually visited the Palatine before, but standing on top of it and seeing it suddenly come into view as you approach from the south are very different experiences.
I think the best city views are the ones that are high up, but not too high. Eight floors up is about the limit. Skyscrapers don’t interest me, as the higher you get the more disconnected you feel from everything. Standing on a Roman hill or terrace, you feel like you can see the whole city while also feeling part of it.
Here are some other favourite views in Rome:
An obvious choice, but you can’t beat the sight of Piazza del Popolo from above. Those beautiful twin domes, the obelisk, and the Vatican in the distance…There’s an excellent novel by Friedrich Christian Delius called Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman, which takes the form of a single sentence over about 100 pages. The plot is essentially just the thoughts of a German woman walking across Rome in the 1940s as she waits for her husband to return. Her journey involves a stop at the Pincio, and there’s a perfect description of the view which captures just what makes it so magical. Unfortunately I don’t have the book with me (I don’t have any books, just my Kindle and Keats and Shelley), or else I’d post an extract.
The view in the picture is from the street winding down to the river which I can no longer visit, after the encounter with the flasher…But the Giardini degli Aranci is pervert-free, in my experience, and you can see right across the city. There’s also the famous keyhole view of St Peter’s nearby.
This is an elevated park just off Via Nazionale. It’s rather shabby – lots of rubbish, benches that are falling apart. Whenever I go there, there are usually just occasional couples or men sleeping. Sometimes I don’t feel entirely safe, but it’s unfounded really, as nothing’s ever happened to me there. Compared to the other views I’ve mentioned, Villa Aldobrandini isn’t particularly high up, and you can’t see that far…but there is something special about it. If you go to the far end with the bust of a man stabbing himself in the chest you get an unusual perspective of the end of Via Nazionale, looking down towards Piazza Venezia and Trajan’s Markets. It’s a view I’ve always had to myself, and it feels like a secret.
The Forum from the Capitoline Hill
A view I love so much I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. The best way to experience it is to visit the Capitoline Museums and go to the Tabularium, as that way you’re right in the centre of the hill and you can admire the Forum and the shifting light over the columns and the umbrella pines of the Palatine without being disturbed by tour groups. In an ideal world my bedroom would be in the Tabularium, with a gigantic window and terrace, and the perfect view of the Forum to be enjoyed whenever I wanted.
Honourable mentions go to to the Janiculum and Piazza Trinità dei Monti. Any other views I’m missing?