Rome has seven hills, and countless spectacular views. Some of them are famous, and discovered by every eager tourist, such as the view of the Roman Forum from the Capitoline Hill, while others are harder to find. Even if you think you know the city well, you might suddenly be surprised. Turn into an ordinary street for an unexpected glimpse of the Colosseum, or peer through a secret keyhole for a view of the most famous dome in the city.
If you want to see Rome at its most breathtaking, however, you’ll need to climb some of those famous hills.
1. View from the Palatine Hill
There are two ways to get a spectacular view of the Roman Forum. You can go to the back of the Capitoline Hill, or climb the Palatine Hill. But just as Romulus beat Remulus, the Palatine beats the Capitoline for the sheer breadth of the view. As well as being higher up, you can also see the Forum in its entirety. You have a clear view of the Colosseum and many other famous Roman monuments, but the maze of ruins in the Forum will completely captivate you – you won’t want to look at anything else. Joining a walking tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine will help you to get the most out of the experience, giving you the beauty and the history together.
2. View from the Pincio
The peaceful Pincio Hill, part of Villa Borghese, is a good place to escape from the crowds of the streets below. As you stroll through the park you’re bound to spot at least one newlywed couple posing for their wedding photos, and it’s no wonder – the Pincio is perhaps the most scenic, romantic location in a city that’s renowned for being scenic and romantic. The edge of the hill looks out over the splendidly symmetrical Piazza del Popolo, with its famous twin domes. The best way to appreciate the design of the piazza is undoubtedly from above, as you get a real sense of its grace and symmetry. It’s the sweep of ordinary Roman rooftops contrasted with the enormous domes of the churches that makes this view so special, and it takes a moment to notice that an even more famous dome – St Peter’s – is hovering on the horizon.
3. View from the Parco degli Aranci
This tranquil garden of orange trees and umbrella pines is another location that must appear in innumerable wedding photographs. After getting married in one of the beautiful churches on the Aventine Hill, couples pose in what must be one of the most romantic parks in the world. A path lined by umbrella pines leads to the edge of the hill, and the perfect view of St Peter’s. The magnificent dome immediately captures the attention of anyone who enters the garden, but to fully appreciate this special view of Rome, you need to linger for a little while and look around you. From here you can see Trastevere, the Tiber, the Jewish Ghetto and the eye-catching Vittoriano, also known as “the wedding cake”.
For another version of this view, and one of Rome’s best secrets, try peering through the keyhole in the door down the road. It may not give you such a varied panorama, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised – even amazed.
4. View from the dome of St Peter’s
Not one for the claustrophobic or those afraid of heights, but for everyone else, it’s well worth the effort. There are 551 steps in total, but you can take an elevator if you want to save yourself 320 steps. After a very steep and narrow final flight of stairs you’re at the top, with a breathtaking view of the Vatican and beyond. Seeing this famous, postcard-perfect view of Piazza San Pietro with your own eyes is a very special moment indeed.
5. View from the Gianicolo
Most visitors to Rome wander through Trastevere while remaining oblivious to the hill above. The Gianicolo is popular with locals who go there for a Sunday stroll, to wait for the cannon to fire or to spot famous monuments from the top of the hill. From up here you have a real sense of the whole city, from the distant umbrella pines of Villa Borghese to the dome of the synagogue in the Jewish Ghetto. On a clear day you can even see beyond Rome, to the blue hills in the distance.
Paolo Sorrentino’s famous film La Grande Bellezza gives you a glimpse of the Gianicolo in the opening scene, when a group of tourists gather near the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola to admire the views of Rome. But it’s much better to experience it with your own eyes, walking all the way along the hill until another famous sight looms up in front of you – St Peter’s, not on the horizon but just a few steps away.
Rosario Gorgone is Co-Founder of Through Eternity Tours.