6 Places to get high in Rome

by Margaret Barca

Rome is full of surprises. At street level you can stroll past the ancient, the medieval and the modern. But sometimes you need the big picture to really put the city into perspective. Here are 6 places where you can gaze across the monuments and landmarks, the parks and piazzas, the sinuous curve of the Tiber River and the hills that cradle the ancient city. Head for the high ground.

1. The Janiculum Hill (the Gianicolo), rising above Trastevere and as far as the Vatican, offers – some think – the finest view of Rome, a panorama that sweeps across the city with its iconic domes and distinctive umbrella pines. It’s usually quiet on the belvedere, away from the tourist hubs – quiet, that is, except for the cannon that traditionally fires a blank at noon every day to mark the time. Open daily and you can also see the skyline at night.

2. Cupola of St Peter’s Climb the narrow corridors and winding staircase (320 steps) to the top of St Peter’s dome for superb views of parks, gardens, statuary and ancient and modern Rome spreading out before you. It costs 6 euro to climb (7 euro for the lift). If you only want to go to the roof, it’s still a splendid view and there is even a small coffee bar (this is Italy!). Don’t forget the Vatican dress code – cover up or be turned away. Open daily, check the times at www.saintpetersbasilica.org

3 Castel Sant’Angelo, the fortress-like round Castle of the Holy Angel built, as a mausoleum by Hadrian II, has had a colourful – if bloody – history as a dungeon, a papal residence and scene of political intrigue. Today it’s a museum with a rooftop terrace offering terrific views across the Tiber. Open Tue–Sun 9am–7.30pm (last tickets 6.30pm). www.castelsantangelo.com

4. The terrace at the Pincio Gardens (Giardini del Pincio) is another great vantage point, only a minute or so from the Spanish Steps, above the Piazza del Popolo. It’s a choice spot to catch a Roman sunset over the cupola-dotted skyline. Open daily.

5. The Garden of Oranges (Giardino degli Aranci) or Parco Savello, on the Aventine Hill behind the Basilica of Santa Sabina, is another very Roman retreat, a small but tranquil park offering views of Rome rooftops and domes. Again, this is a lovely place to enjoy the sun’s setting rays. The garden is off Via di Santa Sabina. Open daily.

6. The terrace of the Vittoriano (the white ‘wedding cake’ of the National Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, much maligned by the Romans) is also in the running for ‘best view’ in Rome. Make your way past the gelati vendors and crowds, climb the many steps, then past the café are two glass lifts. For a fee (around 7 euro) you can take the lift to the Terrazza delle Quadrighe. You might not like the building but you have to love those amazing 360-degree views of Rome. Spettacolo! The Vittoriano is on Piazza Venezia. Open daily: Winter 9.30am -4.30pm, Summer 9am–5pm (last admissions half an hour before closing).

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