10 secrets of the Eternal City

Mara Noveni | Live the World

November 23, 2022

I have already had the pleasure to accompany you to discover some wonders of the Eternal City. Iconic neighborhoods such as the Jewish Ghetto or Garbatella District, or local traditions such as street food and shopping, to mention some of them. Today, I will accompany you in the exploration of 10 secrets of the Eternal City, 10 places less known but just as beautiful to discover, photograph, experience for a taste of a different and secret Rome.

1. Little London

In Rome, there is Little London, a corner of England in the Eternal City. Hardly anyone knows about it because it is located in a corner of the city a little hidden and not very celebrated. Walking between Viale del Vignola and Via Flaminia, you cross a pedestrian path paved with cobblestones, an ideal place for lovers of photography and selfies. Looking up, you will notice a series of villas with colorful facades, which tell all the British style. Suddenly, you are catapulted into the heart of London. But Little London in Rome is not a coincidence. In fact, at the beginning of the 1900s an Anglo-Italian, Ernesto Nathan, was elected mayor of Rome, and he dreamed of bringing the city to the level of the great European capitals. This road is an example of that ambitious project, even if Mayor Nathan's dream has never gone beyond this little corner of paradise.

© Mara Noveni

2. Arco dei Banchi

The Arco dei Banchi is one of the mysterious places Rome still reserves for us in its oldest districts, a connecting road between Via Paola and Via del Banco di Santo Spirito, where the Arco dei Banchi overlooks it, enclosed by an arch. The name derives from the stalls of merchants, bankers, notaries and traders who carried out their activities around San Pietro. The spectacularity of the frescoed roof with a magnificent blue sky makes this starry sky unique in the heart of Rome. Under the arch, a beautiful wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary was adored, then it was removed and replaced in the nineteenth century by a frescoed painting, still very much venerated today. At the beginning of the arch, there is a stone on the left with an inscription that recalls the flood of the Tiber in 1277, the earliest reminder of the floods of the Tiber River.

© Mara Noveni

3. Knights of Malta Keyhole

The dome of St. Peter's Basilica as you have never seen it before. The Keyhole is nothing more than the exciting view that the lock of the gate of the Priory of the Knights of Malta offers by looking inside. The emotion that pervades the unwitting tourist is dictated by the panoramic view that appears before the eye: the Dome of St. Peter in a new and different perspective, surrounded by the hedges of the eighteenth-century garden of the priory. The visit is worthwhile, both day and night, but perhaps sunset is the best time.

© iStock / kurmyshov

4. Coppedé District

Coppedè District is Rome’s smallest district, a complex of buildings located in the Trieste area, in the block between via Tagliamento, via Arno, via Ombrone, via Serchio and via Clitunno. It is a very small neighborhood made up of a few buildings but whose beauty transports the visitor into the world of fairy tales. It is so unique that it makes the visit really worth it.

© iStock / ValerioMei

5. Piccolo Duomo of Milan

Would you like to see the Duomo of Milan but cannot get away from Rome? Then you absolutely must visit the Church of the Sacred Heart of Suffragio on Lungotevere Prati, also known as the "Piccolo Duomo". Built in Gothic style both inside and out, it was built in the early 1900s and stands out in the eyes of the Romans accustomed to very different architectural styles in the capital. The Gothic façade, made of reinforced concrete with spires and pinnacles, is very reminiscent of the famous Milan Cathedral, and that is why it is also called the Piccolo Duomo. If you happen to visit the small cathedral, do not miss the unique Museum of the souls of Purgatory, set up in a room of the sacristy.

6. Arco degli Acetari

The Arco degli Acetari is located in Rome's centre, in the Parione district, along Via del Pellegrino, a few steps from the famous Piazza Campo de' Fiori. Starting from Piazza Campo de' Fiori and walking along Via del Pellegrino, you come across the Arco degli Acetari, and after crossing the small arch, it leads you, almost with surprise, into a closed courtyard surrounded by multicolored houses with external stairs, flowers and plants that decorate balconies and windows. These houses, due to their characteristics layouts and colors, seem to evoke an ancient medieval village. It is a real image to be immortalized and a picturesque, unusual and original place in the heart of Rome, where time seems to have stopped.

© Mara Noveni

7. Passeggiata del Gelsomino

The Vatican also has a railway. It was built in 1929 and served to connect the Papal State to the Kingdom of Italy. Over the years, the railway was abandoned, and on the occasion of the Jubilee of 2000, one of the two tracks was removed, leaving room for a suggestive walk still unknown in Rome: it is the Passeggiata del Gelsomino. To reach it, you have to enter right inside the San Pietro Station as if you want to take the train and then continue along track 1, turning immediately right. From here begins the path that allows you to admire San Pietro and its dome from a different perspective. This walk, which, together with that of the Janiculum, is among the most romantic of the Eternal City, is so-called for a twofold reason. First of all, along the road, there are jasmines which, in summer, when they are at their peak, make the promenade even more beautiful, framed by fragrant white flowers. Not only that, this fascinating railway route overlooks what was once called the Valle del Gelsomino, which stretched from the Vatican to the Janiculum.

© Mara Noveni

8. Galleria Sciarra

A stone's throw from Via del Corso and the Trevi Fountain, in the midst of the frenzy of the capital that thousands of tourists and Romans pass through every day, is the jewel of liberty Rome: the Sciarra Gallery. Anyone passing by chance in the alleys of the Trevi district, more precisely in Via Minghetti, can be entranced by the spectacle of this covered walkway. Its construction dates back to the end of the 19th century when Italy's capital passed from Florence to Rome. That was a period of great change for the city and coincided with modernization and renovation of the spaces. The architect De Angelis designed a quadrangular pedestrian courtyard surmounted by an iron vault and decorated with cast-iron columns at the entrances. The frescoes made with the encaustic technique were instead entrusted to the painter Giuseppe Cellini on an iconographic project who aimed to enhance the figure of the woman in the role of the angel of the hearth, mother and wife. In the gallery, figures are representing the female virtues of nineteenth-century bourgeois life.

© iStock / baloncici

9. The Botanical Garden

The Rome Botanical Garden covers about 12 hectares in the heart of the city, between the Trastevere district and the Janiculum. It was officially established in 1660 by Pope Alexander VII, but it certainly existed since the Middle Ages. It covers an area of about 12 hectares in the heart of the city. Since 1883, the Botanical Garden of Rome has been located in the historic garden of Palazzo Riario-Corsini, famous for being the seat of Queen Christina of Sweden in the 17th century. The garden contains some important collections of palms, gymnosperms, succulents, bamboos, roses, medicinal plants and monumental secular trees. Near the top of the hill, there is a Japanese garden, from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the historic center of Rome.

© iStock / bwzenith

10. The Rose Garden

The Municipal Rose Garden of Rome, unique in the world for its spectacular position, lies on the slopes of the Aventine, facing the remains of the Palatine, just above the Circus Maximus. Small in size, it offers a magnificent view that sweeps from the Palatine Hill to the bell tower of S. Maria in Cosmedin, to the dome of the Synagogue, to the Vittoriano, up to the observatory of Monte Mario. Since the third century BCE, the place where the rose garden stands was dedicated to flowers. Tacitus, in the Annales, speaks of a temple dedicated to the goddess Flora, whose celebrations ("floralia") took place in spring in the Circus Maximus.

In the main area, there is a collection of botanical roses, both ancient and modern. In the lower part, there are the sectors where the roses participating in the "Rome Prize" live and the collection of roses which, since 1933, have won this prestigious event.

The Rose Garden is home to around 1,100 species of roses from all over the world, even from China and Mongolia. Among the most curious ones are the Rosa Chinensis Virdiflora (with green petals), the Rosa Chinensis Mutabilis (which changes color with the passing of the days) and the Rosa Foetida (a smelly rose). Obviously, the best period to visit the Rose Garden of Rome is in May and June, when roses are at their best.

© iStock / lucamato

Well, after visiting these 10 secrets of the Eternal City, I can reveal to you that the best way to get to know a place is to visit not only the main monuments and attractions but above all the lost, hidden and less known corners. By discovering the 10 secrets of the Eternal City, you will have discovered a more genuine and real Rome, which you will not easily forget. Enjoy!!!

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