We’d both visited Rome before so I decided to book us at a hotel in an area slightly out of the main hustle and bustle of the centre of Rome and in a leafy residential area within walking distance of a certain cemetery that was brought to my attention on my first visit. The highlight of that trip, although we visited The Forum and The Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain and The Spanish Steps and The Pantheon and I had my picture taken at the Bocca della Verita, turned out to be the peaceful and tranquil Keats-Shelley House.
John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are both buried at The Non-Catholic Cemetery in Testaccio and the more I have read about the place the more I have wanted to visit what sounds like a peaceful rural idyll so close to the centre of Rome.
The Keats and Shelley Graves in the Protestant Cemetery [postcard]
What I had failed to take into account – and I could have done nothing about it anyway – was the fact that a second Italian public holiday was to fall during our week’s visit. The 1st of May is a public holiday in Italy. So, after dropping our bags at our hotel room, we made our way at about 1.30pm to the Campo Cestio a 10 minute walk away only to find that it had closed that day at 1pm.
Very near to the Cemetery is the famous Caius Cestius Pyramid built during the 1st century BC when Roman funerary architecture was influenced by the ancient Egyptians.
The Cats in the Area even have their own website!
Disappointed, we turned to other entries in my ‘Quiet Corners of Rome’ book by David Downie.
I was first told about The Magic Keyhole by a former work colleague who had lived for some time in Rome. But it is also mentioned in the Quiet Corners of Rome book so we made it our next stop : “Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta and Piranesi Monument”. There was about a half hour queue and yes, indeed, when you reach the front there is the dome of St Peter’s framed by the keyhole in Piranesi’s door.
This is the view that you get [source]
Needless to say my own photo turned out rubbish but with a long queue of people waiting behind you it is all a bit of a rush when you finally get to the front.
The Piranesi or Knights of Malta Square
The Keyhole Queue
“The doors seal off the grounds of the Knights’ [of Malta] headquarters and are opened only to the pious and powerful … The piazza is egalitarian. Flame cypresses and palms rise behind the extravagantly long, L-shaped wall, erected in 1765 and conveniently lined with benches.”
“Clivo di Rocca Savella, Parco Savello, Giardino degli Aranci”
Parco Savello Fountain
Next to the Knights of Malta HQ are several churches and two parks. One of the parks is the Parco Savello but both of them more or less fitted the book’s description: view of the Vatican, orange trees, drinking fountains.
The Clivo di Rocca Savello is a narrow car-free lane that slopes down to the Tiber “mossy and picturesquely weed-grown, the clivo is as atmospheric as it is empty”. Well one or two people were walking up and down and also as the book says “stray cats own it”.
The Clivo di Rocca Savello
With it being a public holiday none of the places were particularly people-free and the final venue least of all. It seemed that all of Rome wished to visit the Roseto Comunale (Rose Garden) on that sunny May 1st afternoon. 1,100 varieties of rose grow on the northern slope of the Aventine Hill. All types of rose and from all corners of the earth grow here and the park is only open for about one month a year. So this time we struck it lucky !
The Rose Garden with the Forum behind
Charles Darwin rose still in bud (UK)
We were very happy with our choice of hotel in a Quiet Corner of Rome.
The Villa San Pio
Padre Pio bids us Farewell as we make our way to the Airport