Thursday, 5 February 2015

Exploring Rome with Walks of Italy

Taking a walk in a city you have never been to is exciting. You don't know what to expect and feel a sense of history as the place unfolds around you. That's how I felt as I walked past the spectacular monuments that line the streets of Rome; the eternal city with the Pope's house right next door. When I was looking up what to do in Rome, I found myself in need of guidance. I had questions like: Where do we start? What should we see? Why is everything a ten minute walk when you ask locals for directions? Where are the best views of the city? That's where our friends at Walks of Italy came into play. 

We had the privilege of experiencing the Walks of Italy three hour driving tour, one of a rather impressive number of different tours they offer. In a whirlwind of history and beauty our tour guide, Amy, took us in a luxurious limo van to the outskirts of town away from the hustle and bustle of city centre. Here are some of the highlights of the tour, and it all ends with a big bang (literally)!

Our first stop was the Circus Maximus, which used to be the main stage for chariot racing where the audience would sit and watch from the hills.

We stopped by the wonderfully quiet Parco Savello that had a few fountains at its gateway. As we entered, the smell of citrus filled the air. The park is home to dozens of orange trees that apparently produce redundant non-edible oranges. There is a large lookout over the city as well.  It is the perfect place to propose to that special someone, if that's what you're looking to do while in Rome (though my friend Scott chose a different park in Rome to pop the question, read about that here).

At our next stop I was a little puzzled as we pulled up to a giant green door. We were told that it was the Piazza of the Knights of Malta and that we were to bend down and look through a tiny key hole. It may have seemed silly, but when my eye focused on the view of St. Peter's Basilica the hole provided, my breath was taken away.

From there we headed outside the city walls to the ancient Appian Way. The "Queen of Roads" as it's called, is the reason why it's said that all roads lead to Rome. Engineered in the fifth century, it ran from Rome to the Port of Brindisi, along the Adriatic coast, where boats departed for Egypt, Greece and North Africa, among other places. According to Christian legend, it was on the Appian Way that Jesus Christ appeared to St. Peter. 

Our second last stop was the ancient aqueducts, also located on the outskirts of the city. The aqueducts were used to bring water into the city from sources outside of Rome. When no one was around, the area made us feel as if  we were living in ancient Rome, though locals seemed to use the area for jogging and walking. 

For our last stop, we found ourselves at the highest spot in Rome's historical district of Janiculum Hill on a balcony overlooking three soldiers loading a howitzer. The firing of this howitzer signals midday and locals make sure they check their watches when they hear this peculiar alarm go off!

At the end of the tour we were dropped off at our meeting point and said our goodbyes to the nice people we had met. We thanked our tour guide and driver and set out to find a nice Italian lunch.

A post by Chris


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