Perched just above Circo Massimo, on one of Rome’s seven hills – The Aventine hill, lies a refuge from Rome’s most tourist-laden attractions. The Basilica di Santa Sabina, Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden), and a special keyhole in the doors of Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta are perfect for a romantic holiday date, or just a solo afternoon stroll.
Giardino degli Aranci
Via di Santa Sabina
Open Daily Sunrise to Sunset
Giardino degli Aranci is the site of a tenth-century fortress, commissioned by the Savelli Family. In 1932, architect Raffaele de Vico repurposed the land for public benefit. The park now covers just under 8,000 square meters. The best way up is to climb up Clivo dei Publicii, a street that meets the western corner of Circo Massimo. You’ll find the park adorned with Cyprus and fragrant orange trees. Walk the shady path to the Terrace, and dangle your feet over the edge if you dare. From this vantage point, you can gaze over Rome – the meandering Tiber, St. Peter’s dome, the Victor Emmanuel Monument in a beautiful garden setting.
Basilica di Santa Sabina
Piazza Pietro D’Illiria, 1
Open Daily 8.15am to 12.30pm – 3.30pm to 6pm
Rome has no dearth of grand churches and basilicas. But what you find beyond Basilica di Santa Sabina’s sheltered courtyard is simple serenity. The cypress-wood doors guard a safe haven that dates back to the 5th Century. The doors’ 18 engraved panels narrate biblical passages, featuring one of the oldest portrayals of the Crucifixion ever recovered intact. Peek inside, and you are greeted by pure, bright sunlight streaming in through the stain-glass windows that line the upper walls. Twenty-four thin, tall marble columns, taken from the Temple of Juno, loft the basilica’s arches. The original 5th Century Latin dedication to the basilica is immortalized in brilliant blue and gold mosaic. Visit to take in the beauty or experience a mass on Monday through Saturday at 7 am, Sunday at 8am, 10.30am and 11.30 am.
Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta
If you want one, postcard perfect shot, take a gander through the keyhole in the doors of the Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta (Priory of the Knights of Malta), right next to the basilica. Though many families and organizations have laid claim to the land atop Aventino, Pope Paul II granted this piece of property to the Knights of Malta in the second half of the fifteenth century. The Knights of Malta assert their autonomy as a political state, though they do not technically possess any jurisdiction other than the land on Aventino. Press one eye to the brass keyhole in the door and you will see parallel rows of manicured hedges that perfectly frame St. Peter’s dome.