aside Gronda And Friend’s May 2016 Roman Adventures, Part IV

Circus Maximus family dayI
Circus Maximus family dayI

For one of our days, we decided to tour the Aventine Hill area which is a quiet, very picturesque part of Rome where we learned that we would pass by many beautiful villas with well kept lawns along with some interesting attractions.

To reach the Aventine hill area, we bypassed the Circus Maximus site. What visitors see today is a large oblong field where folks take their walks. But in current times, the Circus Maximus is similar to what the ancient Romans did when they first started to use this valley for the purpose of watching sporting events. It separates the Palatine Hill from and the Aventine Hill. People would sit on the ground on the slopes to cheer for their sport heroes. With the advent of chariot racing which became one of the Romans’ great passions, the shape and structure of the Circus Maximus changed accordingly to accommodate this exciting activity. With the remaining ruins, one can still imagine what the stadium would have looked like.

Circus Maximus has again become popular with the younger crowd, thanks to events such as concerts and shows, often with internationally famous artists. So, over two thousand years later, there are those still cheering their favorite performers.

Aventine Mazzini Monument
Aventine Mazzini Monument

Important to notice is the nearby massive marble monument that honors the nineteenth-century politician Giuseppe Mazzini, overlooking the Circus Maximus,  Mazzini was one of the main figures of the unification of Italy, which, in his eyes, was the first step towards the unification of Europe. 

The Roseto Comunal (Rose Garden) is on Viale del Circo Massimo, on the slopes of the Aventine, above the Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). The nearest Metro station is Circo Massimo (Linea B). Typical opening hours, with free entry, are 8am-6.30pm every day during the May-June flowering season.

The rose garden is positioned near the former temple of Flora, dedicated to the goddess of flowers. In the spring, this garden is open to the public. The garden contains more than one thousand roses with varieties from all corners of the world. This is a perfect place to slow down to smell and admire the roses.

Roman Rosa Garden
Roman Rosa Garden

From the Roseta Comunal (Rose Garden), we continued on Via del Circo Massimo until we turned west on Via Murcia which turns into Via Santa Sabina, and then into Piazza Santa Alessio, and then onto Piazza Santo Anselmo, and then finally onto the Piazza Cavaliera di Malta. Along the way, we sauntered to take time to see all the landmarks.

Santa-Sabina-door-5th-century
Santa-Sabina-door-5th-century

We just kept walking until we came upon the Basilica of Santa Sabina, Rome’s oldest major basilica. It’s simple inside, it reeks of age. I’ve read that you can make a reservation to visit the crypt and that you should step inside because it’s different than other more celebrated basilicas. To the right of the entrance door there is a column which is presumed to be a remnant of the Temple of Juno that occupied the site before construction of Santa Sabina. There’s also a mosaic tomb in the floor from the 1300s and a carved cyprus door with biblical scenes from the 5th century.

When we exited the Basilica area, we passed an interesting fountain that floods the bathtub before we found the Garden of Oranges.

Santa Sabina Fountain
Santa Sabina Fountain

A doorway near the wall fountain leads to the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of the Oranges). Supposedly, the first orange trees were grown here in the thirteenth century by Dominican friars, who had brought seeds from Spain. 

The garden is known as Parco Savello. Its current layout with the older outside walls dates from 1932, when the garden was opened to the public.

Orange Garden
Orange Garden/ Parco Savello

A walkway will take you to a romantic view platform with views toward the Vatican and the Capitoline hill. Italian youths gather here to smooch around sunset, when the stars take to the sky and all Rome is at your feet. The panorama of the city is breath taking.

Abbey of Sant Anselmo
Abbey of Sant Anselmo
 We continued on to our destination, the Villa of the order of Malta at the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. This structure on top of the Aventine Hill has a door with a perpetual line of people bending down to peek through a keyhole. The piazza itself, is rather nice. To the right of us, there was the Basilica  Santi Bonifacio e Alessio and behind us to the left was Sant’Anselmo Abbey.
I read that the abbey of Sant’Anselmo, a Benedictine complex with several gardens was built on land given to the Benedictines by the Maltese order. The brick church of Sant’Anselmo was built in 1892-1896 to a design by the Italian architect Francesco Vespignani. The church services are known for the Gregorian chants of Benedictine monks.
orange-garden-815x459 with keyhole view

  Villa of the order of Malta (door keyhole view)

In 1764 the grandmaster of the Maltese order, who was a nephew of pope Clement XIII, commissioned the restoration of the church. The work was assigned to the Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, who came up with a neoclassical design. At the same time the artist, who is best known for his etches of Ancient Roman structures, also created the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, the square in front of the villa.

Santa-Maria-del-Priorato-by-Giovanni-Battista-Piranesi
Santa-Maria-del-Priorato-by-Giovanni-Battista-Piranesi

This time by peering through a small key hole in the main gate of the Villa del Priorato di Malta (Villa of the priory of the Military order of Malta), we were rewarded with a direct view of the dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica across the river.

The villa is one of several buildings in Rome owned by the order of Malta, a military order founded in the eleventh century to take care of the sick and wounded in the Holy Land. The order had its headquarters in Malta until 1798, when they were driven out by Napoleon and moved to Rome. The property is on extraterritorial land. You need to obtain prior permission to access the Santa Maria del Priorato, the church of the Maltese order on the estate.

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