The first four days of our 10-day trip we stayed at an apartment, about a ten minutes walk from the nearest metro station and a couple of blocks from a bus stop. It was ideal. We arrived early afternoon. Aside from an unexpected and gruelling, fast-paced 3-hour tour by our landlord, we had had in mind to get a slow start! The landlord was only too pleased to show us around, and took great pride in explaining both historical and contemporary political events along the way. It was a fascinating tour and, not counting sore feet, we had no regrets.
The Seven Hills of Rome: Aventino, Campidogio, Celio, Esquilino, Palatino, Quirinale and Viminale.
On our first full day in Rome, we took it easy and settled on walking Rome’s seven hills. The walk would afford us a good overview of the city and alert us to those sites we would examine closer.
Some of the hills were unimpressive mounds, as they had made way for urban development, such as was the case for the Viminale hill. Others overlooked the historic parts of the city.
In ancient times, Aventino, the most isolated and hard to reach hill, would have been just outside the sacred boundaries of Rome, where foreigners would wait to gain entrance into the city. Its walls are steep and one side of the base skims the Tiber. The hill itself is trapeze-shaped. The baths of Caracalla are located at Aventino.
Campidoglio is at the heart or Rome. On one side, it offers an excellent view of the Monument of King Vittorio Emanuele II (also named: L’Altare della Patria or Altar of the Fatherland); on the other side it overlooks Tiber Island and the Tiber.
Celio is a 2 kilometre long promontory; the Coliseum was built towards the valley of the hill, an at the other end, below the Church of Saints John and Paul, are exhibits of the Roman houses built on Celio
Esquilino is the highest and widest of the seven hills and has three elevations or spurs. On this hill, the city of Rome was erected. At one point it was connected to the Palatino. The beautiful Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was built on one of the spurs.
The Palatino is within the perimeter where, according to legend, Romulus tilled the soil in order to build the city of Rome. The Palatino overlooks the Roman Forum and the Field of Mars (Campus Martius), one of the gods in the pantheon of Rome. The hill offered a good defence because of its location and slopes. It is the most ancient part of the city. One can reach the Palatino by way of the Roman Forum. On the side overlooking the Circus Maximus you can see the vestiges of the imperial palaces.
Quirinale houses the imposing structures of the Presidential palaces. Legend has it that in ancient Rome, the Sabines inhabited the Quirinale and that the Sabine women had been abducted by the Romans in order to populate their newly founded city.
Viminale is home to the Viminale Palace of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which occupies the entire hill.
We returned to our apartment tired but enriched; our heads filled with the sights and sounds of ancient and modern Rome. It was a worthwhile walk. We felt we could now better situate and prioritize the sites we wanted to explore in the coming days. We would tackle the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, Circus Maximus and take in other sites along the way. On the fourth day we would venture farther afield and visit the catacombs at the outskirts of the city and walk the famous Via Appia Antica.