When people ask for recommendations in Rome, I always try to give them some options to see a different side of Rome, away from the crowded center and lines at monuments. One of my favorite places in Rome in Il Giardino degli Aranci, or “The Orange Garden”. This garden has a magical atmosphere with walkways among a grove of orange trees and with huge stone pines towering over the entire area giving it a cathedral-like quality.
Around sunset there will be groups of people lingering on the benches and along the wall that overlooks a beautiful panorama of the city. Italians with birthdays and graduations bring wine and dessert to eat and celebrate outside, while couples will exhibit the best of Roman PDA by touching and kissing in public the way that no decent American ever would. My favorite way to enjoy the park? Bring a blanket, some pizza slices or sandwiches, and a bottle of wine and have a picnic at sunset. If you’re really ambitious, the sunrise is just as beautiful and you might have the whole garden to yourself.
Right next to the garden is the Maltese embassy and church which is closed to visitors. However, the door to the church has a little keyhole through which you can see a path lined with hedges and greenery, and in the distance a tiny cameo of St. Peter’s Basilica. This picture perfect view alone is reason enough to make the trip up to the Aventine Hill, one of Rome’s famous 7 hills. If you walk a bit further, you can also visit the Monastery for St. Anslem of the Aventine, which has a beautiful church and courtyard. The Monks also produce products on site and sell them in a small shop. Here you can find delicious artisinal beer, religious artifacts, limoncello, honey and jams.
An example of an afternoon in this area of Rome is to start at the Circus Maximus, which is open to everyone and usually features runners and people lounging on blankets, a walk to La Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth) featured in Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday, then making your way up the hill, past Rome’s beautiful Rose Garden, up to the keyhole in the door. After your obligatory picture session, you can visit the monastery, buy some supplies at their shop, and set up for a picnic in the Orange Garden at sunset. A perfect afternoon if you ask me.
The garden is accessible by metro and bus, and is closet to metro stop Circo Massimo on the blue B line. Entrance to all the mentioned sites is free for the public, with the exception of La Bocca della Verità that charges €2 for a picture with the mouth. The gardens inside the Maltese church can be accessed by prior appointment.
Have you been to Il Giardino degli Aranci? Know of any other hidden gems in Rome worth a visit? Let me know below!