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Rome is Much More Romantic At Night
When we arrived in Rome, I knew we would struggle to see everything we hoped to see in just 5 days.
A student of Roman history, there are so many time periods to “geek out” over. I wanted to pack as much into my days as possible.
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The open-plan loft apartment had a private roof balcony overlooking the small yet bustling Piazza Della Madonna Dei Monti. (The Star marks the location of the apartment.) It has a fountain in the middle surrounded by cafes and narrow streets. This gem is hidden from the view of the main road, Via Cavour, which is just 100-200 yards away.
We planned to do as much as humanly possible during the day and then retire to our private romantic balcony with a bottle of Tuscany’s finest red in the evenings.
At night time, the roof balcony was perfect. We felt like real Romans looking down to the tourists as they sat and chatted around the fountain. From our vantage point we could see over the rooftops of the surrounding buildings. The bell tower of the late 16th century Santa Maria ai Monti chiming on the hour followed by the noise of pigeon wings flapping, startled by the noise. It was perfect.
I wouldn’t trade any of my nights on the balcony for anything. Those nights will live with me forever. I can still recall the feelings of utter satisfaction. To be resting at such a vantage point after having walked what felt like 100 miles per day really made me feel at home in Rome.
We could be easily forgiven if we had stayed on our balcony every night, all things considered.
But Rome has so much to offer, we just had to experience some more of the city at night.
After a few action packed days (followed by our relaxing evenings on the rooftop balcony) we decided that we would venture out at night. In my pre-trip research, I had discovered a place that was described as one of the most romantic spots in Rome to see once the sun went down.
I’m a sucker for a bit of romance and I wanted to take Tanya to the place I had been keeping a secret from her up until now. I told her that I wanted to take her to a special place and her sense of curiosity and adventure kicked in instantly.
I knew roughly where it was, but I had nothing concrete. We would have to explore a little bit.
And that’s how we discovered the beauty of Rome at night. If you have even just one free night in Rome, may I humbly suggest that you get a good meal and head to some of these spots for yourself.
I had read about a place near Capitoline Hill where you could have a near private, elevated view over the Foro Romano, lit up without hundreds of tourists bustling about the ruins.
I remembered reading that you could access this place at night from a set of steps round the side of the white marbled Il Vittoriano building beside Piazza Venezia.
Apart from that I couldn’t remember any more details. We set out with this as our guide and started to explore.
We found ourselves at the rear east side of Il Vittoriano and we could see two long sets of steps. We were standing at the bottom of the Cordonata Steps looking up to Piazza Del Compidoglio (both designed by renaissance master Michelangelo). (Marked by the green dot)
We walked up the steps and entered the piazza to be greeted by a huge equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelias in the centre. (This statue is a replica. The original, dating from the 2nd century AD is inside the Capitoline Museum now.)
This is a truly beautiful place at night. The elliptical geometric design of the floor of the piazza is spectacular. Definitely worth seeing.
Michelangelo designed this piazza facing AWAY from the old part of Rome. Capitoline Hill was an important civic centre for ancient Rome just as much as Papal Rome. This reversal of the Hill was symbolic, turning it to face St Peters Basilica and away from the old Roman Forum. Fascinating.
Once we got to the top of the steps and had a look around we weren’t quite sure where to go next. For some reason I felt we should go right. (In hindsight we could have just headed forwards to the back right-hand corner of the piazza to reach the viewing place quicker, but I’m glad we went right. It helped build up our anticipation and it was a romantic walk.)
As we went right, we were led down a quiet, narrow, winding, tree lined road called Via Di Villa Caffarelli. It was hard to believe that we were such a short distance away from the bustle and traffic surrounding Piazza Venezia.
We followed the road through the trees. It was such a nice place to walk, no people, no cars. Every time we approached a bend in the road we were hoping that we would find the viewing spot I read about online.
After about ten minutes of walking (mainly downhill) and going round a few 90 degree bends, we weren’t holding out much hope of finding the elusive viewpoint. It felt like we were in the private grounds of the residents that lived in this area as we passed a little courtyard that was filled with parked cars.
Romantic Rome at Night
But we needn’t have worried. After the next left hand bend the road was straight. As we continued walking, suddenly I realised we were walking straight to the place we were looking for.
We could see the handrail where you can stand and look across the Roman Forum.
Words cannot describe the sight that was in front of us. We were standing on an elevated platform, looking out over Foro Romano from the north west corner.
Tanya, who is never too far from her Canon camera, was like a child in a sweet shop. The look on her face was everything I hoped for and more. She took some of the most spectacular photographs of the entire trip from that vantage point, as you can see below.
Directly in front of us was the Arch of Septimius Severus, built in 203 AD. It was illuminated which added so much atmosphere to the monument. The detailed carvings of the Parthian wars looked even more spectacular with the surrounding areas being in relative darkness by comparison.
Slightly to the right are the remains of the Temple of Saturn (the 8 pillared portico or entranceway) and to the left was the triple pillars that make up the remains of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus.
That is one of my favourite photographs of the entire trip. Go Tanya! 🙂
I find it absolutely fascinating to look at this painting by Canaletto in 1742 that shows the arch was half buried before the excavations began. This was due to the low level of the forum making it prone to flooding, bringing in dirt and sediment over the centuries.
I often wonder how many things we have still to find buried underground in this world we inhabit. If you think about it, this archway only took 1539 years to become half buried. Just thinking about this stuff fills me with the same wonder I felt when I saw Indiana Jones as a child.
We spent about 45 minutes at this spot taking photos and just admiring the sights that were before us, before heading up Via Del Campidoglio and back to the statue of Marcus Aurelias. Rather than go back down the steps, we decided to turn right and exit out to the other side. We followed Via di San Pietro in Carcere back out to the main road Via dei Fori Imperiali.
As you face the colloseum on this road, at the left hand side is another section of ruins known as the Trajan Forum. We decided to cross over the main road to get a better look at this section of the old city. As we crossed the road, Tanya stopped on the crossing to get a photograph looking up towards the colosseum. I shouted back to her that cars were coming but of course, she stayed until she captured the shot she was looking for.
She can be stubborn sometimes but as you can see, the photo speaks for itself. Can you blame her? haha, I can’t.
When you cross over the road, there is another road that runs almost parallel to the main road. Via Alessandria. We strolled casually along looking into the remains of the Trajan Forum stopping occasionaly for some photos.
We kept walking all the way down to the Colosseum, the iconic ancient gladiatorial arena. There is a far different atmosphere at night when you get down to this area. Firstly, it’s really quiet. Thankfully, the vast majority of the “street traders” have long since gone home.
During the day there seems to be a huge contingent of people all trying to sell the exact same products. I don’t know how many times I had to chase people away that kept hassling us to buy a “selfie stick” or a ball of “goo” that you can splat onto a wall.
Either, they all work for the same person or none of them have a very creative imagination.
Reassuringly, there were a couple of Polizia Municipale cars sitting near The Arch of Constantine keeping watch over the area. Saying that, I never felt in any danger at any point, but it was nice to know they were there all the same.
I think most people visit the Colosseum during the day and probably think that once they have seen it, they have seen it. I want to say that we did both (including going inside during the day) and for me the night time visit was far more enjoyable.
By this time it was getting a bit later and it was time to head back to our apartment.
We had found the special place, overlooking the Roman Forum and it was one of the most romantic nights of our entire trip. If you follow our footsteps you can be sure of impressing the person you love and gaining memories that will last a lifetime.
As we strolled back to the apartment I remember smiling to myself as I had the thought: “oh yeah, we still have our roof terrace waiting for us.”