Rome was founded on a hill, as legend has it, and it’s kept up its heritage well throughout the years. The ancient city encompasses seven hills but the modern city has expanded to include many more, and man-made structures have further added to the city’s wealth of panoramas. From the tranquil heights of Monte Mario to the cupola of St. Peter’s, here’s our top 5 list of breathtaking views in Rome:
1. Monte Mario – Elevation: 139 m
Less than a mile north of the Vatican walls, you’ll find the base of the Monte Mario Nature Reserve. Follow the winding paths to the top and you’ll be at Rome’s highest point, with parks, gardens and unrivaled views of the city. For the best vantage point head to the hilltop restaurant/ café, Lo Zodiaco. Their terrace is facing just the right way so that, day or night, you can take in stunning views of the sprawling metropolis below. And their cocktails aren’t bad, either.
2. Campidoglio – Capitoline Hill – Elevation: 48 m
The hill from which the word “capitol” is derived lives up to its name as one of the best places to survey your domain in Rome. One of the Ancient City’s original seven hills, Campidoglio today lies at a quintessentially Roman crossroads, where preserved ruins meet modern, bustling streets. You can see it all from any one of three vast and elegant structures on the top: the Piazza di Campidoglio, the Victor Emmanuel Monument or the Santa Maria in Aracoeli.
3. Gianicolo – Janiculum Hill – Elevation: 63 m
See Rome from another angle when you climb up Gianicolo (Janiculum) just west of the Tiber River. Daylight reveals a sea of brown roofs, pierced by the occasional cupola or national monument, and the night brings a sea of glowing lights as far as the eye can reach. You’ll find that the crest of Gianicolo makes for pleasant strolling, with a collection of churches and universities populating the area. Much of the hill is now designated as green space, so you can roam uninhibited over its length of more than a kilometer.
4. Palatine Hill – Elevation: 51 m
Legend, corroborated by archeological findings, suggests that Rome was founded on Palatine Hill. Romulus and Remus may not have been discovered here attached to a wolf’s nipples, as the story goes, but evidence shows that people have lived in this area since 1,000 B.C. Today, you can climb 40m to the top and take in centuries of history as you look out on the ruins of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus.
5. Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica – Elevation: 138 m (external)
This man-made, God-decreed behemoth is a testament to the strength of religion and the virtuosity of Renaissance architecture (both Raphael and Michelangelo worked on this). The “Grandest Dome in Christendom” competes on the level with God’s own work outside the Vatican walls. You’ll have to grease the coffers to get up there (6 EUR if you walk up the stairs) but the observation deck offers stunning views of the geometrical St. Peter’s Square and the rest of the sinful city beyond.