Finding peace in Rome: a one day travel guide
The word ‘Rome’ conjures up a whole host of thoughts, from Roman ruins, to the Papacy, to pizza and gelato. Yet, despite the city’s history as a spiritual centre, peace and tranquillity seldom make the cut. Which is why it may surprise you to know that amongst the cacophony of whinny Vespas and tooting horns, the Eternal City harbours some truly peaceful corners that offer perfect respite from its notorious hustle and bustle. We have found these meditative spots and prepared a peace-filled one day travel guide of Rome. So maybe for a day you can take a break from abiding to the old maxim, and when in Rome don’t do as the Romans do, but instead spend a day visiting Rome’s more peaceful locations.
***Worth noting: this whole travel guide is limited to walking just 5km throughout the day!***
Abbey of St Cecilia in Trastevere
Start the morning with a trip to the ancient St Cecilia in Trastevere. This 9thcentury church, purportedly built on the remains of the early Christian martyr’s palace, hides a few gems that ease one into contemplation. Deep within its bowels, the church, which is adjoined by an abbey of Benedictine nuns, holds a small but mystical crypt containing relics of St Cecilia and her husband. The journey to the crypt is a gentle procession through small tunnels of ancient roman ruins that acclimatises one to the peace found at their end. The tightly vaulted ceiling of the crypt is adorned with a rich colourwork that is grounded by a small forest of stone pillars, each one resting on a magnificent sea of mosaic tiles.
Tip: be sure to get there before the crypt opens its doors at 10am to avoid too many people.
Note: you’ll have to get tickets to enter the crypt, but these cost just €3, and are the only payment in this guide!
Gardens and Cloister of Ospedale nuovo Regina Margherita Trastevere
A little further into Trastevere (from the river), you can find the secretive gem that are the small gardens and medieval cloister of Ospedale nuovo Regina Margherita. Built within the shell of a medieval monastery, this hospital has kept all the hallmarks, and as such offers the serenity of monastic life.
Tip: it may be a little hard to find the courage of waltzing into a hospital, but you mustn’t be shy, the area is open to the public. So be sure to pass through the gated entrance off Piazza San Cosimato as if you own the place.
Time for lunch
Trastevere is littered with cosy eateries, so it won’t be hard to find a quiet corner to indulge in some traditional Italian pasta within the 550m that separate the cloister and the Basilica di Santa Maria (your next peaceful stop).
Why not stay at this cozy hotel in Trastevere?
Basilica di Santa Maria – Trastevere
One of Rome’s most ancient churches, dating back to the 3rd-4thcentury, this Basilica offers visitors an immersion of art and light. Although at times quite busy with curious visitors, the cavernous nave works its magic to mute visitors’ conversations into a soothing hum; ideal for meditative reflection while gazing into Pietro Cavallini’s glimmering 12th-13thcentury mosaics on the apse above the altar.
Tip: sit on a pew and take time to reflect on this building’s palpable ancient serenity – going after lunch means you won’t bump into Mass, and so gives you plenty of time.
Once you’ve taken in the ancient splendor of Santa Maria in Trastevere make your way south to the gardens of Villa Sciarra – maybe pick up a gelato along the way. This expansive garden is the perfect idyll to take a break from the urban maze of Trastevere. The garden departs from the characteristic order of typical Italian gardens, and moves visitors through a less manicured landscape, occasionally revealing hidden passages, fountains, and dilapidating statues. Take time to explore the gardens but be sure to stop and absorb the delicate sights and sounds this little oasis has to offer – don’t be surprised if you drift into a light sleep… but be sure to set an alarm for around 17:30
Basilica di Santa Sabina
Now it’s time to venture out of Trastevere and across the River Tiber to Aventine Hill. You should feel rested enough to make the 2.2km (30min max) journey on foot across Ponte Sublicio. But just in case you don’t want to unduly disrupt your tranquillity, there is the convenient option of the bus from Dandolo/Casini just outside Villa Sciarra. You can catch either Bus 75 direction Independenza, getting off at Marmorata/Galvani, or Bus 44 direction Teatro Marcello, getting off at Bocca Della Verita.
Up on the northern end of the Hill you’ll find the Basilica of Santa Sabina, the mother church of the Dominican religious order. The church was completed in 432 AD, so again, an ancient one, but unlike most of its contemporaries, Santa Sabina has stayed true to the more austere style of the period. The Basilica’s enormous rectangular nave with its sparkling marble floor captures an almost heavenly light.
Also, don’t miss the ancient biblical carvings on the enormous wooden door.
As you entered the Basilica you probably noticed the adjacent Giardino degli Aranci (the Garden of Oranges). Here you can take in the panoramic views over Rome, which are best enjoyed at sunset. So time your visit accordingly – this will most likely mean leaving the garden until after Sant’Anslmo all’Aventino, your next and final stop of your peace-filled Rome travel guide.
Church of Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino
Carry on southward on the Via di Santa Sabina for about 50 metres and just before you get to the church of Sant’Anselmo you’ll find the now famed Knights of Malta Keyhole, with the iconic keyhole view across to St Peter’s – if you climbed up Aventine Hill from the southern end, you’d have already passed this, as well as the church of Sant’Anselmo.
This is the grand finale of your peaceful tour of Rome. The church is flanked by the abbey of Badia Primaziale, whose Benedictine monks sing Vespers in Gregorian chant at 19:15 (sometimes this only happens on Sundays). This transcendental experience will elevate your body and soul to new heights, and will most certainly give you peace and tranquillity beyond your travel in Rome.
Travelling with children? Check out our top tips for city breaks with young children here!
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Words: Jeremy Sacramento