Aventino

One of the seven hills on which the city was founded, the Aventine Hill enjoys a serenity hard to find elsewhere in Rome. Trills of birdsong win out over the din of traffic—appropriate, since the hill's name derives from the Latin avis, or bird. Indeed, legend says that the sighting of eagles was used by Romulus and Remus to determine the prime spot for the city's foundation. In the end, though, Romulus's site on the Palatine Hill won, and Remus's Aventino was abandoned. It would remain for centuries thereafter the hill of the plebei, who looked across the valley to the grandeur of Palatine Hill.

Things have long since changed, however, and today this is a rarefied district, in which some houses still have their own bell towers, and private gardens are called "parks" without exaggeration. Like the emperors of old on Palatino, the fortunate residents here look out over the Circus Maximus and the Tiber, winding its way far below. Today's travelers still enjoy great views, famously including that from the peculiar keyhole at the gates to the headquarters of the Cavalieri di Malta (Knights of Malta), which may be the most peered-through in the world.

POINTS OF INTEREST

Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta

Peek through the keyhole of the Priorato di Malta, the walled compound of the Knights of Malta, and you'll get…

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Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Although this is one of Rome's oldest churches, with a haunting, almost exotic interior, it plays second fiddle to the…

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San Saba

A former monastery, founded by monks of the order of San Saba after they fled Jerusalem following the Arab invasion,…

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