Running “Off the Beaten Path” in Rome

*Part
of the “Running Around the World” section in the 2013 March/April issue of New
England Runner

 

 Running
“Off the Beaten Path” in Rome

 

by
Caitlin Hurley
 

 

Years
ago, when I first met my boyfriend  (now husband) in Rome, I led tours of
what was called “off the beaten path Rome.” While the tour was not as
successful as the run-of-the-mill Vatican gig or the generic Spanish
Steps-Trevi Fountain-Pantheon triangle that any old Tommaso, Riccardo or Arrigo
(Tom, Dick or Harry) could put together, it was one hell of a memorable
walk. 

 

I
dragged every poor soul that visited me on that tour and, halfway through, jetlagged
friends would be so exhausted that I would have to promise big rewards at the
end: an authentic hole in the wall restaurant would follow, I promised, with a
jug of house-made wine, topped off with a double scoop of Nutella-spiked
gelato. That would usually quell them, that and the fact that my tour gave
them a great overview of Rome.

 

Ever
since leading my off the beaten path tour, I have run the route on a quiet
Saturday or Sunday morning every time we are there, when Rome is
relatively tourist and traffic free. Every run in Rome is a sensation for
the senses: the intoxicating aroma of cappuccino and freshly made croissants,
the frequent sight of elderly prima donnas in impossibly high heels strutting
on perilously uneven sanpietrini (small cobblestones found in the center of
Rome), the visual joy of entering a massive piazza after winding your way
through driveway-wide streets, past flapping laundry, hopeful soccer flags and
ancient palazzos hiding unknown treasures and unseen courtyards. 

 

And
the water fountains! The famous aqueducts of Rome still pump in amazingly pure
water, and if you keep your eyes peeled while wending your way through Rome’s
parks or city center streets, you’ll never go thirsty.

 

Now,
let me take you on that run. And if you happen to be in Rome one day, and
I happen to be there too, I would gladly take you on my off the beaten path
run. 

 

We
have a rather macabre starting spot‰ÛÓthe statue of Giordano Bruno, who was
burned on this very spot on Campo dei Fiori in 1600 because of his heretical
theories of an infinite universe. From the lovely Campo dei Fiori, where
market vendors hawk everything from flowers to shiny eggplants to Roma
sweatshirts, head to the baroque Palazzo Farnese, home to the French embassy.
They pay $1 a year in rent for the privilege.

 

Stay
to the right of the Palazzo and you’ll hit Via Giulia, designed by Bramante in
1508. If you look to your right here you can see the Arco Farnese designed by
Michelangelo. But our run takes us to the left, to the end of this ivy draped
street, crossing the pedestrian footbridge Ponte Sisto over the Tiber to
Trastevere, a hip neighborhood popular with expats whose name means ‰Û¢across the
Tiber.’

 
Photo: Ivy draped Via Giulia,
designed in 1508. 

Photo
by Caitlin Hurley

 

Once
in charming Trastevere, meander your way through the narrow via’s dotted with
mamma and papa restaurants, perhaps slowing down in Piazza Santa Maria in
Trastevere, and eventually ending up back at the Tiber, where you run for a
little ways until you see the only ‰Û¢island’ in Rome, Isola Tiberina, dating
back to antiquity and shaped like a ship. This tiny island houses the
Fatebenefratelli Hospital and a wonderful restaurant called ‰Û¢La Sorellella.’
The bridge leading you to the other side of the Tiber, Ponte Fabricio,
was
constructed in 62 BC, Rome’s oldest remaining bridge.

 

From
here, go right along the Tiber (Lungotevere), crossing the street after the
next bridge (Ponte Palatino), and head up the steep Clivo di Rocco Savella.
Once you reach the top of the incline, you have entered the neighborhood of
Aventino, one of the seven hills of Rome. Head right past the Giardino
degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges, great view of the city from there) and Santa
Sabina church. If you look through the keyhole into the garden of the
Knights of Malta (in the rotary on your right), the view will take your breath
away‰ÛÓif the climb up the hill didn’t. The Knights of Malta, known for
their hospitals and good works, trim their bushes so that from the keyhole the
dome of St. Peter’s, the largest basilica in the world, is perfectly
framed. 

 

From
here, head back past the churches and garden of oranges on your left, and stay
straight on the road until you hit the Circus Maximus, where ancient Roman
chariot racers battled their way to victory with crowds of up to 150,000
cheering them on. Carefully cross the busy Via di Circo Massimo and turn left
down the hill, flanking the ancient racecourse. Follow the Circus Maximus
to the far corner, cross the road and take Via di San Teodoro. You will
quickly leave the chaos and enter a peaceful enclave flanking the
Forum. As you wind your way to the left (with the Forum on your right),
you’ll see a police guarded road with a narrow cobbled drive up the hill. This
is your route.

 

You’ll
know when you hit the lookout point, a good stretching spot, since no matter what
season tour groups and souvenir hawkers linger here: you will be overlooking
the Forum, with the Colosseum in plain view right behind it. From here,
continue up the hill a short way to the Campidoglio (you can’t miss the massive
statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, pure masculine power looming over the
city). Here you’ll find the city hall and the Capitoline Museums. I
must admit that the Campidoglio holds a special place in my heart, since my
husband and I were married here nearly ten years ago. But that is another
story, to be told on a run through Rome.

 

And
this, my friends, is where our tour ends. Walk your way down the stairway
designed by Michelangelo and make your way back to your hotel or rented
condo. You may want to tuck a couple of Euros in your shorts before you
head out, because at this point a cappuccino and croissant are not only
restorative, but an integral part of your Roman running adventure.

 
PHOTO: Peak through the keyhole at the Knights of Malta
headquarters on the Aventino hill to take in this amazing view of St. Peter’s,
the largest basilica in the world.
Photo courtesy of AngMoKio

 

 

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