Cineviaggiando an experience of a tour of Rome by Viaggio and Vedo
Uncovering the Hidden Gems in the City of Seven Hills – On Camera!
By Cathrine Machingauta
My husband and I visited Italy for the very first time last August. This turned out to be a trip of a lifetime, in part, because of all the new places we saw, and also because of the thoughtfulness of our hosts, Viaggio & Vedo. Their ‘motto’ is that they treat you like friends, not just as customers. We had the pleasure to experience this first hand.
Viaggio & Vedo helped us prepare for our trip by providing invaluable information on places to visit in Rome, where to buy entrance tickets in advance, and great places to stay. This all turned out to be a huge time saver because when we got to Rome, we did not have to stand in the lines, in the sweltering heat to buy entry tickets to see tourist attractions, we just waltzed straight through the express route as if we were locals! Our arrival to Rome was a breeze, Viaggio & Vedo had, for a reasonable price, arranged for a driver to meet us at the airport to bring us to our hotel so we did not have to look for other transportation. They also checked on us to make sure we had arrived safely.
My husband and I had decided that we would tour a few places on our own by train and on foot, then do a guided tour to see what little else we hadn’t already seen. Our visits to the Vatican, St.Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum were no doubt – amazing! Rome is a beautiful city, the art is breathtaking, and the food was so delicious! However, what made our visit extra special the guided car tour with Viaggio & Vedo that was filmed and made into a movie.
On the morning of the tour, the guide, driver and a videographer came to pick us up in a comfortable, sleek looking Mercedes Benz equipped with ice cold water and delicious candy in the back seat. We already felt like movie stars! More-so, in the heat of the summer and at the peak of the tourism season when the city was crowded, we felt like VVIPs, riding out the city streets and hillsides in an air-conditioned luxury car, chauffeured by a very skilled driver who knew the city well. We were in for a huge sweet surprise as we got to see some of the hidden gems in Rome that are not as advertised in mainstream tourist attraction brochures, and aren’t quite as easy to get to. Rome is known as the city of seven hills. If you know just the right spot to go, you can see some beautiful views of Rome from the hills.
Our first stop was Villa Malta, located on the Aventine Hill. I hadn’t come across this attraction in my research, hadn’t heard of it or read about it before, and honestly did not expect anything special when I was invited to look through the keyhole. I initially felt more like I was snooping into someone’s yard, but that all changed in a second. I was wowed!! Who knew you could see such a spectacular view of St.Peter’s Basilica through a Keyhole? Quite impressive!
Our knowledgeable tour guide filled us in with many interesting historical facts about each site we visited. It impressed me to learn that as old as it was, the basilica is still functional and mass is still served there. The garden was designed in 1932 by Raffaele De Vico and it offers an excellent view of the city including St.Peter’s Basilica. It has a symmetrical set-up, with a central avenue aligned with the viewpoint. Our guide showed us a little hidden secret. As you walk down the central avenue, your perspective of St.Basilica changes, contrary to my expectation, it appears smaller as you walk towards it! This is all because of the careful thought that went into the clever design of the garden, taking the view into account! In this garden, we also got to enjoy and dance to music played by a local musician.
Next stop was Gianicolo, the hill that affords the best view of Rome. This hill is located west of the Tiber and outside the ancient city, so it’s not counted among the ancient seven. However, its proximity to the historic center, the Vatican and the Trastevere neighborhood gives a lovely view of the city. The hill is also known by locals as ‘The Balcony of Rome’. The view at night is magnificent! Also on the hilltop is a statue of Guiseppe Garibaldi, a war hero. While we were on Gianicolo, we got to witness an ancient tradition that dates back to the 19th century. At noon every day, a canon is fired to signal that it’s midday! It was loud, exciting, and unexpected. Our guide informed us that since 1847, Pope Pius IX ordered a special canon to fire blanks at noon on the hour, in order to set a standard time for all the bells of the Church of Rome so that they would chime at the same time! To this day, the tradition continues and people gather to witness this.
After seeing the lovely aerial views of Rome, we headed down to the magnificent Trevi Fountain. We also learned about the Fountain of Lovers, located right next to the Trevi Fountain.
The Fountain of Lovers is a small rectangular basin to the right, away from the fountain, with two small spouts. The belief is that young lovers who drink at the fountain will stay in love forever and will remain forever faithful to one another. According to ‘tuorismoroma.it’, this was “a simple ceremony that took place when a young man had to leave the city, above all when he would be absent for a long time, as in the case of military service. On the evening before the young man’s departure, the couple would go to the fountain. The girl would fill a glass which had never been used before and hand it to her lover. The glass was broken and the girl could be sure she would not lose the one she loved. There is an explanation for this rite. Tradition has it that all who drank the Trevi water while recalling Rome would always also remember those who loved them and who remained here, in Rome.”
Our last stop was the gelateria. According to Gianluigi Leoni, our tour guide and the president of Viaggio & Vedo, tours end with gelato! How wonderful! It was such a treat. The fruit flavored desserts were magnificent, or ‘Stupendo’! I enjoyed the mulberry and lemon flavored gelato the most, oh – and the canoli was excellent – I could go on!
It was indeed wonderful being movie stars for the day, and enjoying the sites without thinking much about capturing them on our cameras. We got to take in the breathtaking views and knew everything was recorded and we would get to see it later. We just got the video, and it is excellent. There were funny moments, wow moments, and beautiful moments. We created and stored special memories that we get to share with others through the professionally made video.
We came as strangers wanting to see Rome. We saw the popular spots; we were treated like friends and introduced to the hidden gems in Rome. We had a wonderful stay in Rome and would definitely go back, and we recommend Viaggio & Vedo to anyone planning to visit Rome!