Exploring Rome with a Local

posted in: Italy Travel, TRAVEL | 20

Rome view from Capitoline Hill Photo by Margie MiklasAlthough I’ve visited the Eternal City on five previous occasions, I never had the opportunity to explore Rome with a local, until now.

Exploring Rome with a Local -Colosseum Photo by Margie MiklasI yearned to be in the city again, since my last time in Rome was four years ago, so I decided to take a day trip to Rome from Florence, only a ninety-minute train ride on the Italo fast train.

Having no particular agenda, I wanted to wander around, shoot photos, and enjoy the vibe of the always interesting and busy capital of Italy.  In the back of my mind, I thought I might like to see the “St Peter’s Keyhole,” on Aventine Hill, if I could find it.

I couldn’t have anticipated that it would be my good fortune to explore Rome with my own personal tour guide. Daniela Fanfarillo, a colleague and friend whom I had only known online, offered to drive into the city and show me some of the lesser known places of Rome.

Exploring Rome with a Local photo by Margie MiklasShe grew up in the hills just outside of Rome and was a wealth of knowledge with suggestions of special sites to explore. I always find it a thrill to finally meet someone in person after having made a connection and communicating on social media for some time.

I walked down via Cavour to the area near the metro stop, where Daniela and I met. Parking is a nightmare in Rome, where you are only allowed to park in certain districts with specific credentials. It was great to meet up and Daniela whisked me away in her car to our first stop. She had already designed an itinerary which she thought I’d enjoy, and she was right.

Colle Oppio
The first place she took me was Colle Oppio (Opium hill) where we visited Basilica di  San Pietro in Vincoli, in the beautiful Rione Monti.

Exploring Rome with a Local Photo by Margie Miklas Exploring Rome with a LocalThis church is best known for being the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses, and Daniela explained that the lighting makes this an even more striking work of art.

Exploring Rome with a Local Photo by Margie Miklas

We also passed by the ruins of Emperor Nero’s villa, known as  Domus Aurea. We also enjoyed spectacular views of the Coliseum from this vantage point on the hill.

Exploring Rome with a Local Coliseum Photo by Margie Miklas
Colle Celio (Caelian hill)
Next stop was Colle Celio, another of Rome’s seven hills, and yet another place I have never been. Here we visited the Basilica of San Clemente, significant for its three historical layers.

Basilica di San Cemente Rome Photo by Margie MiklasBasilica di San Cemente Rome Photo by Margie MiklasThe 12th-century basilica is built on top of a well-preserved 4th-century church, where frescoes can still be seen, and  this was built next to a  Mithraic Temple dating back to the third century. It’s fascinating to explore the excavations of the lower two levels, and amazing to see running water inside from a  spring.

Basilica di San Clemente Rome photo Margie MiklasAfterward we stopped for gelato at Antica Gelateria De Matteis, recommended by Daniela. We had to try some of the unusual flavors such as mascarpone fighi and cioccolato al peperoncino. Delicious!

Antica Gelateria Rome Photo by Margie Miklas

We continued our walk past the military hospital and the  Romanesque church dedicated to Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Behind the church we found the subterranean archeological site, Case Romane del Celio,  where the “ancient aperitif” is held on Fridays.

Rome Photo by Margie Mikalas

Rome Photo by Margie MiklasSounds like fun…too bad we’re here too early.

Margie and Daniela Photo by Margie MiklasColle Aventino
Next is Aventine Hill, another of the famous seven hills of Rome. This is where the famous St. Peter’s Keyhole is found. We walked up via Santa Sabina, which ends in the small, picturesque Piazza dei Cavallieri di Malta. The keyhole is located on a door of the Grand Priory in Rome of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. A small line of people were there hoping to get a glimpse through  the peephole. I was excited to be here and happy that the line wasn’t too long.

Piazza dei Cavallieri di Malta in Rome Photo by Margie Miklas

Aventine Keyhole photo by Anthony Majanlahti (Flickr)
Photo by Anthony Majanlahti (Flickr)

I was thrilled to be able to see St. Peter’s Dome through the keyhole. It truly was amazing. But my excitement was tempered by my lack of being able to capture a good photo with my iPhone. I walked away to let the others in line have a turn. I assumed I needed a better camera.

Daniela at Orange Garden Rome Photo by Margie MiklasSo we walked around the piazza and enjoyed the church of Sant’Anselmo, and the views from the gardens of the church of the Santi Bonifacio e Alessio, and the Orange Garden, (Giardino degli Aranci).

Rome Church Photo by Margie MiklasRome walls Photo by Margie Miklas Rome flowerpots Photo by Margie Miklas Rome cypress photo by Margie Miklas Rome church Photo by Margie MiklasViews from the Orange Garden…

View from Orange Garden with Margie Photo by Margie Miklas

I decided to try my luck at the keyhole one more time.  So I waited in line again. And I couldn’t believe that I got the shot! I think it’s so cool!

Exploring Rome with a Local - Keyhole Photo by Margie MiklasColle del Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill)
Capitoline Hill was next, and yet another place I have never been. Daniela has managed to take me to all places I have never seen in Rome. It’s been an amazing day so far. This is the place with the most spectacular views of  the Roman Forum and the Coliseum.

Forum Photo by Margie Miklas

Roman Forum views Photo by Margie Miklas

Rome Marcus Aurelio statue Photo by Margie Miklas We reached the Piazza Campodiglio, designed by Michelangelo with the statue of Marco Aurelio. The buildings on the side were part of the Musei Capitolini. We had a delicious lunch at  Terrazza Caffarelli, where the views of the city were spectacular.

Rome View from Caffe on Capital Hill Photo by Margie MiklasOur lovely day ended in Piazza Venezia when I took a cab to the train station to return to Florence. Thank you, Daniela, for a memorable day in Rome that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

I saw places I’ve never been and exploring Rome with a local like you is the absolute best. Grazie, Cara.

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument Rome Photo by Margie MiklasHave you explored Rome with a local? I’d love to hear about  your own  experiences, so please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao.

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20 Responses

  1. Nick Doten

    my wife and i spent a delightful week walking around rome using only a map provided by our centrally located hotel (astoria gardens)- while it was a mite inefficient relative to having a local guide, it gained us much contact with locals (who were most of our fun! i.e. an italian gentleman who offered to translate for us at the movies- he asked “how much you pay me?” i replied “1 word=1 popcorn” he declined- then we discovered assigned seating 🙂 )

  2. ejsna

    That was a beautiful day trip in Rome How can I meet a Daniella who will show me Rome in a day when I am there in August? This will be my 3rd time but my Rome experiences were different. Yours is great!

    • margieinitaly

      Thank you so much!!! Every experience is different. I’m grateful I had this opportunity….Perhaps you can contact Daniela and see if she might be willing to show you her city on a private tour.

  3. Un po' di pepe

    The first time I went to Roma when I was 11 our ‘guide’ was Papà’s cugino who was a priest. We stayed at a convent near the Vatican that wasn’t open to the public and I’m sure I’ve been to almost every church in Roma! Now I have good friends in Roma, so I am always getting the scoop on new museums and exhibits. Per vedere Roma, una vita non basta! Ciao, Cristina

    • margieinitaly

      Such a great story, Cristina. Thanks for sharing…Always nice to have friends in Rome!!

  4. Ishita

    It is amazing how much Rome has. I always feel we haven’t even scratched the surface 😉 Your day sounds super fun 🙂 Will definitely visit the Terrazza next time

    • margieinitaly

      Thanks so much Ishita..It was a wonderful day! And you’re right…there is always so much more to see in Rome!

  5. Tony

    What an absolutely perfect day! I love Roma, so incredible, so much to see and do…one could spend year’s and still have so much to discover! I love that your first stop was just down the street from the hotel I stayed at while in Rome just last month! I love the ivy on that passage way, I took a few pictures of it myself! 🙂

    • Margie Miklas

      Thanks Tony…Yes you were here not too long ago..So cool you went to some of these out of the way places too. I love your photos. Keep posting!

  6. Gene Hull


    Absolutely stunning pictures! I can understand why seeing Rome with a local is indeed the only way to go.

    Best, Gene ________________________________

  7. Book Club Mom

    You are so lucky to have had a local guide take you through Rome. I enjoyed these pictures and I agree, the keyhole shot is great!

    • Margie Miklas

      Thank you Barbara…I’d actually like to go back sometime and try it with a bigger camera, but I’m happy with what I got!

    • Margie Miklas

      Thanks Debra…It was a full day. I walked 12 miles that day, counting the walk back and forth to the train station in Florence!

  8. amindfultravellerblog

    Greta photos. I remember the very first time we visited Rome. We stayed with my husband’s Zio and Zia. Zio (who has now left this wonderful world) was our local tourist guide and showed us the ins and outs of this magnificent ancient city. Grazie Zio…:)

    • Margie Miklas

      Thank you Lorelle. I’m happy you have such wonderful memories. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and sharing your perspective.

I'm always interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment.