The panoramic views from the hills surrounding Rome are fabulously uplifting and energising. The vastness of the Eternal City spread below, perhaps a flash of sea on the horizon, conveys an incredible sense of power and spirituality. No wonder the landscape is dotted with so many temples, shrines, monasteries, castles and villas.
Just at the top of the ‘Valle Gaudente’, Sant’Antonio could not be more blessed. Within a few minutes’ drive, one can stroll around the most important Italian garden of the Renaissance at Villa d’Este, or one can explore the most important surviving Roman villa in the world, Villa Adriana. You will find the Romantic gardens of Villa Gregoriana, with its grottos, ruins and falls, at the feet of Tivoli’s acropolis.
You can follow a pilgrim’s route while enjoying the mountainous landscape. Not far from Sant’Antonio rises the Neoclassical shrine of Quintiliolo, dedicated to a XIII century icon of the Virgin and the Child. Pay a visit to Subiaco’s Benedictine monasteries of Santa Scolastica and San Benedetto to admire, among other things, the only full-length portrait of S. Francis painted during his lifetime. In the Subiaco area, enclosed in the mountains between Lazio and Abruzzo, the shrine of Santissima Trinità in the medieval hamlet of Vallepietra, with its Byzantine-inspired effigy of the Holy Trinity and its catacombs, attracts many visitors.
Spend a day or two exploring the picturesque little towns perched on the hilltops of the Aniene Valley. Arsoli, for instance, is renowned for its medieval Castello Massimo, Anticoli Corrado for its modern art museum in the Palazzo Baronale. Mandela, Roviano, Vicovaro and Sambuci boast their own fascinating castles, fortresses and churches. In the summer months these towns offer a full programme of events: food fairs, traditional music and games, usually after a saint’s day procession. In July, for instance, don’t miss the Palio Madama Margherita d’Austria (tournament among the town’s ancient neighbourhoods) held at Castel Madama, where you can experience life as it was during the Renaissance.
For a relaxing spa day, try Terme di Tivoli, a famous resort with mineral spring waters, or alternatively, Acqua Piper Guidonia, a water park for adults and kids.
Tivoli, near Rome, Italy