The first time I went to Rome (and I have been more than once probably because I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain), I was lucky to be with someone who was returning to the city and knew a few secrets. Actually more a tip than a secret. When we were heading to Saint Peter’s Basilica, he insisted we did not take the metro or a bus, but that we approached from across the river to get the best experience.
We caught a taxi from the middle of Rome to the bridge Ponte Sant’Angelo and walked across over the historic Tiber River as so many have for centuries, surrounded by the angels of the bridge and facing the round edifice of the Castel Sant’Angelo. Originally built as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135AD, the castel went on to become a prison at times and a refuge for popes during times of civic unrest. It’s connected to the Vatican by secret passageway. One of the best things about this building is the spiral ramp you climb up on entering it. Inside there’s a national museum, which traces the long and fascinating history of this building.
At the top there’s a terrace giving great views, and in the rampart towers you can have coffee while you absorb the centuries of history surrounding you. And to top it off majestically, leaving Castel Sant’Angelo there’s that wonderful vista of Saint Peter’s at the end of the long straight avenue. This is definitely a great way to see this part of Rome for the first time.