A good thing to know in Rome is where to go to escape the dirt and dust of the streets for a bit of grass, trees and tranquility.
My favourite, a little-known treasure (at least among the tourists) is the Parco di Nerone, which you can get to from San Giovanni or the Circus Massimus. It is surrounded by stunning churches like Santo Stefano in Rotondo and a magical escape from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Colosseum. Locals visit daily to walk dogs, have a picnic or sunbathe undisturbed on the grassy slope.
“Birretta Villa Borghese?” My Sardinian flatmate suggested one sunny post-exam afternoon with a cheeky grin. A glorious student past-time. You can reach Villa Borghese easily on the metro A line – stop off at Flaminio and follow the signs. The park is full of superb galleries, including the marvellous Galleria Borghese (make sure you book your ticket in advance, online) as well as a replication of the Globe theatre where I recently saw a production of Julius Caesar and a mystical lake where you can hire a boat and go for a romantic row.
Rome’s real bourgeois are more likely to be spotted in the Villa Doria Pamphijli, a stone’s throw from the gentrified residences of Monteverde, up from Trastevere beside the Gianicolo hill. Come here for sunsets and keep your ears alert to any parties which are often held here. Some parts feel like wild meadows, you might almost forget you were living in a capital city.
From June to July don’t miss the outdoor cinema in Piazza Vittorio Emmanuelle. Right next door to Fassi’s Gelateria – the oldest ice cream factory in Rome.
Last but not least, make time to visit Colle Appia, on metro A. Rent a bike and cycle along the ancient roman road, the Via Appia and stop off in the centre for a tour of the sarcophogi.