I always end up feeling a bit nostalgic on the last day of any long trip. Maybe a bit bittersweet as well. That lends itself to laid back, slower and somewhat indulgent experiences the day before I hop on a long flight back home. On our last day in Italy, we made our way back to Rome as that’s where we were flying out of the next morning. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we had simple, relaxed plans for the last day – wander around the Villa Borghese park and have a couple of nice meals.
With deep appreciation to the travel weather gods, we had another beautiful day to explore. This one with a few clouds, but warm and not a drop of rain, making it a full two weeks without rain on this trip. Villa Borghese is a massive city park in the heart of Rome and is a lovely escape from the noise and bustle of the city that surrounds it. On this fall day, there were times we felt like we had the park almost to ourselves.
For me, one of the highlights of the park was the Temple of Aesculapius and the small lake on which it is perched. The temple was built in the late 1700s and is thought to have been built in memory of a destroyed temple to the god of medicine that had been on Tiber Island. On this afternoon the temple formed the backdrop to a peaceful scene of a lake only disturbed by a few passing ducks and two couples out in row boats.
Villa Borghese park is an interesting collection of piazzas, temples, museums and nature all strung together with walking and bike paths. Something I wasn’t expecting to see was a former Olympic site – the Piazza di Siena was the home for equestrian dressage and other horse jumping events in the 1960 Olympics.
We spent a couple of hours wandering the park at a very leisurely pace and came across a number of monuments and ruins as we explored.
The park is massive at over 220 acres and we only scratched the surface of it. There were a number of world class museums located inside the park that we only walked past. We weren’t really in “museum mood” on this last day.
We left the park heading toward the Piazza del Popolo to take in some of the views that its elevated position affords. In case you forgot you were in Rome, the number of church domes dotting the city skyline remind you that you could only be in one place.
Before leaving the park, we stood facing down onto the Piazza del Popolo to take in this spectacular view.
Down below in the piazza, the views were pretty great too. These are the twin churches (built in the 1660s and 1670s) of Santa Maria in Montesanto on the left and Santa Maria dei Miracoli on the right.
For the rest of our last day in Rome, we had a couple of nice meals. For lunch, I got to have something that I wasn’t about to leave the city without sampling. In the Monti district, we found a little restaurant that served trippa alla romana. Historically, this was the Sunday meal for working class Romans. Beef tripe, tomato sauce, some vegetables, wine, a bit of cheese and voila!
It wasn’t the perfect lunch for a day where the temperature was pushing 30C, but I’m really glad I tried it. Served piping hot, it was tasty, and I understood immediately why some use it as a hangover cure.
For the last meal in Rome, I deferred to my wife. She deserved the pick of the last meal for what she put up with in Naples of following me into pizza places and just staring at me as I ate pizzas bigger than my head that I raved about. There was little doubt what her pick would be – a return to La Soffitta Renovatio, just around the corner from the Vatican, that served amazing gluten free pizzas. It was a perfect pick for the last meal of the trip.
We took the metro back toward our hotel, getting off near Monti and walking the rest of the way. As we passed through this neighbourhood that was our home earlier in the trip, we poked our head into Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Monti whose doors were open on this warm evening. Standing at the back of the church, we listened in for a few minutes of a choir practice. In the empty church, as the voices of the six or so women drifted up to fill the domes and arches, we stood quietly and appreciatively for this unexpected moment. A beautiful way to put a cap on two weeks in Italy.