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View from the Keats-Shelley House. Photo: Shutterstock
View from the Keats-Shelley House. Photo: Shutterstock

Rome tips for culture mavens

Walking Rome’s ancient streets is a wonderment in itself, but these seven tips will give your stay in the eternal city extra cultural depth.

Sheer poetry

Positioned at the foot of the Spanish Steps, Keats-Shelley House is – surprisingly, given its location – a haven of tranquility. The museum is dedicated to the memory of John Keats and his fellow literary contemporaries, in particular Shelley and Byron. The diverse collection on display includes everything from locks of hair to letters, as well as one of the most treasured libraries of Romantic literature in the world. Each dimly lit space is a thing of beauty, but we were particularly drawn to the small room in which Keats passed away in 1821 at the age of 25. The poet’s original fireplace and ceiling, decorated with floral motifs, are still in place, along with many of his letters.

Keats-Shelley House

Piazza di Spagna 26, Rome

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Wonder villa

Villa Medici is perched high above the Spanish Steps on the Pinician hill, with panoramic views across Rome’s cityscape and eight hectares of lush gardens. Built in 1540, this beautiful renaissance building has served as the French Academy in Rome since 1803, courtesy of Napoleon Bonaparte. Ingres, Debussy and Berlioz are among the renowned artists having resided here, and though the villa’s chief purpose is still to foster artistic creativity, the public is not left out – tours of this magnificent building are held daily (lasting about 1.5 h.), giving visitors access to features including the Cardinal’s apartment, the art collections and the gardens. In addition, Villa Medici regularly holds temporary performances and exhibitions.

Villa Medici

Viale Trinità dei Monti 1, Rome

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Museum on the hill

Located in the lofty position by the grand Piazza del Quirinale, a short uphill walk from the busy Trevi Fountain, Scuderie del Quirinale is worth seeking out for temporary exhibitions of the highest caliber. On our last visit, we caught the well-curated show, Picasso; Between Cubism and Classicism: 1915-1925 (it runs until 21 Jan. 2018). As you leave this bright, historic building from the second floor, take the stairs down to enjoy panoramic views through the glass-fronted staircase.

Scuderie del Quirinale

Via Ventiquattro Maggio 16, Rome

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Photo: Emma Holmqvist Deacon

Down by the river

A good and peaceful way to explore Rome – and get from one side of town to the other without having to battle crowds or cars – is to go on a Tiber river walk. Access the tarmacked paths by climbing down the various stairs dotted along the riverbank. If you set off at Ponte Regina Margherita – located in line with Piazza Del Popolo – and head south towards Trastevere, you’ll pass Ponte Sant'Angelo, giving you a view from below of this historic bridge, completed in 134 AD by Roman Emperor Hadrian, as well as parts of the equally fascinating Castel Sant’Angelo. Carry on to Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, and its string of angel statues will tower above you (with camera-wielding crowds at a safe distance). By the time you’ve ambled past Ponte Mazzini, you’ll have completed a 30-minute walk – continue a little further and Trastevere is within striking distance.

Start at: Ponte Regina Margherita

Photo: Emma Holmqvist Deacon

Gallery of the greats

Nestled within the beautifully landscaped Villa Borghese park, the walk to Galleria Borghese is almost as delightful as what you’re about to experience within this modestly sized but outstanding art establishment. The permanent exhibition includes paintings by Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael as well as sculptures by Bernini and Canova. Caravaggio and Bernini are particularly well represented, reflecting the tastes of the collection's founder, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who started what is now considered the world's finest private art collection in 1607.

Galleria Borghese

Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5, Rome

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Tickets (with reserved time slots) must be booked in advance.

Photo: Emma Holmqvist Deacon

Blooms and history

Rome’s botanical garden “Orto Botanico” stretches across 30 acres, and there's plenty of variety – you’ll wander through a palm avenue, a bamboo forest and tropical greenhouses. There are also a number of notable historic features, such as the large 18th century staircase (Scalo Monumentale), within which you'll find the "Fountain with Eleven Spouts". The garden's elevated position offers views across Rome through the greenery. It can feel a little bit neglected in places, but in our opinion, the somewhat disheveled state of this green spot adds to its charm. Added bonus: it's right next to Palazzo Riario-Corsini, where Christina Queen of Sweden lived from 1662 until her death in 1689 (the palace was revamped in the 1730s, hence its current late-baroque appearance).

Orto Botanico

Largo Cristina di Svezia 24, Rome

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Text: Emma Holmqvist Deacon

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