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Rome’s Secret Terraces

Rome is a multisensory city. The legacy of Ancient Rome, the presence of the papacy, the contribution throughout the centuries of hundreds of emperors, architects, painters, artists, popes and then the progress of the contemporary age, have created a capital of layers whose silhouette is among the most extraordinary in the world. 


Rome seen from above is the apotheosis of beauty and she is surprising because wherever you look, she’ll show you a different face. An uneven and splendid network of streets and fountains, roofs, towers and domes, monuments and palaces, green patches and squares, buildings tinged with the color of the earth and the colour of the air, marble, bricks and the sinuous Tiber, that flows imperturbably with its bends. From above, Rome is a great, immobile, imperishable Beauty.

So how to make the most of her splendor? Everyone knows the Eternal city is built on seven hills and many of these offer incredible panoramas, including wonderful viewpoints such as the Orange Garden on the Aventine Hill, the Pincio close to the Spanish Steps and the Gianicolo. But an even better way to observe Rome’s staggering profile are her terraces: small refuges of air and freedom, so loved and worshipped by Romans, these suspended sanctuaries rise above the city’s rumble and chaos down below, raised enclosures which encompass the dolce vita mindset – and all its imagery, at its best. No bigger pleasure than that magical Capitoline moment which finds maximum enjoyment in the abandonment to that inexplicable languor that accompanies a lazy breakfast, lunch or sunset aperitivo on a roman terrace, even better if refreshed by the ponentino, the sea-breeze that occasionally complements our balmy and sticky summer roman evenings and nights. 


Among the upper floors of historic buildings, private homes, artist studios and chic hotels, there are 4 spots which have stolen our hearts.


Vio's Cooking

The first is a terrace in front of the dome of Saint Peters, located on the top floor of Palazzo Taverna, the Renaissance building commissioned by Cardinal Giordano Orsini, right in the very heart of Rome’s historic center. Upon entering this historic residence, one forgets for a moment of Rome’s hustle. Two film directors have chosen Palazzo Taverna as a film set: Paolo Sorrentino shot scenes of the Great Beauty here whilst Gabriele Muccino, impressed by the view, chose the attic for two San Benedetto mineral water commercial spots. The private panoramic terrace, divided on 2 levels, is owned by Marquess Violante Gonzaga, who opens the doors of her home to offer incredible cooking experiences and dinners. She has attended a number of prestigious cooking schools, has published a beautiful cookery and lifestyle book and has successfully launched a luxury tableware line, designed and painted by her. Her terrace has been a favorite of Cindy Crawford, Michelle Pfeiffer and the creative director of DIOR, Maria Grazia Chiuri, as it perhaps encompasses Rome’s grandeur at its best.


Hotel Raphael

Another favorite is the terrace of the Hotel Raphael, one of the most evocative places of the Eternal city. The ivy, bougainvillea and wisteria which cascade on the façade have become an iconic landmark of the city’s splendor. The terrace of the Raphael has been the haunt of famous people from the 1950s to today and has hosted intellectuals such as the writers Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Arthur Miller. Two entire floors have been designed by the architect Richard Meyer. The five-star hotel marries the philosophy of eco-sustainability: the architecture, the interiors and the choice of gastronomy are designed to contribute to the well-being of the planet. The menu of its refined vegetarian restaurant has been ideated by Michelin star chef Pietro Leeman (at the time of writing the only vegetarian Michelin starred chef in Italy) and his wonderful cuisine is complemented by the superb views of the terrace which ranges from the dome of St.Agnese in Piazza Navona to the snail-like dome of Sant’Ivo, from St.Peters to the Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia.


Villa Maraini

The third favorite is one of Rome’s highest terraces, that of Villa Maraini, which enjoys a 360-degree view of the city. It stands on an artificial hill, at the time used as a deposit for the excavated material of what is today Via Ludovisi, now home to the Swiss Institute. The Villa was commissioned by a Swiss entrepreneur, the Count Emilio Maraini, who entrusted the construction to his brother, architect Otto Maraini; he created an elegant eclectic residence with references to Baroque and Neoclassical architecture, typical of suburban villas of the early twentieth century. The highlight of the building is the 26-meter high Belvedere Tower which offers an exceptional panoramic birds eye view of the whole city down below as the area in and around Via Veneto is one of the highest points of Rome.


Palazzo Rhinoceros

Last but not least, another extraordinary terrace which has an exceptional and unusual view over the Eternal City, is the one belonging to the artistic hub Rhinoceros Fondazione Alda Fendi. A great patron of the arts and a great lover of her city, Alda Fendi has created a unique concept that is an engine of creativity and a place of culture for the production of artistic experiments in absolute freedom. The building, which has been restored by the celebrated archistar Jean Nouvelle, has been renamed Rhinoceros (homage to the animal kingdom and the creature which represented strength at the time of the emperor Augustus) and today houses an exhibition gallery on the ground floor dedicated to art shows, a restaurant with the wonderful terrace and 25 apartments for rent designed for international artists, curators and gallery owners. With its six majestic floors, Palazzo Rhinoceros stands out on the skyline of Rome on the borders of the Imperial Forums, set between the Arch of Janus and the Palatine Hill, with a view which is at the same time breathtaking and timeless.