SOPHIE WALKING TOURS OF ROME
La Trinità dei Monti
at the top of the Spanish Steps above la Piazza di Spagna
The Society of the Sacred Heart acquired the Trinità dei Monti in 1828 through an agreement between the Vatican and the French government. Both the church and the monastery have been the titular property of a French Cardinal since the late 16th century, when Pope Sixtus issued the Titulus Santissimae Trinitatis in Monte Pincio. (The church and monastery originally housed the Minimite Friars.)
It was here that Sophie opened her first school in Rome in 1828. Originally destined to serve the daughters of Italian aristocrats, it remained a Sacred Heart School until the early twenty-first century. It was in a small chapel on the second floor of the monastery that Pauline Perdrau painted her famous fresco, now known as Mater Admirabilis, in 1843.
In March of 2003, the RSCJ decided to withdraw from the Trinità because of financial concerns, and another French order, the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem, now occupies the site. Everyone agreed, however, that Sacred Heart alumni would still be allowed to visit the chapel of Mater Admirabilis, which is located on the second floor of the monastery, to the left of the church. When you ring the bell, simply state that you are a child of the Sacred Heart (“Je suis enfant du Sacré Coeur”), and you should be warmly welcomed and directed to the chapel.
From the Trinità to the Trastevere: Villa Lante
To walk from the Trinità to the Trastevere [which means “across the Tiber” in Italian], walk down the Spanish Steps and continue along the Via dei Condotti (a very chic shopping area). Four blocks from the Piazza di Spagna, you will cross the Via del Corso, and the Via Condotti becomes Via della Fontanella di Borghese.Travel four more blocks, pass the Fontanella di Borghese, and keep going; eventually the street becomes Via Nicosia, and finally the Via di Monte Brianzo. This street will eventually take you to the Via Giuseppe Zanardelli, where you will turn right and be looking right at the Ponte Umberto I, a bridge that leads across the Tiber. Cross the bridge, turn left, and continue walking along the Tiber. You’re on the Lungotevere Vaticano.
Note: you can also catch a bus or a cab to the Tiber. This is a fairly long walk from the Spanish Steps, approximately 3 miles.
Sneak a peek at the Vatican as you walk along the river. Sophie did, in fact, spend some time here as she was negotiating various issues with the Pope et. al.
Continue along the Tiber (the Lungotevere Vaticano becomes Lungotevere Sassia and finally Lungotevere Gianicolense) for another mile or so until you reach the Via San Francesco di Sales. Turn right and continue up the street until you see a huge building with a gate, #18; there is a sign that says Villa Lante / Istituto Sacre Cuore. (The street turns sharply right at this point, so you can’t miss it.) This is where the archives are today. And this building is the old “ghost palace” that Sophie insisted on buying when shown the smaller villa (or “villino”) up at the top of the hill. If you call or email ahead, you may be able to visit the archives and the grounds. The building also houses a gorgeous neo-Gothic chapel, which Sophie had built. Behind the villa, beautiful gardens stretch all the way up to the villino, which is now a separately owned property.
From the Villa Lante to the Villino
The villino is the small villa that Sophie purchased in 1837 for her expanding needs in Rome. When she first visited, she felt it was too small; she looked down the hill to the larger Villa Lante and said she’d take the villino if she could also acquire the larger villa below. She succeeded. To reach the villino (now the Finnish Embassy to the Vatican), you need to backtrack along the Lungotevere Gianicolense until you reach the Via del Gianicolo. You are at the foot of the Janiculum Hill. Travel up the Via del Gianicolo as it curves left. It becomes the Passeggiata del Gianicolo as it continues to wind up the hill. When you reach #10, you’re there. The view from here is supposed to be especially gorgeous at sunset . . . [Nearby, there’s a spectacular statue of Anita Garibaldi, Giuseppe’s wife, mounted on a horse with a gun in one hand and a baby in the other . . . she was quite a woman!]
Something to keep in mind as you walk: When Giuseppe Garibaldi invaded Rome with his army in 1849, he ejected the RSCJ from the villino because of its strategic location, The nuns were loaded in wagons and driven across Rome to the Trinità.
From the Villino to Santa Ruffina e Secunda
By 1832 Sophie wanted to open a free school in Rome. She finally found a property on the Via della Lungaretta in the middle of the Trastevere, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Rome and today one of the most lively. With the help of a wealthy countess, she was able to open a free school for children, not far from the beautiful Santa Maria in Trastevere, the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary.
Today it is a pensione for university students studying in Rome, run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea; they bought the building from the RSCJ in the 1920s. It may be difficult to enter the pensione if you don’t speak Italian, but it’s a fabulous neighborhood in which to wander. And it is easy to imagine Sophie rushing back and forth between here to the Villa Lante, as she often did. (Eventually the Villa Lante served as the Mother House in Rome.) It is worth noting that the Sisters of the ICOI hid Jews in the tower of the building (visible from the street) during World War II.
To walk from the Villina (Finnish Embassy) to Santa Rufina e Seconda, continue about 500 feet along the Passeggiata del Gianicolo until you reach a roundabout and bear left. Continue down the hill until you reach the Fontanone Gianicolo (Janiculum Fountain,also called the Fontana Acqua Paola). Turn left (east) on Via Garibaldi and go about 50 yards until you reach Scala Giovanni Iaccobucci; when you get to the bottom, you’re back on Via Garibaldi. Continue about 100 yards until you reach Rampa di Monte Aureo. Keep going down until you reach Via Goffredo Mameli, and go left. You’ll soon come upon Via Luciano Manara; go about 180 yards and then turn left onto Via di San Cosimato. Continue straight onto the Piazza di San Calisto and keep going further until you reach Santa Maria in Trastevere.
If you continue walking north from the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, you will end up in the Via della Lungaretta. Lots of good restaurants and wine bars in which to recover!
Our U.S. archivist, Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ, informs me that one can gain access to the villino. In addition to being the Finnish Embassy to the Vatican, it is also the Roman Institute of Finland, which produces highly respected publications in Classics and Roman History. They’re generally open on weekdays in the morning, but it’s probably a good idea to call ahead: http://en.institute.fi/institutes/rome