Our last day in Rome was all about spoiling our little traveler and taking her somewhere she could stretch her legs and roll in some grass, and later to visit a dog friendly bakery we had heard about. (Catch up with these links for the Colosseum in Part 1 and Campo Fiori Part 2).
Starting out just after sunrise we began our morning walk in a different direction, heading away from the Spanish Steps to ‘The People’s Square’ at the North East gate of Rome. The square has been turned into a pedestrian zone and right in the middle stands an Egyptian obelisk brought to Italy around 30BC. Originally the obelisk was erected at Circus Maximus but was excavated after falling and getting buried in debris during wars in the 6th century. This was our gateway to the gardens of Villa Borghese, the largest public park in Rome and our morning adventure.
A short walk took us up Pincian Hill for a spectacular view over Rome and after stopping for a beat we headed into the middle of the park to find the dog park we were keen to explore. This morning walk was quickly turning into a highlight of our city visit and we silently thanked the Borghese family that had the foresight to turn over this 150 acre private garden to the public. It’s a sanctuary from the stone and concrete of the busy streets below, and you could feel the happiness of the local dogs around you. Grass! Trees! Shade!
The park is mostly known for it’s museums that are scattered over the 150 acres, but there is also a a cinema, a replica of Shakespeares’s Globe Theater and monuments galore to check out. There is even an equestrian area that was used during the 1960’s Olympics, what a gorgeous venue. We stayed focused and pointed ourselves towards the dog park, an easy walk on the wide, shaded pedestrian walkways.
And holy dog biscuits batman, what a gorgeous dog park it is…A huge green area with gentle sloping hills and a beautiful path right down the middle creating a ‘valley of dogs’. There were all sorts of furry canine creatures playing and sniffing. Boisterous German Shepherds, snuffling Pugs, elegant Afghans and goofy Labradors. They all came for their morning off leash constitution with their owners. So many dogs, but all well behaved and with a space so big, there was something for everyone. Room to run, trees to sniff or benches to lie under. Yes, it was heaven and Tikka enjoyed meeting some new friends and running her heart out before crashing out in the shade.
There was a plethora of garbage bins, so the dog poop was non existent from what we could tell. Everyone respected what a gift this place was and did their job keeping it tidy.
After a good off leash play time, we made a loop back along another park path so that we could see more of the gardens and decided on a coffee break close to where we started our journey. La Casina Dell’orolgio is a cafe with a lovely patio perfect for a tired out pup and hungry people needing an espresso and some pastries. It was a quiet morning with a few other people enjoying the patio with their dogs, but we thought how crazy busy it would be in the height of summer as it would be a welcome shady stop for a cold drink.
The early afternoon took us on a walking trip back over the Tiber River to check out the Trastevere neighbourhood and have a late lunch. A mini adventure ensued when we tried to locate the tram to take us over, and by the time we found the line, we only had to go one stop. It was a short trip but Tikka can still claim she did it.
Trastevere is a great little area – At one time a bit of a secret place off the beaten track, it’s now been fully discovered by tourists, but isn’t as hectic and busy as the centre of Rome. There aren’t a lot of big attractions in the immediate area, so the tour buses are few and it’s more of a place to wander and take your time, exploring the cobbled streets and ivy lined buildings. Lunch was on our mind and ‘Da Enzo’ lived up to the reviews and became our best meal during our stay in Rome. Simple dishes but pure and fresh for the ol’ tastebuds. Do you even have to ask at this point? Yes, no problem to have the dog with you at the table.
At a bottle of wine and full bellies o’clock, we paid the bill and continued to wind our way around the streets with a destination in mind.. ‘Biscottificio Innocenti’. Rated as one of the top bakeries in Rome, we had to make a stop at this family cookie business.
We were warmly welcomed in as soon as we found the bakery. The owner, Stefania, went straight for Tikka with a pizza cookie that was quickly offered as a token of friendship. Cultural and species divide was bridged.
Looking around, you could see ample evidence of Stefania’s love of dogs – paw print designs and dog photos on the walls. Not saying that this is a huge dog destination, it’s just a great bakery with the nicest owners that love dogs and you know you have found a special little place to go with your furry travel companion.
No lies here – we loaded up on cookies, filling a big bag so that we had lots to nibble on after meals with a cup of tea, for days to come.
The afternoon rounded out with a long walk over to the The Vatican, we must have covered 40,000 steps that day… Only humans are allowed inside the buildings, but St. Peter’s Square is completely open to bringing your dog and we found a nice set of steps to sit and observe all the people making their pilgrimage. They come for all reasons, personal faith, spiritual guidance or to mark off another amazing sight that Rome has to offer.
After a nice rest we called it a day and took the Metro (Subway) back to the Spanish Steps. We had Tikka’s muzzle handy in case it was required on the train, as that was something we read about before coming to Italy – having dogs muzzled on transit. No one seemed to adhere to this rule and it may be enforced more with big dogs. We kept her quiet on our lap and within 20 minutes we were home again, tired from a full day of walking and ready to open up our bag of baking. As we packed up our bags and gathered Tikka’s bits and pieces we chatted about everything we wanted to come back and see. This was not a one time only visit and we promised our little dog that she could romp in the gardens again one day soon.
So where to next? This may be the end of our three part series on exploring Rome with your dog, but our trip to Italy was not over yet. Coming up, we visit Pompeii with Tikka, climb Mt. Vesuvius and venture into Venice.