Walking in Rome, Italy
Much of the attraction of Rome is in just wandering around the old city. You can quickly escape from the major tourist routes and feel as if you are in a small medieval village, not a capital city. If you can do so while watching for uneven cobblestones, keep looking upwards. There are some amazing roof gardens and all sorts of sculptures, paintings and religious icons attached to exterior walls. Look through 2nd and 3rd floor windows to see some oak-beamed ceilings in the old houses. Look through the archway entrances of larger Palazzos to see incredible courtyards, complete with sculptures, fountains and gardens. Take a stroll in the area between piazza Navona and the Tiber River in Old Rome where artisans continue to ply their trade from small shops. Also in Old Rome, take a 1km stroll down via Giulia, which is lined with many old palaces. Film enthusiasts will want to visit via Veneto (via Vittorio Veneto) in the Modern Center, scene for much of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. The best way to see the heart of what was ancient Rome’s “entertainment center”, namely the Campus Martius, with its theaters, stadiums, baths, temples and porticos is on foot. This is the area that runs south from the Capitoline Hill to the Piazza del Popolo on the north and the Corso on the east to the Tiber and is what generally encloses the “centro storico” or historic center.
The narrow streets of the historical centre frequently broaden out into small or large squares (piazze), which may have one or more churches and a fountain or two. Apart from piazza Navona and piazza della Rotonda (in front of the Pantheon), take in the nearby piazza della Minerva, with its unique elephant statue by Bernini and piazza Colonna with the column of Marcus Aurelius and palazzo Chigi, seat of the Italian Government; right next to it, there’s the piazza di Monte Citorio with the homonymous palace, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. On the other side of corso Vittorio Emanuele II are piazza Farnese, with the palace of the same name (now the French Embassy), two interesting fountains and the flower sellers at Campo de’ Fiori – scene of the city’s executions in the old days. All of these squares are a short distance from each other in Old Rome. The enormous piazza del Popolo in the North Center, which provided an imposing entrance to the city when it represented the northern boundary of Rome, is well worth a visit. A short walk back towards the centre brings you to piazza di Spagna at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Another fascinating fountain. The area was much used as backdrop for the 1953 film “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
On the other side of the river is, of course, the magnificent St. Peter’s square at the Vatican. Further south, in Trastevere, is piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere – a great place to watch the world go by, either from one of the restaurants or bars that line two sides of the square or, if that is too expensive, from the steps of the central fountain. The square attracts many street entertainers.
Moving back to the Modern Center you have to see the Trevi Fountain, surely a part of everyone’s Roman holiday. Visitors are always amazed that such a big and famous fountain is tucked away in a small piazza in the middle of side streets. Take extra-special care of your possessions here. Further up the via del Tritone you will come to piazza Barberini, now a busy roundabout, but the lovely Bernini fountain is not to be missed.
The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is an excellent example of the Fascist architecture in Rome, and is often referred to as “the Square Colosseum”; it was designed by architects Giovanni Guerrini and Ernesto Lapadula as part of the ambitious building program for the Universal Exposition of 1942, which never took place due to Italy‘s entry into WW2. After having seen the Colosseum itself, you could visit it so to compare the monuments’ differences and similarities.
One of the best views is at the top of the Vittoriano. This can be reached by climbing to the mid-level terraces of the building and then paying to ride the lift up to the very top of the building. This gives breathtaking views over the entirety of Rome with informative diagrams to help you understand just what it is that you can see. Views of the city can also come from climbing the many hills, either the original “seven hills” of Rome, or others that surround them. The two most popular views of Rome are from the Janiculum hill overlooking Trastevere and the Pincio at the edge of the Borghese Gardens. The former, best reached by car, has sweeping views of the centre of Rome, as long as the city council remembers to prune the trees on the hillside in front of the viewpoint. Cross over the piazza for an excellent view of the dome of St Peter’s. The Vatican is the main sight from the Pincio (Metro line A, “Flaminio – Piazza del Popolo” stop, and then a good climb). Less popular, but just as nice, is the orange grove at the Parco Savello on the Aventine Hill.