City Orientation Walk II (Self Guided), Rome

The historic center of Rome is packed with numerous landmarks and genuine works of art, to see all of which may take days if not weeks. This Rome Orientation Walk Part II highlights some of the key sights emerged during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, comprising some truly magnificent marvels of architecture. Among the featured landmarks here are the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, and others.

To obtain directions to the sights in question, tap the sight's name below this introduction and then tap it on the map at the bottom of the sight's information screen. The GPS navigation function will guide you to the chosen destination.

Getting to Sight #1. The first tour stop (Spanish Steps) can be reached by Bus 119, 160, 61, 63, 913; also 40 Express and 116 electric bus, Train: FL5, R, RV, Metro: line A
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City Orientation Walk II Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walk II
Guide Location: Italy » Rome (See other walking tours in Rome)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles
Author: clare
1
Spanish Steps

1) Spanish Steps (must see)

The famous Spanish Steps is one of Rome's iconic destinations and a favorite meeting point. The steps got their name from the Spanish Embassy that once stood nearby, in Piazza di Spagna. Built around 300 years ago, this is the longest and widest staircase in Europe leading up to a beautiful 16th-century church, called Trinità dei Monti (Trinity of the Mountains).

Nowadays filled with tourists from all over the world, from as early as the 18th century it has been a popular spot with artists, poets, and later Hollywood filmmakers. The latter, in turn, attracted to the steps many beautiful women seeking to become models, as well as rich Romans, international travelers and people from all the other walks of life. The tradition of meeting at the Spanish Steps is now firmly embedded in the Romans as well as the guests of the Italian capital.

Sitting at the foot of the steps, to the right, is the house-museum of John Keats, the famed English poet of Romanticism, who used to live here. Also nearby is Babington's tea room, a place that has survived two world wars and numerous hardships prior to becoming a staple tourist attraction.

***Movie "ROMAN HOLIDAY": Joe Meets Ann Again***
Fresh after haircut, Princess Ann sits on the steps, enjoying the view, eating gelato. After taking compliments for her new look, she confesses to Joe Bradley that she had run away from school and takes his proposal to spend the day together before she returns. And here the holiday begins!

Why You Should Visit:
If you like places with a great deal of history and photogenic appeal, the Spanish Steps is definitely the one.
In terms of tourist activities, you can enjoy carriages, as well as many shops and bars.
And the main drag here is the picturesque views of Rome opening from the very top of the staircase, particularly at sunset. A truly unbeatable sight!

Tip:
Best time to visit it is in the afternoon and later – also because of the heat.
2
Piazza di Spagna. Fountain of the Longboat

2) Piazza di Spagna. Fountain of the Longboat

With its Spanish Steps overlooked by the Trinita dei Monte Church, Piazza di Spagna is one of the most visited squares in Rome. While the famous staircase is a favorite spot among tourists to relax and enjoy the views, the area is practically synonymous with high-fashion and luxury, thanks to the many designer shops lying on the surrounding streets.

In this piazza, you will also find one of the most remarkable fountains in Rome, called Fontana della Barcaccia (“Fountain of the Longboat”).

Created in the 1620s, it is the work of Pietro Bernini, the famed sculptor and a go-to man for Pope Urban VIII on many occasions, who also contributed to the creation of the Neptune Fountain in Naples and made statues for numerous churches throughout Italy. Initially collaborating with his son, Gian Lorenzo, the old Bernini was later overshadowed by the young man's talent in marble cutting. In fact, this fountain is often attributed to both Bernini the father and the son.

The design is based upon a real-life event. Back in the 15th-16th centuries the River Tiber regularly flooded the area and a legend has it that one flood was so devastating that Piazza di Spagna remained submerged for several weeks. When the water receded, a boat was found in the square that inspired Bernini in his choice of a subject for the new fountain. The boat is depicted as half sunk in its basin with water spilling over the bows and trickling out of the side of the prow.

Many a people like to sit on the benches, basking in the sun, near the fountain, listening to its gurgle. Because of the low water pressure in the area, the water doesn’t come out in a jet and, luckily, no-one has ever thought of changing that by adding a pump. Famous English poet John Keats, who used to live nearby up until his death in 1821, is said to have heard the sound of water lying in his deathbed, upon which he asked that the words “Here lies one whose name was writ in water” be inscribed on his tombstone.
3
Piazza Colonna. Column and Fountain

3) Piazza Colonna. Column and Fountain (must see)

Piazza Colonna is part of the historic heart of Rome, and is named so for the massive 30-meter marble column of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Built in the Doric style and adorned with intricate carvings, this column was erected after the death of Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century AD; however, during its restoration in the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V ordered a statue of St Paul to be set on top of it. Whether this was done in a bid to remove any lingering trace of paganism or to match it with Trajan’s Column (located nearby on Via dei Fori Imperiali) where the same pope had a statue of St Peter placed on top, remains unknown.

If you have a long lens camera or binoculars, do care to take a closer look at the reliefs near the column's top, as they are in much better shape than those near the ground level. Among the highlights, there are the strange and compelling images of a supernatural figure invoking a miraculous storm that once saved the Roman army during a battle.

While there's no doubt that the column steals all the attention, the square also houses a small fountain originally built in the 16th century to provide Roman residents with clean drinking water. Made of pink marble from the Greek island of Chios, it features 16 carved white marble lion heads around its oval basin. At either end of the basin, two 19th-century groups of dolphins wrap their tails around seashells, spouting water from their mouths.

The square is framed on three sides with the imposing buildings raised between the 16th and 19th centuries. One of them is the Palazzo Chigi, built in 1562, currently the official residence of the Italian Prime Minister. The other one is the 17th century Palazzo Wedekind standing on the site once occupied by the Temple of Marcus Aurelius. The beautiful columns on the ground floor of the palace were taken from the Etruscan city of Veii conquered by the Romans in the 4th century BC.
4
Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola

4) Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola (must see)

Dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (commonly known as Jesuits Order), this 17th-century Baroque church was inspired by the Church of Gesù in Rome, built in the late 16th century.

The inner layout of the church is a common "Latin Cross" with the main section and side-chapels elaborately decorated. Because of the lack of funds to build a dome, a painter was hired to create an optical illusion thereof here. Pursuant to that, all the ceilings had been painted with an ingenious technique producing a visual perspective that virtually pushes physical boundaries outward. As a result, one can hardly imagine that the paintings above are actually flat. Standing in the circle marking the center of the main floor will allow appreciating this effect in its entirety. The elaborate painting on the main ceiling, depicting entry of St. Ignatius into Paradise, is sure to give one a stiff neck gaping at it. To avoid this, a large mirror is placed on the floor.

The other eye-grabbers here are a huge stucco statue of St. Ignatius, as well as the colored marbles, extensive gilding, and richly ornamented altars. The church is free to enter and is usually quiet. It overlooks the eponymous Loyola square, one of the nicest in Rome, which is also an attraction in its own right.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 7:30am-7pm; Sun/Holidays: 9am-7pm
Free admission
5
Pantheon

5) Pantheon (must see)

The Pantheon is one of Rome’s key attractions whose dome and columns have been an inspiration to architects for centuries. The first ever temple on this spot was built in 27 BC under the consulate of Marcus Agrippa. It was destroyed by fire and lightning several times during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, but each time was rebuilt, gradually acquiring its present round shape. Under Emperor Hadrian, the temple was dedicated to “pan theos” – all the gods of Rome – thence the word “pantheon”.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Pantheon remained in the possession of the Byzantine emperors, although they no longer had real power in the city. One of them donated the temple to Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century, who turned it into a Christian church and dedicated it to St Mary and all the Martyrs. For that reason, the Pantheon was never demolished unlike the majority of other non-Christian Roman temples.

Starting from the Renaissance period onward, the Pantheon was used as a burial place for prominent Italians like Raphael, the artist, and Victor Emmanuel II, the king of Italy, among the best known. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the Pantheon is the unsupported concrete dome – the largest of its kind in the world, which looks quite as good as new and is most stunning when glaring in the sunlight. The drains on the Pantheon's floor are also ingenious works of engineering allowing to withdraw rainwater quite effectively even today, which is particularly remarkable given that the floors are original, just as the massive bronze doors each weighing over 20 tons.

Visitors are allowed inside the Pantheon for free. Many people, however, feel just as comfortable sitting outside on the steps of the fountain in La Piazza della Rotonda, eating gelato, watching passers-by, and gazing at this magnificent edifice as part of their Roman holiday experience.

Why You Should Visit:
Italian baroque meets Roman architectural excellence!
Surely among the world's most amazing free attractions.

Tip:
Incredible at night (on the outside), especially if you enjoy musicians with talent and engagement... but be aware of pickpockets.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8:30am-7:15pm; Sun: 9am-5:45pm; Public Holidays: 9am-12:45pm
Free admission
6
Santa Maria sopra Minerva

6) Santa Maria sopra Minerva (must see)

Situated just behind the Pantheon, the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, is more than just a temple but a true hidden gem packed full of art. The former Roman headquarters of the Dominican order, if there is only one thing in particular this church is worth visiting for, it is the statue of Christ by Michelangelo, plus the series of late 15th-century frescoes in one of its chapels.

While many other medieval churches in Rome have got Baroque makeovers, covering their Gothic features, the Minerva church has survived pretty much unscathed in its original guise. There are several magnificent stained glass roundels above the nave, richly colored in red, green, blue and gold, producing the appearance of bursting fireworks. Above the main door, there is a lovely roundel of Mary surrounded by saints. This could easily be the best stained glass in all of Rome. As for the ceiling, it is painted deep blue with golden stars, just like the night sky.

At the front of the building stands an obelisk on the back of an elephant sculptured by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Curiously enough, the obelisk is Egyptian and was brought to flank the entrance to the temple of Isis that stood on this site in the 1st century. Apparently, this is the smallest of the eleven obelisks existing in Rome, and quite fortunately so for the elephant that carries it. Still, the name of this former Egyptian temple – Sopra Minerva, ascribing it to Minerva instead of Isis, was given in error.

If you have time for a guided tour, there is one offered every day for a small free. As part of the excursion into the church and the Dominican order history, they will show you to the cloister behind the church as well, which is just as beautiful.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-7pm; Sat: 10am-12:30pm / 3:30pm-7pm; Sun: 8:10am-12:30pm / 3:30pm-7pm
Free admission
7
Campo de' Fiori (Piazza)

7) Campo de' Fiori (Piazza) (must see)

Campo de' Fiori or the "field of flowers" is the name originated in the Middle Ages when this part of today's Rome was nothing but a meadow. At the end of the 15th century, the meadow was paved and, over time, became a square for public executions. Here, in the year 1600, one of the most brutal executions in the history of mankind took place seeing philosopher Giordano Bruno burnt at a stake for heresy. A harsh critic of bigotry and opponent to some religious theories like that of Trinity and geocentric model, he believed that the universe could be infinite and filled with innumerable worlds. These thoughts were far beyond the tolerance of the then Catholic Church which ultimately cost Giordano Bruno his life and saw all of his works forbidden by the Holy Office.

In 1889, a statue of Giordano Bruno was erected in the middle of Campo de’ Fiori, on the very spot he met his final hour. The statue stands defiantly facing Vatican, portraying Bruno as a martyr for the freedom of thought. The inscription at the base of the statue reads: "To Bruno - From the Age He Predicted - Here Where the Fire Burned".

Around the same time in the late 19th century, the square started hosting a daily vegetable and fish market. This market opens early and works until around 1-2pm offering fresh produce, cheeses, seasoning and pasta, and you can taste pretty much everything before buying. By night, Campo de' Fiori turns into a popular meeting place; a hive of outdoor cafes, restaurants and entertainment suiting various tastes and pockets.

Opening Hours (Market):
Daily: 7am-3pm
8
Museo di Roma

8) Museo di Roma

Those visiting the Museum of Rome in Palazzo Braschi should prepare for a double treat – the museum itself and the elegant Neoclassical palace which is an attraction in its own right. The first thing one sees at the entrance, standing on the side of an imposing staircase, is the sculpture of Jupiter, the Thunderer.

The museum collection spans several centuries of Roman history, starting from the Middle Ages until the first half of the 20th century. It gives a good understanding of the changing city through collections that include paintings, engravings, furniture, ceramics, and photos.

While part of the exhibition details historical facts, the other part is dedicated to all kind of people who lived in Rome and their life stories.

A particular attention deserves the recently refurbished 3rd floor, featuring perhaps the most comprehensive and significant of all the museum's exhibits. It tells the story of the palace itself recounting, among other periods, years under Mussolini, during which the exterior was covered in Fascist banners, the post-war period when some 300 impoverished Romans moved in here desperate for shelter, and more. For visitors convenience, there's an audio guide presented in both Italian and English.

The photography exhibition is also important to see, as its focus adds symbolic value to Rome as the place of Christianity "par excellence".

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-7pm; Dec 24, 31: 10am-2pm
Ticket office closes one hour earlier
9
Piazza Navona

9) Piazza Navona (must see)

Piazza Navona has been one of Rome’s liveliest spots for almost 2,000 years. In the city with no shortage of squares, Navona really stands out. The reasons for that are many: great architecture, lovely sculptures, lots of places around to eat and drink, diverse merchandise to buy and colorful crowd.

The square was built in 80 AD, around the same time as the Colosseum and, surprisingly enough, initially hosted chariot races. Navona took its current shape only in the 17th century when Pope Innocent X commissioned nearby Baroque-style constructions. Among those projects are Palazzo Braschi (now housing the Museum of Rome), the Church of Saint Agnes (renowned for its massive dome), Palazzo de Cupis (now open for pre-booked stays), and Palazzo Pamphili. There are also not just one or two, but three (!) stunning fountains here, including the Moor Wrestling With a Dolphin on the one side, the Fountain of Neptune on the other, and the Fountain of the Four Rivers, sculpted by Bernini, in the center – a truly unique piece of art with a large obelisk on top.

The place has a cool, relaxing vibe and is ideal for picture taking. At night, whenever the central fountain is illuminated, it gets particularly scenic. Occasionally, there are some good musicians and other artists performing here as well. There are many benches to sit on plus, as an extra bonus, the adjoining streets are rich in all sorts of quality eateries and cafes, all of which makes it fairly comfortable to pass the time away and soak up the pleasure of just being in Rome.

Why You Should Visit:
A very large square (really an oval) that despite being busy and very popular, seems to still have room for everyone.

Tip:
If looking for more intimate and more economic meals/refreshments, you can always walk off the piazza onto one of the side streets.
10
Fountain of the Four Rivers

10) Fountain of the Four Rivers (must see)

The centerpiece of Piazza Navona, the Fountain of the Four Rivers has been in place since the 17th century. While Rome’s love affair with fountains, in general, goes back to the antiquity, during the Baroque era it took another twist in which Roman fountains appeared as a reflection of papal generosity. In the case of the Four Rivers Fountain, Pope Innocent X, one of the most politically astute Pontiffs, commissioned to the job one of the most innovative artists of the era – sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the son of Pietro Bernini. The end result proved to be Rome's greatest achievement in the genre of fountain-making, delivering an emblematic piece replete with all the dynamic and dramatic elements sought by Baroque artists.

At the base of the fountain is a basin from the center of which rise the rocks supporting four river gods and, above them, there's an ancient Egyptian obelisk surmounted with the papal family emblem – a dove with an olive twig. Collectively, the four gods represent four major rivers of the four continents over which papal authority had spread by that time, namely: the Nile of Africa, the Danube of Europe, the Ganges of Asia, and the Rio de la Plata of the Americas.

The design of each god's figure is quite symbolic. The Ganges carries a long oar, representing the river's navigability. The Nile's head is draped with a loose piece of cloth, meaning that no one at that time knew exactly where the Nile's source was. The Danube touches the papal coat of arms, since this is the largest of the rivers close to Rome. And the Rio de la Plata sits upon a pile of coins, the symbol of America's riches.

Tip:
To capture this fountain on picture, one has to shoot repeatedly from different angles and positions, so as to get as much detail as possible.
Fortunately, there is plenty of free space around, so one should really just take their time to get a perfect shot... or two, or three...
The surrounding piazza is full of restaurants/cafes and excellent gelato places can be found.
11
Palazzo Altemps

11) Palazzo Altemps (must see)

A single ticket to the National Museum of Rome serves four different sites. One of them is the luxurious Palazzo Altemps, home to the collection of classical Renaissance and Baroque sculptures, as well as some newer archaeological finds.

The palace carries a wealth of frescoes and wood ceiling paintings, revealed during restoration, and is sure to impress. As soon as you peek into the inner courtyard with beautiful sculptures, you will have the pleasure of an elegant sight.

The museum exhibits are spread over two floors and comprise Roman and Greek antiquities, as well as those of Egypt and the Medieval period. Among these are a wonderful fountain clad in a seashell mosaic, a collection of Roman emperors busts, a 2nd century AD bas-relief of gods and goddesses of Mount Olympia, plus a room dedicated to Moses adorned with a fresco depicting scenes from the prophet's life. The highlight of the exhibition is the Ludovisi Art Collection consisting of more than 100 sculptures including the ancient classic Greek relief of the Ludovisi Throne.

The well-preserved remains of an ancient Roman building that once stood on the site of today's palace is yet another fascinating piece of history displayed here.

To add to the interest of the museum, most items have a brief description and explanation as well as “before and after” showings of how they were restored. After the hustle and bustle of Rome's main attractions, this place is a welcome escape, and each piece it displays deserves to be contemplated with attention.

Why You Should Visit:
A quiet and relaxing place torn between Renaissance architecture and Ancient Sculpture.
Unlike other galleries, these collections are sparingly and well displayed, instead of being crowded together.
There are no specific directions to follow and you can choose your own tour according to what you want to see.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-7:45pm, closed on Mondays
12
National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo

12) National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo (must see)

Standing on the right bank of the River Tiber in Rome, the beautifully kept cylindrical tower of Castel Sant’ Angelo is a home to the eponymous museum. Commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the building initially served as a mausoleum for the emperor and his family. In the 5th century AD, it was turned into a fortress and, in the 14th century, converted again, this time into a castle and a prison combined. It also served as a hideaway for the popes during the periods of unrest, wars, etc. For that purpose, there is a walking path to the castle, with the papal apartments in it, leading straight from the Vatican City. The remnants of war, such as canons and armor, are there to be seen even today; however, over time, the apartments became more decorated, some quite cutely actually.

There is a good deal of walking around this museum involved, but it seems like a good way to pass an hour or two embarking on an excursion through centuries, which is also quite easy to navigate on one's own. There is also a special tour offered into the Passetto, a hidden passageway taken by popes from Vatican into the castle, which is quite fascinating.

To wrap up the experience on a pleasant note, visitors are advised to check out the on-site coffee shop which, apart from decent coffee itself, offers some truly amazing views of St. Peter's Basilica and, if you care to climb all the way up to the rooftop terrace, a spectacular panorama of Rome and Vatican City. It is, therefore, highly recommended to pick a bright day to appreciate these views to the maximum or to come in the evening and see the city in its night ambiance.

Why You Should Visit:
An interesting combination of war times, art, religion, and pure history.
The bridge leading to it has beautiful statues, as well.

Tip:
Climb up all the way to the top for spectacular panoramic views of Rome and Vatican City!
You may bring water and snacks to the castle, or have a snack/espresso at the café upstairs.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-7:30pm
CLOSED: Jan 1st, May 1st, Dec 25th

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City Orientation Walk I

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...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.9 km
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Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 km

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