Rome Introduction Walking Tour II, Rome

Rome Introduction Walking Tour 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 Introduction Walk 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.

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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Rome Introduction Walking Tour II Map

Guide Name: Rome Introduction Walking Tour II
Guide Location: Italy » Rome (See other walking tours in Rome)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti (Spanish Steps)
  • Piazza di Spagna & Fontana della Barcaccia (Spanish Square & Fountain of the Longboat)
  • Piazza Colonna & Colonna di Marco Aurelio (Column Square & Column of Marcus Aurelius)
  • Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola (Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola)
  • Pantheon
  • Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Basilica of Saint Mary above Minerva)
  • Piazza Navona (Navona Square)
  • Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain)
  • Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo (National Museum of Sant'Angelo Castle)
Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti (Spanish Steps)

1) Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti (Spanish Steps) (must see)

The renowned Spanish Steps stand as an iconic attraction and popular meeting spot in Rome. Their name derives from the nearby Spanish Embassy, located in Piazza di Spagna. Constructed approximately 300 years ago, this staircase holds the distinction of being the longest and widest in Europe. It gracefully ascends to the exquisite 16th-century church famously known as the Trinity on the Mounts ("Trinità dei Monti").

Today, the Spanish Steps are frequented by tourists from around the globe. However, as early as the 18th century, they captivated artists, poets, and later Hollywood filmmakers. Consequently, the steps became a magnet for aspiring models, affluent Romans, international travelers, and people from all walks of life. The tradition of gathering at the Spanish Steps has become deeply ingrained in both the local Roman population and visitors to the Italian capital.

Situated at the base of the steps, to the right, lies the house-museum of John Keats, the renowned English Romantic poet who once resided there. Additionally, nearby is Babington's tea room, a resilient establishment that has withstood two world wars and numerous adversities, ultimately becoming a beloved 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 appreciate historically rich and visually appealing locations, the Spanish Steps should undoubtedly be on your itinerary. Alongside tourist activities such as carriage rides, you'll find an array of shops and bars to explore. Most notably, the staircase offers picturesque views of Rome from its pinnacle, particularly at sunset—an unbeatable sight!

The afternoon and later hours are the best time to visit so as to avoid the heat of the day.
Piazza di Spagna & Fontana della Barcaccia (Spanish Square & Fountain of the Longboat)

2) Piazza di Spagna & Fontana della Barcaccia (Spanish Square & Fountain of the Longboat)

The Spanish Square, adorned with the Spanish Steps leading up to the Trinity on the Mounts ("Trinità dei Monti") church, stands as one of Rome's most frequented squares. While tourists often gather on the renowned staircase to relax and admire the surroundings, the area has become synonymous with high fashion and luxury, courtesy of the designer shops lining the adjacent streets.

Within this bustling square, you'll also discover the impressive Fontana della Barcaccia, known as the "Fountain of the Longboat." Created in the 1620s by Pietro Bernini, a renowned sculptor and a trusted collaborator of Pope Urban VIII, this masterpiece is attributed to both Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo. Pietro Bernini's expertise can also be seen in the Neptune Fountain in Naples and various statues adorning churches throughout Italy.

The fountain's design draws inspiration from a historical event. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the River Tiber frequently flooded the area, and legend has it that one particularly devastating flood left the Spanish Square submerged for several weeks. As the waters receded, a boat was discovered in the square, serving as the muse for Bernini's fountain. The sculpture depicts a partially submerged boat within its basin, with water spilling over the bow and trickling out of the sides.

Many people enjoy sitting on the nearby benches, basking in the sun while listening to the soothing gurgle of the fountain. Due to low water pressure in the area, the water flows gently rather than in a forceful jet, and fortunately, no one has ever considered adding a pump to alter its natural charm. It is said that the renowned English poet John Keats, who resided nearby until his death in 1821, listened to the sound of water from his deathbed. Upon which, he requested the inscription "Here lies one whose name was writ in water" on his tombstone.
Piazza Colonna & Colonna di Marco Aurelio (Column Square & Column of Marcus Aurelius)

3) Piazza Colonna & Colonna di Marco Aurelio (Column Square & Column of Marcus Aurelius)

Part of the historic heart of Rome, the Column Square derives its name from the colossal 30-meter marble column of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Constructed in the Doric style and adorned with intricate carvings, it was erected in the 2nd century AD following Marcus Aurelius' death. However, during a 16th-century restoration, Pope Sixtus V ordered the placement of a statue of St. Paul atop the column. The motive behind this decision remains a mystery. It is uncertain whether it was to eradicate any remnants of paganism or to mirror Trajan's Column nearby (on Via dei Fori Imperiali), where the same pope had a statue of St. Peter installed.

If you possess a long-lens camera or binoculars, be sure to examine the reliefs near the top of the column, as they are in superior condition compared to those at ground level. Notably, you will encounter intriguing depictions of a supernatural figure summoning a miraculous storm that once saved the Roman army during a battle.

While the column undoubtedly commands attention, the square also houses a small fountain that was originally constructed in the 16th century to provide clean drinking water to the residents of Rome. Fashioned from pink marble sourced from the Greek island of Chios, it features an oval basin adorned with 16 intricately carved white marble lion heads. At each end of the basin, two 19th-century groups of dolphins entwine their tails around seashells, spouting water from their mouths.

The square is enclosed on three sides by imposing buildings erected between the 16th and 19th centuries. One such structure is the Chigi Palace, built in 1562 and currently serving as the official residence of the Italian Prime Minister. Another notable building is the Wedekind Palace, constructed in the 17th century on the site once occupied by the Temple of Marcus Aurelius. The magnificent columns adorning the palace's ground floor were acquired from the Etruscan city of Veii, which the Romans conquered in the 4th century BC.
Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola (Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola)

4) Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola (Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola)

Dedicated to Saint 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 church follows a typical "Latin Cross" layout, with the main section and side chapels intricately adorned. Due to insufficient funds for a dome, a painter was commissioned to create an optical illusion of one. As a result, the ceilings were skillfully painted using a technique that creates a visual perspective, seemingly expanding the physical boundaries. The paintings above appear three-dimensional, defying their flat surface. To fully appreciate this effect, stand within the circle marking the center of the main floor. The grand ceiling painting depicting Saint Ignatius entering Paradise is particularly captivating, although it may strain one's neck to gaze at it for too long. To alleviate this, a large mirror is placed on the floor.

Among the other notable features are a colossal stucco statue of Saint Ignatius, as well as the vibrant-colored marbles, extensive gilding, and opulently ornamented altars. The church welcomes visitors free of charge and is typically tranquil. It overlooks the eponymous Loyola square, one of the nicest in Rome, which is also an attraction in its own right.

5) Pantheon (must see)

The Pantheon stands as one of Rome's key attractions, with its dome and columns serving as a timeless inspiration for architects throughout the centuries. The initial temple on this site was constructed in 27 BC during the consulship of Marcus Agrippa. Although it suffered from fires and lightning strikes during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, it was consistently rebuilt and gradually acquired its distinctive circular shape. Under Emperor Hadrian, the temple was dedicated to "pan theos", representing all the gods of Rome, which is where the term "pantheon" originated.

Following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, the Pantheon remained under the control of Byzantine emperors, despite their waning influence over the city. In the 7th century, one of these emperors donated the temple to Pope Boniface IV, who transformed it into a Christian church and dedicated it to St. Mary and all the Martyrs. This conversion ensured the Pantheon's preservation, unlike many other non-Christian Roman temples that were demolished. From the Renaissance onwards, the Pantheon served as a burial site for prominent Italians, including the renowned artist Raphael and Victor Emmanuel II, the king of Italy, among others.

One of the structure's most remarkable features is its unsupported concrete dome, the largest of its kind in the world, which remains remarkably well-preserved and exhibits a breathtaking beauty when illuminated by sunlight. The ingenious engineering of the drainage system on the Pantheon's floor continues to effectively divert rainwater, which is particularly impressive considering the originality of the floors. The massive bronze doors, each weighing over 20 tons, add to the awe-inspiring nature of this architectural marvel.

While entry to the Pantheon is free, many visitors find equal enjoyment sitting outside on the steps of the fountain in Rotonda Square ("Piazza della Rotonda"). Here, they can savor gelato, observe passers-by, and admire the magnificence of this ancient structure, becoming part of their unforgettable Roman holiday experience.

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

Incredible at night (on the outside), especially if you enjoy musicians with talent and engagement... but be aware of pickpockets.
Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Basilica of Saint Mary above Minerva)

6) Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Basilica of Saint Mary above Minerva)

Tucked away just behind the Pantheon in Rome, Santa Maria sopra Minerva is a hidden gem that holds not only religious significance but also a wealth of art. As the former Roman headquarters of the Dominican order, this church boasts two exceptional masterpieces that make it truly worth a visit: Michelangelo's statue, "Cristo della Minerva", and the remarkable cycle of frescoes by Filippino Lippi in the Carafa Chapel.

Also known as "Christ the Redeemer" or "Christ Carrying the Cross," Michelangelo's marble sculpture is located to the left of the main altar and was completed in 1521. The commission for this work was received in June 1514, and Michelangelo began working on the first version around 1515. However, upon discovering a black vein in the white marble, he abandoned the sculpture in an unfinished state.

A new version was quickly substituted in 1519-1520, with Michelangelo entrusting the final touches to an apprentice who unfortunately damaged the work. Nevertheless, the second version impressed contemporaries and garnered unusual praise, such as the remark that "the [statue's] knees alone were worthy of more than the whole of Rome."

Initially, Michelangelo depicted Christ unclothed in a standing pose, intentionally exposing his sexual organs to signify his uncorrupted sexuality, free from lust and under complete control of his will. This portrayal showcased his triumph over sin and death in his resurrected body. However, in 1546, a floating bronze loincloth was added to shield the genitals from view.

Christ's leg is bent, and his head is turned back, following the principle of 'contrapposto'. Compared to the first version, this more dynamic pose creates varied impressions when viewed from different angles, activating the space around the sculpture and suggesting an unfolding story.

While many medieval churches in Rome underwent Baroque transformations, concealing their Gothic features, the Church of Saint Mary above Minerva has largely retained its original appearance. It features several magnificent stained-glass roundels, including one depicting Mary surrounded by saints, which is considered the finest stained glass in all of Rome. The ceiling is painted deep blue with golden stars, adding to the church's enchanting ambiance.
Piazza Navona (Navona Square)

7) Piazza Navona (Navona Square) (must see)

Piazza Navona has remained one of Rome's most vibrant spots for nearly 2,000 years. Among the city's numerous squares, it truly stands out, boasting exceptional architecture, beautiful sculptures, a plethora of dining and drinking establishments, diverse merchandise for sale, and a colorful crowd.

The square was originally built in 80 AD, around the same period as the Colosseum, and surprisingly served as a venue for chariot races. However, Navona acquired its current shape in the 17th century when Pope Innocent X commissioned the construction of nearby Baroque-style buildings. Noteworthy projects include the Braschi Palace, now home to the Museum of Rome; the renowned Church of Saint Agnes with its impressive dome; the Cupis Palace, which now offers pre-booked accommodations, and the great Pamphili Palace. Moreover, the square boasts not just one or two, but three stunning fountains. On one side stands the Moor Wrestling With a Dolphin, on the other side is the Fountain of Neptune, and at the center stands the Fountain of the Four Rivers, sculpted by Bernini—an extraordinary masterpiece adorned with a grand obelisk.

The atmosphere in Navona Square exudes a cool and relaxed vibe, making it an ideal spot for photography. In the evenings, when the central fountain is illuminated, the square becomes particularly scenic. Visitors may also be treated to performances by talented musicians and artists. Numerous benches provide comfortable seating, and as an added bonus, the surrounding streets are filled with a variety of high-quality eateries and cafes. All of these elements combine to create an inviting environment where one can leisurely pass the time and bask in the pleasure of being in Rome.

Why You Should Visit:
Despite its popularity and bustling nature, Piazza Navona, being a very large square (in fact, an oval), somehow manages to make everyone feel welcome and accommodated.

If looking for more intimate and more economic meals/refreshments, consider venturing onto one of the side streets adjacent to the square.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain)

8) Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers Fountain) (must see)

The focal point of Navona Square, the Four Rivers Fountain has been in place since the 17th century. While Rome has a longstanding affinity for fountains, dating back to antiquity, the Baroque era brought a new dimension to these water features, showcasing the generosity of the papacy. In the case of the Four Rivers Fountain, Pope Innocent X, renowned for his political acumen, entrusted the task to one of the most innovative artists of the time—Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the son of Pietro Bernini and a sculptor and architect in his own right. The result was Rome's pinnacle achievement in fountain design, a symbolic masterpiece brimming with the dynamic and dramatic elements sought after by Baroque artists.

At the base of the fountain lies a basin, and from its center emerge rocks supporting four river gods. Above them, an ancient Egyptian obelisk is crowned with the papal family emblem—a dove holding an olive twig. Collectively, the four gods represent the major rivers of the continents over which papal authority had extended at that time: the Nile symbolizing Africa, the Danube representing Europe, the Ganges representing Asia, and the Rio de la Plata representing the Americas.

The design of each god's figure carries symbolic meaning. The Ganges is depicted holding a long oar, symbolizing the river's navigability. The Nile's head is adorned with a loosely draped piece of cloth, signifying the mystery surrounding the exact source of the river during that era. The Danube touches the papal coat of arms, as it is the largest river near Rome. Finally, the Rio de la Plata sits atop a pile of coins, symbolizing the wealth of the Americas.

To capture the essence of this fountain in photographs, it is recommended to shoot from various angles and positions, so as to get as much detail as possible. With ample space surrounding the fountain, take your time to find the perfect shot—or perhaps even multiple perfect shots. Additionally, the surrounding piazza offers an abundance of restaurants, cafes, and excellent gelato places to indulge in while enjoying the lively atmosphere.
Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo (National Museum of Sant'Angelo Castle)

9) Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo (National Museum of Sant'Angelo Castle) (must see)

Standing on the right bank of the River Tiber in Rome, the beautifully preserved cylindrical tower of Sant'Angelo Castle is home to the eponymous museum. Originally commissioned by Roman Emperor Hadrian, this architectural marvel initially served as a mausoleum for the emperor and his family. In the 5th century AD, it was transformed into a fortress and later, in the 14th century, converted again, this time into a castle and a prison combined. Throughout history, it also served as a refuge for popes during periods of unrest and war. For that purpose, a fortified walking path, including the papal apartments, directly connects the castle to the Vatican City.

The museum offers a captivating journey through the centuries, and although there is a fair amount of walking involved, it is easily navigated independently. Visitors can witness the remnants of warfare, such as cannons and armor, which are still on display. Over time, the papal apartments became more ornately decorated, some quite cutely actually. Consider taking a special tour of the Passetto, a hidden passageway used by popes to travel from the Vatican to the castle, which offers a rather fascinating glimpse into history.

To conclude the visit on a delightful note, be sure to visit the on-site coffee shop. In addition to enjoying a decent cup of coffee, you can also savor some truly amazing views of St. Peter's Basilica. For an even more spectacular panorama of Rome and the Vatican City, venture up to the rooftop terrace. It is highly recommended to choose a clear day to fully appreciate these views or to visit in the evening to witness the city's nocturnal ambiance.

Why You Should Visit:
A captivating combination of wartime history, art, religion, and pure historical significance. Additionally, the bridge leading to the castle features beautiful statues.

Climb all the way to the top for spectacular panoramic views of Rome and the Vatican City!
You may bring water and snacks within the castle or indulge in a snack or espresso at the café located upstairs.

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