We love meandering through neighborhoods when we travel. And Rome is a perfect place to explore. After all, Rome is more than the coliseum.
Piazza Navona Area
This large, lovely, and lively piazza is home to three large, flamboyant Baroque fountains; especially Bernini’s magnificent Fontana dei Quattro Fiurni. One of the city’s primary social centers, it is frequented by street musicians. It is surrounded by a number of restaurants whose outside seats are often packed, and lovely churches, especially Chiesa di Sant’agone in Hoene, Chiesa Nuova.
The pretty, neighboring street, Via del Gaverno Vecchio, is lined with lovely Renaissance houses and churches including Santa Maria della Pace and Sant’Andrea della Valle are topped with elaborate sculptures.
The neighborhood is also home to the incredible Pantheon, the “Roman Temple of all the Gods”. In addition to being the best preserved of all the ancient buildings in Rome, it is also one of the most architecturally distinguished buildings in the world. Build by Hadrian in 118 AD, it is, by far, the largest dome built to that time, has a radius that is exactly equal to its height and an open oculus that lights the entire interior. The lovely, symmetrical temple has beautiful marble floor tiles and tombs, including those of notables such as Rafael.
is set in a pretty piazza with a Bernini sculpture supporting an obelisk and lovely churches, including Santa Maria sopra Minerva, one of the city’s few Gothic structures which is also noteworthy for its art (including works by Bernini and Michelangelo) and its trial of Galileo.
Piazza di Spagna to Piazza di Popolo
Piazza di Spagna is one of the city’s most popular plazas and the heart of one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods and tourist hotels. Initially, a stop along a pilgrimage route, well-outside the city, it is one of the newer, Renaissance-style sections of Rome. It is home to another beautiful Bernini fountain and the marble-paved Spanish Steps, atop of which is the dramatic Trinta dei Monti church and the lovely Villa Medici, once home of a Medici Cardinal and now an art academy backed by beautiful formal gardens. Nearby are artistic and architectural gems including the Colonna dell’ Immacolata (in commemoration of the Immaculate Conception), Sant’Andrea delle Fratte church (built to house two Bernini marble angels), Santa Maria Maggiore (with its beautiful marble bell tower and mosaics) and the Marcus Aurelius column (with a scroll documenting his campaigns).
It is also home to some of the city’s most exclusive stores and, for foodies, the most enticing we have ever seen, with the amazing selection of salumi, cheese, dried pasta, olive oil, balsamic, wines and other Italian specialty foods that we could ever hope to see.
Nearby is Nicola Salvi’s eternally extravagant, not to speak of eternally overcrowded, Trevi Fountain. If you can brave and see over the crowds, you are treated to the most flamboyant representation of the seas as you are ever likely to experience.
Piazza di Popolo
Piazza di Popolo is a neighboring square that is anchored by two, large, domed, almost identical (from the outside) churches sitting side-by-side, separated only by a small street. This dramatic backdrop marks the entrance to a huge plaza with an obelisk and fountain, and a still-under construction DaVinci Museum. It also provides an entry to Villa Borghese, one of the city’s most dramatic parks. The entrance to the park winds up a steep hill to a balcony what provides stunning views over the plaza and parts of the city.
The balcony, however, is only one element of this hilltop park which contains lovely English-style gardens, forested areas, a small pond with a bridge to an island housing a lovely antique clock. The real highlight, however, is deeper into the park. Musee Borghese, from what we have been told and what we have read (since we were unable to score one of the limited number of reservations, is supposed to one of the nicest in the city.
We were fortunately enough to stay in a lovely apartment in the Travestere area. It was a perfect area from which to explore all of Rome. This area is a charming residential quarter whose working-class origins have all but disappeared in a massive wave of gentrification. It is now home to trendy boutiques and clubs and some of the hottest restaurants in the cities. During afternoons and evenings, the squares and many pretty side streets are flooded with people overflowing from popular bars and clubs and lines of people waiting for popular restaurants (especially the ever-popular outside tables) to open.
The Jewish Ghetto is a small neighborhood of cobblestone alleyways that is entered via an archeological site. The neighborhood has an open piazza, a synagogue and many Kosher restaurants.