A Walk through the Historical Center


Exiting Hotel Nord Nuova Roma turn right and walk straight down Via Giovanni Amendola about 100 meters until you get to Via Cavour, turn left and go towards Temini Railway Station. Take Subway Line A and get off at Barberini station where your walk will show you a part of Papal Rome from the sixteenth to the eighteen centuries, embellished with palaces, monuments, fountains, obelisks, columns and statues, that now coexist with a wide variety of buildings.

Piazza Barberini is the bustling square into which traffic from Via del Tritone, Via Quattro Fontane, Via Barberini, Via Veneto and Via Sistina flows.
In the center of the piazza is Bernini’s unmistakable masterpiece, the splendid “Fontana del Tritone” (triton fountain), sculpted in 1643, a symbol of the old and historic capital city.

The fountain works as a perfect entity: the four dolphins with their mouths at water level in a four-lobed basin where they support the coat of arms of the Barberini family between the halves of a giant shell on which a triton is blowing on a conch shell, spurting a jet of water that then spills into the basin below. Like all of Bernini’s fountains, Fontana della Tritone is very low so the viewer can see the entire sculpture.

At the corner of Via Veneto is also Bernini’s “Fontana delle Api” or “Fountain of the Bees”. It had originally been installed on a corner of Via Sistina at the request of Pope Urban VIII. It was removed in the nineteenth century for restoration and in 1920, was placed where we see it today. The fountain, created by the artist in 1644, is an excellent example of Roman Baroque.

Before starting on our long walk, we suggest that you treat yourself to a scrumptious “pizza by the slice” from the old bakery on Via San Nicola da Tolentino or taste the specialties of “Colline Emiliane” in Via degli Avignoesi no. 22 (reservations: 06-4817538).

Go towards Via Sistina, the straight street that Pope Sixtus V (from whom it gets its name) wanted in order to visually connect the obelisk of Trinità dei Monti with that of Santa Maria Maggiore. Via Sistina is one of the most characteristic streets of old Rome where in the nineteenth century, many foreign intellectuals and artists lived, as indicated by the plaques affixed to the buildings.

On the right side of the street is the Teatro Sistina, where variety shows and musicals are presented. After the show, “Lucky’s” at Via della Purificazione 20 is a rendezvous of choice, for crêpes, Mexican tortillas, a hot dog or even something sweet.

Get back on Via Sistina and continue on to Viale della Trinità dei Monti where, besides the splendid steps that take you down to the Piazza di Spagna, you can also on the side with the Hotel Hassler, catch a glimpse in the garden of the convent of Santa Cuore of remains of the grandiose villa of Lucullo built on the slopes of the Pincio circa 63 BC. Before going down the steps, we suggest you visit the Palazzetto Zuccari at Via Gregoriana no. 30 whose front door and side windows form the mouth of a monster.

After you reach Trinità dei Monti, go down into the charming Piazza di Spagna, which gets its name from the Embassy of Spain. The Piazza di Spagna is considered one of the most beautiful and prestigious piazzas on account of its unique features like the grand stairway of Trinità dei Monti, the elegant shops and houses, and the colorful people who gather there. 

In the middle of the piazza is the Fontana della Barcaccia, completed in 1629 by Pietro Bernini, father of GianLorenzo. Legend has it that Pope Urban VIII was so impressed by a boat he saw on the Tiber river, that he had a permanent replica of it made for the piazza.

From the “Barcaccia”, turn around and admire the famous steps of Trinità dei Monti, which constitutes one of the most lively and picturesque settings of the eighteenth century. The steps are divided into a series of ramps with twelve steps each, for a total of 138, which get narrower, wider, and are divided into sections. In May, the steps are adorned with flowers and azaleas from the city’s greenhouses. Looking to the right, you will notice the red-painted house where the English poet John Keats lived and where he died in 1821 (today a small museum dedicated to Keats and Shelley Memorial Association that can be entered through the piazza. Visiting hours everyday from 9 am to 7:45 pm. Closed on Mondays, Christmas and New Year’s).
Midway up, two curved lateral branches lead you to a large terrace with a railing from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Piazza di Spagna and the entire city.

To the left of the steps is a recommended stopping point, “Babington’s Tea Rooms” where a variety of English teas and pastries are served.

Go down Via dei Condotti and enjoy browsing the windows at designer shops such as Armani’s, Valentino’s, and Prada’s as well as the famous Bulgari’s, which will enchant you with its selection of precious jewelry. Via Condotti gets its name from the Acqua Vergine aqueducts which passed over it. It connects Piazza di Spagna with Via del Corso and is lined with elegant buildings and shops.

On the right at no. 86, is the famous Caffè Greco, frequented by famous foreign travelers and Italian artists and scholars.

After you get to Largo Carlo Goldoni, cross Via del Corso and continue on to Via della Fontanella Borghese, whose piazza is the site of a market place with antique prints. 

Get back onto Largo Fontanella Borghese and go in the direction of Via della Lupa turning left at the first street, Via della Torretta, and walk down it until you reach the cross street Via di Campo Marzio. If you wish, turn left to go to Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina where – besides the church of the same name – the interesting Teichner delicatessen and the tasty pastry shop of Vitti’s are located. If instead, you have chosen to go right, stop at Via di Campo Marzio no. 47, where there is a store window showing a sculpted reproduction of the sundial meridian of Augustus. The original can be found under the building but unfortunately is not visible to the public. 

After you have crossed the Piazza del Parlamento, the historical hat shop “Borsalino” is located at no. 72 and at no. 5 there are a number of shop windows with Davide Cenci’s high quality Italian tailoring on display; it’s interesting to know that the famous composer Giuseppe Verdi lived in the same building in the winter of 1859. Across is the famous shop of “Antichità Sturni” with valuable items. 

At the end of the street, turn left and, if you like, try the exquisite Italian ices of “Giolitti” where you might catch sight of famous Italian politicians. 

A few steps away is Piazza Montecitorio, which in ancient times was a swamp and then back-filled until the Colonna family reduced the hill to a fortress.

The design of the square was given to Carlo Fontana by Pope Innocent XII, which resulted in what we see today, leaving on the façade the beautiful giustification motif by Bernini. 

Whereas the main hall of the Parliament once seated characters of the Risorgimento such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, nowadays, the laws of the Italian people are decided here by its politicians.

The Obelisk in the piazza comes from Heliopolis and was raised by Augustus in Campus Martius to serve as a pointer for a large meridian which extended over an area of what is today Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina as a sundial which later collapsed and fell on the obelisk. It was re-erected between 1790 and 1792.

With your back to the obelisk in Via Aquino, an original collector’s shop is located at no. 70 called “Eclectica”, that contains magician’s toys and magic items.

Going past Palazzo Chigi, you arrive in Piazza Colonna from where in the middle rises the celebrated Colonna Antonina which commemorates the victory of Marcus Aurelius over the Germanic and Sarmatian tribes. It rises to a height of 29.6 m, not including the base, and has a diameter of 3.7 meters. Formed of 28 marble blocks, including a spiral roll where all phases of the victorious military campaign are described.

Inside is a winding stairway with 190 steps that take you to the summit where Domenico Fontana placed the bronze statue of Saint Paul in place of that of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Beautiful palaces line the piazza and crossing Via del Corso, you enter into the welcoming and elegant Colonna Gallery, today “Galleria Alberto Sordi”, in honor of the famous deceased Roman actor. Recently renovated, it hosts various shops which include the Feltrinelli book shop and snack bars where you can have a refreshing beverage while enjoying the classical music of a pianist.

Exit the Gallery and you will find signs to the Fontana da Trevi (Trevi Fountain). The sight of the splendid fountain appears even more majestic seeing it inserted in the small medieval piazza. It is the masterpiece of Nicola Salvi and was perhaps inspired by Bernini. 

According to legend, as Agrippa, son-in-law to Augustus, was returning to Rome with his thirsty and tired troops, a young maiden pointed out a spring which later Agrippa had directed towards Rome giving it the name of Acqua Vergine (from Virgo, maiden). 

The fountain has preserved an exquisite Baroque plan, conceived as an open-air stage in the piazza. The rustic base of the fountain, with different plant species, resembles Bernini’s river fountain of Piazza Navona. The god Oceano dominates the center of the fountain on his marvelous chariot in the form of a shell, pulled by two winged horses. Two feminine figures on the sides symbolize Abundance and Wholesomeness, one holding a cornucopia and the other with a serpent.

Above the fountain, two stone cuttings narrate the story of the Virgin waters. Higher up, on the sides of the shield of Pope Clement XII Corsini, who commissioned this project, four graceful maidens allude to water’s effect and the four seasons.

After you arrive at Via di S.Vincenzo, turn left into Via dei Modelli. Here you will find the small street of vicolo del Puttarello and at no. 25 you can admire the archaeological area ” la Città dell’Acqua” (Vicus Caparius), a Roman city block located between Via della Dataria and the Fountain of Trevi where at 15 meters below street level, excavations have revealed walls of a vast residence complex and two large cisterns which supplied the zone with water.
(Guided visits everyday except Monday, from 11 am to 3 pm. Tel: 06-46201064 /339-7786192). It is also the Italian national film museum. 

Continuing on Via del Babuccio until the little street of vicolo Scanderberg, sit down on the steps of Via dello Scalone, look up and admire the fascinating trompe l’oeil murals on the facade of the palace across the street in order to cover blind windows. Behind it, you have a view of the Quirinale. If you are curious, go to Piazza Scanderberg no. 117, where there the National Museum of Pasta exhibits machinery and photographs which document the history of pasta, the typical Italian food.
(Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:30 am – 5:30 pm. Closed on Sundays).

Otherwise from the steps in Via dello Scalone, turn left and you find yourself in the Piazza del Quirinale where – if your timing is right – you can see the Changing of the Guard. The Palazzo del Quirinale, originally the summer papal residence, was the residence of the kings of Italy up until 1947, when it became the official residence of the President of the Republic.

Across from the monumental entrance are the statues of the Dioscuri, (Castore and Polluce, twin sons of Zeus and Leda) with their horses above which the obelisk rises near the marble fountain. 

The Pontifical stables on one side, built in the eighteenth century, and the Palazzo della Consulta on the other, now the seat to the Constitutional Courts, add to the beauty of this stupendous piazza.

From Via della Consulta, you will arrive at Via Nazionale and from there catch bus no. 64 or 79, which will take you back to the Hotel Nord Nuova.

This Itinerary takes approximately four hours.