Urban Squares and Churches


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. From there catch one of the buses no. 40, 64, or 70 which will take you to Largo Argentina where you get off to see the Area Sacra of Torre Argentina (Sacred Area of the Argentina Tower) from above. The excavations have uncovered the remains of four temples that comprise one of the few surviving complexes of the Republic of Rome. One of these four has a circular plan, while the others are rectangular. Today the site is home to a colorful colony of cats.

Behind tram track no. 8 is the facade of the 1826 Teatro Argentina. At the traffic light near the Feltrinelli book shop, on the same side of the street, turn right into Via di Torre Argentina where you will find many interesting little shops.

In Piazza Santa Chiara is the Renaissance church of the same name while in the palace across from it, you can find the Rossini Theater. Follow Via della Rotonda and see fabric, accessory and fine antique shops. Still on the right there is Via della Palombella next to the rear of the Pantheon. Cut through to Piazza della Minerva.

The middle of the piazza is adorned with an Egyptian obelisk from the 6th century BC for which Bernini planned the bizarre but beautiful foundation with a marble elephant supporting the monolith on the rich colored blanket on its back. 

In back, the beautiful church of Santa Maria of Minerva, founded in the 8th century with a 6th century façade, situated among the remains of the temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva.

Get back on Via della Minerva and find yourself in Piazza della Rotonda, dominated by the Pantheon, constructed in 27 BC by Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus who dedicated it to all gods. 

It was rebuilt by Hadrian, closed by the first Christian emperors, ransacked by barbarians, donated by Byzantine Emperor Phocas to Pope Boniface IV, who in 609 dedicated it to the Madonna and all martyrs. During the Renaissance it underwent many restorations. 

Inside there are the tombs of King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita, and nearby is the shrine with the tomb of Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael).

Across from the Pantheon, the four-sided fountain that supports the Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Ramses II and Minerva, both found in the archaeological area of Isei Campensis, under the church of Minerva. 

Prints of the city and souvenirs of the Pantheon are sold at no. 82 in Piazza “Casali”. Take a right and go up Via Salita Crescenzi and go left into Via San Eustachio where the marble head of a deer with a cross between its horns is mounted on the church of the same name which alludes to the deer that appeared to Saint Eustache.o If you feel like lunch, have some in Piazza Caprettari in the 15th century Palazzo Lante at no. 85, where the “Eau Vive” restaurant offers a tourist-oriented menu.

Take a right into Via del Teatro Valle, where you find the palace of the antique Roman University of Sapienza, founded in 1303, which contains Borromini’s beautiful Baroque church of Sant’Ivo with its multifaceted cupola and corkscrew lantern. This same street is rich with craftsmen’s shops, including those that sell woven straw baskets. At no. 22, on the right, is the Teatro Valle with its beautiful neo-classic façade, built by Valadier between 1819 and 1822, where excellent plays are still produced.

After the theatre, we arrive in Piazza Sant’Andrea della Valle, begun in 1591, but only completed in 1665 with its large cupola, second only to that of Saint Peter’s. On the left is an angel with raised wings.

Cross the intersection and take Corso Rinascimento and at the second street on your left turn and enter the marvelous Piazza Navona. 

One of the most harmonious and spectacular urban complexes of Baroque Rome, it is lined with buildings that were built on top of the remains of the Stadium of Domitian, the grandeur of whose ancient track is still felt today. There are three fountains in line down the middle of the piazza. 

On the left is the Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor), completed in 1654 according to a design by Bernini, in front of the Palazzo Pamphili. The fountain was given its name on account of the statue of the Ethiopian who is fighting with a dolphin.

In the middle, the big and beautiful Fontana dei Fiumi (Fountain of the Rivers), built in 1651 by Bernini, earning him the graces of Pope Innocent X, who had previously been hostile to Bernini and preferred his artistic rival Borromini. 

The other fountain is the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune), designed by Della Porta in 1576, in which the god of the sea fights against a giant octopus. The fountain was formerly called “Fontana dei calderari” and contains a polygonal tank and basin.

Also visit the Church of S. Agnese in Agone, whose concave facade and high dome were designed by Borromini. The church was built on the spot which according to tradition, Saint Agnes was placed naked on the pillory and publicly punished, covered only by her abundant hair.

Under the church are remains of ancient walls dating back to the time of the Stadium of Domitian.

On the left of the church is the beautiful Palazzo Pamphili, that was donated by the pope to his sister-in-law Olympia Maidalchini for whom he had a weakness.

Today it houses the Brazilian Embassy and the Italian-Brazilian Cultural Center. In front rises the church Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore (Our Lady of Sacred Heart) erected for the 1450 Jubilee for the Spanish people. The oldest part of the church faces the Sapienza and the inside is adorned with 
pilasters and half-columns covered with elegant tapestries. 

If you like toy stores, let yourself be enchanted by the giant stuffed animals, dolls, wooden blocks and other toys found nearby at no. 53.

Take Via Agonale and on your left you will find Piazza di Tor Sanguigna, where a deep excavation reveals the high stratification which have come throughout the centuries, shedding light on the grand entrance arch to the Stadium of Domitian. 

Cross Corso Rinascimento and in Piazza Sant’Appollinare stop and visit the beautiful Palazzo Altemps, which currently houses the Museum of Rome (closed on Mondays), which will charm you with the elegance of its frescoes, important statues, and the delightful chapel that still preserves the antique wrought iron door notch of the still perfectly functioning door. 

Going towards the left you will find yourself in Piazza delle Cinque Lune (five moons), with its base in ashlar marking the limits of Corso Rinascimento, where at the end of the corso you can see the facade of Sant’Andrea delle Valle. After passing under a small bridge, on your left you will find the renaissance church of Sant’Agostino where inside you can admire frescoes by well-known artists such as Caravaggio and Raphael.

Other very famous paintings by Caravaggio can be seen in the neighboring church of S. Luigi dei Francesi which is found to the left of the piazza of the same name.

The first street on your right is Via del Salvatore which ends at Corso Rinasciamento and immediately on your left is the 16th century Palazzo Madama where Caterina of the Medici, queen of France, once resided; since 1871, it is has housed the Senate. In front of the building is the narrow corsia Agonale which, flanked by a modern portico, leads you into Piazza Navona. As we have already visited this piazza, take the opportunity to refresh yourself with a tasty ice cream or another delight from the bar “Tre Scalini” (closed on Wednesdays). 

Going out into Via di Sant’Agnese in Agone, turn right into Via Santa Maria dell’Anima and then enter the narrow alleyway, Vicolo della Pace and walk up to the Piazza della Pace (Peace), where you will see the church of Santa Maria della Pace (Friday 10 am – 12:45; Saturday 10 am – 11 pm; all the rest of the days 10 am to 7 pm; closed on Mondays) started at the end of the fifteenth century and formed together by two parts; a rectangular nave followed by a domed octagon, perhaps by Bramante.

The convex façade is Baroque and the whole comes off as a stage set. Inside, the 15th century structure has been preserved intact.

To the left of the main door of the church, walk under a marble lunette which symbolizes the Eternal Father, from the sacristy enter the cloister, the first noteworthy piece of work done in Rome by Bramante, which has been preserved unaltered. 

Continue down Via della Pace, where the fruit and vegetable market contributes even more to a lively street that is used by many tourists who, while sitting comfortably at little tables at various cafés along the street, enjoy this scene in Rome.

Continue in Via di Parione and turn left into Via del Governo Vecchio. Stop at no. 108, “Tempi Moderni” and at no. 89 check out the clothing shop of “Mado” for costume jewelry and unique articles of clothing. If you’re up for something good and healthy to eat, stop at the pub “Il Piccolo” that invites its guests to make themselves comfortable even at an outside table. 

Continue on to Piazza Pasquino where there is the “talking” statue of Pasquino situated against the rounded corner of Palazzo Braschi. Only the torso remains of the marble group with Menelaus who holds up the lifeless body of Patroclus murdered by Achilles during the battle of Troy as told by Homer. You will notice the many sheets of paper covering the statue, a popular custom that dates back to era of popes when well-educated men – such as Pasquino – used to cover statues for satirical reasons, which led to the coining of the phrase, to be “pasquinzed”. 

Take Via di San Pantaleo, cross the piazza and enter Via dei Baullari and you will find yourself at Campo dei Fiori where, besides the colorful marketplace, an interesting statue of Giordano Bruno who was burned alive as a heretic on February 17, 1600. 

Staying on Via dei Baullari you will arrive at Piazza Farnese where, in addition to the bar, two magnificent identical fountains rule the piazza, spurting water from lilies of the Farnese family, in front of the great Palazzo Farnese, probably the most beautiful palace of the sixteenth century. Built by Alessandro Farnese (who went on to become Pope Paul III), Michelangelo was among the architects who contributed to the completion of the structure that contains, in its celebrated Gallery, frescoes inspired from a single theme: the triumph of love over the universe. 

Exiting from the palace, turn right into the interesting Piazza della Quercia, and continue straight on up to Palazzo Spada (closed on Mondays; 8:30 am – 7:30 pm) built around 1540 by Bartolomeo Baronino for the Cardinal Capo di Ferro then passed on to Cardinal Spada. From 1927 it has housed the State Council. 

This palace is also noteworthy for its interior. Enter the courtyard and on the left in the middle, you can see a window that opens up into the library in which you can see the “Galleria Prospettica” (Shortened perspective gallery) by Borromini which seems to be of a normal length but in reality is only 9 meters long. 

Continuing straight, you will arrive in Via Arenula where tram no. 8 will take you to Largo Argentina where you will then catch bus no. 64 to get back to the Hotel Nord Nuova Roma.