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Walking the Streets of Rome

July 8, 2013

I arrived in Rome in the early afternoon.  Since WWW’s flight from Beijing wouldn’t land for several more hours, I prepared to head into the city solo.  Soon I was zipping along a Roman highway in a shared minivan bound for the city center.  There is always something magical about riding into a new town and seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Forbidden City, or in this case the Colosseum for the first time. 

View of the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine from the street.

View of the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine from the street.

When WWW met me later that evening, we managed to pull our jet-lagged selves away from our wonderful hotel for a stroll to an enoteca (wine bar) down the street.  There we had incredible wine (of course!), porchetta, buffalo mozzarella, and goat cheese with honey, truffle oil, and arugula.  However, an even bigger treat awaited us the next day when we got up and hit the streets for a full day of exploring the city.

Exterior of Roman building near the Pantheon.

Exterior of Roman building near the Pantheon.

One of my favorite ways to experience a new city is on foot.  For this reason, I chose a hotel in the the Monti district near the center of town for our stay in Rome, and WWW and I would almost exclusively walk to get from point A to point B during our stay.

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Some of my most vivid memories of the trip are strolling along Rome’s streets, and with all of the interesting and beautiful sights and sounds, the many roads, streets, and alleys of Rome are an attraction unto themselves.

Around the Pantheon

The area around the Pantheon quickly became one of my favorite places for walking and taking photos of the quintessentially Italian architecture.  As to be expected, this area is buzzing with people due to the proximity of one of Rome’s major sites.  However, after a few turns down smaller alleys, you can quickly find yourself almost the sole pedestrian on the street.

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This area had some of the most picturesque architecture I saw in Rome.  I especially loved the many decorative details, such as the ornate architectural framing that enclosed the painted Madonna above.

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Piazza Navona

Piazzas or squares are some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in Rome.  There are many throughout the city, ranging from small to large and nearly deserted to bustling.

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After visiting the Pantheon and walking around the surrounding streets, we headed toward Piazza Navona.  This is one of the most famous piazzas in Rome due to its abundance of  monuments, fountains, and sculptures and its large scale, which mirrors the size of the Stadium of Domitian that the square was built upon.

Piazzas are fantastic locations for people watching, and Piazza Navona was particularly interesting given the large crowds attracted by the numerous vendors and artists that set up in the center of the square.

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Rome’s streets are such a delight because you never know what is waiting around the next corner.  On our way between the Piazza Navona and Via Giulia, we stopped in at the Gelateria del Teatro for a cup of raspberry and sage gelato.

Via Giulia

Via Giulia is also in Rome’s historic center and runs along the Tiber River.  The street was part of an urban renewal project initiated by Pope Julius II in the sixteenth century and was partially designed by Donato Bramante, the original architect for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica.

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The street now contains some government buildings, as well as private residences.  I particularly enjoyed the facades of the street’s churches, as well as the archway pictured above.

After heading south and reaching the terminus of the street, it is easy to cross the river via the Ponte Sisto into the Trastevere neighborhood.

Piazza del Popolo

Like Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo is one of the largest and most well-known squares in the city.  We visited on our second day in Rome after a trip to the Borghese Gallery and Gardens, and my favorite view of the Piazza was from the gardens above.

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The Piazza is rather sparse in terms of visitors and vendors in comparison to the Piazza Navona.  However, Piazza del Popolo has an interesting history as the former site of both public executions and the northern gate of the Aurelian Walls.  An Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome by Emperor Augustus punctuates the center of the square; however, the majority of the Piazza now follows the Neoclassical style after a redesign in the 19th century.

Spanish Steps

Walking south, down one of the narrow streets away from the Piazza del Popolo, we soon came upon the iconic Spanish Steps.   These 135 steps span one side of the Piazza di Spagna and lead to the Trinita dei Monti cathedral.

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The Steps were constructed in the early eighteenth century and designed by two Italian Baroque architects.  Interestingly, French diplomatic monies funded the project to link the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Holy See in the Palazzo Monaldeschi below.  Today, they are a great place to sit and watch the world pass by.  However, be prepared for swaths of people.  Even in March (low season for tourists), the Piazza and Steps were one of the most packed places we encountered.

Trevi Fountain

Just north of the Monti district where we were staying lies the Trevi Fountain.  After a failed attempt to check it out our first night in Rome, we made it to the fountain successfully on two other occasions, once at night and once during the day.  Both times there were quite a few people, though during the day it was almost unbearably packed.

Trevi Fountain (one of the few shots without tons of heads).

Trevi Fountain (one of the few shots without tons of heads).

Despite the crowds, this is one of the most charming sites in Rome and is tucked away in an otherwise quiet part of the city.  We couldn’t resist taking part in the tradition of throwing a couple coins in to ensure our return to Rome!

While most of these places are in Rome’s centro storico (or historic center), we also enjoyed walking around the Prati, Trastevere, and Testaccio neighborhoods.  Whether walking between point A and point B or aimlessly wandering, Rome’s many streets, alleys, and piazzas were an endless source of discovery and a highlight of our trip.

Have you ever been to Rome? What did you think of the city’s streets?  Also, what are your favorite walking cities?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2013 10:43 pm

    Reblogged this on cdeluca262 and commented:
    Thats an awesome picture. I loved Rome when I went there.

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