All roads lead to Rome, the saying goes, but which path should you take once you find yourself in the Eternal City? The historic center of Rome is very walkable and the best way to soak in the atmosphere of the city is undoubtedly on foot where you’ll stumble upon incredible monuments, walk into beautiful piazzas and stumble upon off-the-beaten-path gems. Here is a perfect walking guide for your first day in Rome, covering the best eats, drinks and sights of the city.
Start your day off in Monti, one of Rome’s trendiest neighborhoods, for a taste of small-town charm in the heart of the city. Order a cappuccino and cornetto at La Bottega del Caffè, a little café with outdoor seating that spills out into the neighborhood’s beloved ‘piazzetta’ and makes for wonderful people-watching. After a wander around the neighborhood, head down the street to take in the city’s most famous site.
The Colosseum is one of the main draws of Rome: the world’s largest amphitheater, it was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater because it was built during the Flavian dynasty between 70-80 AD. The Colosseum was a recreational and gathering space that was used for gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, historical re-enactments, theatrical performances and executions and it could accomodate around 65,000 spectators. Next, make your way down Via dei Fori Imperiali, past Piazza Venezia and wander into the Trevi district to see Rome’s most famous fountain
The Baroque-style Trevi Fountain dates back to 1762 though a fountain had existed at this location since ancient times: it is located at the junction of three roads and at the ‘terminal point’ of the Acqua Vergine, one of the city’s most important aqueducts. Gian Lorenzo Bernini drew the initial sketches for the fountain but they weren’t carried out until a century later when Nicola Salvi took over the project. According to legend, tourists who want to return to Rome should toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain; an estimated €3,000 are thrown into the fountain each day. Next, walk up to see the Spanish Steps.
Another Baroque jewel in the city, the Spanish Steps are one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome. The monumental Baroque staircase was built between 1723-25 to link the imposing Trinità dei Monti church, under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, with Piazza di Spagna, property of the Bourbon Spanish Embassy. French diplomat Étienne Gueffier funded the 135 steps in his will and the urban project was carried out by architect Francesco de Sanctis. The Spanish Steps were popularized by the 1953 film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Now it’s time for lunch!
The Pantheon is one of Rome’s best preserved ancient monuments and a testament to architectural skill and engineering. Emperor Hadrian built the Roman temple in 126 AD on the site of an earlier temple built during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). It remained in continuous use through history and began to be used as a church in the 7th century. With its large circular domed ceiling, the temple was most likely intended to symbolise the heavenly sphere; and the word Pantheon in Greek means ‘all the gods’. From here, you’re just a short walk away from Piazza Navona.
Piazza Navona is a focal point of Rome’s historic center and boasts a plethora of cultural sites and monuments, ornate fountains, shops and plenty of eateries in its vicinity. Built over the ancient circus of Domitian, it has maintained the original oval shape of the stadium and boasts three exemplary fountains, including Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. Piazza Navona is dominated by Sant’Agnese in Agone, a 17th-century church, and contains the overlooked but worthwhile Palazzo Braschi museum that catalogues the history of Rome with art from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. Cross Corso Vittorio Emanuele to visit nearby Campo de’ Fiori.
Campo de’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori, another one of Rome’s famous piazzas, is a bustling square that dates back to the Middle Ages. The name translates to ‘Field of Flowers’ because the piazza was originally a meadow of flowers rather than a thriving commercial square. Today, Campo de’ Fiori hosts a daily market in the mornings, with local produce, flowers and Italian delicacies, and the square comes alive at night when throngs of young Romans gather here to drink at the many bars in the vicinity. Are you ready for some vino yet?