The Fountain of Neptune at the center of the Piazza Navona
Old Rome is the historic medieval and renaissance center of Rome. While the oldest section of Rome is at the Forum, and the Modern Center has shifted to the Via Veneto, Old Rome remains the city's most charming district, with lovely piazzas (squares) and streets to wander and find small cafes and restaurants. Old Rome includes the neighborhoods of Navona, Campo de' Fiori, Pantheon, and the Ghetto.
From Termini station, take the 64 bus. Be careful as this route is popular with pickpockets. The Old Rome area is served by several stops between Piazza Venezia and the River Tiber. Alternatively, take one of the many other buses serving Piazza Venezia.
The Piazza of the Pantheon
- The Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda, ☎ 0668300230. M-Sa 8AM to 7.30PM, Su 9AM to 6PM, public holidays 9AM to 1PM, closed Jan 1, May 1, Dec 25. Originally built in 27 BCE, by emperor Hadrian (AD 125-128), is a marvel of ancient architecture, the ancient temple is celebrated for its large dome, was as a temple to all the gods of the Roman state religion, but has served as a Christian church since the 7th century. It is the only building from the Graeco-Roman world which has remained substantially intact and in continuous use throughout to the present day, and as it is still a functioning church, silence is requested during your visit. From inside the Pantheon, you'll see traces of the former bronze ceiling, melted down during the reign of Pope Urban VIII to make bombards to for the fortification of the Castel Sant' Angelo. The hole in the center of the ceiling, though, is an original feature designed for architectural reasons (the dome would collapse without it.) Guides will tell you the spectacular doors are original, but the original bronze doors were also melted down by Pope Urban and might have been used to create Borromini and Bernini's Baldacchino in Saint Peter's. The dome is now the third largest masonry dome in the world. The first is St. Peter's and the second is Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
The site surrounding the Pantheon offers a lesson in archaeological stratigraphy. The building now appears to be built in a recess at the edge of a hill, but this is not the original appearance. The street level at the sides and rear has risen about 10 meters since the original construction due to the accumulation of debris from 2,000 years of settlement. This has necessitated the maintenance of the deep trench that keeps the building from being buried.
If you're in Rome and it happens to be raining, you should definitely go to the Pantheon to see the rain pouring into the building through the hole in the ceiling, and that's a rather unique view. When it starts raining the center of the Pantheon is separated by a rope but you can walk around the drops falling in the middle of the building. There are holes in the ground that drain the water.
- Largo di Torre Argentina. Not, as commonly believed, named after the country but after a tower that used to stand in the area. Four Roman Republican-era temples, Pompey's theater and a Roman public toilet have been excavated. The largo is also home to a large number of cats which are tended by the local animal rights organization. (Purportedly a jab at Mussolini who excavated the area and is said to have hated cats.)
- Temple of Hadrianus, La Borsa, Piazza di pietra. The temple of Emperor Hadrianus was consecrated in 145 by Emperor Antoninus Pius. The remains of the antique temple were incorportated into a new buliding that served as Papal Customs House. It was finished around 1690 by Carlo Fontana. Today it accomodates the Stock Exchange (Borsa).
- Chiesa Il Gesù, Via degli Astalli, 16 (Piazza del Gesù; not far from Piazza Venezia towards Largo di Torre Argentina.), ☎ +39 06 69 70 01, . 7AM to noon, 4PM to 7PM. This is the Jesuits church in Rome. The interior is Baroque art on steroids. Simply astounding.
- Sant'Ivo della Sapienza, Corso del Rinascimento, 40, ☎ 066864987. Su 9AM to noon, closed Jul and Aug. This little church is hard to find but well worth the extra effort although it is often closed when you get there. Borromini's masterpiece. It is located only a block from Piazza Navona, but not usually visible from the street, as one must enter the courtyard of an old palazzo to reach the church. Sant'Ivo is a small church the dome of which is shaped like the Star of David, but with every other point rounded. The steeple seen from the outside looks like it has a staircase wrapped around it that ascends to heaven. As the church was commissioned by the Barberini family that produced a number of popes and whose family symbol was the bee, some say the steeple resembles the stinger of the insect..
- Santa Minerva sopra Minerva, piazza della Minerva 42, ☎ 066793926, . M-Sa 7AM to 7PM, Su 8AM to 1PM, 3 to 7PM, monastery M-Sa 9AM to noon, 4 to 6.30PM. This church is literally right next to the Pantheon. It is Rome's only Gothic church, and well worth looking inside, although its plain square façade makes it look inconspicuous from outside. Excellent stained glass windows.
- San Luigi dei Francesi, Piazza San Luigi dei Francesi, 5, ☎ 066882718. 8AM to noon, 3.30PM to 7PM, closed Thu afternoon. This church is roughly halfway between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. It is most notable for a side chapel which contains three Caravaggio masterworks: "The Calling of St. Matthew", "St. Matthew and the Angel" and "Martyrdom of St. Matthew".
- Sant'Ignazio, 8 A Via del Caravita. Not far from the Pantheon. A stunning example of Baroque art. The ceiling frescoes are especially fine, including a trompe l'oeuil dome by the master Andrea Pozzo .
- Sant'Agnese in Agone, Piazza Navona, ☎ 0668192134. Tu-Sa 9AM to noon, 4 to 7PM. by Borromini, reputed to be on the spot where St. Agnes was martyred in the fourth century A.D.This lovely basilica church is small with an almost circular interior. It is undergoing rehabilitation and the facade and dome are hidden in scaffolding. It seems to be open only until noon.
- Santa Maria dell'Anima, Via Santa Maria dell'Anima 66, ☎ 066828181. 9AM to 1PM, 3 to 7PM. with the tomb of Pope Hadrian IV, the last Non-Italian pope before Pope John Paul II.
- Santa Maria della Pace, Vicolo dell'Arco della Pace 5, ☎ 066861156. Tu-F 10AM to noon. The church was built by order of Pope Sixtus VI della Rovere. The campanile was erected in 1504 by Bramaante and the church has frescoes of the 4 sibyls by Raphael in its interior.
Historical Squares and Streets
- Campo de' Fiori. If it is sunny, you'll catch a few young people and older gentlemen sitting at the base of a statue in the middle of the open space The statue is a brooding, hooded Giordano Bruno - an excommunicated Dominican monk burnt at the stake for heresy on this spot on 17 Feb. 1600. The piazza is used as a marketplace during the day, and party central for college students and tourists at night. When the sky gets dark and the street lamps go on, the Campo de' Fiori fills with people and lovers wander arm in arm in the crowd. Over the buzzing of conversation and the occasional burst of laughter you may hear a young vocalist belt out O Sole Mio at the top of his lungs as change plunks into his accordion case.
- Piazza Navona, the pride of Baroque Rome, was established towards the end of the 15th century, and preserves the shape of the ancient Stadium of Domitian. The buildings surrounding the square stand where the spectators once sat, watching the murderous spectacle of the Roman games. The square remains completely unspoilt by traffic and modern buildings. Today, the square is an immensely popular place to sip a cappuccino, shop, and watch street performers. Behind the piazza at the northern end, you can still see remains of the chariot racing stadium well below the current ground level. Amongst the various monuments of the square monuments, look especially for the two Baroque masterpieces by Bernini and Borromini.
- Piazza Colonna. Where there is the building of the Italian Government, Palazzo Chigi. Also there is a marvelous carved column (hence the name) dating back to Imperial Rome.
Bernini's elephant statue outside the Minerva church
- Piazza della Minerva'. A small piazza just behind the Pantheon. The centerpiece is a statue of an elephant by Bernini with an ancient obelisk on its back.
- Piazza di Sant'Ignazio. Small and attractive piazza tucked away in a neighborhood near Pantheon.
- Piazza Montecitorio. Where you can find the building of the House of Representatives.
- Piazza Pasquino. Small piazza about 20m from Piazza Navona, behind the Brazilian Embassy. There is a statue named "Pasquino", according to a legend named after a tailor who used to work nearby and had a reputation for complaining. The statue has been used for the past three centuries as a place to hang messages, complaints and other opinions which has to be shared with the neighborhood. The statue is probably an ancient Roman portrait of Hercules. The piazza is also home to Cul de Sac, one of the best enoteca in Rome.
- Via Giulia. An example of urban planning that goes back to Pope Julius II who, in 1508, envisioned it as a street that would connect all major government buildings. It is around a kilometer long and is in a straight line, an unusual feature for the time. It is lined with some interesting palaces but these days is more known for its antique shops. Via Giulia runs parallel with and one block from the River Tiber.
- Via della Gatta (Street of the Cat). The Via della Gatta connects Palazzo Doria Pamphili with Palazzo Grazioli. The sculpture of the cat is on one of the corners of Palazzo Grazzioli
- Via de Coronari (Street of the Rosary Dealers), (bus 40, 46, 62, 64, 70, 81, 87, 115, 116, 186, 280, 492). In the Middle Ages pilgrims on their way tio St.Peter's had to pass through the Via dei Coronari in order to cross the Tiber at Ponte St.Angelo. The street got its name from the people who sold rosaries to the pilgrims. It follows the ancient road Via Recta whoch led from what is today Piazza Colonna to the Tiber. In the 15th cent Pope Sixtus IV initiated the construction of private buildungs. Today, serveral houses datinmg back to the 15th and 16th cent may be seen. House nr. 156/157 is said to have been the House of Fiametta, the mistress of Cesare Borgia
- Via del Governo Vecchio, (bus 40, 46, 62, 64). The street is named after the Palazzo del Governo Vecchio, the seat of the Papal government in the 17th and 18th cent. It was part of the Via papalis which connected Lateran and St.Peter's. Houses nr. 104 and 106 date to the 15th cent. and there are some houses from the 16th cent. The palace on nr. 123 was intended tto be the residence of Bramante. The Palazzo del Governo Vecchio ist situated just opposite.
- Palazzo della Cancelleria, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (Piazza della Cancelleria). This remarkable building served as the site of the Apostle Chancellory, or offices of the Pope, for centuries, and now houses a vatican court.
- Palazzo Farnese, Piazza Farnese 67, ☎ +39 06 68892818. phone for opening times. Since 1871 this has been the French Embassy. This sixteenth century palace houses a library of collections by the French school in Rome, particularly on Roman archaeology. Note the two beautiful fountains in the piazza.
- Palazzo della Sapienza, Corso Rinascimento 9 (Bus 70 81, 87, 492; Close to Navona square), ☎ +39 06 686 4987. This building housed the University of Rome since the middle of the 15th century until 1935. The splendid interior courtyard was created by Giacomo della Porta. The inside church of St Ivo is one of the masterpieces of Architect Borromini.
- Palazzo Altemps (Branch of the Roman National Museum), Via Sant' Apollinare 8 (Bus 70, 81, 87, 492), ☎ +39 06 6897091, . 09.00-19.45 except Mondays. Simple and elegant lines make up this building, whose construction began in 1480 for Count Girolamo Riario, nephew of Papa Sisto IV and was taken up by architect Martino Longhi for the new owner, Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps. Today it houses one of the branches of the National Museum of Rome, showcasing Renaissance Sculptures and the museums Egyptian collection. 7 euros gives admission to this and the three other National Museums of Rome.
- Palazzo Taverna, Via di Monte Giordano. The building is in one of the most hidden corners of the city center among the Navona square and Castel Sant Angelo. It served as residence for the Orsini Family. Nowadays it is private property and one can only glance at the courtyard and the amazing fountain inside, erected in 1618 by architect Antonio Casoni. However, the brief moment is worth it.
- Palazzo Crivelli, Via dei Banchi Vecchi 22. This building also known as the Doll House was built in the 16th century. It is unique for the quantity and quality of the decorations - lions heads, satyrs and disfigured heads that adorn the facade attributed to the sculptor Giulio Mazzoni.
- Palazzo Spada, Piazza Capo di Ferro. This building was erected in the 16th century for Cardinal Girolamo Capodiferro. One century later it was acquired by another powerful Cardinal, Bernardino Spada and was restored by Borromini, who created the forced perspective optical illusion in the arcaded courtyard.
- Palazzo Madama, Corso del Rinascimento, ☎ 0667061, . every 1st Sat in a month 10AM to 6PM. This palace of the 16th cent was erected by the famous Medici family. It was the residence of Cardinals Giovanni and Giuliano Medici, later Pope Leo X. and Clemens VII. Catherine of Medici, Pope Clemens VII's niece lived here until her marriage in 1553 with Prince Henry, the son of King Francis I of France. The palace is named after Madama Margerita of Austria, the illigitemate daughter of Emperor Charles V.. Since 1871 it is the seat of the Italian Senate.
- Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 141. chapel only open on March 16 7AM to noon. The palac was built by the architect Baldassare Peruzzi on behalf of the Massimo family. The former palace was destroyed during the Sacco di Roma, the pillage of Rome in 1527. The Massimo family can be traced back to Quintus Fabius Maximus who defeated Hannibal in the 3rd cent BC. The building is open to the public on March 16 only in order to commemorate the reanimation of Paolo Massimo by St. Filippo Neri in 1538.
- Palazzo del Collegio Romano, Piazza del Collegio Romano. The Collegio Romano was a college of the Jesuite order. Many popes, cardinals and bishops were educated here. Since 1870 it is a secular (non-monastic) school. The coat of arms on the doorway is that of Pope Gregor XIII. Boncompagni (1572-1585). The tower was erected in 1787 and served as observatory. Until 1925 all cloocks in Rome followed the signal of the Collegio Romano
- Palazzo Doria Pamphili, Piazza del Collegio Romano 2 (bus 64, 81,85, 117, 119, 492), ☎ 066797323. F-W 10AM to 5PM.
- Hosteria dell'Orso (Bear's Inn), Via dei Soldati 25 (bus 70, 81, 116, 186, 204, 280, 492,628). M-Sa 8AM to 1PM. a historical inn where reputedly the Italian poet Dante Aligheri and French travellers of the 16th cent , e.g. the poets Francois Rabelais and Michel de Montaigne stayed
- Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), - by Bernini, in the very centre of Piazza Navona, incorporates an Egyptian obelisk and symbolises four of the world's great rivers (the Ganges, the Nile, the Danube and the Plata), representing the four continents known at the time.
- Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor), Piazza Navona. At the southern end of the Piazza, designed by Bernini but the main statue of the Moor was done by Giacomo della Porta and the other statues are 19th-century copies of the originals.
- Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune). a 19th century addition to the square, made to balance the Fontana del Moro
- Fontanella del Facchino ((Fountain of the Porter)), Via Lata. Like Pasquno, the faccchino is one thespeaking figures which are peculiar to Rome. He is looking out of the Banco di Roma building. The man depicted is holding a barrel in his hands and is carrying water. It is sometimes said that he is looking similar to Martin Luther, but more probably a porter who died while carrying a barrel is depicted here.
- Palazzo Doria Pamphilii, Piazza del Collegion Romano 2, ☎ 066797323. F-W 10AM to 5PM, closed Jan 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, Auf 15, Dec 25.
- Museo Neapolitano, Piazza di Ponte Umberto 1 (bus 70, 81, 87, 116, 186, 280, 492), ☎ 0668806286. Tu-Su 9AM to 7PM, closed jan 1, May 1 Dec 25. The museum is dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte and his family. After Napoleon's death in 1821 the Pope gave permission to his family to settle down in Rome. His sister married Prince Camillo Borghese
- Palazzo Attems (branch of the National Museum of Rome (Museo Nazionale Romano)), Piazza Sant'Apollinare 46 (bus 70, 81, 87, 115, 116, 280, 492, 628), ☎ 0639967700. Tue to Dun 9AM to 7.30PM, closed Jan1, Dec 25.
Columns, Obelsiks and Statues
- Column of Marcus Aurelius.
- Montecitorio Obelisk.
- Santa Maria Minerva Obelisk, Piazza della Minerva (bus 116 and all lines on Via del Corso and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II). Bernini's masterpiece, an obelisk on the back of an elephant
- Pie di Marmo (Marble Foot), Via di Santo Stefano del Cacco (bus 62,63,64,70,81,116,186,492). The marble foot belonged to a temple of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris.
- Wander the stalls of the Campo de' Fiori market. From farm fresh vegetables to spices to kitchen implements - it is a colorful and busy place.
- Wander around the side streets, particularly those between Piazza Navona and the river. There are still many artisans' shops and away from the tourist areas it is sometimes difficult to believe that you are in a major city.
- Teatro Argentina, Largo Argentina 56, ☎ 0668804601, .
- Teatro Valle, Via del Teatro Valle 21, ☎ 0668803794, .
Campo de' Fiori is one of the oldest open air markets in Rome. The day starts as early as 3:30AM, when the first "fruttivendolo" drive up, and by 8AM, under wide umbrellas, tables overflow with an abundance of brightly colored fruit and vegetables. Organically home-grown by people who have, more often than not, been farming for generations. At East end, near one of the best sandwich shops in all of Rome, is the flower stand absolutely bursting in color and fragrance. The "Campo" is filled with tourists, locals, families, school groups and musicians until 3PM, when the booths are taken down, packed in to cars, carts and trucks with the produce and driven away, and a loud, white, behemoth of a street cleaner sweeps through the square, cleaning up left over greens, wrappers and trash.
- Cooking for yourself. In Campo de' Fiori you won't have any trouble finding local food shops and there's also a food market right in the square in the morning. Cooking at home is cheap.
- Aristocampo, Piazza della Cancelleria, 93 (On the closest corner opposite the Drunken Ship). Offers delicious sandwiches.
- Chagat at 66th (Kosher Fast food), Via S. Maria del Pianto 66 (Jewish ghetto), ☎ +397(0)6/6861267. 10AM-10:30PM. Kosher fast food Known as the orange fast food in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto 5 euros shwarma.
- Cul de Sac, Piazza Pasquino 73 (Near Piazza Navona), ☎ 06-68801094. Kitchen works until 1AM. In Aug, closed for 2 weeks. One of the best enoteca in Rome, serving a wide range of small dishes. The pate selection is a must-try.
- Della Palma. Located just a couple blocks away from the Pantheon, this is an excellent gelateria with 140 different flavors. Prices are very reasonable.
- Forno di Campo de' Fiori, Campo de' Fiori. For lunch in try the Forno , a traditional bread shop that makes one of the best kinds of pizza bread in Rome. With your back to the Giordano Bruno statue in the middle of the square, the Forno is at the bottom of the square to the left.
- Gelateria Giolitti, Via degli Uffici del Vicario 40. Originally opened in 1800, very popular amongst locals, tourists, and the late Pope John Paul II was known to be a regular customer. Arguably the best ice cream in Rome. About €4 for a large cup and €2 for a regular cone.
- Il Bacaro, Via degli Spagnoli 27, ☎ +39.06.6872554, . You’d never know that you are three minutes walk from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Via degli Spagnoli is tiny, leafy and quiet. Il Bacaro seats about 24 inside and even fewer outside under the shade of an ancient vine. Great selection of wine. In general a great stop for a romantic meal in the Eternal City.
- Il Portico, Via del Portico di Ottavia, 1/E (in the Jewish Ghetto). Small indoor/outdoor restaurant with local cuisine. Must tries include the Roman specialty "trippa", tripe simmered in a light tomato sauce and sprinkled generously with parmasean. Risotto is also fantastic. The staff is warm and friendly, if not with a full grasp of the English language.
- La Taverna Del Ghetto, Via Portico d'Ottavia 8, ☎ 06.688.09.771, . Meat restaurant, excellent lamb dishes.
- Pizzeria da Baffetto, Via del Governo Vecchio, 114, ☎ +39.06.6861617. Old-fashioned, family feel pizzeria near Piazza Navona & the Pantheon, unarguably serving some of the best pizzas in Rome. Usually crowded but well-worth the occasional queuing.
- Pyramid, (In a side lane past the Drunken Ship towards Piazza Farnese). Egyptian-owned, has nice felafel, kebab and shishtaouk sandwiches.
- Supperclub, Via de'Nari, 14 (Pantheon), ☎ 06 6880 7207, . Don't come to supperclub if you're in search of a traditional restaurant, have lazy taste buds or are scared of new experiences. However, if you're looking for an unusual dinner experience in an unexpected place and are not afraid to discover the creative corners of your personality, then knock on supperclub's door. Have fun, eat, listen, dance and enjoy your evening.
- Tapa Loca, Via di Tor Millina 5 (Near Piazza Navona), ☎ 06 68 32 266. Spanish food.
Among the two most popular bars in Campo de' Fiori, particularly for American backpackers and exchange students, are Sloppy Sam's and the Drunken Ship. Both are nice for a quiet afternoon drink but are usually quite noisy at night, with specials most nights to encourage business.
- Caffè Novecento, Via del Governo Vecchio 12 (behind the Pantheon and Piazza Navona), ☎ 066865242. Closes at 10PM. Offers a very good variety of cakes, sweets, coffee and tea. The furnishing are nice, with couches as seats at some tables. Prices are mid-high range but worth every single cent.
- Caffè Giolitti, Via degli Uffici del Vicario 40 (behind the Pantheon and Piazza Navona), ☎ 066991243. 7AM to 1PM. An elegant coffe house in the style of the Belle Epoque, opened 1900. It is said that it offers the best ice cream in Rome
- B&B Campo de'Fiori, Via dei Giubbonari, 43 (Near Piazza Campo de'Fiori), ☎ +39 06 68892351, Fax: +39 06 68892351 -, . Modern design in a building dating back to 1600. Non smoking rooms with A/C, tv, safe, free wifi. Private bathroom with shower. Twin: €100-180.
- Best Pantheon, c. Vittorio Emanuele II, 21 (Piazza Navona), ☎ +393358714840, . A relatively new B&B with very modern decor. Four rooms with A/C, satellite TV, and DVD players + movies. doubles: €120-200.
- FortySeven Hotel, Via Petroselli 47 (near Ponte Palatino), ☎ +39.06.6787816, . A modern hotel with quite spacious rooms, hot breakfast, nice fitness facility, and a rooftop restaurant/bar with gorgeous views. Walking distance to Trastevere. €210-370.
- Moses Fountain Guest House, Via 20 Settembre 98L, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. A modern guest house located in the historical city centre. All rooms have jacuzzi bathrooms. From €180.
- Hotel Portoghesi, Via dei Portoghesi, 1 (short walk north of Piazza Navona. Next to the church of S.Antonio dei Portoghesi.), ☎ +39 06 6864231 ([email protected], fax: +39 06 6876976), . Externally attractive hotel in a relatively quiet area of a busy part of town. €160+.
- Hotel Raphael, Largo Febo, 2, ☎ +39 06 682831 ([email protected], fax: +39 06 6878993), . Behind an ivy-covered facade on a narrow side street behind the Piazza Navona. The first floor houses a collection of Mayan art and original ceramics by Picasso; the third floor and its rooms were designed by Richard Meier. The restaurant is expensive but of very high quality. The (also expensive) rooftop terrace and bar is beautiful and has excellent views over the city, particularly of the Vatican. €200-350.
- Residenza Frattina, Via Frattina 107, ☎ +39 066783553, . Town House Hotel near the Vatican. Features 9 individual rooms with private bathrooms, decorated in classic Roman style. Tea and coffee maker, wi-fi internet, air conditioning, flat-screen satellite TV. Up to €300.
- Pantheon Royal Suite, Piazza della rotonda 7, ☎ +39 0668805002 ([email protected], fax: +39 0668804365), . A boutique hotel, located beside the Pantheon. Rooms are modern and comfortable with clean linens. The receptionists are friendly and helpful. EUR 110 - EUR 210.
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