Spanish Steps to Piazza Navona
Welcome! Spanish Steps and Bernini Fountain
You should be standing on the Piazza Di Spagna facing the magnificent Spanish Steps. The fountain should be on your left. There's probably a crowd of people sitting on the steps in front of you. To your right you can see the tall obelisk in the Piazza Mignanelli. In front of you is the famous Babington's tea room.
Welcome to the widest staircase in Europe. At the top of its 138 steps is an ancient Roman obelisk and the 16th Century church, Trinity dei Monti. Writers and artists have used the Piazza Di Spagna as a hang out spot since the 1500s. But these steps weren’t constructed until 1723.
In the 1700s, the plaza at the base of the steps made up the Spanish neighborhood due to the location of the Spanish Embassy. The French neighborhood was at the top of the stairs, centered around the Trinity dei Monti church. At this time, the Bourdon royal family ruled Spain and France. To symbolize their power, they wanted to link the French church Trinity dei Monti with their Spanish Embassy at the bottom with a stairway.
The fountain next to you is called Fontana della Barcaccia. Pietro Bernini and his son created this fountain in the shape of a small boat to remember the great flood of 1598. It's fed by the same aqueduct that feeds the Trevi Fountain, which we'll see a bit later.
We're about to get going, but first let me explain how this works. VoiceMap uses your phone's GPS location to play commentary automatically. So you can now put your phone away and focus on your surroundings. You'll hear my voice from time to time guiding you. Stretches of silence are normal, so if you don't hear from me, just keep walking in the direction you were going. If you get lost or stuck, you can take a look at the route map on your phone.
So let's get going! Face the steps and start walking to you right towards the obelisk.
Keats-Shelley House Museum
On your left now you'll see a red signboard saying "Keats-Shelley House Museum". The English romantics poets John Keats and P.B. Shelley both lived here, just two among many who have fallen under the spell of the Eternal City.
This shopping district is the Rodeo Drive of Rome. You'll notice that most cars are prohibited from driving here. Perfect!
Keep walking. I'll meet you up ahead at the column.
Walk past the column to the right, and make your way into the narrow one-way road at the end of the square.
Perhaps now's a good time for me to introduce myself. Hello, my name is Stephanie. Welcome to Rome, my second home. I am originally from San Francisco and started to live part time in both cities in 2013. While on vacation in Rome with my family, I met my now fiancé. Together we live just West of the Vatican and work as tour guides. Moving to a new country has its challenges but as you will see, there are many reasons why I quickly fell in love with this city and my new life. I hope you enjoy your visit to Rome as much as I did, but be careful, you may just think you're going on vacation and end up moving here!
Keep going down the charming little one way road, called Via di Propaganda. While you walk, you may see 'S.P.Q.R' written on the ground. This stands for the "Senate and People of Rome" in Latin. It refers to the government of the ancient Roman Republic and is used as the official emblem of the modern day municipality of Rome. Keep your eye out for it, you will see it many times while in Rome.
Cross over Via di Capo Le Case
Here the road opens up into a junction. Cross over and continue in the direction we were going down Via Di S. Andrea della Fratte. I'll meet you in the street on the other side.
Via di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte
On the left is the Sant'Andrea delle Fratte Church. Continue straight, keeping the church on your left.
As you are walking around, you may see signs with "Made in Italy". Keep in mind, only 10% of the product needs to made in Italy to receive that label. Sadly, many Italian products are created overseas for cheaper labor.
Depending on the time of year, you may also see many gelato stores. You should know that 80% of gelato in Italy is made from chemicals and powders. To tell the good from the bad, an easy clue is the size of the gelato. Real gelato is thick and dense, it wouldn't be able to be piled up in a mound higher than the rim of the container. Bright artificial colors are also another clue to stay away.
Around the bend to the right
Follow the road as it curves to the right at Largo del Nazareno. I'll meet you just a bit up ahead.
Feel free to stop in for an espresso. Most places will charge more if you have it seated, so you could just have it while standing at the bar. The most common drinks are a cafe, which is just an espresso, a cafe latte and a cappuccino. The last two are espresso shots with milk. For an American coffee, you can order a "cafe americano" which will be an espresso with extra hot water. Italians think milk is bad for your digestion, so after 11am, you may be more comfortable ordering only a cafe.
If you decide to stop, just remember to keep going the way we were headed when you're done.
Left onto Via Poli
Our route takes us left here onto Via Poli. Follow the signs to the Fontana Trevi. On the right is a grocery store where you can stop for a minute if you'd like. Buying water will be cheaper here then illegal vendors you may find on the streets. I'll meet you at the main road up there.
Cross Via del Tritone
Cross over the Via del Tritone here and walk to the right around the bank. Continue to follow the signs for the Trevi. I'll meet you on other side.
In Rome, even though the street may seem busy, if you walk confidently, motorists watch their speed and adjust their route to make room for you.
To the Fountain
Keep going straight here. We're heading towards the famed Trevi Fountain.
We are walking towards a busy touristy area. Rome is an extremely safe city but pick-pockets in crowded areas do exist. Please remove valuables from back pockets and zip up your bags.
It is believed that the Trevi foundation was named from the Latin word, Trivium, which means the crossing of three streets. The one you're on would be one of them. I'll leave you to enjoy the sounds of the city for a short while. Listen carefully. You'll hear the fountain before you see it.
Welcome to one of Rome’s most photographed sites, the Trevi fountain! Stop here for a minute while I tell you about it. Find yourself a comfortable spot to take in the view or walk around it while you listen.
The Trevi is a masterpiece of late Roman baroque period linking natural and artificial elements. My favorite thing about the Trevi is the overwhelming feeling of being wowed by the loud rushing water and the sheer size of the statues. The fashion house Fendi spent 2.5 million Euros on the reconstruction in 2014 and 2015.
The pool contains about 3 million liters or 66,000 gallons of water. While it was once considered the ‘sweetest water’ of Rome, it is now unsafe to drink. Note the Ace of Cups, a large urn-shaped feature built into the wall on the right of the fountain. The legend says that the the Ace of Cups was built purposely on this side to block the view of a barber who was causing trouble during construction.
Pope Celement XII commissioned Nicola Salvi to create this impressive fountain. It was completed in 1762. You can find Pope Clement XII's crest at the top of the fountain. The project went over the budget, but the pope created a lottery and used the profits to allow construction to continue.
The fountain's water comes from the Aqua Verging Aqueduct built in 19 B.C. It is fed by springs up to 22 km outside the city. This water has traveled through a 2,000 year old aqueduct, which drains and fills other fountains in the city, including the Old Boat fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps. Legend has it that Marcus Agrippa and his Roman soldiers were saved by a virgin goddess. She directed the tired and thirsty men to the source of this water.
In the middle of the foundation is Neptune, the god of the ocean. Neptune's beard represents wisdom and power. One horse is calm and one is wild to show the moods of the sea. In the alcoves on either side are two statues, one representing health and the other fertility. On the left, abundance holds a horn filled with fruits and produce, the symbol of plenty. Health, on the right, is crowned with a laurel wreath. These represent the richness of nature and its ability to create an abundance of natural produce.
We're about to go now. If you'd like to throw a coin in before we do, the tradition is to stand with your back to the fountain and throw the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. It is believed that this will guarantee you a return to Rome. Around $800,000 is thrown into the Trevi annually. Every Monday the money is collected and is donated to the Catholic church and the Red Cross. Go ahead and throw your coin in. Make sure to take a few pictures too!
When it's time to go, stand with your back to the fountain, facing the entrance to the Hotel Fontana. Turn right to walk into the alleyway called Via Delle Muratte, away from the fountain.
So here's yet another instance of the world's #1 fast food joint. Walk on by.
In 1986 McDonalds opened their first location in Italy on the Spanish Piazza, where we started out. The locals were outraged and protested by handing out free pasta to pedestrians. While the McDonalds is still there today, this protest started the Slow Food Movement in Rome which later spread to the rest of the world.
Right onto Via Del Corso
Take a right here onto Via Del Corso. Stay on the right sidewalk.
The construction of Via Del Corso began in 220 B.C. to link Rome with the Adriatic Sea in the North. During the 15th century, the road was a horse racetrack, giving the street its name: "via del corso" or "street of the race".
If you were to continue North you'd reach the Piazza Del Popolo. It's the huge public square which was the ancient city's North entrance. Likewise to the South, Piazza Venezia and the monument to the kings.
Aside from its historical significance, it is known for its size - 10 metres wide in a city of narrow curvy alleyways. It also runs almost perfectly North to South. You can find a mix of shops here, everything from high fashion boutiques, and sportswear, to bags and accessories.
Cross over to Piazza Colonna
Cross over here. I'll meet you at the column just over the road.
Stop for a moment to admire the column.
This was created to honor Marcus Aurelius' victories in 166-180 A.D. in what is now the North-Eastern European border. This column is 130 feet high and made up of 28 blocks of marble, each with a 12 foot diameter. There is an internal stairway inside the column, but visitors are no longer allowed in.
The magnificent palace with the E.U. and Italian flags is one of the oldest and largest private palaces of Rome. The Colonna family started construction in the 14th Century and continue to live here today.
During the sack of Rome, it was one of the few buildings not destroyed due to the good relationship between the Colonna family and the rest of Europe. At that time, more than 3,000 Roman citizens used the palace as a safe haven.
Now make your way diagonally across the square, to the alleyway right of the palace. I'll meet you there.
To Piazza di Monte
This way takes us to the neighbouring piazza. Walk through this gap between the buildings and cross the Piazza di Monte diagonally towards the next column.
Piazza di Monte
Stop here for a minute.
The gigantic facade with hanging flags is the Montecitorio Palace. It was designed by Bernini for the Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi in the 1500s. The palace was first used for public and social functions. In the late 1600s, papal law courts were installed here. Later it became police headquarters and now it is the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
Now walk over to the Obelisk.
This giant Obelisk was brought here from Egypt to symbolize Augustus's victory over Cleopatra. It was used as a sundial and calendar. Over time the sundial collapsed and was buried but in the late 1700s it was restored and placed in this location. The original base is preserved at the Vatican Museums and the new meridian was traded in the pavement in honor of Augustus's meridian.
With your back to the giant palace, walk past the obelisk back towards the maze of streets.
Right onto Via in Aquiro
Take a right here into Via in Aquiro.
While walking around you may notice Rome has a bit of a parking problem. It may seem ideal to live in the center of Rome, but parking limitations make it difficult. Most apartments do not come with parking unless you're renting a room in a palace that allows parking in their courtyard.
Traffic in the center is highly controlled. You will only see private drivers, taxis, scooters, or cars with smaller engines in the center. Anyone else must be a resident of the historic center to drive during limited driving days and times. Scooters are the easiest to park and are always allowed in, making them the ideal choice of transportation for most Romans.
Cross Piazza Capranica
Cross diagonally over this little piazza. On the opposite side, there's a circular kiosk and a clock. Walk past the kiosk and into the narrow alley.
Follow the crowds and you'll soon find yourself at the Pantheon, one of the ancient world's most famous moments! Today it is the largest un-reinforced concrete dome in the world. I'll meet you at the obelisk facing it.
So take a seat on the steps. This obelisk was discovered in the 1600s underneath the church’s garden. Emperor Diocletian brought it from Egypt in 300, over 2,500 years ago.
Now take a look at the Pantheon. Magnifico! Each column in front of you is 40 ft or 12 meters tall and weighs 60 tons. Imagine these being carried by land and sea from Egypt, 2,500 miles or 4,000 km away! They had to be dragged down wooden sledges, floated by barge down the Nile, transferred into vessels for crossing the Mediterranean sea, and then unloaded at the near port of Ostis.
As the name suggests, the Pantheon was a temple dedicated to a multiplicity of gods. It was built in 25 B.C by the emperor Marcus Agrippa, the son in law of Augustus. It was rebuilt from 118-125 B.C. by the emperor Hadrian. The Latin inscription "Marcus Agrippa Luci Filius Con Sul Tertimun Fecit" means "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius Consil".
The Pantheon survived the test of time due to the conversion from a Pagan temple to a Christian church in 608. A.D. Once Rome became the capital of Italy in 1870, it was chosen as the burial ground of the first kings of Italy.
The dome is a perfect sphere with an interior diameter of 140 feet or 43.3 meters. Ancient Romans invented a volcanic ash concrete that was strong enough to support the dome. The dome was made by casting 5,000 tons of concrete over a wooden frame. The walls are 20 feet, or 6 meters thick. The heavy circular foundation was constructed in layers. At the bottom were concert and travertine blocks. Next up is concrete made from travertine and tufa. The dome is made from brick and light volcanic stones. The goal was to create a large dome that weighed as little as possible. Architects today are still impressed by the great technical skill required to build it. It is considered the highest point in early imperial architecture.
So, you might want to go inside at this point. That's fine, but first I should show you where to meet me next. Face the entrance, and look to the right. I'll meet you at that junction, where two roads lead away from the piazza.
So, if you're receiving this message, it means that GPS signal is being beamed down from the hole high above you in the Pantheon dome! This hole is called the Oculus. It has a bronze rim and is the only source of daylight in the building. If it's rainy, don't worry. Look down and you'll see small drainage holes on the floor below your feet.
This skylight is 27 feet or 8 meters in diameter. Every year at the end of May, there is a tradition were tens of thousands of rose petals are dropped from the Oculus to the people below to symbolize the Holy Spirit's descent to Earth.
Take a look around and you might also find the burial site of Queen Margherita, who we have to thank for the delicious Margherita pizza.
When you're done here, I'll meet you outside at that spot I mentioned.
Onto Salita dei Crescenzi
Two roads lead away from the Pantheon here. Take the one to the right. Not the one that runs down the length of the building. Follow the sign that points to Piazza Navona and stay to the right of kiosk.
Take a left here at the T. Walk between the bollards towards the grey stone building.
Right here down Via Degli Straderari
You can take a right here down Via Degli Straderari and walk towards the end of the road.
You will notice a fountain in the wall on your left. Stop for a moment here.
Again you will see SPQR along the top. Water fountains are found all over Rome. During ancient Roman times, water was brought into town through aqueducts. Water was not pumped into people's homes but instead to piazzas outside. People came to the fountains and watering holes to collect their personal water.
These small fountains continue this tradition today. It is fresh, clean drinking water so go ahead and fill up your water bottle! You will pay for water in restaurants but these fountains are always free. It's a small thing that makes me love Rome, I only wish the rest of the world always had access to free clean water.
When you're ready, walk to the end of the road and turn left.
Rione VIII Sant'Eustachio
You should now be walking towards a church, keeping the big coral colored building on your right. Feel free to walk into #40 Archicio Di Stato Di Roma if the doors are open. It's used as a recorders storage facility but it's entrance makes for a great photo!
We're almost at the end of our route. The Piazza Navona is just behind the row of buildings in front of you. We have to walk around them.
Right around the block
Cross the road here at the old building with the stone corners. Take a right into the side road Via Dei Canestrari.
Piazza Navona Welcome
Welcome to Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s most beautiful and popular piazzas! Turn right and start walking up the Piazza towards the tall obelisk at the other end.
One of the my favorite things about Rome is how the ancient city has scripted what the city looks like today. Take a look around... what shape do you see? Any ideas what this could have been almost 2,000 years ago? If you guessed a stadium, you were right!
The Emperor Domitian created a sports stadium which held up to 30,000 people in 86 A.D. Around the 1200s and onwards, small houses were built here, followed later by churches and palaces. During Medieval times, most of the stadium fell into decay. Construction of the houses you see today started in the 1500s. These buildings have their foundations on top of the spectators’ steps around the stadium. The surface of the piazza is the arena where the games are held.
Four Rivers Fountain Tour
Welcome to the Fountain of the Four Rivers! Stop here for a minute at the central fountain.
Bernini finished this magnificent creation in 1651. You can see four central figures. Each one represents a river.
The Danube has a horse and is about to touch the Pope’s crest. This is because the Danube was thought of as the closest of rivers to the pope’s residence at the time of construction.
The Ganges is the man with the alligator. He is holding a large oar to show how easy is it to navigate the river in India.
The cloth covering the Nile represents the idea that the source of the Nile was unknown.
The Plata or “silver” river lies between Argentina and Uryguay to represent the Americas. At the time Spanish colonies had settled here and brought many of the riches back to Europe.
A popular legend states that Bernini sculpted Plata’s hand in a raised position to protect himself from the eventual collapse of the Church of Sant’Agnese. The church was built by Borromini, who was a great rival of Bernini. However, the church was constructed after the fountain. This leads us to believe that the raised hand was either blocking the sun or sheltering Plata from the whip of a slave owner. He has a chain around his foot.
Keep going towards the last fountain for the our last stop today. It is near a cafe called "Al Sogno".
Piazza Navona Fountain North End, End of tour
You can now see the Fountain of Neptune created in 1574.
We have now reached the end of the guided tour, feel free to walk around and enjoy the piazza! If you continue to walk the way we were going and leave the piazza, there is a taxi stand outside of a shop called Mariotti.
If you'd like to continue on your own, make your way there now and find a small cobbled street called Via dei Coronari. It's my favorite place in Rome. It's the place I come to get away from the crowds and enjoy the beauty that is Rome. I recommend stopping at Gelateria del Teatro #65, a high quality gelato shop on your left side. It may be crowded but it's worth it. This is "la dolce vita".
I hope you can join me for more tours of this beautiful city. Enjoy your time in Rome, ciao!