Rome holiday itinerary, day 4: Discovering Rome’s piazzas

Day four of our Rome Holiday was for discovering the Eternal City by visiting Rome’s piazzas. Therefore, we started our morning away from the center of the Italian Capital. We took the subway to Piazza del Popolo, where we wanted to enjoy our breakfast while admiring the twin basilicas and doing some people watching.

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo

Having breakfast in Piazza del Popolo was kind of a bad decision. We left the terrace of Canova starving: we waited a long time, yet nobody came to take our order. So we went across the piazza, to Rosati. Here, we managed to eat. But we spent 30 euros on a small breakfast. At the place we went the days before, breakfast went up to around 8 euros, coffees included.

But I guess when you’re going to a terrace in one of Rome’s piazzas, you’re mostly going there for the place. Since the request is high, it also makes sense that the prices are high, as well.

Luckily, the beautiful things we got to see in the area quickly made us forget about the less than perfect beginning of the day!

Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli

The basilicas in Piazza del Popolo

As you enter the Piazza by Porta del Popolo, you see a church on your left: Basilica Parrochialle Santa Maria del Popolo. Unfortunately, when we visited Rome, this basilica was under restoration, so we skipped it. Therefore, we missed Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Peter and the Conversion of Saint Paul.

From the Porta del Popolo, if you look ahead, you can see Rome’s Piazza del Popolo in perfect symmetry:  you have the twin white basilicas in the background, separated by the obelisk in the middle of the circus. Aligned with the obelisk, you can see Fontana del Nettuno on the right, and Fontana della Dea di Roma on the left. The following image depicts part of this beautiful symmetry:

The twin basilicas are Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli.  Though always treated together, Santa Maria in Montesanto is a minor basilica, unlike its twin. It is also Rome’s Church of the Artists.

We saw the interior of the two basilicas briefly and quietly. We visited on a Sunday and there were religious ceremonies taking place. This is also why we don’t have any photos of their interior from this trip.

Terrazza del Pincio

After crossing Rome on foot from Vatican City to Trastevere, then wandering the streets of Rome’s historic center for a day, you’d expect us to be too tired for some climbing. But it would have been a pity to get to Piazza del Popolo and not go up a few stairs to Terrazza del Pincio.

From the Terrazza del Pincio you can enjoy one of the best views not only over Piazza del Popolo but also over several other of Rome’s piazzas. It is a great place to admire the Eternal City, in its entirety. And off we went to explore more of Rome’s piazzas!

The Trident

Once you get back down in the Piazza del Popolo, you are at the base of a trident. It is formed by three of Rome’s most important avenues: Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso, and Via del Babuino. If you look on the map, you will see that the avenues composing the trident are actually very long. On a closer look, you’ll notice that Via di Ripetta and Via del Babuino continue with other streets. But Via del Corso continues all the way to Piazza Venezia. And this is impressive, considering the length and width this avenue had right from the start. Just compare it to all the narrow, winding, little streets on its sides and you’ll get the picture!

We chose to continue on Via del Babuino, to end up on Via Margutta.

Via Margutta, close to some of the famous Rome's piazzas

Via Marguta

This short street, covered in cobblestone and with lovely luscious green ivy covering its buildings, welcomed us with tens of lined-up charming artist stands. This came as no surprise, as Via Margutta has always been the place where the artists chose to live, transforming it into a true art hub.

If you wish to see how the street looked in the past, you should watch the movie Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. You’ll not only see some of the best sights in Rome, as they were in the ’50s, but you’ll also recognize Via Margutta as the place where Gregory Peck’s character lives.

The other end of Via Margutta takes you back to Via del Babuino. Continue on this street and you’ll end up in Piazza di Spagna. This is one of the most famous of Rome’s piazzas!

Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy

Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna)

We should have started our day earlier. When we arrived in Piazza di Spagna, it was already full of tourists. But this is something one should expect, since Piazza di Spagna is one of the most famous places of the Eternal City, therefore it has a higher number of visitors when compared to others among Rome’s piazzas.

As Mathieu likes big crowds even less than I do, I quickly showed him the Spanish Steps, with Obelisco Sallustiano and Trinita dei Monti at the top, and Fontana della Barcaccia at the base.

Being in such a hurry left me a bit disappointed for not spending more time to discover Obelisco Sallustiano and Trinita dei Monti, especially since on my previous trip this was under restoration. The day we chose for seeing this part of Rome was also unfortunate because the Keats Shelley House was closed. Then again, this holiday was for Mathieu, and out of the two of us, I would have been the only one interested in visiting the Keats Shelley House.

Via Condotti in Rome, Italy
Via Condotti

So we cut short and saw the Column of the Immaculate Conception in the nearby Piazza Mignanelli, and also quickly showed him Via Condotti, full of people. While I may understand the numbers of people in Piazza di Spagna, I had difficulty empathizing with those on Via Condotti who were just slowly advancing in crowds on the street without going in any of the shops.

Via Borgona in Rome, Italy
Via Borgogna

The parallel street, Via Borgogna, was almost empty and quite nice, so we found it perfect to continue our walk to Via del Corso.

Mausoleo di Augusto

From Via del Corso, we went on Via dei Pontefici to reach the Mausoleum of Augustus, or Mausoleo di Augusto, in Italian. This is actually a large, impressive tomb, built by Emperor Augustus in 28 BC.

Unfortunately for us, it was under restoration. So we gave it a look from a distance, then headed down on Via di Ripetta, on the western shore of the Tiber. It was still hot outside, so we found our short break by the Fontana del Pianto to be quite refreshing. After that,  we wandered around to find a nice place to eat something small and fast.

I can’t find the name of the place, though, and Google Maps isn’t really helping. I found the table we sat at here, but I can’t find the front entrance. Google Maps is only showing fancy restaurants there and this was a small place, like a cafe with two tables out back and a couple of tables inside. Anyway, the place was charming, and the building across the street from the table was impressive.

After finishing our paninis, we took  Via Tomacelli back to Via del Corso.

Piazza di San Silvestro

Crossing Via del Corso took us to Piazza di San Silvestro. Here, we came across a lovely church, Chiesa San Silvestro in Capite. Its courtyard is absolutely amazing!

Piazza Colonna

Via del Corso took us to Piazza Colonna, where we could admire Colonna di Marco Aurelio. This column is a Roman victory column modeled after Trajan’s Column, to celebrate Emperor Marcus Aurelius’s fights in the Danube area.

The column remained on this spot since AD 193, and it used to have a statue of the Emperor on the top. In 1589, however, Pope Sixtus V ordered the statue to be replaced with the one of Saint Paul, which we can still see to this day.

In this piazza, you can also admire some other columns: those of Palazzo Chigi, the home of the Prime Minister.

Palazzo di Montecitori in Piazza di Montecitorio in Rome, Italy

Piazza di Montecitorio

Take just a few steps away from Piazza Colonna, and you’ll find yourself in Piazza di Montecitorio. Here, you can admire the impressive baroque-style Palazzo Montecitori, built by Bernini in 1653. It now houses Italy’s Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Duty).

In front of it, at some distance, you can see Obelisco di Montecitorio, and ancient, red-granite Egyptian obelisk. It is also known as Solare.

Piazza di Pietra

This area has a high concentration of Rome’s piazzas! Walking South from Piazza di Monte Citorio, you’ll discover Piazza di Pietra. Here, you will see a temple built in the year 145, which was later incorporated in a different building. (It is done in a similar fashion as Teatro Marcello, seen on our first day in Rome.)

The old part of the building is the Temple of Hadrian, raised by Antoninus Pius, Hadrian’s adoptive son and successor.

What I really liked in Piazza di Pietra, however, was the yellow, stained building, next to Hadrian’s temple. You know what they say: to each his own!

Galleria Sciarra

Crossing again Via del Corso, if you go on Via Marco Minghetti, you can take a glimpse of one of Rome’s hidden gems. Galleria Sciarra was built in the late 19th century, in an art nouveau style and it’s amazing!

vicus caprarius water city in rome, italy

Vicus Caprarius – The Water City

After feasting your eyes on this, you can drop by Fontana di Trevi again, if seeing it the day before wasn’t enough for you. Or, you can walk straight on Vicolo dei Modelli, then on Vicolo del Puttarello. These two, narrow, charming streets will take you to Vicus Caprarius – The Water City.

The small, yet stunning archaeological area is under a small cinema. It’s not only a very interesting visit but also a great shelter from the heat in the middle of the day!

Le Quattro Fontane

After visiting Vicus Caprarius, we decided to move away from the center. We passed Palazzo del Quirinale (the Presidential Palace) on Via del Quirinale, and reached its beautiful intersection with Via delle Quattro Fontane. Here, on each side, you can see a late Renaissance fountain. There is one representing the Tiber in Rome, and one of the Arno river from Florence. The other two are representations of the Goddess Juno, symbolizing strength, and the Goddess Diana, symbolizing chastity.

Next to Le Quattro Fontane, there is also the church San Carlo delle Quattro Fontane.

We continued walking until we were near Termini. We stopped to have a well-deserved glass of red wine at Gran Caffè del Passeggero, before visiting Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.

statue in palazzo massimo alle terme in rome, italy

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

As we really enjoyed our visit to Palazzo Altemps and we still had a valid ticket for the National Roman Museums, we went to Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.  Its four levels offer a good insight into Roman art. The basement houses a collection of jewels, grave ornaments, and Roman coins. On the ground floor and on the first floor you will find Roman and Greek statues and sculptures. Last, but not least, on the second floor you will discover the best-preserved Roman frescoes in the world.

Piazza Venezia in Rome, Italy

Piazza Venezia

In the evening, we were back in Piazza Venezia, in search of a cozy place to have a good dinner. Wandering around, we stumbled upon Il Buco. It was a family-owned place, with a very small terrace.

While waiting for our food, we heard the people from the table next to us telling their friends they found this place when they first arrived in Rome, and they liked it so much that they returned there every evening. Once we tasted the pasta, we understood why. It was delicious!

Piazza Foro Traiano in Rome, Italy

Piazza Foro Traiano

After dinner, we took a short walk to the last of Rome’s piazzas for the day: Piazza Foro Traiano. Here, we admired Trajan’s Column, Foro di Cesare, and Trajan’s Forum, from afar.

40 Thoughts to “Rome holiday itinerary, day 4: Discovering Rome’s piazzas”

  1. I will have to hunt down the small little restaurant you visited after Fontana del Pianto. We WILL NOT seek out Rosati for breakfast, though. 30 Euro? Ouchies…
    I’d love to learn more about Vicus Caprarius. I have read much of the city is built on top of ruins.
    The piazza is iconic in Italy and knowing of the lesser-known ones you mentioned would be a great place to enjoy the passeggiata next time we are back in Rome. Thanks for sharing these gems!

  2. We had six wonderful days in Rome a few years ago but we missed way too many of these beautiful piazzas. Absolutely on our must see list for our next visit.

  3. It’s just incredible how much Rome has to offer right! It’s literally beautiful around every corner just judging to your photographs 🙂 It’s been ages since I’ve been to Rome and definitely cannot remember seeing all the piazzas that you’re showing. Enough reason to go back there!

  4. E

    What great locations! Italy is on the top of our bucket list so I’m pinning this for when we make it there someday!

  5. I looove this post! Well, I’m a big fan of Italy. And after this post, I love it even more. I’ll add your tips to my bucket list so I know what to do during my trip in Europe next year. Thanks for the information!

    Cheers from Argentina ?


  6. I’m from Rome and I love when people write about my city! I enjoyed reading your article as you also write about the little cute squares that are not in the usual tourist tracks. Personally I love Piazza Pietra, it’s one of my favorite squares!

  7. Rome is so on my bucket list! I’ve been wanting to go there for a long time, and yet never did – and since it’s an eternal city, it might not matter so much if I visit it today or in 10 years, right? But I realize – have to go soon! Thanks for sharing, there is so much to explore and you have narrowed it down for us ?

  8. Jenn | By Land and Sea

    We just returned from Rome a few weeks ago and your post transported me back to so many of the spots we loved there! I love the energy of Rome!!

  9. I could people watch in Piazza Di Spagna for hours! I’d also recommend checking out Piazza Novana. They have a great band that often plays.

    1. Hi, Jimmy. We went to Piazza Navona the day before, that’s why it wasn’t in this article with most of Rome’s piazzas (that we got to see). But you do have a point, I should add a note to let people know they can learn about it in a different blog post. It’s available here. 😉

  10. This a a beautiful and detailed description of your time in Rome. Love the way you provided the details of your journey. It’s captivating and convincing to consider to visit this part of of the world. Cheers from India.

  11. I am from Roma and I have included among Rome’s piazzas also the Tortuga one in the ghetto.

    1. You’re right, Federica, that is a lovely Roman piazza, as well. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it there this time. But we’ll definitely go on our next trip. Because there’s always a next time when it comes to visiting Rome, and Italy, in general! I think you’re very lucky to live there.

  12. Mel

    There is so much to see in Rome, I don’t think I’ll ever see everything in my life time. Piazza de Spagna is always crazy busy – try going at the crack of dawn

  13. renata -

    Rome is one of world’s most fascinating cities. I find it incredible that all these antique places are in the city center – basically next to H&M and Starbucks. Where else do you find so many treasure in one place – I’m referring to the antique places, not to H&M -?! You’ve shown some of Rome’s most beautiful corners. Makes me all dreamy.

  14. Rome is one of the cities I visited when I had my solo backpacking in Europe. But I missed the Spanish steps, cause there was a strike in transportation that time. Thanks for sharing your itinerary.

  15. When I initially read the title, I read “pizzas” so I was a little confused at first LOL hey, Italy. Pizza. Kind of go hand in hand, right? Anyway, I’ve only been once and it was MANY years ago and being able to jump in on your trip makes me want to plan a trip back. It’s a little frustrating when so much construction is going on but restoration is necessary. When we finished hiking 500 miles on the Camino in Spain we ended up at the church in Santiago and it had scaffolding all over the entrance which kind of took away from the experience but then we went inside and it all came back!

  16. You were right, there are a lot of piazzas in this one area!! It boggles my mind that there is a building (or part of one, anyway) that is almost 2000 years old in the city. (Realizing of course that you’re in Rome and there are even older buildings there, but still as an American where very little is more than a couple hundred years old, these things always impress me.) The statue you photographed at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is absolutely gorgeous!

  17. Wow this is the must have guide for Rome surely?! I have bookmarked and will use when I travel there. Thanks! ?

  18. I still need to visit Italy and Rome is high up on my bucket list! This list of piazzas will be super helpful when I do finally get a chance to visit. It looks like a wonderful chance to explore the sights and streets of Rome!

  19. I hate it when places mark up meals just, well, because they can. 30 euros for breakfast is outrageous!!! But glad that beginning did not color your experience. What a wonderful destination. I also love it, and perhaps this was serendipity for you in exchange for the morning, that you discovered Il Buco. Therese and I have often found some of the most memorable meals like you did … stumbling into them. Made note of that restaurant for a future visit!

  20. Inna

    I’m in love with Rome! Reading your article brings me back on the streets of Rome exploring everything around and eating amazing food!

  21. jen

    Im a history buff and the old pieces in the piazzas are really alluring for people like me. Thats a lot of piazzas in rome! I hope i will be able to see them all when i come there. i only have 2 days

  22. Italy looks so Romantic!! It sure has a lot of piazzas ?

  23. I must admit that I never made it to Italy’s capital – I always had trips all around Italy, but never actually visited Rome. Seeing all those interesting locations I think I might give it a try though next summer, as we have planned a “lost places”-tour in Italy ?

  24. Rome is also added to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing your experience it is very useful

  25. Yukti

    I have been to Rome but during winters and it was snowing there, but I loved your bright sunny photos and I want to now go again. Thanks for sharing a detailed itinerary on Rome and classifying it into Piazzas. Loved this concept of traveling.

  26. I visited Rome a few years ago and all I remember is the hoards of tourists in that city. Beautiful city to visit though

  27. I loved your detailed Rome itinerary. You covered the city’s most interesting things and most important highlights. Thank you for sharing this article with us

  28. So far I had not really considered going on a Roman holiday but this post made me change my mind. Rome’s piazza’s are fascinating. Just loved the description and picture of Via Margutta and Via Borgogna. Need to plans a longer trip to this eternal city! Loved the details provided here and makes it so easy to plan. Thank you.

  29. Even though you don’t know where to go in Rome, it provides you many ancient architectures that you feel amazed. If you have an itinerary like you did, no need to look around:)

  30. I can feel the heat and hear the noise of the crowds coming out from the screen. What a beautifully detailed account of a wonderful walk seeing Rome at her best, even though that sometimes means her most crowded. I’m liking what you say about taking the next street along, and Via Borgogna is stunning. I think I would want to see Vicus Caprarius, so fascinating under the bustle of the city. I haven’t been back to Rome since I spent a summer there in the 80s, and I so very much want to return now.

  31. One of our favourite things to do in Rome is sit in a piazza and sip coffee! After reading your post, I realize there are some piazzas we’ve missed out on, time for another trip!

  32. I love Rome beyond words. I’ve left my heart in Piazza Del Popolo right from my first trip to the Eternal City. Thanks for sharing this list. You are mentioning a few places I would love to check out next time I’m in Rome.

  33. What a great idea! The piazza is such an important part of Italian culture historically and go this day, especially the smaller, lesser known ones you’ve mentioned here! Touristic as it might be, my favorite has always been the Piazza de Spagna… Rome was the first European city I visited and I remember imagining all the old poets and literary icons who were known for hangin around the area… a memory that someone has stayed with me!

  34. Such a very unique angle of Rome by detailing the best piazzas. Saving this for future use!

  35. I’ve yet to visit Rome or even Italy. This is such a helpful post full of so much information for when I do visit

  36. The amount of piazzas in Rome seems endless! But they are so historic and beautiful that I don’t mind. Next time I’m in the Eternal City, I want to visit more basilicas so thanks for sharing ?

  37. When I first opened this I read it as “Rome’s pizzas”, haha. I am sure Rome has great pizzas but it’s great to read about the piazzas as well! In all seriousness it’s a city we’ve wanted to visit for a long time. This is a great guide and gives us a nudge to make those plans. Thanks for the inspiration!

  38. A magnificent post – and one I will have to keep on hand for when I eventually get to wander around Rome myself! There are so many amazing piazzas. I love the Twin basilicas, and the beautiful symmetry. I studied art history in school so I would love to go to the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and see all those amazing frescoes! And inside would be a nice shelter from the heat too I’m sure.

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