In our new three part series, Roman local tour guide Carlotta Boldrini shares her expertise on touring Rome – by foot! Carlotta is a former ACIS Tour Manager and the current ACIS supervisor for tours to Italy and Greece. Passionate about her city, she especially likes to see it through the eyes of a foreigner, even better if a young student, and witness the emotions that her city inspires in a young, rising citizen of the world.
We may have begun our trip in Rome, or we may have arrived from somewhere else, but we have at least two nights, if not three, to explore the Eternal City!
Let us imagine that our hotel is in the area of the central railway station, Termini. Our first meal is at a local restaurant that is within walking distance from the hotel, and after a delicious dinner, we will take advantage of the Metro underground line to reach areas that are easily connected with it – the easiest to think of are Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
From the railway station we would get on the stop Termini or Repubblica, and in two stops we would be at Barberini, where we are greeted by the beautiful Fountain of the Triton. Its elegance, the powerful jet of water and the detailed limestone carving, reflect the glorious times of the “Rome of the Popes” in the 17th century, and tells us the name of the greatest Baroque artist, Bernini.
From the square, we take a downhill walk over to the Trevi Fountain. We pass by nice clothing stores, gelato parlours, cafés and bars. Then, via a narrow street passing the Academy of Saint Luke, an old and prestigious artists’ academy, we arrive in front of the majestic Trevi Fountain.
It’s natural to say WOW! Not a common fountain to see in a city centre!
It took about 30 years to be built, and guess what? It still conveys the water that flows into Rome by one of the ancient Roman aqueducts, Acqua Vergine. The free standing male sculpture is Ocean, the personification of water, pulled on a shell-shaped chariot by winged horses and tritons. He controls the salubrious abundance offered to the viewers.
An old tradition has all visitors to Rome toss a coin in: it is said that if you make a wish while tossing, your wish will come true.
So stand with your back to the fountain, pick up a coin and throw it: right hand across the left shoulder!
Take pictures, grab a gelato, and once we regroup, we will be on our way to the Spanish Steps.
This has always been the quintessential spot for elegance. Never has a more beautiful staircase existed in an outdoor space – You would rather expect it to be inside an opera house or a royal palace.
The stairs take their name from the first embassy opened in Rome, the Embassy of Spain that is still close by, and were built to symbolize the reconciliation between Spain (that occupied the square below) and France (that had established its religious headquarters on the top of the hill). The hilltop is marked by the two-bell towers of the French church Trinity of the Hill, flanked by the French Academy of Fine Arts to its left and the 5 star Hassler hotel to its right. In front of the church stands one of the Egyptian Obelisks that the Romans took as a souvenir once Egypt became a Roman province in 30 BC.
The flights of steps, divided in three platforms in honour of the Holy Trinity, descend gradually onto the square. In the center is the Barcaccia (shipwreck) Fountain, which really resembles a shipwreck with water that does not spout out but rather flows as the boat re-emerges from the bottom of a river. It was carved by Pietro Bernini, father to Gian Lorenzo, and one has to wonder if the young boy tested his skills with the hammer and the chisel, too!
The whole square is surrounded by the best fashion designers’ stores: Armani; Valentino, Versace, Krizia, Ferrè; Moschino; Dolce e Gabbana; Miou Miou; Dior; Yves Saint Laurent – you name it! The greatest window-shopping in Rome, really!
Last but not least, you’ll see Babington’s Tea House, the first ever opened in Rome in 1893 by two English ladies who missed formal tea. At that time in Rome, tea could only be bought at pharmacies.
If we are not too late, we can continue along the Via del Babuino to reach the Piazza del Popolo.
The square marks the northern entrance to Rome along one of the earliest Roman Roads, the Via Flaminia. During the Rome of the Popes, pilgrims coming to worship during Holy occasions would enter the city through this main gate. Obelisks that had been unearthed from their original spots were re-erected to provide a marked pathway to reach the main worshiping churches. From here, the so-called Golden Triangle stretches out, consisting of three main streets filled with stores of all sorts. In the background we can see the Twin Churches, one of which normally stages funerals of major artists.
Ah, would you look at the time! The hour has grown late and we should probably make our way back. We can leave the square, get on the Metro from Flaminio stop and return to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. There will be plenty more exploring in the days (and nights!) to come.