Piazza di Spagna-Trinita di Monti-Borghese Gardens-Galleria Borghese-Porta Pinciana-Via Vittorio Veneto-Piazza Barberini-Trevi Fountain-Piazza dei Santi Apostoli-Via del Corso Piazza Venezia-Piazza Minerva-Pantheon
There are easier ways of reaching the Pantheon from Piazza di Spagna, but if you are a keen walker or you need to fit in a lot in a short stay in the Eternal City, you can Walk Rome and see more with a bit of forward planning.
Before you set off up the Spanish Steps, take in the Keats and Shelley Museum at the right hand side of the steps – or treat yourself to a hearty breakfast a Babingtons to the left of the steps.
Trinita dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps is a lovely church with an atmospheric interior that is worth visiting.
Once you have had your fill of selfies at the top of the Spanish Steps, turn left and make your way along the hilltop road Viale della Trinita Monti, which has spectacular views of the Eternal City, to the entrance of the heart-shaped Borghese Gardens.
The gardens and natural landscapes are lovely in any season – and are especially nice for a Sunday stroll and some brunch at one of the cafes along the tree-lined path leading to Galleria Borghese. Artists set up their easels along the route – and buskers are some of the best you will ever hear. There is also rollerblading, pony rides, bicycle hire and a mini train that takes you round the grounds.
Tickets to the Galleria Borghese are pre-booked and visits are limited to two-hour slots, which is not enough, but a visit to the gallery of emperors is a must if you want to see what the Roman emperors looked like, if not exactly in the flesh.
The museum also has a lovely cafe for lunch. You can then wander round the gardens, before heading off to Via Vittoria Veneto through the ancient city gate Porta Pinciana.
Via Vittorio Veneto is a wide boulevard that snakes down a steep hill, so is best strolled down rather than up, taking in the centre of la dolce vita, Harry’s Bar, at the top – and passing by Cafe de Paris, the Hard Rock Cafe and the US Embassy. Be wary of taking photos of the embassy, as you may be greeted by a man with a weapon if you get too close.
Halfway down Via Vittorio Veneto is Caffe Aroma, nestling in the crook of the winding road, where you can enjoy a latte macchiato in the sunshine and take advantage of the free WC before heading off on the next stage of your walk.
Via Vittorio Veneto opens out into Piazza Barberini and its fabulous fountain sitting in the middle of the busy roundabout. Set off right, down Via Dei Tritone – and the name will tell you where you are headed next. Turn left at Via Poli – or stop for a coffee break at Angelina on the corner, where you can enjoy egg-free and gluten-free cakes or have lunch in the pretty garden-themed restaurant.
The Trevi Fountain is worth spending time at, remembering to throw in your coin and making a wish to ensure your return to Rome. The Trevi deli is a must for souvenirs of parmesan cheese, wine and liqueurs, chocolates and general groceries. Sitting by the Trevi with a gelato is a tradition for tourists. Newly married couples also have their weddings photos by the Trevi – but you will also see nuns, priests, Buddhist monks and the whole of humanity gathered round the fountain under the watchful eyes of the carabinieri and polizia.
Gelato enjoyed, set off down Via di San Vincenzo, walking along Via Dei Lucchesi and turn left into Via Dei Vaccaro. You may wonder where you are heading, but you will soon come to Piazza di Santi Apostoli and Palazzo Muti, where the Stuart kings of Scotland lived when they fled to Rome in the 18th century and were given protection by the Pope, who believed them to be the true kings of Scotland. It is fascinating to discover how many princes and paupers have sought refuge in the Eternal City throughout the ages.
From Palazzo Muti, head along Via di Santi Apostoli and you will reach Via del Corso, with plenty of shopping opportunities. The busy thoroughfare opens out in Piazza Venezia and its imposing Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. Behind this lies the Forum and the Colosseum – to the right hand side of the monument lie the Capitoline Museums and Palazzo Venezia.
Turn directly right, however, and head off along Via dei Plebiscito – there is a wonderful delicatessen en route and two of of my favourite places to shop for clothes and homewares.
Via dei Plebiscito will lead you to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Area Sacra – a rectangular temple complex where it is argued Julius Caesar was murdered, although some historians point to a site near Santa Maria Grottopinta, which was part of the same complex of buildings and is near Campo de’ Fiori. Area Sacra is now home to stray cats who laze in the sunshine. It is not permitted to feed or stroke them, as they are feral.
Cross the road from Area Sacra and make your way along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II to Via di Torre Argentina – if your feet are aching by now, take heart, because you are nearing the Pantheon, which you will approach from the back of the rotunda.
As you approach the Pantheon, turn right and visit Piazza Minerva, with its famous statue of an elephant in the centre.
After an obligatory selfie, turn back to the rotunda and make your way to the entrance of the Pantheon – inside is a wonderfully dark and dusty space, which is the last resting place of the artist Raphael. The dome is a miracle of architecture, with the oculus throwing light and shadows across the walls and tiled floor.
Piazza della Rotonda is a hub of restaurants, cafes, bars, gelateria and bakeries – grab something to eat, or buy a gelato or a panini and sit on the wall of the Pantheon to watch all of life go by.
All images except Piazza Minerva copyright A. Meredith
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