Magical Roman night

St Peter basilica at night
St Peter basilica at night

When you are in Rome, don’t miss a night walk in the city center!

Click here for your Rome by night itinerary


Rome in five days

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Five days walking and cycling itinerary to discover the best of Rome.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you will definitely need more than 24 hours to discover it! Actually, even though two or three rushy days may be sufficient to get a glimpse of the main sights, ideally you should try to dedicate not less than five days to the visit of the ethernal city.

So what should you see in five days? Well, here are my suggested itineraries. They are designed as walking tours (the best way to discover Rome, in my view!), so you don’t have to bother too much about public transportation. Renting a bicycle could be a good idea as well.

Ideally, try to reserve a hotel in the pedestrian area close to the Spanish steps. My preferred choice is the cosy Hotel La Lumière, a few minutes walking from the Spanish steps.

Day one: the Imperial Rome

Start this tour in Piazza Venezia. It’s easy to find, just at the end of via del Corso.

From Piazza Venezia, visit the Campidoglio square, designed by Michelangelo, who “recycled” the roman temple of Jupiter. Visit Santa maria in Aracoeli, then take the Altare della Patria elevator for a wonderful view on Rome.

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Go to Via dei Fori Imperiali (passing close to the Carcere Mamertino, St Peter’s jail), then enter the archaeological area of Fori Imperiali (ticket needed, which includes also the entrance to the Colosseum) and visit the Forum and the Orti Farnesiani (renaissance garden build in the XVI century over the remains of the Emperors palaces). Visit the colosseum and, if you have the time, have a nice walk in the medieval rome to discover the Roman houses buried under medieval churches (click here to learn more).


At night, have a walk in Trastevere and find a nice restaurant there. My favorites: ristorante Paris (100 meters from Santa Maria in trastevere and ristorante Roma Sparita, for the best tagliolini cacio e pepe ever!

Courtesy of Lonely Planet
Courtesy of Lonely Planet

Day two: St Peters and the Vatican+ climbing up the dome

Consider a full day for all this sites. You can’t visit St Peter during Sunday morning (there’s the papal audience!). Do reserve your Vatican museum tickets, to avoid spending hours in queues (click here to reserve your ticket).

Don’t miss climbing up St Peter’s dome!.

St Peter's square from cupola

At night have a drink in one of Campo de’ Fiori wineries. This is also a good place for your dinner. Suggested restaurant: Ditirambo, 50 meters from Campo dei Fiori square.

Day three: the Jewish Ghetto, Trastevere and palatino

Start in Campo de Fiori (nice market on week days) and walk to Largo Argentina. There you can enter the old Jewish ghetto and discover this off of the beaten track Roman neighbourhood.

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Have also a look at Portico di Ottavia and at Teatro di Marcello. Cross the Tiber river at Isola Tiberina and enter into Trastevere, heading toward Santa Maria in Trastevere Church.

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Visit the middle age church and enjoy the “old village” atmosphere. Loose yourself in the old streets, if you want you could visit Villa Farnesina Museum (paintings from Raffaello) and the Santa Cecilia church, hosting a touching statue of the saint. Cross the Tiber and visit the Santa maria in Cosmedin medieval church, which hosts the famous Bocca della Verità.

From there you can walk to the lovely Palatino neighbourhood (fabolous view on Circo Massimo and the Emperors palaces ruins), where you should visit the Giardino degli Aranci, the Santa Sabina church and the famous Key Hole with a view over St Peter (Piazza Cavalieri di Malta)

At night, go back to the ghetto for a kosher dinner. My suggestion: Il Giardino Romano.

Day four: Barocco Rome

Start your tour in Piazza del Popolo. From there,  first have a look at Santa Maria del Pololo church (quoted in  Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons”) which hosts two amazing paintings from caravaggio).

Walk up to the Pincio gardens (wonderful view on Rome) and keep on walking towards Trinità dei Monti. This is Villa Borghese, one of the most beautiful Roman parks, and a  fantastic place for your morning jogging.

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If you have time, get into Villa Medici (ticket required) and visit the renaissance palace and gardens. Continue to Trinità dei Monti where you will have the Spanish Steps at your feet. Go down, admire the Barcaccia fountain and, why not, have a coffee at the famous caffé Greco. Keep walking on your left, pass via Cavour and get to Fontana di Trevi (have a coin ready to be thrown in the fountain!). Click here to learn more.

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From there, cross via del Corso, heading to piazza del Pantheon (stop to visit Sant’Ignazio Church and admire the amazing trompe l’oeuil painted on the roof. Visit the Pantheon, and the churches of San Luigi dei Francesi and the Basilica di Sant’Agostino (hey host 3 wonderfl paintings by caravaggio) and continue to Piazza Navona. From there, you can loose yourself in the delightfull and lively streets behing it (via del Panico, piazza del Fico, via dei coronary). Then cross the tiber at ponte Sant’Angelo and visit Castel Sant’angelo at sunset. Saint Angel castle could be your starting point for a magical night Rome walking tour (click here to learn more).

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Day five: Appia Antica and rione Monti

If the weather is good, you can’t miss a biking tour on the Appian Antica archeological park (you will ride over an original roman causeway!) and a visit to the St Callisto and St Sebastiano catacombs. Click here to learn more.

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In the afternoon, you can explore the delightful Rione Monti (it’s just buhind the colosseum) and visit San Pietro in Vincoli (which hosts the famous Mosè statue by Michelangelo).

Rione Monti is an excellent place for a drink and a for your last Roman dinner. My favorite place: bottiglieria ai tre scalini. It’s the top drinking place in the neighbourhood, but you will find a lot of nice restaurants in the same street (via Panisperna)

Enjoy your Rome tour!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow and get free updates?

Discovering the Spanish Steps

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Discover by foot one of top Rome destinations, beyond the beaten path


The Spanish Steps, that Italians call Scalinata of Trinita dei Monti, are one of the main tourist attractions in Rome and, indeed, one of the most famous images in the world.

You will certainly visit them when in Rome and sit on the most famous Italian steps while savoring a gelato , before heading to the next destination on your “to be visited” list. The good new is that there’s much more to see than just the staircase, and if your planning allows you a couple of hours in the  neighborhood, you  will be greatly rewarded by discovering often neglected jewels such as Villa Medici and Santa Maria del Popolo, plus a couple of delightfully places where to stop for a coffee or for a cocktail.

I suggest to walk this itinerary in the very early morning magical light (as in the pictures I shoot fro this post), but you can do it also at the end of the day, to enjoy memorable sunsets from the Pincio esplanade or from Trinita’ dei Monti terrace.

Spanish Step walking tour map

Your starting point is  Piazza di Spagna, the square  at the fot of the steps. The most scenic way to get there is to walk down Via dei Condotti, one of the poshest streets in Rome, dotted by top  fashion boutiques. And if you’re still hungry after your breakfast, you can grab a cappuccino and a cornetto (the way Romans call croissants, because their looking like horns, “corna” in Italian, hence “cornetto”, little horn) at Caffé Greco, one of the oldest and most fascinating cafés in Italy.

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Cappuccino and Cornetto at historical Caffé Greco

At the end of via del Corso, the breathtaking sights of the Spanish Steps will amaze you.

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Built on the request of pope Innocent XII and created by Francesco De Sanctis in the eighteenth century, this daring architectural master piece was just intended to connect the square and the Trinità dei Monti Church above (a simple solution, indeed!). Today, the Spanish steps are considered one of the three major Barocco masterpieces. The other two being the nearby Fontana di Trevi and the Porto di Ripetta, unfortunately destroyed in the XIX century to build the Tiber cause way.

In spring the ramps of the staircase are literally covered with azaleas, a sight not to be missed.

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Nuns crossing a “botticella” (local traditional coach)
Japanize fiancés getting married in romantic Rome
Japanise fiancés getting married in romantic Rome
The "Carrozzella" engine
The botticella “engine”

At the foot of the steps lies the Barcaccia (the ‘sinking boat’ fountain) by Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gian Lorenzo. It was ably conceived to overcome a technical problem due to low water pressure, hence the idea of the boat wreck. The sun and bee ornamentation is a symbol of the Barberini family and a reference to Pope Urban VIII who commissioned the work.

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Bernini’s “Barcaccia” fountain

From Piazza di Spagna, walk down via del Babbuino. After a while you will actually discover the Babbuino (the baboon) himself, actually an old roman statue once part of a fountain, which looks reminded a monkey to old Romans. A few meters away, stop to admire the fascinating Canova Tadolini café. It was once the atelier of Canova’s preferred apprentice, and when, after hosting four generations of artists, it became a café, it was left unchanged, with many of his masterpieces all around. It’s really an incredible place to sip a coffee!

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Walking down via del Babbuino to Piazza del Popolo
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The “babbuino” fountain
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The fascinating Canova Tadolini Caffé

Parallel to via Del Babbuino runs Via Margutta, a secluded old street, famous for itsart galleries and for hosting Federico Fellini’s house.

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Delightful via Margutta

At the end of via Del Babbuino Piazza del Popolo will reveal all its monumental beauty. Its present layout is a neoclassic modern invention, designed in 1811 by the famous architect Giuseppe Valadier. The Egyptian obelisk, brought to Rome in 10 BC by order of Augustus and originally set up in Circo Massimo, is one of the tallest in Rome.

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Piazza del Popolo
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Young tourist enjoying the square

Close to the monumental Porta Flaminia, the gateway to ancient Via Flaminia, you will find Santa Maria del Popolo.

Though virtually ignored by the Rome’s teeming crowds of tourists, Santa Maria del Popolo is one of the most interesting and beautiful churches in Rome. Santa Maria del Popolo was original built in the Middle Ages to evict hated emperor Nero’s ghost, who reportedly was haunting his grave, in a grove of walnut trees on what was once his family estate. In 1099, church officials exorcised the specter by razing the trees and building on the site a church dedicated to “St. Mary of the People”.  Rebuilt in the XV century, it hosts masterpieces from some of  Reanaissance and Barocco top artists, such as Bramante, Raphael and Caravaggio.

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Santa Maria del Popolo
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Nativity scene, from Renaissance maestro Pinturicchio
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Bernini’s Cappella Chigi (quoted in Dan Browns’ Angels and Demons)
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Santa Maria del Popolo nave
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St Peter’s crucifixion painted by Caravaggio, in the Cerasi Chapel

From Santa Maria del Popolo, walk up to the Pincio terrace, and admire the landscape dominated by St Peter’s basilica dome.

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                                     View of Piazza del Popolo and St Peters Basilica from Pincio Terrace

Behind the Pincio terrace lies Villa Borghese, one of the largest parks of Rome and a perfect place to practice jogging or just to rest on the grass.

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Villa Borghese park
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Giuseppe Garibaldi’s bust
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Casina Valadier upscale café and restaurant
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Rome historical center and Altare della Patria from Casina Valadier terrace

Walking towards Trinità dei Monti church, you will get to an apparently severe renaissance building: Villa Medici

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Villa Medici

Ferdinando dei Medici bought this striking Renaissance palace in 1576, and in 1666 Louis XIV established the French Academy and decided to send the best artists and sculptors of France to live and be inspired in Rome while studying the classics. Since then, Villa Medici has hosted artists from all over the world, including once upon a time, Velázquez, Fragonard, and Ingres, who all worked here.

Villa Medici Façade
Villa Medici facade

It is definitely worthwhile to take the guided tour  to visit the exquisite 18 acres of gardens filled with fountains and sculptures and to discover the elaborated garden facade, enriched with an astonishing collection of Roman statues and bas reliefs, and overlooking a loggia with a beautiful fountain devoted to Mercury.

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h Villa Medici Inner Garden
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Ancient obelisk in the park
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Villa Medici inner façade
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The Loggia
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Detail of a Roman master piece, recycled to decorate the facade
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The Altare della Patria from Villa Medici terrace
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Trinità dei Monti chuch from Villa Medici

After your visit to Villa de Medici, keep on walking in the same direction: in a few minutes you will get to the church of Trinità dei Monti and to one of Rome’s best views.

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Trinità dei Monti church
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Trinità dei Monti and its obelisk
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Roman kiosk
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The view from the top of Spanish Steps

Your Trinità dei Monti walking tour ends here. However, add another 15 minutes to your walk, and you’ll have the possibility to visit the other remaining Barocco masterpiece: Fontana di Trevi.

Don’t forget to bring a coin to be thrown in the fountain!

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Fontana di Trevi, a Barocco masterpiece
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Fontan di Trevi Neptune

And not to miss Rome (too much…) when you’re back home, what about a souvenir?

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Old and new Roma souvenirs

Caldarroste (roast chestnut) are a typical winter delicacy in Italy, now available all year round. Unmissable!

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That’s all folks (and congratulations if you get to the end of this long post!).

Enjoy Italy!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________ Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow and get free updates?

Walking tour in Trastevere

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Explore Trastevere, an unmissable neighborhood in Rome, with my half day free walking tour. Discover Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Cecilia, the Botanical Garden and much more.

Have you ever dreamed to discover what Rome looked like a couple of centuries ago? Then just take a walk  beyond the Tiber to Trastevere, a charming medieval neighborhood full of charm and history, thanks to its narrow cobbled streets lined by medieval houses

Trastevere is named for its position ‘over the Tiber’. Separated from the heart of central Rome by the river, the area retained its narrow lanes and working-class population when the rest of Rome began its nineteenth-century expansion. Despite its being a major touristic destination, it has managed to preserve a strong local (and “Roman”!) identity, and it’s not too difficult to step off the main routes and escape the masses, especially if you plan your visit in the morning and take some time to walk out of the beaten path. There is much more to discover than the classical piazza Trilussa-piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere – viale Trastevere path!

Here is the itinerary, click on the image to access google Maps for more details.

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Your walking tour in Trastevere could start by crossing Ponte Sisto stone Footbridge (you can easily get there from Campo de Fiori, after visiting its bustling market).

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Ponte Sisto – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Just in front of Ponte Sisto you will find Piazza Trilussa, one of the main gathering places of the Roman night life. Keep walking on your right, until you get to Porta Settimiana, one of the 3 ancient gateways in the Aurelian walls on this side of the river.


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Porta Settiniana, leading to via della Lungara


Stroll through  Porta Settimiana to via della Lungara, and after 300 meters you will find a totally neglected Trastevere Jewell: Villa Farnesina. This opulent Renaissance villa, is home to many incredible frescoes by artists such as Raphael. The entry ticket is definitely worth the price, especially after the recent fresco restoration.

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Coming back to Porta Settimiana, notice on your left Palazzo Corsini, a baroque palace with a collection of antique art by Titian and Caravaggio and, at the end of via Corsini, the second hidden Jewell of this itinerary: the Orto Botanico (botanic garden), an oasis with more than 7000 plant species, and a perfect place to take a rest.

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Coming back in via Corsini, take a look at the mosaic workshop on your right, Aegea Mosaics. Watching the skilled artisans at work is simply fascinating. Aegea Mosaics also organizes courses, including “intensive” day courses – from 2 to 7 hours.

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From here, get back to via della Lungara, heading towards Santa Maria in Trastevere church, and loose yourself in the fascinating maze of narrow lanes at Trastevere’s heart. Plants scramble down walls from garden terraces, flowers hung to the old walls, washing hangs out to dry, and chipped Virgin Marys look down from shrines on street corners. Don’t be afraid to off the main routes to discover the many touches of authentic local color!

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During your walk,

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Eventually, the beautiful square of Santa Maria in Trastevere will appear to your right. The square is a lovely and lively place, full of locals, tourists and buskers. You can take a seat in one of the pricey cafés along the square or simply sit on the steps of the central fountain: both are great places for people-watching and to look at buskers exhibitions – some are really good.

The  square is dominated by 12th-century Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest Churches of Rome (the basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s), and perhaps the first in which Mass was openly celebrated.

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Santa Mri ain Trastevere - courtesy of Wikipdia
Santa Mri ain Trastevere – courtesy of Wikipdia

Inside the church are a number of late 13th-century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini on the subject of the Life of the Virgin (1291) centering on a “Corontation of the Virgin” in the apse.

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After your visit to the basilica, walk along via della Lungaretta towards Viale Trastevere. This busy street has countless restaurants, popular with both Romans and tourists.

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You will also have the possibility of purchasing stylish local souvenirs…

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Now cross Viale Trastevere to discover the fourth highlight of this walk: the church of Santa Cecilia.

The neighborhood south to viale Trastevere is much more quiet, and among the medieval houses you will be able to spot ancient roman remains.

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The church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is one of Rome’s more interesting churches. The Basilica di Santa Cecilia was built on top of the saint’s house; in the year 230 she supposedly survived decapitation for three days and when her tomb was opened in 1599 her body was incorrupt.

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Indeed, the statue by the altar is based on the  undecayed body found in her coffin in the sixteenth-century.

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The statue of the young martyr, her face covered by voile and turned down to the ground, is a touching masterpiece.

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Once out of the church, walk to nearby romantic Piazza dei Mercanti, where you will find two nice restaurants (typical… and rather touristic), where you can decide to stop for a rest and to taste some traditional roman dish.

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Coming back to Viale Trastevere, enjoy this quiet neighborhood, and take some time to browse through the original and fancy boutiques and workshop that dot the area.

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Once on the Tiber shore, at the crossing with Viale Trastevere, you can’t Miss the Sora Mirella Grattachecca kiosk.

Grattachecca is an old, traditional Roman delicacy, today almost disappeared. To make a Grattachecca you take a huge block of ice (“Checca” in Roman dialect), grate it with the specific tool (“gratta”) until you have enough grated ice to fill a large glass. Then you put syrup on it (lemon, mint, strawbery, well, actually whatever flavor you like) and here is your delicious and refreshing Grattachecca!

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After your reinvigorating Grattachecca, you are now ready to visit adjacent Isola Tiberina, and from there the old Jewish Ghetto,  the Palatino or, to lazily lay down and have a well deserved nap (“pennichella”, in Roman dialect).

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Mystical ecstasy in Rome: Santa Maria della Vittoria

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An absolute baroque masterpiece by Gianlorenzo Bernini, hidden in small church close to Termini station in Rome.


Santa Maria della Vittoria (Our Lady of Victory) hosts one or the most amazing Baroque masterpieces: the ecstasy of St Teresa, by Gianlorenzo Bernini. However, this tiny church is not included in the “standard tourist itinerary” and this makes it a rewarding “off the beaten path” destination.

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Santa Maria della Vittoria construction started in 1608, under the direction of Carlo Maderno, but the church was only finished in 1626.

Its interior is sumptuously decorated, with lots of gilded stucco and polychrome marble so that hardly any of the interior wall surfaces are left naked.

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But the true reason to visit Santa Maria della Vittoria is the baroque Cappella Cornaro designed and executed by by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and hosting one of the Exstasy of St Teresa. The ecstasy of St Teresa of Avila, executed with the rest of the chapel in 1646. It is considered one of the best Baroque sculptures in Rome, and is one of Bernini’s most accomplished and well-known works.

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Bernini made magisterial use of the shallow transept available to him: instead of trying for an enclosed chapel he presented the composition as a theatre, featuring the ecstasy of St Teresa.

The famous sculpture is cleverly lit by a window hidden by the pediment (looks like a light scene!) and on the flanking walls are two opera-boxes containing sculptured representations of members of the Cornaro family.

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The saint, the Spanish founder of the Discalced Carmelite nuns and, is depicted as seated on clouds as on a bed. She is caught during an ecstasy that she described in her mystical autobiography, when she experienced an angel piercing her heart with a dart of divine love, causing her both immense joy and pain.

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Saint Teresa contorted posture and the fairly ambiguous angel smile give the scene a flavor of passion and voluptuousness, very surprising in a catholic statue!

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Santa Maria della Vittoria is located at Via XX Settembre 17 just north-west of the Repubblica metro station.

As a result of the fame of the Bernini sculpture of St Teresa, the church is now a popular tourist destination and is on tour circuits. A serious visit is best done early; the church is open 07:00 to 12:00 and 16:00 to 19:00. You may combine it with a visit to the astonishing nearby church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

Like Delightfully Italy? So why don’t you support it!

All you need to do is to use by clicking on the banner below to book you next trip to Italy or anywhere else. Plus you’ll get the best deal on accommodation available anywhere!

Booking banner long Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow and get free updates?

Climbing up St Peter’s Basilica’s dome

St Peters dome from the basilica

Climbing to the top of St Peter’s Basilica is possible, and it’s actually one of the highlights of a trip to Rome! Here is how to make it.

Cupola San Pietro

Not that many visitors know that it is possible to climb up to the top of St Peter’s dome (“cupola”) : it is a fantastic experience, and a great opportunity to enjoy a fantastic and dizzying city panorama all around Rome and to admire a top down view of St Peter’s basilica nave.

At the entrance to the basilica, after the security check, there is a sign that directs you to the far right of the portico (past the Holy Door) and to the kiosk for the elevator. Note that the Basilica entrance is on the right side of the colonnade (follow the queue… or click here to learn how to skip it).

You can take the elevator to the roof level (saving 320 steps), but if you want to be on the top of the cupola you must take the stairs for the last portion (551 steps in total). The entrance cost is Cost 10 Euros for elevator, 8 Euros for stairs.

After the brief elevator ride (or the first 320 steps), before your climb to the dome, you can stop and enjoy the view from the gallery inside the dome looking down into the basilica . Take a few moments to absorb the astonishing beauty of the cupola from within – and look down – the main altar.

St Peters insight from cupola_3

St Peters insight from cupola_2

St Peters insight _angel

Michelangelo himself designed this dome, which measurs  135m (450 ft.) above the ground at its top and stretches 42m (139 ft.) in diameter. Legend has it that in deference to the Pantheon, Michelangelo made his dome 1.5m (5 ft.) shorter across, saying “I could build one bigger, but not more beautiful, than that of the Pantheon.” Carlo Maderno later added the dome-top lantern.

The climb to the top of the dome proceeds through progressively narrower and sloping stairs. The narrow passageway can be uncomfortable you are claustrophobic (it could also get crowded and hot in summertime). Luckily, there are “slits” here and there to let fresh air in, and since you’re going up during the daylight hours you’ll have the interior lights plus sunlight now and then.

St Peter_climbing up the cupola

Once at the top, you will be rewarded by the views so often seen in photographs: St Peter’s square…

St Peter's square from cupola

… the Sistine chapel and the Vatican museums…

Vatican museums from cupola

… the Vatican gardens

Vatican Gardens from cupola

Back on the roof, you have access to restrooms, water fountains, a gift shop and a new coffeebar. Take a walk to the front of the basilica to look into the Square and observe the huge statues on the façade and the imposing Cupola just above you.

St Peters cupola

St Peter's facade statues

Vatican_tough jobs

When you’re ready to leave, there is again the option of elevator or stairs. Consider taking the stairs down, as this area contains marble plaques of all the famous who have visited the dome over the years. Going down takes much less time than going up!

Astonishingly, the exit is directly in St Peter’s nave, that you can now visit.

St Peters (navata)

St Peter_St Peter statue

St Peters Navata 2

Tips & Infos

Hours 8:00 – 18:00 (Apr – Sep) 8:00 – 17:00 (Oct – Mar)
Cost 10 Euros for elevator, 8 Euros for stairs (updated March 2018)

Web site (Italian):

Dress code: St. Peter’s has a strict dress code: no shorts, no skirts above the knee, and no bare shoulders. I am not kidding. They will not let you in if you do not come dressed appropriately. In a pinch, guys and gals alike can buy a big, cheap scarf from a nearby souvenir stand and wrap it around legs as a long skirt or throw over shoulders as a shawl.

Drop your bags: They no longer allow you to take large bags or purses into the basilica. Luckily, they’ve also arranged a drop-off point for all bags in a room just to the right of the steps leading up into the church. This service is free.

Free Tours: There are free guided visits to St. Peter’s run by volunteer professors and scholars from North American College in Rome. They’re offered Mon–Fri at 2:15pm and 3pm, Sat at 10:15am and 2:15pm, and Sun at 2:30pm. They meet in front of the Vatican tourist info office, which is to the building along Piazza S. Pietro just left (south) of the main steps into the basilica.

Otherwise, follow this link to skip the queues and get a complete St Peter’s basilica tour.

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Night walk in Rome

What are the best sights to visit at night in Rome? Discover the magic of Piazza Navona, St. Peter and the Pantheon in the dark.

In this post, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite night walking itineraries in Rome. Not that much “off the beaten path”, but so delightful!

Walking in Rome at night is just magical. In the yellowish street lights of the old Roman neighborhoods, you can hardly miss the feeling of over twenty centuries of history, art and beauty. And, all around you, the Roman Dolce Vita, with its restaurants, streets artists, ice cream shops, and hundreds of Romans and tourists enjoying the nice weather and the fabulous surroundings!

You can click on the map below to get to google map, th eitinerary is easy and won’t take more tahn a couple of hours (excluding your Gelato stops!). And to bring your Roman night experience to the next level, what about an exclusive night visit to the Colosseum? Click here to know more!

Happy walk!

Rome by night itinerray

Our night tour starts from Castel San’Angelo, one of the town’s most famous landmarks.

Castel Sant’Angelo appearance today is the result of a long series of transformations that, unfortunately, have left nearly no traces of the “Hadrianeum”, the mausoleum that Emperor Hadrian built for himself in the second century AD. Used as a defensive bastion against barbarians during Emperor Aurelian reign, by the Middle Ages Castel Sant’Angelo had been transformed into a practically unassailable fortress, hosting an infamous prison. The popes converted the structure into a castle and also commissioned the construction of a covered fortified corridor connected to the Vatican Palaces (il “passetto”), which was to be used in the event of danger as an extreme escape route (this secret corridor inspired many dark novels, including Dan Browns’ “Angels and Demons”).

Visit Rome_ night_Castel Sant'Angelo_01

In front of Castel Sant’angelo you will notice a beautiful pedestrian bridge, usually very crowded: Ponte Sant’Angelo.

Ponte Sant’Angelo, formerly called  “Bridge of Hadrien”, was built in 134 AD and is one of the oldest bridges  in Rome. During the Middle Ages, pilgrims used it to reach St Peter’s basilica. In the seventh century both the castle and the bridge took on the name Sant’Angelo, due to a legend holding that the Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum, sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the terrible year 590 plague.

Visit Rome_night_Castel Sant'Angelo from ponte Sant'Angelo_01

In 1669, under pope Clement IX,  Bernini adorned the bridge with ten angels holding instruments of the passion. He personally only finished the two originals of the Angels, but these were kept by Clement IX for his own pleasure (they are now in the church of Sant’Andrea delle fratte.

Visit Rome_night_Castel Sant'Angelo angels 2_01

Visit Rome_ night_Castel Sant'Angelo angels_01

Walking left, you will be able to admire majestic via della Conciliazione, leading to St Peter basilica. This avenue is actually the result of one of Benito Mussolini “modernizing” demolition initiatives, aiming at providing Rome with monumental perspectives.

Visit Rome_ night - St Peter by night_01

Now cross Ponte Vittorio, to admire on of the most scenic views of Castel Sant’Angelo.

Visit Rome_night_the Tiber Castel sat'Angelo_01

On this early twentieth century liberty style bridge, instead of baroque angels you will find liberty Nikes…

Visit Rome_Rome_night - Victory on ponte Vittorio_01

A few meters ahead, take Via del Panico to enter the Rioni (districts) Ponte and Parione, among the most delightful and fascinating roman neighborhoods. You could wander for hours in the middle age narrow streets, discovering romantic corners and picturesque sights. Don’t rush, take your time to explore the area and to enjoy the unique atmosphere.

This is one of the places where the liveliness of Roman life is most tangible. So just sit in one of the many cafes and enjoy some true “dolce vita” moments.

Visit Rome_ night _ Dolce vita close to Bar del Fico_01

If you are lucky enough to find a place to sit, try the famous “Caffé della Pace“, in via della Pace 3/7 or the also famous Bar del Fico, piazza del Fico, 26-28. You will actually found dozens of nice bars and restaurants in the area, but these two are my favorites places to have a drink end to enjoy the Roman night.

Visit Rome_night - Caffé della  pace_02

After sipping your cocktail, keep walking in via del teatro Pace, turn left in via del Governo Vecchio, and you find in front of you a true Roman legend: the Pasquino statue.

The statue is what remains of a work from the 3rd century B.C. that once decorated the Stadium of Domitian. It was found during paving works of the area and in 1501 the cardinal Oliviero Carafa located it in the ancient Piazza di Parione, that, afterwards, was named after Pasquino when the statue grew in popularity.

The origin of the name, “Pasquino” remains obscure. However, from the 16th to the 19th century, Pasquino became the first “talking statue” of Rome. Satirical verses attacking the most well-known public figures were hung around its neck, speaking about the people’s dissatisfaction, denouncing injustice and misgovernment by members of the Church. These stinging insults came to be called “Pasquinate,” taking the name of the statue that best demonstrated the people’s discontent about corruption and abuses of power.

Visit Rome_night - Pasquino statue_01

Today, the base of the statue is still used to stick up boards where the common people express in rhyme or in prose its discontent (the so-called “pasquinate”).

Visit Rome_night_Pasquino_21

A few steps away, you’ll discover the magic of Piazza Navona.

Built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, Piazza Navona is one of the finest baroque masterpiece in papal Rome, which displays the genius of artists such as Bernini and Borromini.

And, at night, it is simply magic.

Visit Rome_night_Piazza Navona_fontna del moro 2_01

Visit Rome_night _ Piazza Navona_ Fontana del Moro e sat'Agnese in Agone_01

Visit Rome_Rome_night_Piazza Navona_ Fontana dei quattro fiumi_01

Visit Rome_night_PiazzaNavona_Fontana dei quattro fiumi e sant'agnese_01

Visit Rome_night_Piazza Navona_ Fontana dei quattro fiumi-the Nile_01

In the summer the piazza provides a continuous festival of painters, caricaturists, fortune-teller and buskers, who entertain visitors until the small hours.

Visit Rome_Rome_night_Piazza Navona_Painters 2_01

Visit Rome_night_Piazza navona_Painters 3_01

Visit Rome_night_Piazza Navona_Painters 1_01

At that point, you will be really hungry. Many restaurants in this area are tourist traps, catering little more than Spaghetti Bolognese and Pizza, but some exceptions can still be found. One of my favorite places is the Ditirambo, close to Campo de’ Fiori square. Here you will have the opportunity to taste some “modern” italian cuisine, in a traditional decor. Good value for money, in my opinion.


The Campo de’ Fiori square is another major Roman night life landmark , with many cafes to sip a glass of whine or a cocktail while enjoying the street life.

Visit Rome_night_Campo dei fiori_Wine bar_01

In the center of the “piazza”, note the statue of Giordano Bruno, a famous Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, astrologer and astronomer, that the The Roman Inquisition found guilty of heresy and burned at the stake.

Visit Rome_Rome_night_Campo dei fiori_Roman movida under Giordano Bruno statue_01

If you still have some energy, you can head to one of the better preserved ancient Roman monuments: the Pantheon.

Visit Rome_night_Pantheon by night_01

Visit Rome_night_Dolphin and Pantheon_01

To end your walking tour in a glorious way, keep walking back towards the Tiber river, until Ponte Umberto 1°, to admire the best view of St Peter’s basilica.

Rome_Sant Peters from Ponte Umberto 1°

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The most charming fountain of Rome

Delighted tourist

One of the most charming fountain of Rome is also one of the best hidden, and seeking it out will help you discover the Roman ghetto neighborhood and, why not, taste some dishes of the Roman Jewish cuisine. 

The “pièce de résistance” of this tour is the fontana delle tartarughe (The Turtles Fountain), located in the out-of-the-way Piazza Mattei, in the Roman Juish Ghetto .

This lovely little fountain features four male figures propped up on dolphins and assisting tiny turtles into the small pool above them. It was built between 1580 and 1588 by the architect Giacomo della Porta (one of the most famous 16th century roman architects) and the sculptor Taddeo Landini. The bronzes turtles around the upper basin, usually attributed either to Gian Lorenzo Bernini or Andrea Sacchi, were added in either 1658 and 1659.

Turtles fountain, Rome

You will love this fountain not only for its beautiful late Italian Renaissance style, but also for the lovely and relaxed neighborhood, so different from the busy and chaotic largo di Torre Argentina square, which could be the starting point of your visit.

From largo di Torre Argentina take via Paganica and venture into the old neighborhood. The Turtles Fountain is located in Piazza Mattei (from the name of the family who actually financed the fountain in the 16th century), at the end of via Paganica – you just can’t miss it.

You can take your time, sit on a bench or sip a cappuccino in one of the two bars in Mattei square (I suggest the fancy Bartaruga).

Old wall, Roman GhettoThen, lazily loose yourself in the old alleys or, if it’s lunch time, walk down the old via di S. Ambrogio, heading towards via del Portico di Ottavia, were most of the Kosher restaurants are located. While relaxing and enjoying your walk, look for the remains or a very old past, that pop up from time to time in the old streets.

My favorite is the tiny and lovely Tempietto del Carmelo, build around 1572 by Pope Gregorio XIII; it was used to  give local Jews “mandatory” sermons, with the aim of converting them to Catholicism!

Tempietto del Carmelo 2

Also notable are the remains of Roman ancient buildings and statues, “recycled” during the middle ages as cheap construction materials.

Resti romani- via portico di Ottavia

The most famous restaurant here is Gigetto al Portico di Ottavia, where you can eat on the side walk, with an amazing view on the Portico di Ottavia, the teatro Marcello and the Synagogue.

Portico di Ottavia and teatro di Marcello

Here you can savor a delicious Carciofo alla giudia (fried artichoke, Jewish style). You should also taste “Fiori di Zucca”, delicious zucchini flowers, filled with mozzarella and anchovies and deep fried.


Gigetto Al Portico di Ottavia

Unfortunately Giggetto has become a tourist spotlight, and food level  has suffered a little bit. For a higher quality you can also test Ba’ Ghetto or La Taverna del Ghetto, on the same street.

Buon Appetito!

From here you can either cross the Tiber and get to Isola Tiberina or Trastevere, or you can pass under the Portico di Ottavia and walk to the Campidoglio

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow and get free updates?

A dive in medieval Rome


Have you ever dreamed to feel the mysticism of archaic Christians in a 15 century old basilica? Can you imagine yourself descendig deep stairs and get to an untouched Mithraic temple, buried under two layers of middle age churches? Well, you can experience all this in Rome!

If you think about Rome, the first images that will come to your mind are the majestic Romans’ remains, the renaissance palaces or the baroque churches. Middle age is a rather ignored period, which is a pity, since the centuries of roman empire final decadence and the dark ages that followed gave birth to some of the most fascinating and romantic spots you could find in Rome. Today I’d like to walk you through a half day tour that will dive you in a mysterious, unspotted Rome.

Let’s start our tour from the Colosseo (just to have an easy landmark…). A few steps away, in via Labicana, look for San Clemente Church.

Medieval Rome Map

San Clemente is an astonishing church, that dates back to the 12th century. It has beautiful mosaics and some of the nicest original Roman columns, “recycled” to build the nave. Just this would be more than sufficient to justify a visit.


But there’s much more! San Clemente was built on a 4th century basilica, which was itself built over 1st century private houses and temples. The oldest churches were buried under the 12th century one, and were only discovered in the 19th century.

S. Clemente

Deep stairs will allow you to visit all that, disovering beatiful frescos and, eventually, a perfectly preserved mithraeum, that is, as part of a sanctuary of the cult of syrian god Mithras.


Click to San Clemente web site for more visit and historical infos (

Once you are over with the visit, head for via dei santi quattro and walk up  200 m until a short staircase on your right will get you to the Santi Quattro Coronati church.


Santi Quattro Coronati church dates back to the 4th (or 5th) century, and is devoted to four anonymous saints and martyrs. The complex of the basilica with its two courtyards, the fortified Cardinal Palace with the Saint Silvester Chapel, and the monastery with its beautiful cosmatesque cloister (one of the very few survived in Rome) is an out-of-time setting, surprisingly neglected by most tourists.

The church and monastery are still in operations, and you will need to ask the nuns to visit the middle age cloister and the beautiful frescos (and leave a donation…). You will also find a strange wooden weel: this is were babies that couldn’t be grown up by their parents due to poverty and/or unwanted pregnancies could be left to the nuns.


Once you are done with your visit, if you feel you had enough of Roman middle age, you may come back to San Clemente and head towards the charming Rione Monti (I’m going to talk about it in a dedicated post), or you can just stop in the beautifull Parco del Colle Oppio (where you could have visited the Domus Area, if only it was opened to public…) and take a rest under the pines shade.


But if you are still hungry of undisclosed Roman treasures, keep walking down via dei Santissimi Quattro and turn left in via di Santo Stefano Rotondo. After 400 metres, at number 7, you will find a courtyard on your left leading to Santo Stefano Rotondo, the most ancient example of a centrally planned church in Rome.

Santo Stefano Rotondo - extJPG

Built on top of the remains of a 2nd-century Mithraic temple , the church was built at the end of the 5th century A.D. to hold the body of Saint Stephen, whose body had been discovered a few decades before in the Holy Land, and brought to Rome. The church’s architecture is particularly unusual, since it was the first in Rome to have a circular plan, inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulcre in Jerusalem.


Once there, you can’t miss the 34 frescos decorating with an astonishing collection of martyrdom scenes commissioned by Gregory XIII in the 16th century. The frescos are fairly naturalistic depictions of torture and execution. Better to avoid them if you feel too sensitive!

Continuing on via di Santo Stefano Rotondo you will get to the beatiful Santa Maria in Domnica and to the navicella (“small boat”) fountain, made out of an old roman small marble boat. Turn right and take via San Paolo della Croce, to the Basilica of San Giovanni e Paolo.


Just like S. Clemente, the Santi Giovanni e Paolo basilica several layers of histories, overlapping over the centuries. The original church was built in 398 over the home of two Roman soldiers, John and Paul, martyred under Julian in 362. The church was damaged during the sack by Alaric I (410) and because of an earthquake (442), restored by Pope Paschal I (824), sacked again by the Normans (1084), and again restored, with the addition of a monastery and a bell tower.

What you can’t miss is the visit to the original Roman Houses buried under the church, and discovered in the 19th century. Unlike San Clemente, in this case you will get into magnificent residential complex comprising several Roman houses of different periods. What you just can’t miss are the wonderful frescos covering most of the buried rooms.

case-romane del celio-sala-dei-geni

(entrance in Clivio di Scauro, outside the church, on the left, follow the link for additional infos

That was the last highlight of the tour. Now you can walk down Clivio di Scauro (note the arched walls, mostly original romans) and get to Circo Massimo. From there you can get back to the Colosseum, visit the Palatino, or head to Aventino. Your Roman experience is not over yet…


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Italy top destinations and travel itineraries, off the beaten path is the blog for all the ones in love with Italian culture, Italian sights, Italian monuments .. and with Italian food! If you wish to visit Italy for the first time, or if you already discovered Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi coast, but still want more, is here to disclose to you Italian Must See as well as Italian hidden treasures. And if you like what you read, why not follow and get free updates?