Fountain hopping in Rome.
Augusts in Rome are hot. And while we all crave the heat sometimes, I recommend you keep away from Italy’s capital during this month. Romans flee to the coast, and many of the shops and restaurants are shut. Gary, one of our local tramps, was often found passed out in the shade on Via dei Baullari. Yet tourists are a plenty, bravely (or stupidly) battling the merciless sun. Long trails of overweight and sweating Americans follow a flag from one impressive sight to the next. A less attractive sight.
My sister Mol and I, who had just moved to Rome with our family that summer of 2009, escaped the heat in another way. We paddled in fountains.
Rome is overflowing with fountains; from the Trevi to the stunning fountains (with Bernini’s Four Rivers as its centre piece) on piazza Navona. Moreover, there are hundreds of (drinking) water fountains dotted around the city, quenching many a grateful tourist’s thirst.
That August, with no swimming pool in sight, Mol and I were seduced by the cool waters of the fountains which we passed and admired during our daily, and nightly, explorations of the city. And we found many hidden gems, not just delightful to cool down in, but also to look at. When the unbearable heat passed, we came to appreciate these fountains not for their paddling pool potentials, but for the art, beauty and history they actually embodied.
My favourite was the 16th Century ‘Fontana delle Tartarughe’ (the Turtle Fountain), hidden in the Piazza Mattei just by the old Jewish Ghetto. A myth is told of this fountain: it is claimed that a bankrupt Duke Mattei built this fountain in one night in order to persuade the wealthy father of the woman he wanted to marry that he was trustworthy. The morning after this was built, the Duke opened his window to show his future father in-law the fountain. The father was so impressed that he was convinced the Duke deserved his daughter’s hand in marriage after all. To remember this joyful event, the Duke had the window bricked up. To this day there is still a window closed up overlooking the fountain.
Our local and most visited fountains were those on Piazza Farnese, adjacent to the Campo Di Fiori. These ancient marble baths were originally carried to Piazza Farnese from the Roman Baths of Caracalla in the 17th century under orders of Cardinal Farnese. The two huge, deep stone baths are beautifully lit at night, and on warm evenings we often used to sit on the edge of the fountains, dipping our feet in the refreshing water. From these fountains you have a stunning view of the Palazzo Farnese, the largest palace any Pope has built, and now the French Embassy. Its size means you simply cannot miss it. Since 1936 the French have had the Palazzo on a 99 year lease, and pay a symbolic fee of 1 euro a month. The Italians did get a building in Paris in return, but this was of course nothing in comparison.
Unlike Anita Ekberg, we never managed to prance around in the Trevi fountain, as tempted as we were to re-enact La Dolce Vita. Yet this fountain, surrounded by cameras and police at all times, but mostly inaccessible due to bulging crowds, remains on our ‘to-do’ list. We did succeed in swimming in Navona’s Four Rivers, tackling it with a group of students we bumped into. We had a narrow escape from the Carabinieri, Mol finding it extremely challenging to heave herself over the high, slippery fountain edge. It was a solid achievement for the night.
After a while we realised we should perhaps not have swum in these fountains and this is something I now strongly discourage, especially after someone wading in one of the Navonna fountains took a hammer to it recently. I for one have grown to love these fountains not just because of their physical beauty, but more for the intriguing stories they tell.
I always wondered why the rotund, grubby tramp Gary never went for a dip. I reckon it was probably because once in, he’d find it very hard to get back out.
Flying into Rome
Fly to Fiumincino (Leonardo da Vinci) – International Airport
Price: from €80 return
- Airlines: Ryanair
Price: from €50 return
Transport from Airport to City Centre
From Fiumincino (International Airport):
Leonardo da Vinci shuttle to Rome Termini
Journey time: half an hour
Leaving times: Leaves every half hour, starting at 5.52am going to the airport and the last train leaving at 22:52.
From the airport, the train starts at 6:30 and the last train leaves at 23:25.
“FM1″ (Ferrovia Metropolitana 1), or “Treno metropolitano per Orte”
Ideal if staying in Trastevere (can take it to Ostiense as well)
Journey time to Trastevere: 23 mins
Every 20 mins
TIP: Even if you want to get to centro storico, the FM1 is great to take. It is cheaper, quicker and goes more frequently than the Leonardo Da Vinci shuttle and you can take tram 8 from Trastevere Station to Torre Argentina/Piazza di Fiori in no time. Ideal.
Terravision Bus to Rome Termini (main station)
Journey Time: 55 mins
Cost: €6 unless buy online where its €4 (€8 return): http://www.terravision.eu/fiumicino_price_timetable.html
Cost: €40 flat fare to central Rome (incl luggage) – Don’t let them rip you off!
Journey time: depending on traffic 35-50mins
From Ciampino Airport (Budget Airport):
Cost: €50 flat fare to central Rome (incl luggage) – Don’t let them rip you off!
Journey time: depending on traffic 30-40 mins
How to get around Rome
1) Walk (recommended)
Antiqua Roma €€
Via Marianna Dionigi, 17 - 00193 Rome, Italy
Tel: 328 4163009 | Email: email@example.com
Price: €85 – €100
Situated close to the Castle of St Angelo, this little Bed and Breakfast is a great base to explore the city. The owner Enrico is charming and will help and advise you and the rooms are clean and cosy.
Locanda Carmel €€
Via Goffredo Mameli, 11 – 00153 Rome, Italy
Tel: 06 5809921 | Fax: 06 5818853 |
Price: €70 – €90 double
Simple, clean and in the happening Trastevere – you can’t go wrong with this hotel. The rooms are quite small but you can pay €10 to upgrade. There is a big terrace which is ideal to cool down on after a long day of sightseeing. May be a bit noisy at night.
Corso Vittorio Emanuelle 21, 00186 Rome
Tel: +39 335871484
price: from €90 for a double
This has to be one of Rome’s most loved B&Bs. Its location is ideal; walking distance from practically every sight Rome has to offer and seconds away from the places to be at night. It is wonderful value for money: the place itself small and charming, the rooms modern and very clean and the staff super friendly. The breakfasts here are a definite plus. The rooms are not sound-proof so do be aware it could get a little noisy at night. But you’ll be out anyway.
Aldebaran B&B €€
Via Luigi Luzzatti 19, 00185 Rome
Tel: 0039 3407208428
Prices: from 75 euros for a double
It only has three double rooms. But they are ensuite, immaculate and spacious. And Laura, the hostess, is an absolute angel. Her cappuccino at breakfast is to die for and she’ll help you plan your day or journey to the airport. Aldebaran is situated in a peaceful area of Rome, around 10 minutes walk from Termini station and also very close to the Metro which will take you straight into the centro storico (though you can walk most places). This lovely B&B has practically only received shining reviews and beckons every mid-budgeter to come and stay. It makes booking in advance vital.
Price range: from €40 per night and up
Apartments to Rent
Price range: from €40 per night and up
If you can, rent an apartment. You’ll get so much more for your money and it will make the experience so much more ‘Roman’.
If you can, rent an apartment. You’ll get so much more for your money and it will make the experience so much more ‘Roman’.
Best for if you’re with a group of people since the apartments on offer tend to be quite big, however there are a few studios for 2 people. Amazing value for money, you may luck out and stay in one of the most beautiful, centrally located apartments in Rome.
You can get apartments from one bedroom or more, from as little as 40 euros a night. Check airbnb for the large range of apartments available, and choose your favourite based on reviews given, location, photos and price.
The European version of (American) Airbnb – this site offers a range of excellent apartments, studios or rooms to rent in Rome.
Map of where to stay
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The Vatican City – The Holy See
It’s very difficult to sum up in brief why you must come here during your time in Rome. You will undoubtedly know that it is the smallest independent state in the world, that ‘the pope lives here’, that its steeped in religious history and that it is also pretty famous for its art (understatement). It is all these things and so much more. Its hard to describe that moment you walk onto Via della Conciliazione (Road of the Conciliation) and see St Peters Cathedral straight ahead of you. It is a feeling of elation and of awe. Upon entering the Sistene Chapel, the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace (official residence of the Pope), you will be taken aback by the frescoes of Micelangelo, Botticelli and Perugino filling the walls and ceilings from top to toe. Most of us are familiar with Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgment’, but standing in front of it is very different to simply seeing a photo. Shame about all the other tourists though..
Tip: If you want to catch sight of the Pope, every Wednesday there is a ‘General Audience’ to see him usually at St. Peter’s Square from 10:30am. It lasts about 1.5 hours. You can buy tickets for seats or you can just wander around and observe from a distance.
Warning: You will not be allowed into St. Peters Cathedral baring a lot of skin - cover up. They are very strict. And get ready to queue (also for the Sistene Chapel).
Did you know?
That St Peter’s is the largest church ever built.
Address: Via del Corso 305
Entrance fee: €10.50 (includes the narrative audio guide)
This newly renovated palatial home, situated on one of Rome’s busiest shopping
streets, is more than worth a visit. Apart from accommodating a private collection of
old masters, this ‘Galleria’ offers an insight into the life of an old, but still existing,
aristocratic Roman family. A number of Velazquez paintings hang here; Pope Innocent X arguably one of his most beautiful works of art. The audio guide is recommendable.
Villa Borghese and Galleria Borghese
Entrance by Piazza del Popolo
The largest public park in the middle of Rome, and definitely worth a visit.
Take refuge from the busy city in 226 acres of gardens, and admire the fountains,
statues, and tree-lined avenues. There is also an artificial lake built in the late 18th
Century, with an Ionic temple in the centre. It is also called the park of museums, which
unsurprisingly, houses many museums. The most impressive of which:
Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5, 00197 Rome
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, from 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Book online or call to reserve: http://www.ticketeria.it/ticketeria/borghese-
The artwork in the Villa Borghese matches, if not exceeds, the beauty of the gardens.
It fact, the park was named after this building. Block off some time in your day to
wander through this overwhelming gallery, enjoying numerous works by Caravaggio,
Raphael and Bernini, which will certainly not disappoint. You won’t know where to
Tip: Must pre-book
Piazza della Rotunda
Open: 8.30am – 7.30pm Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm Sun
This remarkable circular building was initially commissioned as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, built around 126 AD. It still stands strong and is the world’s
largest unreinforced concrete dome. Since the 17th century, the Pantheon has been
used as a Roman Catholic Church, now it is a massive tourist attraction. The sunlight
pours into this beautiful building through the oculus, the only source of light in the
dome and tourists often stand in the ‘spotlight’. As well as that, many tourists will
crowd around the tomb of Raphael, buried here in 1520.
Did you know?
The Pantheon is the only monument belonging to Ancient Rome still standing.
Around the corner from the Pantheon:
Piazza della Minerva
While walking around the Pantheon area, be sure to pass this lovely statue.
Affectionately known as Bernini’s ‘Chick’ by the Roman people, you cant help but stop
here for a look and a snap.
Piazza della Minerva 42, 00186
Open: 7am-7pm Mon – Sat, 8am-1pm, 3-7pm Sun.
My favourite church in Rome, and one of the few examples of Gothic architecture
in Rome. Like many of Rome’s churches not particularly impressive from the
outside, but the inside so contrasting, with ceilings a brilliant blue and displaying an
impressive record of Italian art. The sculpture of the ‘Risen Christ’ by Michelangelo
is worth finding (near the steps of the choir).
One of Rome’s most famous squares – this Baroque piazza and the area surrounding
it is lively by day and night, filled with a mixture of locals and tourists.
- Fountain of the Four Rivers
The square´s centre piece, made by Bernini
- Sant’Agnese in Agone
The church commissioned by Pope Innocent X in 1652, made by the famed
Borromini (and rival of Bernini)
- Palazzo Pamphilj
The largest building in Piazza Navonna, now the Brazilian embassy and cultural centre
Did you know?
The two famous Roman architects Bernini and Borromini were arch-rivals. The legend goes that Bernini was mocking Borromoni by adding a sculpture to his Four Rivers fountain which looks like it is protecting himself from Borromini’s Sant’ Agnese church, scared of it falling down on him (see photo). This is just a made-up myth since the church was built some years after the fountain. Tour guides love this story though.
It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city, maybe the most famous fountain in the world, and one of the busiest sights in Rome. The fountain is the ending part of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct made in 19 BC. Neptune is the central figure of the fountain, riding a carriage in the shape of a shell. Coins being thrown into the fountain has become a tradition, with the legend that if you do so you will return to Rome.
Did you know?
According to the City of Rome, nearly €700,000 worth of coins gets tossed in each year.
Open: 9am-1 hour before sunset
Price: €15.50. For the Europeans aged 18 – 25: €10.50
The sight that represents Rome and without a doubt the world’s most famous
amphitheatre. Can’t be missed, though if time is restricted, walking around it will
give you a good enough impression of this majestic sight. The Forum next door is also definitely worth a look.
Warning: Avoid the ‘Gladiators’, who will charge you for a photo
Did you know?
The Colloseum could seat 50,000 people.
Lungo Il Tevere – something different
Enjoyable to do during the summer months, ‘Fun along the Tiber’ offers both culture
and entertainment along the banks of the river Tiber. There are hundreds of little
shops, bars and cultural expositions. Especially in the evening, with all the lights
along the river, it is a lively and worthwhile event but can get very busy and touristy.
Campo Di Fiori
Oldest and most famous market of Rome. Come here to shop (for food and tourist
trinkets), sip a coffee at one its many cafes or listen to one of the many buskers.
Caravaggio for free (courtesy of EuroCheapo.com):
Rome is packed full of stunning paintings of the 16th Century Italian artist
Caravaggio, known for his dramatic use of lighting. But unfortunately you’ll have to
queue and pay to see them in the Vatican Galleria, Palazzo Barberini, the Borghese
Gallery and the Capitoline Museum.
Visit these three churches however, and you will get Caravaggio for free:
1) Santa Maria del Popolo, Piazza del Popolo
2) Basilica Sant’Agostino, Piazza di Sant’Agostino, 80
3) San Luigi dei Francesi, Via Santa Giovanna d’Arco, 5
Main shopping streets
Via della Corso
- For your standard high street stores like Zara and H&M
Via Condotti (which leads to the Spanish Steps, which you must also see and walk up), Via Borgognona, Via Frattina and just the general area around the Spanish Steps
- For every Designer brand you desire
San Giovanni Clothing Market
Via Sannio. Open daily, except Sunday. 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM
For cheap new and used clothing. You’d bound to find a bargain or two here.
Flea Market in Porta Portese
Situated between Porta Portese and Stazione Trastevere, just off Viale Trastevere
This market happens every Sunday from 6.30 AM to 2 PM, come here to pick up
multiple clothes bargains.
Places to See:
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Bar Amore €
Via dei Banchi Nuovi 41, 00186 Rome
Opening times: Mon-Fri 6:30am-6pm and Sat 6:30am-2pm
Close to Piazza Navona, this is a fantastic family-run coffee bar which also offer very good panino. Espressos and cappuccinos are hugely recommendable. Also good for breakfast.
Warning: It will be packed at around 1pm, since locals will come here to grab their lunch.
Address: Piazza della Quercia, 23
Ideal place for lunch. Around the corner from the Campo di Fiori and just off Piazza Farnese, but it will seem like you are miles away due to the peaceful atmosphere. It has a nice seating area outside, and inside it is simple but pleasant. Battered courgette flowers are a must. If you order the mozzarella they will literally give you a whole ball of it – to die for! Charming owners. Also good for dinner.
Obika Mozarella Bar €€€
Corner of Campo Di Fiori or Angolo Via dei Prefetti Piazza Firenze, 28
You’ll walk past and be enticed in. Offers unlimited variants of mozzarella, in all shapes and forms. Since it is fairly expensive it may be a nice little treat for lunch or just simply a savoury snack. Devour the wonderful cheese in this hip place while watching Romans and tourists alike get on with their day on the Campo or on Piazza di Firenze. Try their smoked mozarella, it’s unique.
Via Merulana, 54 00185 Rome
One of our greatest discoveries when walking to Santa Maria Maggiore was coming across this bakery/deli/wine bar/restaurant called Panella. It was the window arrangement which first caught our eyes: lots of City Turtles made of bread! I loved the turtles so much I bought one (for a whopping 10 euros!). They make the most incredible cakes,
breads, you name it. And they have a deli with lots of delicious things and a wine bar so it is not just ideal for breakfast or lunch. It was crowded with locals buying their bread for the weekend or just enjoying the lovely terrace and a quiche or a cake. A must visit!
Piazza di San Giovanni della Malva, 14, 00153 Rome
Come here for a fun drink and be spoilt for choice from a large and delicious buffet of aperitivo from 6:30 – 10pm. Situated in the heart of Trastevere, this is a really good value cocktail/wine bar. Drinks will be around €6, but then you can eat to your heart’s content. Erasmus students are slowly becoming unavoidable there.
Bar del Fico €
Piazza del Fico 24
Near Piazza Navonna, this chic place is a hot spot to grab a drink and chill out. Go here on Tuesdays or Thursdays and enjoy the sun set over a glass of wine (drinks are served with crisps, olives and nuts).
Il Baretto €€
Via Garibaldi 27, Trastevere
Up some steep steps in Trastevere, come here for some delicious cocktails and aperitivo served from 7-10pm. This romantic bar is completely made of glass, so even when you’re inside you feel like you’re outside. It has a beautiful garden – ideal for a peaceful spring or summer evening. Or when the DJ starts spinning, Il Baretto turns into a lively, hip place you simply won’t want to leave.
Cul de Sac
Piazza di Pasquino, 73 00186 Rome
A fantastic little wine bar I was recommended by a local is Cul de Sac- great location close to Piazza Navona, a huge range of wines on offer and delicious local food. You can also sit outside which is a plus.
Casa Coppelle €€
Piazza delle Coppelle, 49 00186 Rome, Italy+39 06 6889 1707
One of the highlights of my recent trip to Rome was dinner at a newly discovered restaurant Casa Coppelle. I can’t recommend it more. Cosy, warm, trendy without being pretentious. And comfortable. So comfortable. The menu’s price-range, like many Italian menus, makes it accessible to all. You can enjoy a courgette, soft cheese and saffron risotto for 10 euros, or try one of their homemade pasta dishes. Equally if you want a good piece of meat (like I did) go for ‘Beef delights with sesame seeds and speck on a balsamic sauce (21 euros). The Chef’s suggestions are all really good and don’t skip pudding: the panna cotta is to die for. Book to avoid disappointment.
Montecarlo Pizzeria €
http://www.lamontecarlo.it/index_eng.htm Vicolo Savelli, 13, 00186 Rome
Famous for its super thin pizzas and slightly burnt crusts (all roughly €10), this busy and jolly place will not disappoint. Come early because it gets super busy. Service is quick and friendly. Open for lunch and dinner.
Piazzeria Da Baffetto €
http://www.pizzeriabaffetto.it/index.asp Via del Governo Vecchio 114, Rome 00186
Same owners as Montecarlo, but only open from 7pm onwards. Pizzas are around €8 and you must try their ‘frutti’ – fried starters (around €2.50), esp the Fiorri di zucca. It’s quite grimey BUT filled with local and a good buzz.
Da Augusto €
Piazza de’ Renzi, 15, 00153 Roma
This typically Roman place will not disappoint. There is nothing fancy about this Trastevere trattoria – think wooden tables and your bill scribbled on your paper table mat. There is no printed menu, but expect really good, simple traditional dishes.
La Carbonara €
http://www.la-carbonara.it/ristorante_en.htm Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, 23, 00186 064825176 (Make reservation)
Perfect location for a night out afterwards, come here for a delicious pasta (€7) and bottle of vino (€15). The name does not actually come from the pasta dish but the owners originally (at the start of the 20th century) set up an inn called ‘Il Carbonaro’ – meaning the Coal worker. This changed over the years to La Carbonara, but they serve the same good basic dishes and the wonderful service has not changed since.
Roma Sparita €€
Piazza di Santa Cecilia 24, Rome Tel: 0039 065800757
Tucked away in Trastevere, in a corner of a small piazza next to a lovely church, you will find this bustling restaurant. Book ahead to avoid being turned away. While their menu is small, you must try their house specialty ‘agliolini cacio e pepe’, a delicious pasta, pecorino and black pepper dish served in a crispy parmesan cheese shell. It has made quite a name for itself. This will be one of the many memorable experiences of your time in Rome.
For a pizza snack on the road:
Pizza e Primi €
Luciani Pasquale, Vie dei Prefetti 34/1, Trastevere
€2.80 for a slice of pizza heaven.
Gelateria Giolitti €€
Uffici de Vicario 40, Rome, 00186
Near Piazza Colonna
Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn stopped at this famous Gelateria in a Roman Holiday. It is also very popular at night time, when the young crowds come here not only for the incredible icecream, but also to socialize.
Gelateria San Crispina Srl €€
Via della Paneterria 42
Fantastic ice cream, using only the best biological products and keeping the flavour options new and exciting. €2.30 per scoop. Not your usual icecream. Totally worth it.
They are everywhere. Try the Campo de’ Fiori (there are two on via dei Baularri) or Piazza S. Maria in Trastevere
A chain, which is off-putting in itself. Plus it looks hideous from the outside with its bright lights and tacky colours. The icecream itself, however, is surprisingly good. As are the prices. Yoghurt flavour is recommendable.
Map where to eat:
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4-6 Via del Politeana
Just across the Ponte Sisto (Bridge) take a left along the river bank and you cant miss it
This bar on the river bank of the Tiber in Trastevere (but only a few minutes walk from Campo Di Fiori) embodies Roman ‘cool’. A former garage, hence the name (which means ‘brakes and clutches’). Most people sit outside (esp in the summer), drinking huge glasses of Sambuca (€4) but even inside its quirky and the bar offers endless options of booze. Super fun place to start your night.
Bum bum di mel €€
This cute but small place does not have much seating area, but is worth a visit. They do amazing fruit blends with alcohol, which you see made right in front of you. Amble through the winding roads of Trastevere while sipping your drink. Wonderfully refreshing.
Mr Brown’s €
Not easily found on a busy ‘vicolo’ in Trastevere, this bar is identifiable by its large wooden door. From the inside it seems to offer very little, with weird smells and certainly avoid the loo. BUT if you want to have a big night out and need to get in the mood, Mr Brown’s is where you should head. It has a wide selection of alcohol, the cocktails are good and they don’t hold back on the alcohol. As well as that, it offers a fantastic happy hour and some of the cheapest drinks in Rome.
If you want Roman, this is the bar to be at. It’s cheap, traditional, a little greasy, and the ‘real’ Romans come here to argue about politics, culture and life. With no seats, this is not a place to sit comfortably and sip vino. Come here to mingle with the locals or at least experience a characterful night. Don´t miss out on the sambucas the size of pint glasses. Beer is cheap here for Roman standards.
Tip: Their home-made ice cream is pretty good too
St George Hotel, Roof Top Lounge Bar & Restaurant – splash out
Via Giulia, 62, 00186 Rome
Opening times: Restaurant: 7pm-10.30pm Bar: 7pm – 00.30am
Closed if bad weather
A magical experience. This boutique 5* hotel offers a luxurious rooftop bar and restaurant, where you can treat yourself with a delicious cocktail, and enjoy some of the most stunning panoramic views of Rome. The Via Giulia, behind the Campo Dei Fiori and parallel to the Tiber, is an enchanting street and worth a meander.
Campo di Fiori
Numerous bars and small clubs, always busy and alive till the early hours -e.g:
The Drunken Ship €
Name says it all. This classic tourist trap is packed with internationals (mainly Americans) playing beer pong and dancing to cheesy pop as the nights enfolds. Jugs of lethal cocktails, easily shareable thanks to the 100s of long colourful straws they give you, are very good value for money. The bar shuts at 1 but the staff are always happy to decanter your drinks into plastic cups so you can continue the night elsewhere. Good fun but not for everyone.
→ See APPERITIVO (EAT) for other good places to go for drinks.
Places to EAT
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