This easy walk of about two and a half kilometres, starting at the Spanish Steps, is perfect for a morning, afternoon or evening walk. You could walk it in an hour or four hours depending on what you stop to look at. There is lots of interest along the route; plenty of shops, cafes, bars, small restaurants and of course this being Rome, historic buildings at every turn. There is a strong possibility that you’ll be attracted by something just off the route and make your own discoveries. All part of the fun of exploring the ancient city centre.
The Spanish Steps are next to the Spagna Metro Station which is on Linea A (red line). The small, narrow streets around the Spanish Steps are not suitable for Rome city buses, but plenty go to Piazza del Popolo or Barberini both only a short walk away.
Trinita dei Monti and Obelisco Sallustiano
Before starting out on your walk, climb up to the top of the Spanish Steps where there are great views over the city of Rome. The church at the top, Trinita dei Monti, has two bell-towers. It’s possible to look around inside at the paintings decorating the different chapels. Among them are two works by Daniele da Volterra, one of Michelangelo’s pupils.
Outside the church, you’ll also find a cluster of artists painting visitor’s portraits.
The Obelisco Sallustiano which stands in front of the church was moved here in 1789. It is a Roman obelisk imitating an Egyptian one. The hieroglyphs were copied from the obelisk on the Piazza del Popolo.
The Spanish Steps date from 1723, linking the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top. The steps are a blend of curves, straight flights, vistas, and terraces. The stairway itself has 138 steps. If you visit in April or May the steps are decorated with pink azaleas.
Over the years the steps have needed to be restored many times. The last restoration was in 1995. The steps are very popular and sitting on them is not allowed. Be careful you can be fined for doing so.
The steps are at the eastern end of the old city centre. Running out from the base is a maze of very narrow streets full of designer shops and luxury brands. The Via dei Condotti, which is directly opposite the Spanish Steps, is one of the richest streets in Italy. Here you can shop for Armani, Prada, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana or Gucci.
Walk from the Spanish Steps to Trevi Fountain
Although the streets you walk along are not completely pedestrianised, the traffic is very light mostly the small local electric buses and tourist horse and carriages.
1. Spanish Steps. From the bottom of the Spanish Steps, with your back to them, turn left in a southerly direction to walk past the Keats-Shelley museum on the left and continue to the Piazza Mignanelli which is dominated by the Column of the Immaculate.
2. Piazza Mignanelli. The road forks here, take the fork to the right of the column the Via di Propaganda.
3. Museo Missionario di Propaganda Fide. As you walk up the Via di Propaganda the Museo Missionario di Propaganda Fide is located on your left. This occupies the first floor of the stately palazzo. Since 1527 this has been the headquarters of Catholicism’s global missionary operations. There are plenty of bars and restaurants along here if you are hungry or thirsty already!
4. Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. This 17th-century basilica church is on the left-hand side of a small square at a junction with the Via della Mercede. Anywhere else in the world this would be a major attraction but here in Rome, it is just another basilica.
The road ahead narrows and becomes the Via di Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. The street has a few more restaurants and hotels.
5. Collegio Nazareno. This former palace is now a prestigious college. It sits next to a T-junction where you turn left. The road then becomes a narrow passage called the Via del Nazarelio. The passage bends right and emerges onto the Via del Tritone a major road through the city.
6. Via del Tritone. Cross the busy road at the pedestrian crossing and head straight onto Via della Panetteria and almost immediately right onto the Via della Stamperia. You should see a sign for the Trevi Fountain pointing the way. The Via della Stamperia is traffic-free and leads directly to the Trevi Fountain.
I have a separate guide covering The Trevi Fountain.
7. Trevi Fountain. Designed as a large semicircular basin the fountain is sunk slightly below pavement level. This creates a natural amphitheatre.
Trevi Fountain to the Pantheon
8. Via del Muratte. Time to continue on your walk. If you are facing the Trevi Fountain go down the street to your left heading west. This is the Via delle Muratte. It’s easy to recognise as it’s lined with stalls selling tourist stuff.
9. Via di Pietra. When you come to the Via del Corso, cross the road carefully, it can be busy and continue straight ahead along the Via di Pietra.
10. Vicolo de’ Burro. Look out for a narrow lane on the left the Vicolo de’ Burro.
11. Piazza Sant Ignazio. The Vicolo de’ Burro leads into the Piazza Sant Ignazio. This is a fairly unremarkable piazza. I stopped here once and had a very pleasant alfresco lunch in the restaurant in the corner. I remember watching the constant train of people all passing through, presumably heading for the Trevi Fountain.
Occasionally the odd person would go inside the large church which occupies one side of the piazza, the Chiesa di Sant Ignazio di Loyola. I don’t know why but I decided to have a look inside after lunch.
12. Chiesa di Sant Ignazio di Loyola. It costs nothing to go inside this building, quite why it’s not more famous and most people pass it by is a mystery. The whole of the inside is covered in colourful frescoes. Built by the architect Orazio Grassi it has a remarkable optical illusion, The dome looks like a real one, but it is actually a very clever optical illusion fresco painted by Andrea Pozzo. The project for building the church ran out of money, so Andrea Pozzo came up with his brilliant idea how to finish the “dome” with this deceptive fresco.
13. Via del Seminario. Step outside the church and turn left to continue your walk along the Via del Seminario.
14. Piazza della Rotunda. At the end of the Via del Seminario, you enter the Piazza della Rotunda. This is a lively square full of restaurants, street artists, a fountain and the Pantheon.
15. Pantheon. The building’s structure is essentially a cylinder topped by a dome and fronted by a rectangular portico. Nearly 2000 years after it was built it still has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The Pantheon is free to enter and there are usually no queues.
I have a separate guide covering The Pantheon.
The Pantheon to the Piazza Navona
16. Salita dei Crescenzi. To continue your walk stand with your back to the Pantheon and head left down the Salita dei Crescenzi. This narrows before reaching a T-junction.
17. Via della Dogana Vecchia. Turn right at the T-junction on Via della Dogana Vecchia. Continue until you arrive at a crossroads. Turn left on to Via del Salvatore.
18. Via del Salvatore. Walk along this street until you arrive at the Corso del Rinascimento.
19. Corso del Rinascimento cross the road via the pedestrian crossing and head left in the direction of the Sant’ Andrea della Valle with its distinctive dome.
20. Palazzo Madama. Once you’ve walked just a few meters turn right opposite the Palazzo Madama, this will lead you to the Piazza Navone.
21 Piazza Navona. This is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome and one of the largest. The square has three impressive fountains including Bernini‘s famous la Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi “Fountain of the Four Rivers” with a large obelisk at its centre. An impressive backdrop is provided by the baroque church of Sant’ Agnese. All around the square are restaurants, street artists and painters. which gives the square a lively atmosphere.
The Piazza used to be the Stadium of Domitian where sports events and festivals took place. In the 15th Century, the square was paved over to create what you see today. This is why the Piazza has an oval shape.
If you want to continue walking why not continue on my walk Piazza Navone to the Vatican
Other things to do in Rome
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