Despite its size, Rome is a very walkable city. Given the amount of traffic, it’s sometimes preferable to simply pull on a good pair of shoes, preload a Google map of the area you want to explore on your phone (GPS works even if you don’t have cell service), and then head out with a few others to see the sites that aren’t included on your tour. For two nights, we did this, racking up miles on our pedometers while seeing some attractions that appear far more romantic at night.
We had to cross the Tiber River to begin our tours, but the view of St. Peter’s Basilica is breathtaking at twilight.
Fountains are Fab
Over two-thousand fountains can be found in the Eternal City—more than in any other city in the world. Fifty of those are considered monumental fountains. We made it our mission to visit as many as we could.
The Fontana del Pantheon can be found directly in front of the Pantheon in the Piazza del Rotunda. Atop the fountain is the Egyptian Obelisk. Commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII and designed by Giacomo Della Porta in 1575, the fountain was sculpted out of marble by Leonardo Sormani. The redesign of the fountain in 1711 by Filippo Barigioni added the the Macuteo obelisk (originally created during the period of Ramses II) set in the centre on a plinth with four dolphins decorating the base.
The Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) can be found in the Piazza Navona. Designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocent X, the fountain stood in front Innocent’s family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili. It depicts the Gods of the four great rivers in the four known continents of the time: the Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, the Danube in Europe, and the Río de la Plata in America.
At the north end of Piazza Navona is the Fontana de Neptune. This was once called the Fontana dei Calderan because a nearby alley was home to blacksmiths and those who made metal pots and pans.
The Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Boat), is a Baroque-style fountain found at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna. This one has a particularly interesting history. According to legend, as the River Tiber flooded in 1598, water carried a small boat into the Piazza di Spagna. When the water receded, a boat was deposited in the center of the square. When Pope Urban VIII commissioned Pietro Bernini in 1623 to build the fountain, Bernini was inspired by the story. He designed the fountain to be the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its sides into a small basin.
The source of the water comes from the Acqua Vergine, an aqueduct from 19 BCE. Bernini built this fountain to be slightly below street level due to the low water pressure from the aqueduct. Water flows from seven points of fountain: the center baluster; two inside the boat from sun-shaped human faces; and four outside the boat.
At the top of the 138 Spanish Steps is the piazza Trinita dei Monti and the twin-tower church, Campo Marzio. This church has an interesting ceiling in that it’s not decorated with frescoes. The entire sanctuary is bright at night because there’s nothing to absorb the light.
Designed by the architect Giacomo Della Porta and constructed by the Fiesole sculptor Rocco Rossi, the Fontana de Piazza Colona is located near the Column of Marcus Aurelius. This Roman victory column is Doric and hollow. The exterior features a spiral relief of the emperor’s successful military campaigns against the Quadi across the Danube between 172 and 175 AD, while the inside contains a spiral staircase. Similar in appearance to its predecessor, Trajan’s Column, it’s not nearly as tall. However, its base has never been excavated—and up to seven meters is below the ground! Back in the 4th century, it was said this column stood 175 feet.
The most grand of all the monumental fountains is the Trevi Fountain in Palazzo Poli. Designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini and several others, this is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome (161 x 86′). Yes, we threw a coin into the fountain, but we’re not sure if we did it right (you’re supposed to use your right hand to throw it over your left shoulder). The act of doing so means you’ll come back in the future. An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day.
While on our trek, we passed by some unexpected sites, like this colonna (collonade) left from the Temple of Hadrian.
On the way back to the hotel, we walked along the river and had an entirely different view of the night lights. A quick check of our pedometers showed we had covered over seven miles on this trek. Time to put up our feet and have a glass of prosecco!
Next up: The Vatican