The 7 most magical streets in Rome
June 10, 2016
1. Via Giulia – This elegant street in the historic city centre was designed by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century, and has always been popular with well-to-do Romans. Via Giulia runs in a straight line for a kilometre, and is lined with numerous churches, palazzi, and antique shops. The ivy-covered arch that spans the street is arguably Via Giulia’s most distinctive feature. It was designed by Michelangelo, apparently part of a plan – never completed – to connect the Palazzo Farnese with the Villa Farnese on the other side of the river. Rich Romans still live in the palazzi of this prestigious street, one of the most enchanting in Rome.
2. Via dei Coronari – Despite its central location (just around the corner from Piazza Navona), the beautiful Via dei Coronari never feels too crowded, and has managed to retain a laid-back, peaceful atmosphere. The street has existed since Roman times, but was transformed during the Renaissance, and a walk through Via dei Coronari today gives you the illusion of stepping back in time. Many of the 15th century buildings are now home to stylish boutiques and antique shops, as well as one of Rome’s most beloved ice cream shops, Gelateria del Teatro, particularly atmospheric at dusk.
3. Via Panisperna – The neighbourhood of Monti is full of picturesque streets, but Via Panisperna is perhaps the prettiest. Look beyond the curtain of ivy and climb this sloping street for a fantastic view of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The street is popular with tourists and locals alike for its stylish shops and lively nightlife, but many are unaware of its historical significance. In 1934 a group of young scientists at the Physics Institute on Via Panisperna discovered the existence of slow neutrons, which would later lead to the creation of the first nuclear reactor and the construction of the atomic bomb. The group of scientists, which included the eminent Enrico Fermi, was known as “i ragazzi di Via Panisperna”.
4. Piazza dei Mercanti – Although it’s technically a piazza, this secluded spot in Trastevere could also be counted as one of Rome’s most magical streets. As you leave behind the crowds of central Trastevere it feels like you’re stumbling across a secret and entering another world. The buildings look a little rustic, with flowers bursting from the window boxes and ivy cascading down the walls, and the street resembles a village square. It’s hard to believe that you’re in the centre of a city.
5. Via di Santa Sabina – This charming street runs along the top of the Aventine Hill, and is full of history and beauty. At one end is the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta and the secret keyhole, while the other end leads to a rose garden and the Circus Maximus. On the way you’ll pass the intriguing churches of Sant’Alessio and Santa Sabina, and the Giardino degli Aranci (orange garden), which is renowned as the most romantic and scenic park in Rome. The park offers spectacular views of St Peter’s Basilica and the rooftops of Rome.
6. Via Piccolomini – A true Roman secret, Via Piccolomini is a little bit off the beaten path. This quiet residential street near Villa Doria Pamphili may not seem like anything special at first, but if you go up and down the street in a car (or on a motorbike) you’ll discover an intriguing optical illusion. The dome of St Peter is visible at the end of the street, but the closer you get, the further away it seems to be. The reverse is also true – as you speed away, the dome appears to loom towards you. A few clicks on Google Street View will give you some idea, but it’s much more effective when experienced in real life.
7. Via Appia Antica – Without a doubt the most atmospheric street in the Eternal City, Via Appia Antica (also known as the Appian Way) was built in 312 BC, and once stretched all the way to Brindisi. The 118 bus takes you from central Rome to the beginning of the Appian Way, which is still lined by evocative Roman ruins, and fascinating sites such as the Catacombs of San Sebastiano and the Villa dei Quintili. You could easily spend an entire day walking – or cycling – down the cobbles of the Roman road, exploring archaeological sites and enjoying the peaceful, almost rural atmosphere of this ancient street.