Our promenade starts from one of the most fashionable piazzas of the capital: Campo de’ Fiori. The open-air market, in the morning, and the evening attractions of the bars and the restaurants of the area, the crowds of young people thronging them especially in the warm season, make this piazza always full of life. The lively, noisy atmosphere one breathes in this piazza contrasts with the austere statue of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake precisely here.
There are many little shops and workshops where you can linger in the little lanes of the area.
You just have to cross Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and you will find yourself in Piazza Navona. Established on the ashes of the Circo di Domiziano (Circus of Domitian), where athletics competitions, games and horse races took place, today it is one of the most elegant and lively piazzas of Rome. Surrounded by bars with their little outside tables, shops and restaurants, the piazza has three splendid fountains including that of the Quattro Fiumi (Four Rivers), for which Bernini was commissioned on the occasion of the Jubilee of 1650. Piazza Navona is enlivened every day by many artists who with their art succeed in just a few minutes in capturing the features and the typical expressions of those being depicted.
Through the years this has always remained one of the favourite meeting places of Romans during Carnival, at Christmas and at Epiphany. According to tradition, 8 December marks the start in the piazza of the Christmas market with all its artistic and modern cribs, handicrafts and, naturally, confectionery. The market ends with Epiphany, the evening between 5 and 6 January, when grown-ups and children alike assemble to await the arrival of the Befana (a kindly old witch bringing gifts).
All you have to do is turn the corner, and you are in the antiquarian’s paradise: lamps, tables and desks are set out invitingly in the glittering shop windows of the antique dealers in Via dei Coronari.
And also just a few steps from Piazza Navona is the splendid Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, where three of Caravaggio’s masterpieces may be admired.
Our highly interesting promenade next brings us to the nearby Piazza della Rotonda, where the Pantheon stands. This monument has come down through the centuries almost unscathed, and the aspect that we admire is that which it had in ancient times. Dedicated to all the gods, it has no windows, just a single opening in the vault of about 9 metres, this being its only source of natural light.
This is just the district for a coffee break: by tradition, we advise you to call in for coffee at the Sant’Eustachio bar, which seems to be the best one in Rome. The secret? Try to discover it!
While you are walking towards Piazza di Spagna, especially if it is a lovely sunny day, you should really not miss the chance of visiting a little square that seems one from another age, considering it is only a few steps away from the noisy confusion of Via del Corso: Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina. It is one of the loveliest “piazza-salons” in the city, a typical rendezvous for an aperitif in one of the various bars with tables in the open. Comfortably seated, you can better enjoy the view of the church of the same name, inside which is the Cappella Fonseca, designed by Bernini.