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Katie Parla recommends the Spanish Steps Apartment on Via della Mercede
The Spanish Steps Apartment on Via della Merced is recommended by ROME: Dream of Italy

All content and photos copyright D. Colin (2009–2019) except some photos copyright D. Hoffman (2009–2019).

EXPLORE

and

EXPLORE THE APARTMENT

The Spanish Steps Apartment is on the first floor of a traditional palazzo building, up one flight of stairs. The entry is on Via della Mercede, through big double doors, and then through a security gate in the building's foyer.

Click to view the apartment floorplan
 
Living room
 

EXPLORE OUTSIDE

THE APARTMENT

The Spanish Steps Apartment is located in what was once called the Campus Martius, or, the "Field of Mars." During the Republican period, this was just outside the walls of ancient Rome. This area was populated with many temples, private residences, and military camps, as well as a field area where military triumphs began. During the Imperial period, the area was one of the original Roman rioni ("districts") designated by Augustus, and within the area eventually surrounded by the great Aurelian Wall. During the Middle Ages, the area was designated as the Rione Colonna, a reference to the Column of Marcus Aurelius which stands nearby—it still goes by that name today.

 

The apartment is around the corner from the famous Spanish Steps, in the most elegant area of Rome with upscale shopping, terrific dining, and great people-watching. You will be literally surrounded by the history, architecture, and art of Rome. Have coffee at the elegant Caffè Greco. Sit outside at a little table at a bar, nibbling olives and sipping wine. Enjoy wonderful pasta at a traditional trattoria or try out modern Roman cuisine at a chic restaurant. If you need a break from Italian food, the best sushi in Rome is down the street. As for shopping, stroll Via dei Condotti and the surrounding streets and enjoy some of the best window-shopping in the world.

 

The location is also very practical. There is a good supermarket on the next street—perfect for picking up some fresh bread, cheese, prosciutto, and wine. The supermarket stocks toiletries; several pharmacies are also nearby. There is convenient subway access at the "Spagna" metro stop; the metro can take you to most of the major tourist sites, such as the Vatican and the Colosseum, as well as the train station. You are within a very short walking distance of three taxi stands, as well as multiple bus stops. A bike rental company is situated just down the street. Also nearby is a stop shared by several tour bus routes.

Via della Mercede

Via della Mercede

Espresso

 

The Spanish Steps

Three minutes away is the Baroque architectural masterpiece of the Spanish Steps, a tiered set of graceful stairs climbing the slope from the Piazza di Spagna (named after the Spanish Embassy there) to the Trinità dei Monti church, in front of which stands an ancient Egyptian obelisk. At the foot of the steps is the Barcaccia ("old boat") Fountain, the work of the great sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his father. This is one of the most popular places in all of Rome for locals and non-locals alike, where all of Rome takes a traditional evening stroll.

 

On your way to the Spanish Steps from the apartment, you will go by Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, which contains several lovely angels by Bernini, who lived at Via della Mercede, 12. There's a newspaper stand in the tiny square in front of the church. Turning left, you will pass through Piazza Mignanelli. In the middle of the piazza stands a massive column dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary. The Pope comes here on December 8 to lay a wreath, as the day is a national holiday.

Via della Mercede

The Spanish Steps

Within a 10 to 20 Minute Walk

 

Trevi Fountain

This famous fountain of Neptune riding on seahorses, the largest Baroque fountain in the world, is a seven minute walk south from the apartment. The Trevi Fountain, like many other fountains in the Eternal City, is fed by one of the ancient aqueducts of imperial Rome. It is tradition to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain for good luck and to ensure that you return to Rome some day. On the way, stop for the best gelato in the city.

This incredible building, one of the best preserved monuments of antiquity, is a pleasant 15-20 minute walk heading southwest. Upon entering the Piazza della Rotonda you will immediately see this building's influence on numerous buildings throughout the world, such as Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and the U.S. Capitol. Inside, the giant dome of poured concrete is topped by a circular opening, the oculus. Watching the sunlight stream down in this 2,000 year old temple is amazing. Go behind the Pantheon to see the engaging Bernini statue of an elephant with an obelisk on its back.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon's Oculus

Piazza del Popolo

Twin Churches

North of the apartment, going straight down Via del Babuino, you will find the lovely Piazza del Popolo. Along the way you will pass the studio of the sculptor Antonio Canova. Piazza del Popolo is a magnificent oval piazza. At the far end is the church of Santa Maria del Popolo which is filled with art by Raphael and Caravaggio. The piazza has an Egyptian obelisk in the center—one of the trophies from Emperor Augustus' war against Marc Antony and Cleopatra. Also note the beautiful "twin" baroque churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

 

Between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo is Via Margutta. This is a lovely little street where several scenes in Roman Holiday were filmed and where the filmmaker Federico Fellini lived. Now it is home to many art galleries and restaurants, and is perfect for an evening stroll.

Heading west (toward the Tiber) from the Spanish Steps, you will find Piazza Augusto Imperatore. To one side, in a dramatic modern glass building, is the Altar of Peace, a monumental marble altar showing Emperor Augustus and his family making offerings. In the center of the piazza is the giant circular Mausoleum of Augustus, where early members of the imperial family were buried. The dictator Mussolini built the imposing buildings that ring the piazza—you can see his name carved in several places. There are some good restaurants around this piazza that focus on modern Roman cooking.

Altar of Peace

 

Within a 20 to 30 Minute Walk

Borghese Park

On the east side of Piazza del Popolo there are a series of broad steps leading to the Pincian Hill (one of Rome's famous seven hills) and the Borghese Park, which contains a great classical art museum (Museo e Galleria Borghese), the Etruscan museum (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia), and the National Gallery of Modern Art. These art galleries are some of the best in the world. If you are a jogger, this lovely park is an outstanding locale.

The piazza of Campo de' Fiori (Field of Flowers) is just south of Piazza Navona. Campo de' Fiori has a wonderful daily outdoor food market that is a regular shopping spot for Romans. It is also home to many lively bars and restaurants.

Campo de' Fiori

Campidoglio

The Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio), one of the seven hills of ancient Rome, should not be missed. Designed by Michaelangelo, the piazza and buildings are a major Renaissance architectural achievement. The Capitoline Museum, home to such famous sights as the remains of a giant statute of Constantine, is located here.

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is a five-minute walk west from the Pantheon. This beautiful piazza is a long oval shape because it was a stadium for chariot racing during the Roman empire. A trace of the old stadium can be viewed behind one end of the piazza. Today the piazza is home to three beautiful fountains, including Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers. People love to stroll here, or sit outside and have a coffee or glass of wine, and artists often set up their work. A Christmas Fair is held at Piazza Navona, traditionally beginning on December 8, and running until the feast of the Epiphany in January.

Heading south along Via del Corso, you will come to the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, honoring the first King of unified Italy, who reigned in the late 1800s. This gigantic, ornate white marble building, built in the early 1900s, is often referred to as the "Wedding Cake" or "Typewriter." There is a magnificent panoramic view from the top.

Victor Emmanuel II Monument

Within a 30 to 45 Minute Walk

 

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is next to the Campidoglio. This was the heart of both Republican and Imperial Rome, a center of politics, religion, and business. The Forum is filled with the remains of ancient temples dedicated to emperors and gods as well as government buildings such as the Roman Senate. The Forum also contains magnificent monuments, such as the triumphal arches of Titus and Septimius Severus. It is a complex and amazing site, where you walk in the middle of 3,000 years of Roman history.

Off to one side of the Forum is the Palatine Hill, one of the original seven hills of Rome. This area is where the emperors lived, and today is dotted by the lovely pine trees that Rome is famous for.

View from the Arch of Septimius Severus

Just beyond the Forum is the legendary Colosseum. This building, 2,000 years old, is an outstanding example of Roman engineering. The Colosseum could seat 50,000 spectators, and was used for gladiatorial contests, re-enactments of famous battles, animal hunts, and executions. Interestingly, the name "Colosseum" actually refers to a giant statute of the despised emperor Nero that once stood in the area before the construction of the amphitheater by his successor. Make sure to walk by at night, when the Colosseum is beautifully illuminated.

St. Peter's Basilica

Depending on how fast you walk, and how many times you stop to admire the views, this is a 30–45 minute walk. This is a particularly beautiful walk at nighttime. Alternatively, you can take the bus or hop on the subway to the "Musei Vaticani" stop. Heading west past Piazza Navona, you will come to the Tiber river. You will cross the Ponte Sant'Angelo, built in 134 AD by Emperor Hadrian. Today it is marked by a series of beautiful angel statues. Across the river, the large circular building is the Castel Sant'Angelo, originally Hadrian's mausoleum, but later converted into a papal fortress. The castle is linked to St. Peter's Basilica by a covered fortified corridor, the Passetto.

Nearby is the monumental Arch of Constantine, erected to commemorate the victory of Constantine "the Great" over Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, just north of Rome's historic center. Dedicated in 315 A.D., the arch is the last great monument of Imperial Rome.

Arch of Constantine

Vatican Hall of Maps

Behind Castel Sant'Angelo, the Via della Conciliazione (Road of the Conciliation, honoring a treaty between the Vatican and Italy) leads to St. Peter's Square, designed by Bernini. The basilica façade, colonnade, and oval piazza are breathtaking. St. Peter's Basilica, much of it designed by Michelangelo, is of course one of the most important, as well as beautiful, churches in the world. The artwork inside, including Michelangelo's masterpiece the Pietà, is incredible. Beneath the Basilica is an ancient cemetery, containing both pagan and early Christian burials. The Vatican Museums are so vast that you could easily spend several days here. There are several sculpture museums, including ancient Egyptian and Roman art; painting galleries of works by such artists as Leonardo da Vinci; the Gallery of Maps (pictured left); a series of rooms painted by Raphael; and, of course, the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo.

And there is so much more...

 

Temple of Hercules

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

There are many more museums, historic sights, churches, and neighborhoods to explore, such as the fabulous art collection of the Museo Nazionale Romano, the lovely Republican era temples of the Forum Boarium (near the famous "Mouth of Truth"), the eerie Capuchin Crypt (elaborately decorated with monk's bones), the fascinating church of San Clemente (built over a pagan temple), the historic Jewish quarter, and the lively neighborhood of Trastevere. And save some time for day trips to the wonderful park along the Appian Way (with ancient crypts and the great aqueducts), Hadrian's Villa, the gardens of Villa d'Este, and the ancient port of Ostia.

Dining room

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