The Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most popular gathering places. Built originally on the Stadium of Domitian, an ancient competition arena from the 1st century, it is a longitudinal piazza anchored by the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (the Fountain of the Four Rivers). Two additional fountains flank the Piazza Navona: the Fontana del Moro at the southern end, and the Fountain of Neptune at the northern end. The entire square is restricted to pedestrians only and features many welcoming bars and restaurants with outdoor patios that are perfect for people-watching. Various street performers were practicing their craft as well, drawing crowds of onlookers.
The interior of the Pantheon
Continuing through the atmospheric narrow streets of Old Rome I reached another one of Rome’s main sights: the Pantheon, one of Rome’s most stunning buildings. Built between 125 and 128 AD, it was designed by Emperor Hadrian as a temple to the goods of Ancient Rome. At one point the Pantheon was a fortress and poultry market and since medieval times it has been a Roman Catholic Church.
Light shines through the “oculus” into the Pantheon
The height and the diameter of the rotunda are equal at 142 feet (43 metres) and the coffered dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world to this day! And the centre of the dome has a hole called an “oculus” (Latin for “eye”) which provides the only light inside the building. The Pantheon is one of the most well-preserved ancient structures in Rome, and it quickly became my favourite building in the Eternal City.
The Trevi Fountain, one of the most popular sights in Rome
Not far away I came across the next famous sight on any Rome itinerary: the Fontana di Trevi. This is one of Rome’s more recent creations: it was only completed in 1762 and originally was the end point of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct that was in built in 19 BC. This is one of the most popular gathering places in Rome, and it is estimated that roughly 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain every day for good luck.
The Spanish Steps – another must-see sight in Rome
The narrow streets of Old Rome were really filling up with people now. Speaking of popular places, the Spanish Steps are certainly among the choice destinations for any traveller to Rome. These steps connect the Piazza di Spagna at the base with the square in front of the church of Trinita dei Monti at the top. These 138 steps make up the widest staircase in all of Europe and they are usually crowded with people. The Fontana della Barcaccia (Old Boat Fountain) on the Piazza di Spagna is another huge crowd pleaser in this area.
The Fontana della Barcaccia
Continuing on eastwards towards the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, I made my way to my next destination for a different way of sightseeing: I had scheduled a sightseeing tour on two wheels on the Ancient Appian Way.