While we had been to Rome before and had seen all the major sights, this time we were interested in a less frantic, more in-depth visit. We stayed in a great location near the Piazza della Republica on the Via Nazionale. The Piazza della Republica is impressive with gorgeous semi-circular colonnades surrounding the white marble Fontana delle Naiadi. It is not far from the Termini rail station, so upon arrival we were able to walk to our hotel from the station, and from our hotel to most of the important sights in Rome. Teatro dell’ Opera di Roma and Pontifical Gregorian University are within easy walking distance. Although we never walked to the rail station at night, we always felt totally safe in this area, no matter the time of day. Via Nazionale is a busy street with lots of great shops and grand buildings. The intersecting side streets offer interesting cafes and shops for browsing.
We brought along a revue copy of the Michelin Must Sees Rome guide. This little guide measures about 4″ x 6″ and is only a half inch thick, which makes it light and easy to just stuff it in your purse or backpack and carry it along as you tour. It helped by giving practical information as well as some nice walking tour information. We found it to be perfect for discovering Rome on our own.
Just beyond the Piazza della Republica, we discovered the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri church. Dedicated to the Christian martyrs, the ancient basilica is built inside the frigidarium of the Baths of Diocletian. Michelangelo Buonarroti worked from 1563 to 1564 to adapt a section of the remaining structure of the baths to enclose a church. In 2006, Polish-born sculptor Igor Mitoraj created new bronze doors as well as a sculpture of John the Baptist for the basilica.
A walk down Via Nazionale (opposite Piazza della Republica) takes you to the Imperial Forums at the Via dei Fori Imperiali. Here you will find Trajan’s Column, set right next to the Piazza Venezia, where you will find the controversial Victor Emmanuel Monument. The white marble stair steps and supporting marble columns have given it the nickname “The Wedding Cake”, others call it “The Typewriter”. What do you think?
Via Nazionale is also very close to the Santa Maria Maggiore church. It is an elegant example of early Christian architecture. Be sure to take note of the magnificent mosaics that adorn the church.
We took two private tours in Rome; one a walking tour and the other a special tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. We had visited the Sistine Chapel the last time we were in Rome, but going with a guide made all the difference. I wrote about the value of private tours in a previous post, and I can’t stress enough how nice it is to skip the long lines and walk right in. If you can’t afford a guide, here is a hint: Get there before it opens at 9am on Wednesdays. On that day, the Pope blesses the faithful in St Peter’s square, and the crowds usually wait until after the blessing to queue up for tickets. You can also buy your ticket online beforehand.
One of the days when we were on our own, I wanted to re-live our previous trip’s romantic coin toss into the Trevi Fountain. It was an easy walk from our hotel, but we couldn’t even get close to the fountain. We were in Rome at the very beginning of May and high season seemed well underway; we were surprised by the enormous crowds at the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.
One night we attended a free concert at the Church of St Paul’s Within the Walls, an Episcopal Church located right on Via Nationale. They have concerts there quite often, and many are free. The acoustics of the church are fabulous and we really enjoyed the concert.
Recommended hotels in the Piazza della Repubblica Neighborhood
Villa Spalletti Trivelli 5-Star
Villa Spalletti is a special oasis in the heart of Rome. It has 12 sumptuous rooms and offers the utmost services at prices to match. The Spalletti Trivelli family is involved in the management of the Villa and they offer guests a wide selection of complimentary items: the en-suite mini bar includes water, spirits and soft drinks. It is refreshed once a day on a complimentary basis. An honor bar in the lobby, which includes prosecco, spirits and liqueurs, soft drinks, and dry snacks, is available for all guests.
The Artimede Hotel 4-Star
The contemporary and design rooms at the Artemide Hotel provide guests with elegant furnishings, a plush king-size bed,and a flat-screen satellite TV. In addition, all rooms are air conditioned and soundproofed, and come with complimentary toiletries, and tea/coffee making facilities.
The Opera Hotel 3-Star
The Opera Hotel is decorated in a contemporary style and features complimentary wireless Internet access as well as high-speed (wired) Internet access. You will also find a rooftop terrace, 24 hour reception, a lift, and concierge services for your convenience.
Restaurants Near the Piazza della Repubblica
Ristorante del Giglio
This lovely restaurant was founded in the early 1900s and is located near the Opera. They serve traditional Roman dishes in a refined, traditional atmosphere. The dining room is decorated with drawings of famous Operatic characters. We ate here twice, once we enjoyed some great pasta and another time we had the fresh fish. You can book on-line.
via Torino 137
Right down the street from Ristorante del Giglio is the contemporary Italian cafe Cotto. We stopped by for lunch and had some fabulous pizza. Then one night we popped in for a great light dinner. They have a nice wine list, fresh food and a really modern atmosphere which makes this place a winner in our book.
Via Torino, 124
So, when visiting Rome, if you want to be close to the Termini Station, I highly recommend staying on or near Via Nazionale, close to the Piazza della Repubblica.
Written by Terri Fogarty and photos by Bill Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com