Rome Stories and Tips

Centro Storico East: The Trevi Fountain to the Piazza Venezia

The Trevi Fountain - my favourite sight in Rome Photo, Rome, Italy

You can hear the Trevi Fountain before you see it.

If you are clever you can approach it from behind, and all you hear is the babble of tourist voices and gushing of water until you blunder out into the tiny piazza that houses this great treasure. But this part of the Centro Storico is really worth an afternoon's wander. The stretch from The Spanish Steps to the Piazza Venezia is really where the country is governed from and has some of the best shopping in Italy. You will share the streets with armies of parked motorbikes, teenagers up from the suburbs, old ladies on their way to church and the carabineri watching over it all. And of course there are the great sights of the Victor Emanuelle monument, the Quirinal Hill and the Trevi Fountain. Which despite the crowds and chaos remains my favourite sight in Rome.

The best way to reach it is to walk or take the metro. Dozens of buses stop in the Piazza Venezia and from there it is a short walk up the Corso. But the best way is probably to take the metro to Spagna stop and head south after the Spanish steps. This area really is worth a wander and is crammed full of designer boutiques, marble courtyards and terracotta streets. One of the things I love about Rome is that it hasn't been take over by the chain-stores there is still individual shops rather then international emporiums. Bucking this trend is a McDonalds on the Via del Corso but across from this is a great book/antiques market which is worth a browse. I enjoy joining the shoppers in the record emporiums on the Corso and wondered at the Italian affection for British pop music. Inexplicable but very welcome.

But if you head down the Via del Propaganda the Centro Storico starts to get maze-like and confusing. An increase in tourist vendors announces that you are approaching another great sight. After the Via Tritone you approach from behind with an angle of white statues and gushing water. It reaches you slowly and then you see the it as a whole - Bloody hell! look at that!

The Trevi Fountain is simply jawdroppingly beautiful. It is a writhing mish-mash of rocks with an ornate renaissance palace as a backdrop. A gigantic white titan stands over all armed with a poised trident and straddling writhing sea-horses. All around him sea-nymph's play tunes on conch-shells and hang onto the manes of sea-horses and water gushes over the rocks and statues into an aquamarine pool. And the crowds! Hordes and hordes of people trying to align cameras or toss coins over their shoulder into the pool. I just stood and gazed - with the bright Italian sunshine the work of art seemed to glow and almost shine.

Rows of stone seats fan out from the pool allowing the masses to rest. This was the only part of Rome that came close to being strangled by tourists as chunks of Venice are. Wandering the seats were Indian hawkers trying to sell toys and cameras. I never expected to find the hard-sell that I encountered in Jaipur here in Rome. But nothing deflects from the Fountain and I was amazed by the size of the Sea God, the intricacies of the frieze behind and the fact that the whole fountain is fed by a natural spring. Also I wouldn't advise bathing in the fountain as Anita Ekberg does in 'La Dolce Vita'. It is laced with very potent bleach to keep the water clean.

South of here along the Via San Vincente is the heart of the Italian republic. At the top of the Via Dattaria is a climb to the Quirinal hill. The Quirinal was one of the ancient hills of Rome. On the western side is the Palazzo Quirinal which was once home to pope's and royalty and now home to the Italian President. At the centre of this massive piazza is yet another Egyptian obelisque with titanic white marble statues of Castor and Pollux either side. But the views from the balaustrade across the rooftops of Rome is breathtaking. The brown cityscape is broken only by the domes of baroque churches and the chariot statues of the Victor Emanuelle Monument. Rome is famous for its views and you can see why.

The actual Victor Emanuelle Monument is not far away on Piazza Venezia. This enormous Piazza is the traffic/pedestrian equivalent of the centre of Rome and the Corso and Via Fiore Imperiale fan out from it. It is dominated by "God's typewriter" - the Victor Emanuelle Monument. Every guidebook hates it and pours scorn on it but I rather like it. It reminds me of the grandeur of Imperial Rome. Also, if it is open, its hundreds of steps are a good place to sit down and tuck into that picnic you bought earlier. It's a nice place to sit, relax, and watch Rome rush around you.

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