Walking around this part of Rome is like a time warp. Weaving in and out of cobblestone streets makes you feel like a pilgrim exploring a part of the eternal city that have changed little in hundreds of years. Here you can really “lose yourself” in the small shops, piazza’s, coffee bars, fountains and ancient monuments that make Rome great.
The Pantheon area is a labyrinth of narrow streets with seeming endless paths that lead to nowhere. I found the best approach is to just spend time just wandering around. You’ll be surprised to find picturesque hidden corners and unique areas rarely found in mainstream guidebooks. More than likely once you’ve lost yourself, you will eventually stumble upon one of these two main attractions: Pantheon and Piazza Navona. There’s nothing quite like strolling around a corner and having this in front of you:
Built in 126 AD, the Pantheon was a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome. Now converted to a Christian church (to save it from pillaging in the Middle Ages), the Pantheon is a favorite meeting place for Romans and tourist alike.
Piazza Navona was defined as a public space in the last years of 15th century and is a highly significant example of Baroque Roman architecture. During Christmas, the whole area is transformed into a Christmas market featuring toys, food, live music and great people watching. DUS and I purchased a fine local beverage and sat for over an hour enjoying the warm sun and distinctive atmosphere.
Piazza di Spagna with its famous Spanish steps is located in the upscale part of Rome. Trendy shops and fashionable people fill the area with a chic (and somewhat portentous) ambiance. This is the area to “see and be seen” making it a perfect place to chill out and watch the show. Despite the Christmas season, this area was filled with people (not shopping) just mingling around and enjoying each others company. I would imagine in the summer time that this is the place to be after the sun goes down and before the night clubs open.
On Christmas morning, DUS and shopped for our dinner in the Campo de’ Fiori market. A very nice man helped us buy fresh bread, meat, cheese, some homemade olive oil and nice red wine. This was an easily one of the best meals we’ve ever made. Ingredients in Italy are extremely fresh, very high quality and surprisingly affordable – In Rome, there’s no need to always eat out. My advice is to go where the locals shop, buy some interesting stuff and have a nice picnic!