Three days in Rome – satisfy your eye for beauty – day 3

On our third and final day in the Italian capital, we’re going to get lost in the squares and streets of downtown Rome, enjoying the city as a stage and open-air museum.

10:00 – 12:00 - Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and Campo di Fiori

Font a la Piazza Navona by Rafel MiroStart your day in the Baroque Piazza Navona, set in the pattern of the track of an ancient Roman stadium. You’ll be awed by Bernini’s famous fountain of the four rivers in the middle of the square, and by the wavelike façade of Borromini’s church dedicated to St. Agnes. The church was built in commemoration of a young Christian girl who died in the 2nd-century Roman stadium, ruins of which are below all the current buildings.

From Piazza Navona a path leads you to the Pantheon, the most magnificent and best-preserved ancient Roman building in the world. The former Pagan temple is now a functioning church and a mausoleum for Italy’s first two kings as well as the painter Raphael. The building is best known for its roof with an open oculus 30 feet in diameter. When it rains in the building, small drain holes carved into the rare marble floors assist in allowing the rainwater water to pass to rock-lined tunnels underneath.

Around the Pantheon, several churches function as art museums, free of charge, and with some of the most unusual architecture and famous art pieces. The church of San Luigi dei Francesi is a Renaissance church with a simple façade and ornate Baroque interior. The rebel painter Caravaggio began his career with three masterpieces he painted on commission for a 17th-century cardinal’s chapel. These masterpieces include the intriguing Calling of St. Matthew with dramatic uses of light and dark and emotional figures. The church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, behind the Pantheon, is another church with a very simple façade but one-off Gothic interior. It houses the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena, one of Italy’s patron saints. Next to the main altar is a little-known sculpture of the Risen Christ by the Renaissance master Michelangelo. The sculpture exhibits Michelangelo’s fine understanding of the muscular male form.

For coffee lovers, get in line at Café Sant’ Eustachio in Piazza Sant’ Eustachio behind the Pantheon to try what is arguably the world’s best coffee. The secrets of the foam crowning an espresso or cappuccino drink are highly safeguarded.

12:00 – 13:00 – stop for lunch

Campo di' Fiori by Randy OHCAfter touring the art and architecture it’s time to take a tour of another of the city’s arts - the culinary arts. Head to the square of Campo di Fiori, one of the largest and most lively open-air markets in downtown Rome. The market offers a variety of fresh breads, fruits, vegetables and flowers. It’s a good idea to buy a snack in the market and sit on the steps of one of the most elegant buildings in the city, the Farnese Palace, now home to the French Embassy. Also recommended is a traditional panino in one of Rome’s best-known sandwich shops in Campo di Fiori, called Aristocampo. To really do as the Romans, try a porcetta panino, a boneless cured roast pork sandwich.

14:00 – 17:00 – the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Ara Pacis and the Piazza del Popolo

Trevi Fountain by MushkushIt’s finally time to secure your return to Rome and throw your coin in the Trevi Fountain. To get to the Trevi Fountain from Campo di Fiori you can take a taxi from Largo Argentina, also worth seeing for its historic ruins, and the site where Julius Caesar was killed on the Ides of March 44 B.C.

Walking to the Trevi Fountain takes you down a mile-long path called Via del Corso, named after the horse race course that used to be the identity of this street. It’s now a commercial centre with Italy’s most famous fashions. From the Trevi Fountain you’re just a short walk to the Spanish Steps. This is apopular gathering place for the rich and want-to-be rich. The neighbourhood is elegant and contains the most upscale shopping street in the country, Via Condotti. A stroll down the street of the fancy shops has you admiring the store window displays of Bulgari, Gucci, Prada, Dolce&Gabbana and the like.

For some nearby culture go to the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. There you will find one of Rome’s largest mausoleums built by Emperor Augustus as a burial place for himself and tens of his family members.  Augustus’s artistic projects are probably better remembered by the Altar of Peace located behind the dilapidated tomb in the centre of the square. The altar is one of the best examples of Roman relief sculpture. It was found underneath palaces in the 15th century and excavated and reassembled in the 1930s. Its most recent update is the modern enclosure for the museum space designed by American architect Richard Meier in 2006.

Prosciutto, anchovy and onion pizza by Sebastian MaryContinue on to the Piazza del Popolo at the end of Via del Corso. You will find yourself below the 150-acre public park called Villa Borghese, and at the main historic entrance gate to the city from the north. The ancient gate was rebuilt in the 17th century by Bernini in honour of Queen Christina of Sweden’s visit to Rome. The small Renaissance church in the square called Santa Maria del Popolo is famous for its art including works by Caravaggio, Bernini and Raphael.

For dinner, if you haven’t tried pizza yet, go the neighbourhood of Piazza Navona, which gets lively at night. The Pizzeria La Montecarlo on Vicolo Savelli 13 is the place to be. For something more upscale and a range of Italian cuisine from different regions try Ristorante Antico Arco atop the Janiculum Hill and enjoy the romantic views of illuminated monuments and domes, while inevitably already planning your next trip back.