If you don’t have tons of time to spend in Rome, you definitely want to knock out the city’s main sites in as little time as you can. Here’s how to do a quick DIY Walking Tour of Rome featuring the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon.
Main Sites in Rome
This itinerary hits on the major spots in Rome that you can hit without a guided tour. That said, we highly recommend our Rome in a Day Tour with Colosseum and Vatican Museums to hit not only the sites mentioned below, but also skip the line at the Vatican and Colosseum.
DIY Walking Tour of Rome Video:
Other guided options for seeing the main sites in Rome in one go:
The Spanish Steps are a great starting point, as they are well connected with Metro Line A. As you approach the Spanish Steps, you’ll notice that you’re walking into Rome’s posh shopping district lined with high-end designers and brands. You’ll come to a large staircase leading up to the Trinita dei Monti church.
So why are they called the Spanish Steps if we’re in Italy? The Spanish Steps aren’t Spanish at all actually. They are known as that because the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See is located at the base of the steps.
The official name of the steps is actually Scalinata dei Trinita dei Monti. At the base of the steps, you’ll find another one of Rome’s beautiful fountains, Fontana della Barcaccia, or “Fountain of the Longboat.”
If you take time to explore the area, you might notice the Keats-Shelley House, located right at the foot of the Steps. This museum commemorates the iconic English romantic poets, Jonathan Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley and houses countless poems, manuscripts and other works by these authors.
Linked above you can find the route we suggest taking to walk from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain, which should take about 10 minutes. When you reach Piazza di Trevi, you’ll probably notice a large crowd of people taking the classic coin throw picture in front of the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi Fountain was built in 1762 and was designed by Nicola Salvi. The Trevi Fountain, or Fontana di Trevi, translates to “Three Street Fountain.” Quite literally, the fountain is located where three roads meet and what used to be the end point of one of Rome’s earliest acqueducts.
The Fountain depicts ancient Greek god Oceanus on a chariot being pulled by two horses. One is obedient and one is resistant, symbolizing the changing tides of the ocean.
Legend has it that if you throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder into the fountain, you will return to Rome again. If you throw two, you’ll soon have a new romance in your life, and if you throw three, you’re guaranteed to get married.
You can follow this simple route to reach the Pantheon, which is about a seven-minute walk away.
The Pantheon is typically considered Rome’s most well-preserved ancient building. Makes sense, since the first two structures that stood in the Pantheon’s place were destroyed, one by the Great Fire of Rome and one by lightning. When Emperor Hadrian built the third, he made sure it was extremely structurally sound.
We definitely recommend going inside the Pantheon if you can, to explore its beautiful rotunda. If you look up, you’ll notice an opening in the ceiling allowing sunlight in called the oculus.
The Pantheon is free to enter, and there is plenty to see inside. After exploring its Greco-Roman architecture from the outside, make sure you see Raphael’s tomb when you enter.
Piazza Navona is an incredibly beautiful square in the center of Rome lined by delicious eateries and shops. The piazza is built on top of what used to be the Stadium of Domitian, where gladiatorial games and public executions used to take place in ancient Rome.
Built around 80 AD, the Stadium of Domitian even served as a replacement venue to the Colosseum, when it was struck by lightning in 217 AD. The restaurants and storefronts that line Piazza Navona today still preserve the shape of the ancient running track. All of the buildings surrounding the piazza were built atop the Stadium’s seating.
In the center of Piazza Navona, you’ll notice a large obelisk with ancient hieroglyphs inscribed in its stone. Although originally located in Circus Maxentius, the obelisk now stands atop the Fountain of Four Rivers and features inscriptions that mention Emperor Domitian.
After your DIY Rome walking tour, you’ll be feeling a little hungry. While there are plenty of restaurants and bars lining the piazza, we recommend joining our Trastevere Food Tour, which meets just a few minutes away from Piazza Navona.
Featuring Rome street food and a traditional sit-down dinner, this culinary experience offers a more local take on the city’s cuisine.