Northeast Rome Walking Tour

Piazza del Popolo in Northeast Rome
Piazza del Popolo in Northeast Rome

By Vicky · Published Mar. 23rd, 2024 · Updated Mar. 27th, 2024

This self-guided walking tour through Northeast Rome brings you to famous sights such as the Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps and more.


This walking tour starts from the grand church of Santa Maria Maggiore, between the Colosseum and Rome Termini Train Station. There’s a bus stop by the church with direct connections to other parts of central Rome.

Northeast Rome Walking Tour Map

Get the route by downloading the .gpx or .kml file below. For navigation with on your mobile phone, simply download the .kml file and open to add it to the bookmarks.

Tips for Northeast Rome Walking Tour

Top Things to See in Northeast Rome

On this self-guided walking tour, you’ll visit all the top sights in northeast Rome. Highlights of this walk include the Santa Maria Maggiore Church, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and Piazza del Popolo. If you prefer, this guided tour* explores the Trevi Fountain and surrounding area, with an excellent guide explaining the history and significance of what you’re seeing.

  1. Santa Maria Maggiore
  2. San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane
  3. National Gallery of Ancient Art in Barberini Palace
  4. Santa Maria della Concezione
  1. Trevi Fountain
  2. Piazza di Spagna
  3. Museo dell’Ara Pacis
  4. Piazza del Popolo

Northeast Rome Walking Tour Route

This walking tour starts from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

1. Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore, a major basilica in Rome and a highlight of a walking tour through the city in Italy
Santa Maria Maggiore

Key Information: Open daily 7am-6.45pm.

Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four major basilicas of Rome (these are churches with great historical significance). This church was founded in the 5th century to commemorate the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), where the Virgin Mary was officially declared the “Mother of God”. The church’s interior contains beautiful frescoes, mosaics, and sculptures. The 5th-century mosaics in the triumphal arch and apse, depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, are the most renowned.

Directions: Head straight along the road at the back of the church until the junction with Via del Quirinale. Here you’ll find a small church on the corner.

Walking Tour Extension

If you want to visit these extra sights, head towards Termini Station, then past Piazza della Repubblica before turning left down the street after the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The roads around here are quite busy, so it’s only worth walking past these sights if you actually want to head inside them to explore further.

Palazzo Massimo
Palazzo Massimo
Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

National Roman Museum – Palazzo Massimo & Baths of Diocletian

Key Information: Open 9:30am-7pm. Tickets cost €10 each, or €14 for entry to all four branches of the National Roman Museum (Palazzo Massimo, Pazallo Altemps, Baths of Diocletian, Crypta Balbi).

Palazzo Massimo contains an extensive collection of ancient Roman art and artefacts including sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, coins, and other archaeological finds. One of the most famous artworks is the Boxer at Rest (Boxer di Terme), a very old Hellenistic bronze sculpture dating back to the 4th century BC.

The Baths of Diocletian, built around 300 AD, are one of the largest and most impressive bath complexes in Rome, able to accommodate 1000 bathers at a time. Today, the Baths of Diocletian is an archaeological site where visitors can explore the ruins of the baths and learn about the function of Roman bath complexes through the exhibits.

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Key Information: Open weekdays 8 am-1 pm & 4-7 pm, weekends from 10 am.

Michelangelo designed the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei, built within the remains of the central hall of the Baths of Diocletian. You can’t tell from the outside, but the inside is huge and definitely worth a look.

Santa Maria della Vittoria

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria

Key Information: Open daily 6:45am-12pm & 4-7pm, from 9am on Sundays.

Santa Maria della Vittoria is renowned for housing one of the most famous sculptures in the world, Bernini’s “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa”. In this dramatic sculpture, an angel is about to plunge an arrow into the saint’s heart.

2. San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane

San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane Church
San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane
Sant'Andrea al Quirinale church in Rome
Sant’Andrea al Quirinale

Key Information: Open Mon-Sat, 10am-1pm.

The renowned Baroque architect Borromini designed San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane in the 17th century. Despite its small size, the architect cleverly utilized the limited space available to create a sense of grandeur, with a unique concave-convex facade facing the street.

Sant’Andrea al Quirinale

Key Information: Open Tue-Sun, 9am-12pm & 3-6pm.

Sant’Andrea al Quirinale is another Baroque church just up the street, this time designed by Bernini, another famous architect from the 17th century. This church is oval inside, enhancing the acoustics and making it an ideal venue for musical performances.

Directions: Turn right at the main crossroads and then take the first left through the gate and car park. This leads you into the gardens of Barberini Palace, which you can walk through to the front.

3. National Gallery of Ancient Art in Barberini Palace

National Gallery of Ancient Art in Barberini Palace, a stop on a walking tour of central northeast Rome in Italy
Gardens of the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Barberini Palace
National Gallery of Ancient Art in Barberini Palace

Key Information: Open Tue-Sun 10 am–7 pm. Tickets cost €12 and also include the Galleria Corsini in Trastevere.

The National Gallery of Ancient Art is housed in Barberini Palace, a grand Renaissance and Baroque palace from the 17th century. Today it contains artworks from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, including masterpieces by renowned artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, Holbein, and El Greco, among others.

Directions: Leave via the main entrance and turn right down to Piazza Barberini. The church with the famous crypt is a short distance up the street on the opposite side of the square.

4. Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

Key Information: Open daily, 10am-7pm. Tickets cost €10, or go on a guided tour of Rome’s most famous underground sites*. This half-day tour includes not only the Capuchin Crypt here but also the Roman Catacombs along the Appian Way and the historic Basilica of San Nicola in Carcere.

The Church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini is most famous for the Capuchin Crypt below. This slightly morbid underground area contains the skeletal remains of thousands of Capuchin friars, with creepy chapels adorned with the bones of the deceased friars, arranged in intricate patterns and decorative designs. Tickets include an audioguide and entry to a small museum, which is definitely less interesting than the crypt part.

Directions: Leave Piazza Barberini the way you entered, but instead of continuing back up the hill, take the first right along a small street. Turn left at the end, across the larger street, and continue down the lane until you reach the grand fountain.

5. Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain, a highlight of a walking tour of central Rome

The Trevi Fountain is not only the most famous fountain in the world but also one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome. It’s often very crowded in the small square surrounding the fountain, and the best time of day to visit is first thing in the morning – the earlier the better! The Italian architect Nicola Salvi designed the fountain, completed in 1762. At the centre of the fountain is a statue of Oceanus, the god of the sea, riding a chariot pulled by seahorses and tritons. Other sculptures represent abundance, fertility, and the blessings of water.

One of the most famous scenes involving the fountain is from the film “La Dolce Vita”, where actress Anita Ekberg wades into the fountain’s waters. Don’t do this yourself as it’s highly illegal. Instead, toss a coin over your shoulder into the water to ensure your return to Rome one day. Tossing in a second coin is said to lead to a new romance, while a third coin ensures marriage. The city collects the thousands of euros thrown in daily and donates them to charity.

Directions: You’ll see signs to the Spanish Steps from the Trevi Fountain square. Leave to the right of the fountain, continue across the main road and turn right to reach the next square.

6. Piazza di Spagna

Piazza di Spagna, or the Spanish Steps, a stop on a walking tour of northeast Rome
View from the top of the Spanish Step in Rome, one of the best viewpoints in the city

Piazza di Spagna, or Spanish Square, is the location of the famous Spanish Steps. These elegant steps were built in 1723 to link the Spanish Embassy at the bottom with the French church at the top. People have always associated these steps with love and romance, and have gathered in this scenic spot since they were first built. Today, however, you’re not allowed to sit on the steps or you’ll get a fine!

The surrounding area has been the haunt of artists and writers for many years. In particular, those from England such as John Keats and Percy Shelley. You’ll find the historic and fancy Babington’s tea room, with traditional English-style tea service, to the left of the steps. Opposite on the right of the steps is the Keats-Shelley House where the poets lived and worked.

Head to the top of the steps for a great viewpoint over central Rome. From the top, it’s not far to the Villa Medici if you want to take a tour of the grand villa. Alternatively, head back down the steps to continue with the walking tour of northeast Rome.

Villa Medici

Key Information: Open every day, 10 am–6:30 pm. Tickets cost €14 for a guided tour.

The Villa Medici has a rich history dating back to the Renaissance era. It was originally built as a summer residence for the powerful Medici family, prominent figures in Florentine politics and patrons of the arts. On a tour, your guide shows you around grand apartments plus the beautiful gardens.

Directions: Leave the Piazza di Spagna on a small street heading in the opposite direction to the steps. You’ll soon reach the large Basilica of SS. Ambrose and Charles. Have a look inside before continuing around the church and towards the river.

7. Museo dell’Ara Pacis

Basilica of SS. Ambrose and Charles Church.
Museo dell'Ara Pacis
Mausoleum of Augustus

Key Information: Open daily 9:30am-7:30pm. Tickets cost €12.

The Museo dell’Ara Pacis is a rather unique museum dedicated mainly to one object – an ancient Roman altar to the Roman goddess of peace, Pax, commissioned by Augustus Caesar. The museum itself has a sleek, minimalist design. You can actually peak through the glass walls to see the altar from the outside. Apart from the altar, inside you’ll also find an exhibition about the significance of the altar plus a short film (in English). Through the glass walls, you can see the Mausoleum of Augustus.

Mausoleum of Augustus

The Mausoleum of Augustus is currently undergoing renovation (in 2024, unknown end date). Constructed around 25 AD, the mausoleum was an architectural marvel of its time. It features a massive circular structure with multiple levels and a central burial chamber. Over the centuries, the Mausoleum fell into disrepair and was buried beneath layers of debris, only to be rediscovered in the 16th century.

Directions: Head around the Mausoleum and away from the river to reach Via del Corso. Turn left. You’ll pass a couple of churches, the Chiesa San Giacomo in Augusta and Chiesa di Gesù e Maria, before arriving at the next large square.

8. Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo, a stop on a walking tour of northeast central Rome

Piazza del Popolo is one of the most famous squares in Rome. It’s known for its very distinctive twin churches and central Egyptian Obelisk. There are also two fountains in the square, the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of the Obelisk. Take a look inside the twin churches, but the more renowned church is on the other side.

Santa Maria del Popolo

Key Information: Open but undergoing renovations inside.

Santa Maria del Popolo is on the opposite side of the square from the twin churches and is much more famous. It’s a Renaissance church known for artwork by famous artists such as Caravaggio, Bernini, and Raphael. One of the highlights is the Chigi Chapel, designed by Raphael with sculptures by Bernini. If the name of this chapel is familiar, it’s because it features in Angels & Demons, the second book/movie by Dan Brown after The Da Vinci Code. In the movie, it’s also covered in scaffolding!

Directions: This is the end of the Northeast Rome Walking Tour. You can continue from here to discover neighbouring Villa Borghese, explore the area around Piazza Navona or go on our Ancient Rome Walking Tour.

Best Guidebooks for Exploring Rome

Lonely Planet Rome*

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Rome*

Lonely Planet Italy*

For some great walks slightly further from the centre, walk along Via Appia Antica, check out Ostia Antica, discover the Park of the Aqueducts, or for more walking tours and hikes see our Italy page.

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