Top 10 Things to Do Around Trevi Fountain in Rome
Trevi fountain is undisputably one of Rome’s most important and greatest attractions, a landmark like no other in the world, the size and the artistry of which never ceases to amaze us, even if we have visited there multiple times. For some travellers, though, Trevi Fountain is just a box to be ticked as they stay in Rome.
Meaning that once they are done with it, they move on to the next landmark and they don’t stick around in the same area. Which is a shame, really, as it’s one of the oldest, most interesting boroughs of the Eternal City. To prove it, I have compiled a list of the top 10 things to do around Trevi – read on and expect to be surprised!
1. Look for the hearts of the Popes
Opposite Trevi Fountain itself stands a small church with a baroque façade, dedicated to St. Vincent and St. Anastasius (“Ss. Vincenzo e Anastasio”, in Italian). This modest parish is actually the place where the hearts of all popes were preserved before their bodies were embalmed. The practice has been observed continuously from the 16th century until 1903, when Pope Leo XIII refused to be subjected to it.
The reason why this little church was deemed so important as to be able to preserve these relics, is in the geography of the district. Before 1902, when the Umberto I tunnel was built to connect Via del Tritone and Via Nazionale, the chapel could be reached in no time from the Quirinale Hill, where the Popes used to reside for part of the year. Their grand palace is now the seat of Italy’s President.
Chiesa dei santi Vincenzo e Attanasio
Vicolo dei Modelli, 72 (Piazza di Trevi)
2. Go underground for the lost aqueduct
While Trevi Fountain has only been built in 1732, the square where it stands has always been a place to go to to gather fresh, clean water.
Ancient Romans had a major aqueduct here, the Aqua Virgo (“Virgin Waters”, because of their purity). It had been built by none other than Marcus Agrippa, the very same person to build the Pantheon: it ran for over 20 kilometers. It was almost completely underground, but for the last hundred meters it was built on the same arches we are used to associate with the concept of Roman aqueducts.
Ironically, after millennia those very same arches have ended underground, which is where you can go visit them. Well, at least part of what still stands: dozens of buildings have been built over them.
The main site is called Vicus Caprarius, and it’s an underground archeological dig found while renovating an old cinema: you can see the remains of an ancient Roman condo as well as a mansion, and a huge tank where water was collected.
The second site is across the road from Via del Tritone. Locate the fast food joint on the corner with the Via del Nazareno alley and walk down it. Just a few meters on your left, you’ll see a gate with a sign by the city of Rome: “Ripartizione X AA BB AA – Acquedotto vergine”. “Acquedotto vergine” is none other than Aqua Virgo in Italian. Look through the gate and below, and you’ll see the very recognizable top of the aqueduct arches.
The third site is unusually located: you’ll need to get inside the Rinascente department store and reach the underground level (it’s very clearly marked): a small portion of the aqueduct was found while restoring the building, and it has been made available for free to all, regardless if they’re customers in the huge shop or not.
Vicus Caprarius – Vicolo del Puttarello, 25. Opens Tuesdays to Sundays from 11AM to 530PM (opens up until 7PM on Saturdays and Sundays). Ticket is 3 Euros (1,50 for students, kids and senior citizens).
Acquedotto Vergine @ Via del Nazareno – Via del Nazareno 9/a
Acquedotto Vergine @ Rinascente – Via del Tritone 61
Opens daily from 10AM to 10 PM
3. Hammams galore: treat yourself!
The number of hammams and wellness centers found around Trevi is probably a nod to the water-rich history of the area. Looking at any interactive map on your smartphone or tablet will give you dozens of results. I can recommend at least three different establishments, all uphill from Trevi Fountain:
- KamiSpa is the closest to Trevi Fountain, up Via degli Avignonesi. It’s a day spa offering mainly scrubs and massages blending Oriental philosophy and aesthetics with a Western approach.
- Caveau Spa is further north, on Via di San Basilio and is part of the Aleph Hotel. It owes its name to the bank who used to be in this very same building in the 1930s, and you will actually see the door of the safe deposit room since it’s been preserved! On top of the usual spa treatments, including massages and other healing practices, the Caveau offers so-called Maori treatments, using peculiar wooden tools that activate microcirculation and boost elasticity.
- AmorVero, finally, is inside the Hassler Hotel upstairs from the Spanish Steps: if you walk down Via Sistina, you can get to it in no time from Trevi Fountain. This is one of the top hotels in Rome, and AmorVero features also a hair salon, a master parfumeur, a luxury gym and a steam room.
Via degli Avignonesi, 12
Open everyday from 10AM to 10PM. Reservations are preferred.
Caveau Spa @ Aleph Hotel
Via di San Basilio, 15
Open everyday from 10AM to 830PM. By appointment only.
AmorVero @ Hotel Hassler
Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, 6
Open everyday from 8AM to 9PM. By appointment only.
4. Go on a culinary adventure
There is no shortage of Roman traditional restaurants in the area around Trevi fountain, but on account of how close this magnificent landmark is, some of them can be just plain bad – real tourist traps.
To avoid the risk of spending money in the wrong place, go for something else entirely!
Just a few minutes uphill from Trevi Fountain, Via degli Avignonesi is the home to Colline Emiliane, one of Rome’s few authentic Bolognese restaurants. This means real tortellini, culatello, Bolognese sauce (well, obviously!) and one of my favorites, bolliti (assorted boiled meats!).
If you can’t make it to Bologna during your time in Italy, this is the best chance you’ve got to enjoy an indulgent food experience. And if you’re lucky, you can see the owners, Mrs. Anna and Mrs. Paola, preparing fresh pasta from scratch in the restaurant’s pasta lab (complete with a convenient window display!).
Via degli Avignonesi, 22
Average price for a meal is around 40 Euros (not including beverages)
5. Look for monsters
Via Gregoriana is, ostensibly, a quiet residential street just off Via Capo Le Case, across the road from Via del Tritone. Walking to it from Trevi Fountain takes no more than 10 minutes.
It’s at the top of this gently ascending alley that you will find one of the biggest surprises of central Rome: a grand mansion, Palazzo Zuccari, which is unofficially nicknamed “Casa dei Mostri”, “the house of monsters”.
Inspired by the statues in the Monster Park of Bomarzo, north of Rome, the artist Federico Zuccari built himself a home that was worthy of his creativity and unique personality.
Unfortunately the façade, which is the very photographed unique feature of the building, is all that really survived: starting with Zuccari’s death in 1609, the mansion was torn down, enlarged, and renovated on multiple occasions.
Throughout the centuries it was used as the home for the queen of Poland, as a residence for artists, even as a school. In the mid-twentieth century it has been turned into a library for the Max Planck Foundation, which can be visited upon request. If you don’t care to go inside, take a picture on the steps, as you get devoured by a giant monster!
Via Gregoriana, 28
6. Go crazy with shopping!
When you’re done throwing your lucky coin into Trevi Fountain, one of top things you can do in the same area is go shopping.
Across Via del Tritone is, as mentioned, the Rinascente department store, one of the main destinations of its kind in central Rome. Walking downhill will take you to Galleria Alberto Sordi, one of the oldest malls in the city, with plenty of stores to satisfy your shopaholic nature.
Via del Corso, both south and north from the Galleria, is of course one of the shopping high streets of Rome, and if you’re not tired you can walk to the northern edge of it, where the fashion district of Rome is located: it’s the famous Tridente – the fashion pitchfork of Via del Corso, Via di Ripetta and Via del Babuino (and let’s not forget Via dei Condotti!).
Looking for more options, still? Walk uphill to Via Capo Le Case or Via Sistina, or downhill to Via del Gambero and Via Borgognona, off Piazza San Silvestro. Everywhere you turn, a shopping experience awaits!
7. Visit some museums
Palazzo Poli, against which Trevi fountain rests, is a beautiful mansion housing the collection of the National Institute for Graphics (which includes early photos and engravings rather than modern graphics). The museum is devoid of visitors and tends to host temporary exhibits of contemporary art and photography, usually with a free entrance.
Via Crispi, across Via del Tritone, is the home to the city’s collection of modern art at the Galleria di Arte Moderna, not to be confused with the biggest, more famous Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna, north from here by the Villa Borghese gardens. This smaller museum is in a former convent, which is in itself a good reason to visit, and it has a lovely permanent collection, as well as interesting temporary exhibits shedding light on poorly known Roman artists from the 1900s.
The main place to visit, though, if you’re in Trevi area is uphill on Via delle Quattro Fontane. The former mansion for the Barberini family, Palazzo Barberini, is the home to the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica, the National Gallery of Ancient Art, and houses an astounding numbers of paintings from the classic era, including works by Caravaggio and Raphael, as well as Roman statues and medieval art.
Again, the museums pairs its impressive permanent collection with interesting temporary events and for reasons I don’t understand myself, it’s never crowded! You can enjoy a visit here without feeling rushed! What’s more, with the same ticket you can visit for free the second centre of the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica at Palazzo Corsini, in Trastevere!
Palazzo Poli- Istituto Centrale della Grafica
Via della Stamperia, 6
Opens everyday from 9AM to 7PM (opens until 2PM on Saturdays and Sundays)
Galleria d’arte moderna di Roma Capitale
Via Francesco Crispi, 24
Opens from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10AM to 630PM
Prices vary from 5 Euros to 8 Euros.
Palazzo Barberini – Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica
Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13
Opens from Tuesdays to Sundays from 8AM to 7PM
Full price tickets are 12 Euros.
8. See a movie in English
By visiting Trevi Fountain you’re exactly halfway between Cinema Nuovo Olimpia and Cinema Barberini, two of Rome’s main destinations for expats and more generally movie lovers who wish to see new releases in their original language.
The former is downhill from Trevi, tucked in an alley off Via del Corso, whereas the latter, a bigger affair, occupies one side of Piazza Barberini. Perfect for a rainy day, or if you wish to spend a Roman evening in a different way!
Cinema Nuovo Olimpia
Via in Lucina, 16
Piazza Barberini, 24/26
9. Remember la Dolce Vita
Of course you know by heart the famous scene from La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini, where Anita Ekberg lures Marcello Mastroianni in the waters of Trevi Fountain: “Marcello, come!”, she called. It’s probably one of the reasons why you’re visiting the world-famous spot yourself!
While I urge you not to try that trick yourself (you would be fined hundreds of Euros), here’s something else you can do: reach Via Vittorio Veneto (to us locals it’s simply “Via Veneto“) and explore the actual places where actors and writers from the roaring Sixties used to hang. Granted, the street has changed and it’s more modern, but some staples still resist:
- Harry’s Bar and Doney are still open to this day. You can choose either for a swanky aperitivo. Dress a little more conservatively and reminisce about the times when the likes of Clint Eastwood or Elizabeth Taylor used to hang here!
- Shop (or simply “windowshop”) for jewels at Capuano, like Ava Gardner did: now in its third generation, the family opened their store in the 1930s.
- Buy some luxury gloves or a scarf at The Glove Shop.
- Nearby, check out the menu at Fiaschetteria Beltramme, one of the main hangouts for the stars of that era!
Via Vittorio Veneto, 150
Via Vittorio Veneto, 125
The Glove Shop
Via Vittorio Veneto, 106
Via della Croce, 39 (Spanish Steps)
10. Let yourself be spooked by human bones
Stick around on Via Veneto for the last of my top ten things to do around Trevi fountain, but be prepared for a disturbing (to some) experience: the Capuchin Church at Our Lady of the Conception (“Chiesa di Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini“) houses a crypt completely decorated in human bones. Before cemeteries were made compulsory, people used to be buried inside churches (if they had the means), and friars were “assembled” this way. It’s a spooky reminder of a long gone practice.