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Rome Walking Tour: Historic Churches in Rome’s Center

Many of the all-inclusive Italy tours include accommodations at the Grand Hotel Palatino. A common question is how do we walk from the hotel to see the historic churches in Rome’s center. It is a tough question to answer because Rome is full of important churches.  Some of the most popular churches in the historic center include Church of the Gesu, San Luigi dei Francesi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Santa Maria della Pace, and Santa Maria Minerva.

facade church of gesu romeThe walk from the Hotel Palatino to the Church of the Gesu is about 20-25 minutes.  You’ll walk west on Via Cavour to the Via Imperiali. There you’ll take right.  Colosseum will be behind you so you’ll be walking away from it. The via Imperiali is along the outside of the ancient Roman Forum. Then you’ll come to the Birthday Cake, which is a giant white monument. That is the Piazzia Venezia.  You’ll want to cross over and take left on Via del Plebescito.

After visiting church of Gesu you’ll be very close to Rome’s historic center highlights the Pantheon, Campo di Fiori and Piazza Navona.

Right around the corner from the Pantheon is San Luigi dei Francesi. This church and area is about 30 minute walk from hotel.

dome sant iganzio rome
Painted dome inside Sant Ignazio is optical illusion

Also in this area is Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola – founder of the Jesuits. The dome in this church is painted. It is an optical illusion. And in the piazza the buildings across from the church are also an optical illusion. Right in front of Saint Ignazio di Loyola in the piazza is a nice little Roman trattoria La Cave di Sant’Ignazio.

Piazza di Sant’Ignazio designed by Raguzzinni 1727 is like a stage set that comes to life each day at lunch when the Romans perform the ritual of Pranza at this lovely trattoria across from Sant’Ignazio Church. Before or after enjoy the building facades, which are illusions, like Andrea Pozzo’s painted “Dome” of St. Ignatius’s ascent into Paradise inside Sant’Ignazio, a must see point of interest in Rome. Stand on circular orcher marker set into floor where nave meets crossing, then move forward to alter and look up again to get for effect of illusion of false dome.

Around the corner from Ignazio Loyola is Hadrian’s Temple (Tempio di Adriano) in Piazza Pietra.  The ancient Temple is made of stone with giant columns.  Then just around the corner form there is Piazza Colonna, where the Colonna di Marco Aurelio stands. This column is carved depicting scenes of ancient Rome’s military history.

Back to the pantheon and the “French church”,  if you like espresso you should stop in at Sant’Eustachio or Taza di Oro. Sant’ Eustachio is just down street from French Church. Both are considered best espresso in the world! To have an espresso first go to register to pay.  They will give you a little receipt.  Then go to bar and put that receipt on the counter.  The barrister will take it and make your espresso.  Do this without confusion and they’ll think you are an Italian.  You may also place a 25 or 50 centavo coin on top of receipt for barrister’s tip.

Italians don’t drink milk in coffee after 10A. Do this and they’ll know you are not Italian…

Elephant base obeliskAnother beautiful church across the way from Church of Gesu is the Dominican Order’s Santa Maria Minerva. In the Minerva Piazza is the monument called Pulcino della Minerva. The Elephant base is a Bernini sculpture. The obelisk atop is from Egypt. From there around the corner is Pantheon.

The Pantheon was built around 100 AD. It is an architectural gem. Among those who are buried there is the painter Raphael, two kings of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, and Umberto’s wife Margherita, whom the pizza margherita was invented. To walk from the Church of the Gesu to the Pantheon you’ll cross one of Rome’s main streets Vittorio Emanuele.

When you make your way to Piazza Navona you may want to try to find the Santa Maria della Pace on Via della Raphael frescoe santa maria della pacePace. Have an espresso and enjoy this historic area.  Then stroll over to Via del Governo Vecchio. You’ll find little boutiques there.  Another great street back in the neighborhood around Piazza Navona is Via dei Coronari.

Around Piazza Navona and Via del Governo Vecchio is Virginiae and one of my favorites Da Francesco located at Piazza del Fico, 29, two great little lunch or dinner trattoria.  Low key. Good food. Nice area. Nothing fancy. Da Francesco is open late which is nice in Rome.

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