A stroll through
an art neighborhood

All of the streets and scenes of ancient Roman neighborhoods are steeped in art and history.

Here, we find ourselves in the “rione Ponte” or “bridge district”, named so because of the Bridge of Sant’Angelo, which, for centuries, was the only way to arrive at St. Peters.

The Orologio B&B is found in the heart of this district, in via dei Banchi Nuovi (the street of new banks) which was once part of the ancient Papal Way, called so because the Pope and his prestigious cortege used it to for their procession from St. Peter’s to San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John in Lateran).

This is the street of notaries, clerks, merchants and shopkeepers who displayed and sold their wares and services here from stalls. It takes its name “banchi nuovi” from the time when the Papal Mint moved to a building near the Banco di Santo Spirito, and from then the bankers opened their exchange offices.

There were many famous people who lived here. Among them, one name stands out, that of Carlo Maderno, the great architect of the baroque epoch, the designer of the facade and the longitudinal nave of the Basilica of St. Peter. A plaque placed on the house where he lived serves as a remembrance and memorial of him.

The nearness of St. Peter and Castle Sant’Angelo can’t but be noticed. In fact, you can reach the famous bridge at the castle’s entrance in just a few minutes; the history of the castle, also called “Adrian’s Mass” (Adrian’s Mausoleum), is closely connected to the papacy.
It is from the ancient mausoleum’s terrace, dominated by a bronze angel, that you can see the long, narrow corridor, called “the passageway”, a liaison between the castle and the imposing Basilica considered the world center of Christianity.

That colossal work opens up with the embrace of Bernini’s colonnade, and culminates vertically in the Dome constructed by Giacamo Della Porta using Michelangelo’s plans. On reaching the highest point, a breathtaking view appears: the Tiber River flowing in a broad curve; the trees along its riverbed; the rooftops; the pointed domes of a multitude of churches and the ancient monuments.

Returning to Via dei Banchi Nuovi, and passing the Bed and Breakfast “All’orologio”, you arrive in the piazza from which the B&B gets its name. Towering above the piazza is the large clock (orologio) situated in the tower of the Convento dei Filippini (Convent of the Philippines), a work by Borromini. Under the clockface there is a beautiful mosaic by Pietro da Cortona portraying the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus. The current building is the result of the renovations done by the architect Gaetano Koch in the late 1900’s.

In the basement of the building there is the theater “Teatro dell’orologio” if anyone feels the need for the stage and curtain. A small but excellent theater, it has been presenting interesting cultural programs for 25 years.

Going past the piazza, the 7th century fresco “Madonna e bambino benedicente” (Virgin and baby Jesus blessing), by a follower of Borromini, captures the attention.

And here, you arrive in Via del Governo Vecchio...

... where it is impossible to not run into the long line of patient patrons waiting outside one of the most characteristic and historic pizzerias in Rome. But this street also supplies typical Roman “trattorie”, which are less well-known and still not mentioned in tourist guidebooks, in which you can discover the ancient flavors of Roman cuisine.

There are also polished winebars, within everyone’s budget, which are ready to satisfy the winelover’s palate from their long, narrow corridors filled to overflowing with bottles of wine. There isn’t only wine, but also local beer, cocktails and happy hour in loungebars which are sure to attract the young.
Between pubs and bars, the street is studded with interesting and elegant clothing boutiques and small bookshops.

Besides the entertainment and and quality shopping, this area also gives us an interesting testimony of Roman public opinion, made up of irony and stinging sarcasm: the statue of “Pasquino”. This is one of the famous “talking statues” of Rome, going back in time to the 3rd century B.C., where, in the dark of night, satires in verse were affixed to the statue, testimonies of the discontent of the people against the ruling powers.

After a few steps, you unexpectedly arrive in the celebrated Piazza Navona...

... an epitome of art with architectural and sculptural elements which are the symbol of Baroque Rome. Great artists have had a hand here: from Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his Fontana del Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of Four Rivers) in the center of the piazza...

... to Francesco Borromini and Girolamo Rainaldi, who designed the Chiesa Sant’Agnese in Agone (the Church of Saint Agnes in Agony)..

Instead, following along the opposite end of the piazza, and leaving behind the “Bridge Quarter”, you arrive at Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. From here it is possible to reach Campo dei Fiori, a striking piazza which, since 1869, has housed a vivacious open air market. The homey atmosphere of the morning changes completely in the evening, transforming the piazza into a meeting place for young foreigners and Romans.

There are numerous pubs and bars which front the piazza, among which it is possible to find a bookshop, a gelateria and even a small cinema. Munching on hazelnuts and peanuts while you sip a drink in one of the pubs or winebars of Campo dei Fiori makes up one of the customs of the capital’s youth that is not to be missed.

And finally, just a short distance away is Piazza Farnese: here we have the ideal place to sit down, have a coffee and enjoy the view of the Renaissance building which is the location of the French Embassy, and the unique surroundings, suspended between the ancient and the modern, that Rome presents to anyone willing to live in a time in which the intertwining of past and present is ongoing and inseparable.