Start your walk at Rome's most famous park, the (1) Villa Borghese estate and gardens, a gift from Pope Paul V to his nephew Scipione Borghese in the early 1600s. The park's entrance is at Piazzale Brasile. Stroll along gravel pathways past manicured hedges and colorful flowerbeds to the Giardino del Lago—garden of the lake—in the middle of the park. Pause here to take in this urban oasis, then retrace your steps to Piazzale Brasile.
Cross the busy thoroughfare of Via Pinciana to arrive at the top of (2) Via Veneto, the street that acted as a principal setting for Federico Fellini's classic 1960 film La Dolce Vita. Fellini and friends made this urbane avenue, with its abundance of tony outdoor cafés, famous in the 1950s and '60s. Today it is home to some of Rome's fanciest hotels. As you proceed down the Veneto, you will pass the imposing American Embassy on your left. At the base of Via Veneto is Piazza Barberini. Just before you arrive at Piazza Barberini, at Via Vittorio Veneto 27, is the (3) Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception, notable for its macabre collection of human bones. Dating to 1528, the church's six-room crypt houses the bones of more than 4,000 monks. Many of the bones have been artfully adapted to create chandeliers, archways, and wall decorations. No entrance fee, but small donations are expected.
Exit the church and proceed to the bustling (4) Piazza Barberini, named after one of Rome's most powerful families. The Barberini crest was a trifecta of bumblebees and the piazza features a fountain in the northwest corner called the "Fontana delle Api"—Fountain of the Bees—a design by 17th-century sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who also sculpted the Triton Fountain in the middle of the piazza, along with such other baroque Roman masterpieces as the Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona.
At the far end of the piazza, turn right on to Via Sistina. After a few blocks you arrive at the top of the (5) Spanish Steps, which were constructed in the 1720s. The twin-towered church here is the (6) Church of Santa Trinità dei Monti, built in 1495 by French King Louis XII to celebrate his victory over Naples and today a symbol of Rome.
Descend the steps—a popular hangout for Romans and visitors—to (7) Piazza di Spagna (Piazza of Spain) below, by the Bourbon Spanish Embassy. Toward the bottom, look to your left; you'll see the (8) Keats Shelley Museum (Piazza di Spagna 26; www.keats-shelley-house.org), an homage to the two Romantic poets, who spent their final years in Italy. In fact, the museum is housed in the building in which John Keats died in 1821.
Straight across the piazza is the beginning of (9) Via dei Condotti (generally known as Via Condotti), perhaps Rome's priciest shopping street. Wander past the store windows of Bulgari, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Prada, and other global brands. At the end of the street, turn right onto the busy pedestrian street of Via del Corso, which runs from Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo. This is another popular shopping venue, for such brands as Benetton, Swarovski, and Timberland.
Proceed to the end of Via del Corso, to (10) Piazza del Popolo, site of the one of ancient Rome's northern gates. In the center of the square you'll see an ancient Egyptian obelisk, brought to Rome in 10 B.C. by Emperor Augustus. The two baroque churches that rise up on either side of you were designed by Carlo Rainaldi and finished by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Carlo Fontana in the 1600s. The highlight of the piazza, however, is the (11) Church of Santa Maria del Popolo (Piazza del Popolo 12), which was a setting for author Dan Brown's pre-Da Vinci Code novel Angels and Demons. It houses important works by Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio, and Bramante, as well as elaborate tombs for well-heeled Romans and notable church figures.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.