Day 3. Rome’s Spanish Steps and an afternoon in Bracciano

It was another bright, sunny morning as we made our way to Piazza di Spagna to climb the Spanish Steps.  The square was already crowded with tourists around the fountain at the foot of the steps known as the ‘fountain of the old boat’.  The fountain resembles a sinking ship and is thought to be based on a folk legend.

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The Spanish Steps, Rome

We climbed the steps which are a mix of curves, straight flights and terrace viewpoints.  The steps connect the lower Piazza di Spagna with the upper Piazza Trinità dei Monti where we found it’s beautiful church dominating the skyline.  There were some good views looking down to the square and along the terrace artists had set up their easels and were sketching and painting in the morning sunshine.  Church bells were ringing, welcoming worshippers to Sunday morning services and many tourists like us were taking in the views.

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The fountain in Piazza di Spagna

Returning down the polished stone steps we crossed the square and strolled along Via dei Condotti which is home to many of Rome’s designer stores.  The narrow street was crowded with tourists wandering along glancing in the windows of world famous luxury clothing, jewellery and leather goods stores.  On one street corner we paused to listen to an opera singer who was entertaining the Sunday morning crowds.

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Via Dei Condotti, Rome

Our walk continued through the district where we looked inside the beautiful Baroque style San Giacomo church on the nearby Via del Corso.

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Basilicia San Giacomo

Walking a little further in a northwards direction we arrived at the vast Piazza del Popolo which lies inside the huge northern gate known as the Porta del Popolo.  The square was designed in neo-classical style between 1811-1822.

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The Porta del Popola, Rome

Dominating the square is the church of Santa Maria del Popolo but, as a service was taking place, we were unable to look inside.  In the centre of the square, a large group of keep-fit enthusiasts were following routines from the organisers wearing wireless headphones.

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The Terrazza del Pincio

After watching them for a few minutes we clambered up the steps to the Terrazza del Pincio, a balustraded viewpoint which overlooks the square.  From there we had some fine views both of the Piazza del Popolo down below and of some of Rome’s landmarks further afield including St. Peter’s Basilica.

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Looking down from the Terrazza del Pincio

From the terrace in Pincio Park we followed a pathway to the Villa Borghese Park.  Just as we were approaching the park gates we were overtaken by the keep-fit enthusiasts who seemed to be undertaking a power walking stage of their keep-fit routine through the gardens.

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Villa Borghese Park

The sun was beating down so we enjoyed the cooler temperatures under the shade of the trees as we strolled through the Villa Borghese Park.  Along the main avenues many people were enjoying a little exercise.  We came across joggers, in-line skaters and those simply out for a gentle morning stroll, just as we were.

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The Boating Lake, Villa Borghese Park

Along one path we came to a picturesque lake so we decided to follow the circular path around it known as the Viale del lago.  The centrepiece of the lake is the beautiful Temple of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.  Rowing boats could be hired and seemed very reasonable at only €3 per person for 20 minutes.  We did consider taking one out ourselves but as we’d planned more activities for later in the day we decided against it.

We left the gardens at the exit by the National Museum of Modern Art from where we caught a No.19 tram to Cornelia.  Some heritage trams operate on this route and it was one of these that we boarded.  The only disadvantage being that there were few seats resulting in us having to stand for the early part of the journey.  Feeling hungry, we found a cafe for a light lunch and then caught the metro two stops to Valle Aurelia for a regional train to Bracciano which lies 32 km to the north of Rome.

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On board the No.19 heritage tram in Rome

There were frequent stops along the line and although the train was crowded when we boarded there were few remaining passengers as the train approached Bracciano.  Looking out of the train windows we caught our first glimpse of the azure blue volcanic lake nestled below the small town.

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The main square, Bracciano

Leaving the train, it was just a short uphill walk to the narrow, cobbled streets of the old town which is built on a hill above the volcanic lake from which it takes its name.  Dominating the small town is the medieval Orsini-Odescalchi castle which is a popular wedding venue for international celebrities.  We walked around the castle ramparts and took in the spectacular lake views from the Belvedere della Sentinella.  We didn’t go inside the castle but admission prices and further details can be found on its website here.

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Bracciano Castle

A ferry usually connects the small lakeside towns but sadly it was not operating as the lake’s water level had dropped too low.  We were aware of this before arriving in Bracciano but it would have been lovely to have taken a trip on the lake and then return to Rome from a station further along the line.

Bracciano Lake

Continuing along the narrow lanes we came to another viewing terrace  lower down the hillside with equally stunning views.  The lake looked so beautiful and from where we stood and it didn’t appear to be short of water.

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Bracciano Lake

Heading back towards the town centre, we admired the church in the main piazza before treating ourselves to ricotta and cinnamon ice creams from a nearby gelateria.  Finding a bench we relaxed in the warm sunshine, licking our ice cream cones whilst enjoying the tranquility and natural backdrop of this charming lakeside town.

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Bracciano Castle

We returned to Rome on the 4.08 p.m. service which conveniently stopped at Tuscolana station, just a few minutes walk from our hotel.  After a short rest we had dinner in the same trattoria that we had eaten in on our first night.  My carbonara was one of the best I had tasted and our house wine to accompany the meal was full bodied and excellent value.

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The Colosseum, Rome

Leaving the restaurant we took the metro to Colosseo station so that we could view the Colosseum illuminated after dark.  It was much quieter than during the day time without coach loads of tourists annoyingly poking their selfie sticks out constantly.

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The Altar of the Fatherland, Rome

After taking in the views we wandered on past The Roman Forum as far as the Altar of the Fatherland. We felt completely safe strolling around this part of Rome at night and enjoyed viewing the illuminated sights.  Feeling ready to return to the hotel for the night we boarded a tram to Trastevere station from where we changed to a train to Tuscolana after a lovely day of sightseeing in Rome and Bracciano.

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47 thoughts on “Day 3. Rome’s Spanish Steps and an afternoon in Bracciano

  1. An Aussie Abroad

    Did you know that the water in all of the fountains scattered around Rome are of drinking quality? With the fountain at the bottom of Piazza di Spagna there is even a step for users to enter the fountain to have a drink. Rome is one of my favourite cities in the world, I am loving your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You can’t ever go wrong with Rome! Such a beautiful place to visit! I’ve been there quite a few times now and each time I go back, I feel like I could see all of it again…I can’t get tired of it. But, then again, I love all the ruins and the overall feel of the place. It sounds like you enjoyed your trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed reading about your trip to Rome and seeing your fantastic photos. We were there in 2015, and you made it seem so much less hectic. From someone squirting tomato sauce on my wife upon leaving the Roma Termini to almost missing our flight out of Fiumicino because of late comers cutting in line, we still had a good experience. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The tomato sauce squirt is a common pickpocket scam. One squirts the tomato sauce, the other tells you and helps clean the mess and your pockets too. We walked away from them.

        The great thing about traveling is experiencing and learning about life. As you know life is slower in southern Italy, so coming late and cutting in line is common and they are quite friendly doing so like being your new BFF. So you’re right go to the airport early.

        Liked by 1 person

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